Irish Wolfhound Typical Expenses: Be Prepared!

The true delight, eagerness, and anticipation of obtaining and welcoming such a wonderful hound into your life can minimize a number of critical considerations. One of the most important is expenses. While having the pleasure of a wolfhound’s company, there is one indisputable fact: you must have a ‘fat wallet.’ In truth, this is a breed whose size necessitates more exercise, nutrition, appropriate fencing, time, worry, patience, and potential medical bills than almost all other large and small breeds. Here in this space, I wish to address and stress the reality for a new owner to be financially prepared to afford the costs of excellent medical care for their Irish Wolfhound, which at times, can be very expensive. I know of no other comprehensive, forthright, plain-spoken, Irish Wolfhound website that stresses all these important considerations for owning an Irish Wolfhound. Although this conversation centers on wolfhounds, this advice is prudent for almost all our giant breed dogs. 

From puppy hood, I strongly urge any new owner to obtain health care coverage for their hound and continue this coverage throughout his lifespan. The reasons are numerous and pragmatic. Owing to a wolfhound’s weight, typically weighing in at 75 pounds during 12-weeks of age, and upwards of 140 to 200 pounds as adults, they usually need larger doses of medications such as antibiotics, heartworm medicines, supplements, etcetera, with one exception being anesthesia. The latter is essential for a new sighthound owner to be fully aware and appreciate as sighthounds, in general, are very sensitive to some forms of anesthesia. To discuss the ideal anesthetic forms, please review my health column. Indeed, sighthound's can be sensitive to some other drugs such as opioids. See Health page for more information.

High expenses are particularly true for veterinarian procedures and emergency surgeries.

The difference between a veterinarian’s bill for a procedure on a Boxer as compared to the Irish Wolfhound can be substantial. So substantial that a medium sized breed invoiced at $400 may rocket upwards to $1,000 for a giant breed. As an owner of an Irish Wolfhound, you must be prepared for these eventualities and expenses. Pet insurance for your new Wolfhound can be easily obtained. There is a website that states they are an independent editorial review site. One of the subjects they have covered is pet health insurance. On it they rate and provide the Top Ten or best pet insurance for you to consider. You can also consider the American Kennel Club who offers pet insurance policies as well. READ CAREFULLY as all these plans have benefits and exclusions, some that simply don't make sense. The plans vary for Accident, Illness, and Wellness Coverage. High medical costs are not only limited to Irish Wolfhounds. I know of several long-time breeders of giant breeds, e.g., Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, Great Dane, who insist that new owners have an emergency slush fund of approximately $5,000 established to finance serious, unexpected medical care. 

Sadly, there are far too many occasions that new owners have found themselves in urgent economic situations.

Either they initially were not educated about the monetary realities of owning a giant breed by the breeder or they chose to blind themselves to the need for such disposable funds to cover required medical care and procedures. Regrettably, this occurs often as many people prefer not to prepare, believing that nothing untoward will happen. As I stated previously, many medical bills are not inconsequential. Injuries, such as a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), and the surgery to repair the ruptured ligament using surgical options like a Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) are costly. These restorative procedures performed by a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon can range in price from $4,000 to $6,000 or more, per limb.

Typical annual and perpetual Echocardiograms for giant breeds, particularly wolfhounds are considered routine wellness care and are strongly recommended ranging upwards of $600 to $800 per annual visit for a Board Certified Diplomat Cardiologist. Your hound may need regular heart Holter Monitoring, which can quickly add up in costs, as the Holter Monitor alone can cost $300 or more for each visit several times annually and is a separate expense aside from the echo-cardiogram. As an example, my most recent invoice for three veteran Irish Wolfhound's heart checkups was $1,800.00. This cost covered an EKG, an Echocardiogram and a 24-hour Holter monitor recording per hound. If your hound requires beta blockers, channel blockers, diuretics, digoxins, or ace inhibitors, these too can be expensive. Moreover, several of these require dosages administered three times daily. If you are employed outside your home and are unable to return home for lunch, then you must make special arrangements for your hound to receive their necessary medicines -- drugs that could prevent cardiac arrest.  If your hound is diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, a highly recommended new class of heart treatments is Pimobendan a.k.a. Vetmedin. These are chewable tablets for the treatment of congestive heart failure in dogs and is termed Inodilators, which has been shown to improve significantly the clinical signs and extend the life expectancy in dogs with congestive heart failure. But, this medicine is very expensive and is dependent on the weight of the hound. If a male is nearly 190 pounds, then he will require 40mgs daily, and with the above drug Vetmedin, on average, the cost will be $400 PER MONTH.  Note: these numbers are calculated on competitive prices purchased on the Internet from reputable, established pharmacies.

In the event of a cancer diagnosis;

Veterinarian Oncologists fees are expensive, with cancer drugs and treatments ranging upwards of $1,000 monthly. Surgical resection of cancer masses can be exorbitant. To illustrate, a recent thyroid mass surgery on our beloved Irish Wolfhound "Dior" with a Board Certified Surgeon cost $4,300.00. This does not include the initial ultrasounds we used to locate the mass, nor the costs for aspirating the tumor as well as biopsies of the mass. All told, we spent roughly $7,000 before she expired, far too soon, at 7.5 years of age.

Another touching story involved our beloved Irish Wolfhound "Darley." We discovered a large mass in her abdomen via ultrasound only after we had spent nearly a year exploring various diagnoses for her symptoms of sporadic diarrhea and high fevers. Unbeknownst to all of us, she had a perforated bowel that had healed itself and, therefore, went undiscovered via digital x-rays. Later, we found and she underwent resection of a mass. She was a tremendous champion fighter and both outlived and outperformed the Board Certified Oncologist's prognosis of two months without chemotherapy. Her cancer diet, homeopathic medicines, and indomitable spirit permitted her to live a quality life for nearly two years. All told, the expenses to cover her medical bills were more than $20,000 over the course of time from her initial symptoms throughout her recovery from surgery, including antibiotics and homeopathic medicines. Very expensive, indeed.


Ballyhara Dior just prior to her death at 7.5 years of age from Thyroid carcinoma

Ballyhara Darley after surgery. She was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) carcinoma, although not definitive. From her initial symptoms, additional data, stain-kits and other mitigating factors, I firmly believe she died of Fibrosarcoma.

Additional examples of medical expenses.

Emergency or life-saving procedures for Gastric Torsion, also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat can range in costs of $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the Phase of the dilation and how long the hound remains in ICU, if the Hound survives the surgery. Eventual home recuperation can be prolonged and often requires constant nursing care in the first week with close, nursing observation to follow until the hound is healed after several weeks. 

Even overlooked costs such as specific antibiotics can be pricey, much more so than for small or large breed dogs. An excellent illustration is Clavamox, prescribed according to weight so that an average 80-pound Labrador would cost $9.50 daily averaging $195.00 for a 21-day treatment. Consider that this same drug costs $19.50 daily for an average 150-pound wolfhound with a 21-day treatment costing $408.00. Note: these numbers are calculated on competitive prices purchased on the Internet from reputable, established pharmacies. Many veterinarians will not or do not provide prescriptions to their clients and will only dispense these medicines from their veterinary office pharmacy at even higher costs. One only needs to add these costs to the price of surgery, and many owners may well have anxiety attacks. One of the practical reasons why pet healthcare plans are necessary; however, diligent owners must be prepared for the insurance plan deductibles for which they are responsible.


In June 2016 our veteran male of nearly 8 years had injured his spinal column while roughhousing with his sister. I wrote up a Blog Post, Canine Spinal Injury on this event as the medical costs related to such were projected to be near $10,000. He is now undergoing Chiropractic therapy and began Physical Rehabilitation (PT) with hydro treadmill therapy. The chiropractic adjustments alone are anticipated to run $5,400 annually. The PT costs $765 for 12 sessions.

Where giant breeds are concerned, it is not unusual to be faced with veterinarian price estimates numbering in the several thousandS, ten thousand, or EVEN more. 

I will emphasize that there are always exceptions to the rules or shall I say the averages, and many giant breeds will live a happy, relatively healthy life without incurring exorbitant medical bills. I have bred wolfhounds who lived long, healthy lives nearing 12 years of age in both genders. That is not to say this is my average wolfhound lifespan as that would be entirely incorrect. As to the diseases I have spoken on elsewhere in my discussion, we dedicated, reputable breeders are participating with and contributing to breed specific disease research. These are decades long studies, conducted and managed by prominent universities such as Cornell University and the Broad Institute at M.I.T..

Reputable breeders have dedicated our lives to the betterment of this breed and dogs in general. We have not willfully ignored these diseases but strive to make a difference with our contributions to lessen or diminish the prevalence of such, to improve the health, comfort, and prosperity of these hounds. These are no small or easy tasks, but ones we accept as it comes with the privilege of owning such a celebrated hound. One cannot turn one’s back and wish these ills away. This same holds true for new prospective giant breed owners who wish to ignore possible fiscally challenging occurrences. 

Any questions, feel free to contact me. Just, click on the envelope icon below in the footer of this page to send me an email. I am usually very prompt in replying.