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Owning pets is a rewarding, fulfilling experience for those who enjoy having a companion around. According to AARP, more than 80 million households own at least one pet.
This reflects a 50 percent increase in pet ownership from just 20 years ago. Pet adoption is on the rise, thanks in part to the ease of sharing information via social media.
Heartbreaking pet stories are inspiring more people to adopt, often adding new animals to a multi-pet household.
While there are many joys in pet ownership, there are also a lot of expenses. Routine care, as well as emergency vet services, are a regular part of pet ownership.
For some, especially those on a fixed budget, unexpected expenses leave pet owners stuck between a rock and hard place, having to decide if they can continue keeping their pets due to the financial strain.
Petfinder.com, a pet adoption website, lists the cost of pet maintenance as the number four reason people relinquish animals to a shelter. Many more pets are let loose to fend for themselves when owners can no longer provide proper food or healthcare.
Low-Cost Pet Care Advice
The good news for pet enthusiasts is there are ways to effectively reduce the cost of pet ownership and continue a long relationship with your beloved animals, without busting your budget.
In addition to tips for caring for a pet for less, there are available resources you can use to get help when times get tough.
Here are 9 tips on how to save money on your pets:
1. Regular Vet Visits Are Imperative
The most effective way to prevent the high costs of emergency vet visits from blowing your budget is to schedule regular appointments with your veterinarian.
Routine annual visits will ensure your animal has the proper immunizations to prevent disease. The regular check-ups also make it possible for the vet to identify potential serious health problems early so pets can receive treatment before the condition escalates.
While the cost of veterinarian visits can be expensive, they will cost significantly less than emergency vet care or long-term treatment for medical conditions not identified sooner.
If you live near a college offering veterinary sciences, you may be able to find low-cost services with students who need to practice their skills.
If medications are required for your pet’s care, discuss the costs with your vet and ask if there are more affordable alternatives. Never buy pet medications through irreputable sources.
Many cheap pet medication imitations are being sold on the black market via the Internet and contain harmful, unknown ingredients. These medications will not be guaranteed by your vet.
In the event of health complications, including sickness and death, there is very little recourse you have against the vendor.
Helpful Tip: If you’re having trouble affording regular vet care, speak with your vet’s office about potential discounts for paying in cash. Some vets may also be willing to work with you in other ways to ensure your pet receives quality, routine health checkups if you’re upfront about your financial issues. There may also be groups in your community who can make funds available for your pet’s healthcare needs. Contact your local animal shelter or rescue group to ask about the availability of such resources, including discount services for pet neutering and spaying.
2. Go Ahead and Research Pet Insurance
A quick Google search will show you the many insurance companies now offering pet insurance. As veterinary costs increase, more people are investing in pet insurance to help plan for the unexpected.
Pet insurance works much like human healthcare coverage. You choose your deductible and coverage limits. Each insurance company has different requirements and plans, including those offering 100-percent reimbursement on pet medical expenses.
Your budget will likely help you to determine how much you pay out for insurance and what the plan covers.
The right policy will help ease the burden of having to decide between giving your pet the best possible medical help or having to let them go due to the high costs of care, during a health emergency.
Helpful Tip: Shop around before committing to any insurance plan. If your current insurance provider offers pet insurance, inquire about available discounts for adding a pet health plan to your coverage. Also remember, just because a policy is cheap, doesn’t mean it will work for you and your pet. Familiarize yourself with what conditions are covered under the various pet insurance policy versus how much you need to pay out each month.
3. Proper Diets Matter
Your pet requires a proper diet for optimum health. Cats, dogs, and other pets should be consistently fed a high-quality food to ensure good nutrition.
This can go a long way to protecting the animal’s health. Read the labels and perform your due diligence when selecting a pet’s food and treats. Many higher quality dog and cat foods will cost more, but will help you save significantly on vet bills in the future.
In the event your pet requires a special diet, be wary of your vet’s recommendation for foods they carry exclusively, as these products can be very expensive.
Research the ingredients in the foods your vet recommends and look for comparable products at a lower price. There are many grain-free, specialized diet products available on the market, which costs considerably less than the brand being promoted by your vet.
Feed according to the manufacturer’s directions to ensure you are not overfeeding your pet, causing potential health problems, including obesity. For more exotic animals, like reptiles and amphibians, have a clear understanding of how to properly feed your pet to promote good health.
Helpful Tip: When you decide on a pet food, connect with the manufacturer on social media to stay on top of food recalls and special promotions. Comparison shop for pet food online and in local stores to find the best price point. If you prefer to shop online, make sure to factor in the cost of regular deliveries of pet food versus the cost of picking it up yourself.
4. Get Out and Play
Many health and behavioral issues, with dogs especially, can be prevented through regular exercise. Set aside time every day to take your dog for a walk or play an invigorating game of fetch. Knowing how to wear down a dog’s energy can help avoid obesity issues, health conditions, and destructive behavior.
Spending time with your pet is also important for their good health and taking a good, long walk every day is healthy for owners too. Regular exercise costs nothing but time and effort.
Other pets require daily interaction for good health. Make sure you spend time each day grooming, maintaining habitats, and caring for your pet’s health, even if they aren’t the kind of pet you can run around with for fun.
Regular attention makes it possible to catch health problems early. It also creates a necessary bond between pet and owner.
Helpful Tip: Find other dog owners in your neighborhood to walk with on a regular basis. Having a friend will help motivate you to take your pal out every day and your dog will benefit from having a playmate with whom they can burn off extra energy.
5. Realize the Difference Between Want and Need
The pet industry is a booming one – and for good reason. There are countless doodads and contraptions being manufactured for the pet industry, including designer leashes, high-priced toys, and luxury beds.
This merchandise is being marketed to soft-hearted pet owners, who only want the best for their furry little babies.
As a pet owner with a limited budget, it is important to realize your financial limits, no matter how adorable Princess will look in her designer doggie coat. Differentiate between your wants and your pet’s actual needs before spending a dime.
When you make a purchase, invest in high quality products designed to be durable. Spending money on things you need to keep replacing due to poor craftsmanship or your pet’s propensity for tearing things apart, is a waste of your money.
Helpful Tip: If you like to buy your pet fancy things, put a few dollars aside every paycheck for pet splurges. Make sure you are accommodating their basic needs (food, water, shelter) before shelling out your cash for frivolous merchandise. Your regular household budget should also take into account the needs of your pet, including vet bills, food, and other necessities.
6. Learn How to Groom
Dogs especially need regular grooming. Learn to do it yourself if the cost of professional grooming is too expensive. There are many products on the market to make pet grooming easier, including full grooming kits.
Give your pets a bath at home and brush their coats frequently to prevent tangles and matting. Dogs in need of a regular haircut can be groomed at home using dog-safe clippers and a lot of care.
Research tips for safe grooming and don’t forget to regularly brush teeth for good health.
Helpful Tip: If your dog is too large or too unmanageable to be groomed at home, keep up with regular coat brushing and maintenance to extend time between haircut appointments. Nails can be clipped at your vet’s office often for less cost than at a professional groomer. Ask a tech to show you how to do it properly on your own.
7. DIY Treats and Toys
Pinterest can become your best friend when it comes to pet entertainment. There are lots of recipes available to create healthy, pet-safe treats using common ingredients probably already in your pantry.
Even pets with special dietary needs can enjoy homemade treats without the extra expense.
In fact, making treats at home ensures you know what’s in the products you are giving your pet to eat and you can avoid costly treats filled with unhealthy ingredients and additives.
There are a lot of pet safe toys you can create to entertain your pet, including knotted ropes, sock toys, and ice puzzles using dog-safe items from around your house.
Helpful Tip: If you enjoy creating treats or toys for your pets and have a real skill for creating quality products, consider selling your items to friends and family for extra cash for pet expenses. This kind of side business often turns into a full-time career for many crafty entrepreneurs.
8. Buy Gently Used Accessories
You can save a lot of money on big ticket items, like dog crates and cat climbing towers, when you buy used.
Just remember the golden rule of buying only what your pet needs, rather than the things you simply want them to have. Even though items may cost less when gently used, you need to avoid the clutter and unnecessary spending from your pet budget.
Helpful Tip: Avoid buying any pet item which can’t be thoroughly clean, including pet beds and other items which might contain fleas or other pests. Ask to inspect merchandise before you agree to purchase it to ensure it’s free from defects or parts not safe for your pet.
9. Anticipating Kennel Care Costs
Families who plan to leave home on vacation will need to secure reliable pet care for their beloved animals. Kennel stay costs can quickly add up, especially when you need to board multiple animals.
Consider asking a reliable friend to pet sit for you in your own home. You may be able to pay them very generously and still come in below the cost of a professional kennel. You can also barter pet care from fellow pet owners and return the favor when it’s their turn to leave town.
If you do not have loved ones up for the task, look on websites like Care.com or on community boards for pet sitting services. You’ll still need to cover the costs for care but it may be more reasonable going through an individual rather than a boarding facility.
Helpful Tip: As a pet owner, you understand the concern people have leaving their animals in another person’s care. For extra cash to add to your pet budget, consider offering these services to others. Keep prices lower than the competition but make sure you are still getting fair pay. A good reputation spreads quickly and you may find you can’t keep up with demand for your sitting services.
Start Out on the Right Foot as a Pet Owner
All too often pets are left to fend for themselves when their owners discover they can no longer care for the animals at home.
Shelters are filled with dogs, cats, bunnies, hamsters, and even horses because costs became too high for families to afford pet food and other care.
One of the most important responsibilities people have occurs when making the decision to become a pet owner in the first place. As there are a wide variety of pet types to choose from, it makes good financial sense for you to consider all the financial factors for each pet type before deciding to take on a pet.
A goldfish, no doubt, involves much less care and expense than a goat does.
You need to research the total cost of ownership (an estimated amount of how much your pet will cost you over its lifetime) well before you buy or adopt your first pet.
According to a report by CNBC, the lifetime cost of owning a dog could cost between $27,000 and $42,000. A bunny averages between $12,000 and $19,000. Those totals don’t even account for emergency vet care after injuries or accidents.
There are a lot of resources available to learn more about different dog breeds and species of pet before taking one on as your own. From healthcare to dietary needs, you need to factor in all costs associated with animal care before making a commitment.
Pets should not be a disposable item you dump outside when money gets tight. Pets are a lifetime commitment and you are responsible for everything they need.
Help for Tough Times
Anyone is prone to going through financial hardships from time to time. An unexpected job loss or human medical emergency can strain the budget, making it difficult to care for your pets.
If the situation is temporary, you may be able to find help from community resources to ensure your pet is fed and has its medical needs cared for, despite financial difficulties.
Local animal shelters often have a stockpile of extra food and treats for those in need. Contact your local SPCA to ask for help if you’re in a temporary bind.
You may also have access to private groups in your community, which raise money to help those with financial issues keep their pets at home.
These groups may be able to provide food, litter, equipment and supplies, or other necessary items to support your pet’s care until you can get back on your feet financially.
Groups like this are especially helpful for elderly pet owners on a very fixed income. Community resources for temporary foster situations may also be available if you are not able to care for your pet due to illness or other unavoidable situations.
Whatever your financial needs are, make sure your pet’s health and wellness are still a priority. With proper budgeting and some community resources, you can continue to afford the things you need for your best friend.
If you’re not yet a pet owner, take stock of the expenses a pet will incur in its lifetime. If you’re not financially ready to make the commitment, do yourself and your future pet a favor and wait until things are more financially stable before moving forward.
We hope you enjoyed this article on 9 different ways to save money on pets. See one that’s not on the list and should be? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!