For the last several years, Americans have spent around $40 billion each year on veterinary care and other pet products and services. And the strain on American pocketbooks is beginning to show. Beloved pets are filling already-packed animal shelters as families can no longer afford to keep up with the costs of the pet industry. But there are ways of keeping pets affordable. Here are some tips for holding onto your pet without letting go of your savings.
Be a Savvy Consumer
Buy in bulk. Buying food in larger quantities generally costs less. Unused food can be sealed in airtight bags or other containers to keep it fresh until you are ready to use it. Or, if you have a friend or relative who is a pet owner, consider splitting the purchase.
Know what’s necessary. Not all vaccines are necessary—most animals only need “core vaccines” that protect against diseases that are the most common or the most deadly. When purchasing vaccines or medications for your pet, check to see which are necessary based on your pet’s lifestyle and other factors. Make sure you’re not making needless purchases.
Do-it-yourself Pet Care
Provide homemade treats. There’s no need to spend money on high-quality pet treats when there are perfectly good alternatives in your own home. Although many “people foods” are unhealthy to our furry friends, there are some safe options, such as skinless, boneless meat and certain vegetables. There are also recipes available on the Web for baking your own treats (all-natural-dog-treats.com, for example). Always check with your vet, however, before introducing anything new into your pet’s diet.
Be your pet’s stylist. Forego the trip to the groomer’s and learn to bathe and trim your pet yourself. Shampoos, nail clippers, and other gear are readily available at pet stores. If you’re not sure where to start, you can ask your vet for tips and instructions on how to do this.
Choose toys wisely. Instead of paying for top-of-the-line toys, use things you already have on hand, such as old tennis balls. Get creative! A classic option is using hand-me-down stuffed animals or other child toys that are cast aside. If you don’t have any on hand, check dollar stores, thrift stores, or garage sales for cheap deals. Choose toys that are durable so that you don’t have to replace them often.
Consider pet insurance. There can be pros and cons to purchasing insurance for your pet. Average costs are anywhere from $20 to $40 each month. Depending on the age and general health of your pet, this may be a bargain, especially if your pet’s breed tends toward certain maladies that may require costly procedures. However, if your pet generally stays in good health, then the insurance may never become necessary. If this applies to you, consider this: some experts suggest putting the money that you would have spent on insurance into a savings account instead. That way, you remain in control of your money but still have it available in case of emergency.
Shop around. Many animal shelters and veterinary schools provide low-cost services to pet owners, including discounted vaccinations and medications. Check with your local animal shelters and schools to see which services they offer. Not all vets are created equal—some charge more for certain procedures than others. Take a look at different veterinary offices in your area to find the best bargain.
An Ounce of Prevention
Buy the best. The best way to cut pet-care costs is by keeping them healthy. The healthier they stay, the less cost you will incur in vet visits and other bills. One way to keep them fit is to feed them high-quality pet food. In your quest to cut costs, don’t scrimp on quality by buying generic brands. Many times, these are lacking in important nutrients and could make your pet sick. To make sure the food is healthy, check on the bag to see if the brand is certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials.
Count the calories. Another way to keep the veterinarian bills from piling up is to make sure you’re not overfeeding. Over half of the cats and dogs in the United States are overweight. Obesity in pets can lead to chronic illnesses like diabetes as well as heart and kidney diseases. It can also make them more prone to injury. Check the label on the bag or with your vet to make sure that your pet is being fed the recommended amount. Putting your pet on a diet could not only keep your pet healthy, but save you money on food as well.