Pets and Your Budget–13 Tips to Save Money Safely

by Mary Haight on December 10, 2008

Image by tanakawho via Flickr

It seems everyone is on a tight budget lately. The annual cost of keeping dogs and cats happy and healthy can run between $700 and $1000, according to a survey done by the American Pet Products Association.  I heard people talking at the pet store the other day, suggesting that maybe they could find cheaper food, stop vaccinating their furry friends, or forgo the spay/neuter on their new puppy.

Pet food safety issues have already killed many pets and is enough to make you forget about skimping on food.  Broken-bag food is no bargain, given possible pesticide spray exposure, rat feces, and cockroach infestations.  Vaccinations prevent more serious, and expensive, conditions so it’s too much like gambling to try to save money here, although you can consult your vet.  Spay/neuter, besides population control, has attitude and training benefits for dogs and prevents prostate issues later in life.  These are not safe choices and could lead to one big, fat, budget-busting vet bill. 

 Here’s a list of tips that should put a dent in your expenses without putting your best friend at risk.  If you have something you’d like to add, that would be great!

1.  Low cost spay/neuter agencies are available in many areas of the country.  If you can’t find one, depending on your area, local Animal Care and Control agencies offer free surgeries to qualified people as well as low-cost spay/neuter to the general public.  Call your local shelters.

2.  Clinics use veterinary technicians to provide low-cost vaccinations, saving the “office visit” charge.

3.  Check out your local shelter’s websites for information on sourcing low or no-cost pet food programs.  There are services for those who are seriously struggling to keep their pets.

4.  Pet medications ordered online are cheaper than those purchased through your vet.  Ask your vet if they have a price matching program.  You may get a positive response.

5.  Coupons for meds can also be found online at Frontline and other product specific websites, and the online pet med pharmacies also run “specials.”  Never administer drugs to your dog or cat that have not been prescribed by your vet.  Example: You must get a blood test before administering Heartworm medication.

6.  In the case of emergency surgery, ask your vet about any interest free financing programs being offered.

7.  Wherever you shop, ask about customer loyalty cards that yield discounts and or points toward free products.

8.  Conduct the bulk of your pets grooming needs at home.  Clipping nails (with the cutting guard in place!) saves $10 or $15 dollars, even alternating responsibility between you and the professional will save  hundreds of dollars a year.

9.  Practice preventive care.  Regular feeding and exercise goes a long way to avoiding added vet visits.  Brush your pets teeth, if you think you can do this without getting injured, with the nubbed finger sleeve.  This saves hundreds of dollars a year, and is better than putting you dog or cat under anethesia.

10. Pet First Aid classes are available–even pet CPR–at the Red Cross and other organizations.

11. Take a look at pet insurance policies, and conduct your own due diligence for company viability and customer satisfaction ratings.

12. Take up garage sailing for old stuffed toys not likely to be tainted with toxics that will be safe for your pet.  You can remove button eyes and things likely to be chewed off or swallowed. Cat and dog beds, crates, carriers, and barrier gates can also be bought at very steep discounts.  A friend of mine also finds clothing for her dogs for Halloween, Christmas, and everyday cold weather coats and sweaters!

13. Cheap but effective training classes for dogs are held at local shelters, YMCAs, community learning annexes, and by trainers at various venues.  You can ask to sit in to see the value available for you and your dog.

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