How Much Do Prairie Dogs Cost?

Among the most unusual pet mammals is the prairie dog. Although the name might mislead you, these animals are not dogs at all, being grouped in the same taxonomic family as squirrels. In this article, we will see what challenges the prairie dog comes with as a pet.

How Much Do Prairie Dogs Cost?

The cost of a prairie dog is anywhere between $160 and $420, depending on the place you get it from, like an exotic pet store, or an animal shelter/rescue center. Also, you need to consider some other associated costs with keeping prairie dogs as pets, such as veterinary expenses, housing, and feeding. You should calculate these for the whole eight to twelve years of a prairie dog’s lifespan.

In 2003 it was discovered that prairie dogs were the main cause of a monkeypox outbreak, and because of this, they were banned for more than five years in the United States. Once the ban was lifted it was more challenging to get a prairie dog.

In order to have control over the prairie dog population, licensed USDA dealers collect thousands of prairie dogs every year to sell them to the public. When you purchase from one of them, you should get official USDA paperwork and a health certificate for your pet.

This certification and collection represent an expense for the dealer, and the cost of a prairie dog will vary depending on their method of markup and collection.

Before purchasing a prairie dog do some online research on the organization or store you get it from. Also, talk with your local vet about this. They can give you some advice on the costs and where to buy one from.

You might also like our articles on the cost of a squirrel, kinkajou, or ferret.

Keep in mind that in many states it is illegal to own a prairie dog, so do your due diligence beforehand.

Why does the cost of a pet prairie dog vary?

The exact price of a prairie dog will be affected by the place you get it from. For instance, an exotic trader will set a price to make a profit, while rescue organizations will typically charge just a spaying or neutering fee.

You need to consider the pros and cons of each method of getting this pet. It will cost you less to get a prairie dog from a rescue organization, but will take more effort and time. On the other hand, you will save time if you buy it from an exotic trader, but it will be more expensive.

If you choose the last option, always check if the prairie dogs are bred humanly or legally trapped.

Prairie dogs overview

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are herbivorous rodents native to the grasslands of North America. They are a type of ground squirrel that lives in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In Mexico, prairie dogs are found primarily in the northern states that are at the southern end of the Great Plains: northeastern Sonora, northern and northeastern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, northern Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas. Despite the name, they are not dogs.

Currently, 5 separate species are known:

  • the black-tailed prairie dog;
  • the Mexican prairie dog;
  • the white-tailed prairie dog;
  • the Gunnison prairie dog;
  • the Utah prairie dog.

Most prairie dogs have black tails.

Prairie dog behavior

People who want such a pet must have more free time to offer it because the prairie dog ends up needing the owner’s company, and if it is neglected it can develop behavioral problems, depression, or even get sick.

A baby prairie dog is a sociable animal. It coexists well with other pets, cats, or dogs. Prairie dogs are diurnal animals. In the winter, the white-tailed prairie dog hibernates, and the other species sleep for shorter periods of time.

What are the additional expenses?

As we already mentioned, there are some other costs you need to consider aside from the cost of the prairie dog itself.

Shipping fees

In case you purchase a prairie dog from an exotic dealer from another city or out of your state, you will have to pay shipping fees. Expect to pay $160 to $320, or even more because transporting exotic animals is not as easy as transporting a pair of shoes.

These costs will depend on the place where you are living and the delivery company may apply additional fees for this transport.

Shelter for pet prairie dogs

Prairie DogsIn case you have never owned a prairie dog, you will have to purchase the right housing. Depending on the place where you are living, this could be an outside prairie dog house or a cage in your apartment.

You must calculate the cost and build the housing for your pet before you bring them home. The costs with this will depend on the type of shelter you purchase or if you built it on your own.

Purchasing more than one prairie dog

You should take into consideration buying more than one prairie dog because these are social animals and need companionship. But the more prairie dogs you buy the more your costs will increase.

Plan the costs for the entire lifespan of a prairie dog

The lifespan of a black-tailed prairie dog is eight to twelve years or even more. So, it is a long-term commitment to get a prairie dog.

You should plan to carry the expenses of such a pet for a minimum of eight years, including all the expenses associated with housing, transport where needed, veterinary care, and feed.

Food costs

As these are hindgut fermenter animals, prairie dogs have to be fed with a combination of fresh vegetables, rabbit feed, and rodent chow. Keep in mind that they need specialized food and a high-fiber diet.

Talk with your vet about the local pet food shops and calculate the costs per year for feeding your pet to make sure you can afford one.

Where do I find a prairie dog for sale?

You can find a prairie dog for sale in one of these three main places:

  • an exotic trader or pet store;
  • an animal shelter;
  • an exotic pet rescue center.

You might be able to find adult prairie dogs at animal shelters and rescue centers. Search on the Internet and see if there are any available in your area.

Prairie dog pups are bred or collected between April and July. If you use an exotic pet store to get your prairie dog, in general, they are available for collection six to eight weeks after birth. Usually, adults are available for sale all year round.


Even though prairie dogs are not the best pets, people are still interested in having one. In case you are one of them, get informed about the costs associated with owning a prairie dog. You need to consider veterinary expenses, feeding, housing, and others, besides the cost of the animal itself.

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