Cheap Everyday: Easy ways to cut the high cost of pet care

Cheap Everyday: Easy ways to cut the high cost of pet care

If the cost of keeping your pets fed, healthy, cared for, and looking good has risen, you’re the one coughing up fur balls, take heart. There are many small ways to lower the cost of pet care that will add up to big savings.

According to one survey, owning a dog costs an average of $1,480 in basic expenses per year. For cats, the average annual expense is about $902. Fish are the cheapest pets, worth up to $750 a year to care for aquatic friends.

So how can you afford to care for your furry, feathered, and scaly friends in sickness and in health? Make preventive maintenance your top priority as a pet owner, then carefully track every expense.

Consider these tips to help lower your pet’s expenses without risking your pets health or well-being.

Free exams

Find free preliminary exams. Local vets often advertise a free initial check-up as part of their marketing to attract new clients. Take advantage of the offer. This type of office visit usually ranges between $40 and $60.

Mobile and low-cost clients

Check for low-cost or mobile clinics for vaccinations, microchips, heartworms, and flea prevention. While you may want to stick to the same vet for annual exams, save a bundle for preventive services. Search for “low cost animal clinic near me” to see if this clinic is available for you and your pets.

The late David Rowen, a board-certified veterinarian and founder of the Clarkston Veterinary Clinic in Clarkston, Washington, advised that a fence or other reasonable restraint is the best way to avoid big vet bills. “I see more dogs in my office due to injuries sustained while unleashed than from any other reason. Dogs should be leashed, fenced, or supervised,” he told me.

Choose the right food

Dr. Rowen has always advised pet owners to skip all the fancy premium foods sold by vets. Use a brand name pet food labeled “complete and balanced.” Or look for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal of approval.

When your pet’s food is on sale, stock up on enough until the next time it goes on sale. Stick to the same brand. An abrupt switch can cause health problems for some animals. And less is better, because pets that are slightly underweight have fewer health problems.

spray and set

Reproductive issues aside, the Animal Health Foundation reports that spayed and neutered dogs experience fewer health and behavioral problems, which translates to lower vet bills and other health-related pet costs.

Get second opinions

Even if it’s an emergency, get a second opinion if the estimates are more than a few hundred dollars. If the estimate is $800 and you can only afford $400, say Dr. Rowen, speak up. There may be less invasive and cheaper alternative treatments.

Shop around for medicines

Do not buy medications from your vet, as most vets who sell medications and supplements usually charge a large profit. Ask your vet for samples of prescribed medications to get started. Then contact retailers such as Walmart or Costco drugstores (many medications are the same for humans and animals) to compare prices.

To save even more, enroll your cat or dog in prescription saving programs such as those offered by Walgreens, Kroger, Rite Aid, and Walmart.

Look for bargains

Don’t rush to the pet store when you need a crate, cat carrier, or other pet equipment. Instead, look at Craigslist.org and Facebook Marketplace. You won’t believe all the deals in gently used pet gear, even brand new. Make sure that boxes, carriers, and the like are sterilized, even if they appear clean. A 50-50 ratio of vinegar or bleach (never mix the two) to water should do the trick.

Look for coupons

Just the other day, I saw a coupon in a flyer for a free manicure at a local vet, $15 in savings. Keep your eyes open for coupons in the mail and at grocery and pet stores.

Check out yard sales

You can never safely buy new toys for your pets when you consider a yard sale instead. Instead of $12 for a new monkey or hedgehog, a single yard sale will work, too—much better at 25 cents to $1, which is typical. Most stuffed toys come out fine after a trip through the washer and dryer. Hint: Add Lysol to the wash cycle to sanitize and disinfect.

Create an account

Seriously, you need to create a savings account just for pet care, where you deposit money regularly. Even $10 a week will turn into $520 in one year. Dedicate this account to pet emergencies only, then congratulate yourself on being a responsible pet owner. Woof!

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.comThis column is fully archived with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary calls for questions and comments atAsk Mary. This column will answer questions of general interest, but messages cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is a founder EverydayCheapskate.coma life-saving blogger, and author of Debt-Proof Living.

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