Kitten and puppy snuggling up and sound asleept

How to Cut Your Pet Expenses in Half

For many of my readers, their pets are like children. So of course you love your furry friends and want the best for them. But if the cost to keep them fed, healthy, cared for, and looking good has gotten so high, you’re the one coughing up fur balls, take heart. There are lots of little ways to cut pet expenses that when added together will help you save big on your pet costs.

 

Kitten and puppy snuggling up and sound asleept

 

According to one survey, pet owners spend on average $126.19 every month on their pets. Dogs are more costly than cats, but canines are not the most expensive pets. Fish are the cheapest pets; fish owners spend $62.53 a month on their aquatic friends.

So how can you afford to care for your furry friend in sickness and in health? Make prevention maintenance your top priority as a pet owner, carefully track every expense, then consider these tips that will help you cut your pet expenses in half without putting your pets’ health or well-being at risk.

Free exams

Search for free initial exams. Local veterinarians often advertise a free initial examination as part of marketing to attract new customers. Take advantage of the offer. This kind of office visit typically runs between $40 and $60.

Mobile, low-cost clinics

For vaccinations, microchips, and heartworm and flea preventatives, check around for low-cost or mobile clinics. While you may want to stick with the same vet for annual exams, you can save a bundle on preventive services.

Restrain

A fence or some other reasonable restraint is the best way to avoid big vet bills, says David T. Roen, D.V.M., board-certified veterinarian and owner of the Clarkston Veterinary Clinic in Clarkston, Wash. “I see more dogs in my office because of injuries sustained while unrestrained than for any other reason. Dogs should always be leashed, fenced or supervised.”

 

Dog house behind a fence on a beautiful sunny day

Choose the right food

Dr. Roen advises pet owners to skip all the fancy premium foods sold by vets. Use name-brand pet food from the supermarket labeled “complete and balanced.” Or look for the seal of approval of AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials). Stick with the same brand. Switching abruptly can cause health issues for some animals. And less is better, as slightly underweight pets have fewer health problems.

Spay and neuter

Reproductive issues aside, spayed and neutered dogs have fewer health and behavioral problems.

 

Two cats on a bed

Make wellness routine

Some pet supply stores offer in-store clinics and special events. Humane societies and veterinary schools offer low-cost clinics where inoculations and wellness exams are administered by professionals. Keep good records of your pets’ inoculations and treatments

Forget pet health insurance

Pet insurance will probably cost more money than it saves, says Dr. Roen. But you should anticipate future medical bills. “Instead of sending premiums to an insurance company, put the amount you’d pay in premiums into a savings account.”

Get second opinions

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

Shop around for medications

Don’t buy medication at the vet as most veterinarians who sell medications and supplements directly typically charge a big  mark-up. Ask your vet for prescription drug samples to get started. Then call around to retailers such as Wal-Mart or Costco pharmacies (many meds are the same for humans and animals) to compare prices. To save even more, sign your cat or dog up on prescription savings programs like the ones offered by Walgreens, Kroger, Rite-Aid, and Walmart.

chihuahua and syringe in front of white background

 

Exchange pet sitting

Hiring a pet sitter or boarding at a kennel can run from $40 to $60 per pet, per night. That can add up fast! Instead when you travel and need sitting, exchange pet sitting with a friend or neighbor. Choose someone you trust who doesn’t vacation more than you do so it’s an equal exchange.

Find the bargains

When you need a crate, cat carrier, or other pet equipment, don’t rush to the pet store. Instead, look at Craigslist.org. You won’t believe all the bargains in gently-used, even brand new, pet gear. Make sure you sanitize crates, carriers and the like even if they look clean. A 50-50 ratio of either 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 nail trim at a local vet, a savings of $15. Keep your eyes open for coupons in the mail, grocery and pet stores.

Check yard sales

You can safely never buy new toys for your pets when you think yard sales instead. Instead of $12 for a new monkey or hedgehog, one from a yard sale will work just as well—for a much better price of $.25 to $1, which is typical. Most stuffies come out just fine after a trip through the washer and dryer.

 

cute-boy-playing-with-new-puppy-english-bulldog-on-kitchen-floor

Create an account

Seriously, you need to establish a savings account just for your pet’s care, into which you regularly deposit money. Even $10 a week will turn into $520 in one year. Earmark that account for pet emergencies only then congratulate yourself on being a responsible pet owner.

First published: 10-16-15; Revised & Updated 7-2-19


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17 replies
  1. Chrissy Goff
    Chrissy Goff says:

    I have a credit card for emergencies for my pet care and a savings account just in case. Have never used the credit card but if savings isn’t enough I have that option. I am not saying use a credit card but to have an empty one for emergencies for back up can never hurt.

    Reply
  2. Mary Wilson
    Mary Wilson says:

    My vet recommended Costco dog food. There are a few kinds to choose from. I am one who feeds my dog the same foods I eat as well. A few months ago, he tore both his ACLs. Surgery was recommended, I said no. I wasn’t ready to let him go so I opted for conservative care. This consisted of extreme rest, no walks, no running the yard, no steps, meds and chiropractic care. Long story short, he has made a full recovery. I will continue the chiropractic care and not let him run wild too often. My dog is a Great Dane/Great Pyrenees mix and is 2 years old.

    Reply
  3. NF
    NF says:

    I have 5 dogs currently. One of my biggest savings is cooking for them. I have a dedicated crock pot and cook once or twice a week. I mix this mulligan stew with decent dry food. I freeze excess. Dogs with sensitive tummies get rice/chicken gruel made in crock pot. I do not recommend this if your dog has specific medical problems like diabetes, pancreatitis etc. this is for “normal” healthy dogs. They thrive on it.

    Reply
  4. Cynthia L Catts
    Cynthia L Catts says:

    Don’t mean to be rude, but don’t suggest feeding pet food from the grocery store. Most of their brands are basically junk food for animals. Choose a higher quality food, without corn, soy and other fillers. Keep in mind: vets get very little training around nutrition and it’s taught by people involved with the pet food industry, which should be an obvious sign of a conflict of interest.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Cynthia … I suggest you do some independent research! What you say is just not factually correct. I invite you and all my pet parents to peruse the AAAFO website, linked in the post.

      Reply
      • Marla
        Marla says:

        I HAVE done independent research and I agree with Cynthia.

        Search online for veterinarian nutrition text books and look at the back cover… you will probably find something like this:
        https://www.amazon.com/Small-Animal-Clinical-Nutrition-Edition/dp/0615297013
        To me, it’s basically the equivalent of McDonald’s or better yet Kellogg’s funding my doctor’s nutrition courses.

        The kibble companies also give veterinarian students free kibble throughout their education. Trying to form a relationship sure, but does it cause licensed veterinarians to suggest one brand over other out of allegiance for their former freebies even if it’s not the best? Along the same lines as pharmaceutical reps plying doctors with meals, trips etc. maybe?

        And most veterinarians only receive a small portion of their hours in nutrition… somewhere around 1/8th of their education is nutrition based (and that’s generous based on what I’ve been told recently).

        Furthermore some of the testing (AAFCO feed trials) only require eight (8) dogs in the study and the study only has to last 26 weeks. Only six of the eight original dogs need to complete the trial and they are assessed at the beginning and end of the trial but blood serum is only drawn at the end of the 26 weeks and the dogs can’t have lost more than 15% of their body weight. Basically the kibble only has to prove that it can keep six dogs alive for 26 weeks without the dog losing more than 15% of it’s weight. That’s not what I want for my girl.

        Why are we told that we should be eating more whole, fresh foods but we’re told that essentially feeding cereal (certainly, only processed food) is the only thing our pets should eat?

        And the vitamin mixes that they have to add to each batch of kibble (to make the kibble “complete and balanced”) have had problems time and time again. Most recently it’s been excessive levels of vitamin D (up to 70 times the safe level) that have forced recalls because it can lead to kidney failure and death.

        Stop depending on a government agency to protect you (or your pet) and research for yourself.

    • Chrissy Goff
      Chrissy Goff says:

      I buy our pet food at tractor supply. It is affordable and has all the nutrition they need. I always add vegetables and other food to their dish to make it tasty too. It is food that is made just for them so no ingredients they are not allowed to have. My dogs won’t eat the grain free healthy food. I tried it. Spent money on bags that they wouldn’t eat but the shelter loved them. I have also returned bags to PetCo that they wouldn’t eat and they helped us find a different brand of food.

      Reply
  5. EvilCatMom
    EvilCatMom says:

    We have a diabetic cat that requires insulin (humulin-n/novolin-n). After calling around to pharmacies, finally a Costco tech told me that Walmart or Sam’s Club have the lowest price. And they do. For years, we’ve been paying only$24.88 per vial. Others wanted $70-$96 per vial!!

    Also, we pay $69/year for Pet Assure for 10 cats and it saves us a ton of money (25% on any medical care, including annual checkups). Whatever Pet Assure doesn’t cover (like food, boarding) our vet gives us 10% off just because we have so many animals…if your vet participates with Pet Assure, it’s a good deal. And if you have a lot of pets it never hurts to ask for a discount.

    Reply
    • pawandclawdesigns
      pawandclawdesigns says:

      Hey ECM,

      Our Diabetic Tweek didn’t have insurance (sadly…) and he was on Lantus (insulin glargine) for over 8 years, on and off. We found that getting him a savings card at Walgreens (They now allow you to add pets to your own account) saved tons of money. We also had one for our recently departed Squee Bomb, and we saved HUNDREDS on his medications, both script and OTC over the last 6 of his 20+ years with us. It’s 20 bucks a year, IIRC, and we saved about 190 dollars every 90 days on Squee’s Meds and over 200 on Tweek’s Lantus. (which lasted him about 90 days when he was stable, and about 45 days towards the end)

      Wishing you and your Sugar Baby good health and happiness, and good savings <3

      Reply
    • NF
      NF says:

      Absolutely true. I had 2 diabetic dogs and Wally World was the place to go. Syringes too. Also, always ask vet for generic. I had several always recommend name brand. Generic saved me tons.

      Reply
  6. pawandclawdesigns
    pawandclawdesigns says:

    I really must disagree about insurance. All of our animals ended up developing chronic illness later in life, which was covered by their insurance. Yes, it was 120 bucks a year we didn’t make use of for several years, but in the end we saved thousands of dollars on vet expenses, medication and long term chronic illness treatment once the animal did fall ill. It saved their lives AND our bank account. It covers accidents and injury too. Given the cost of diagnosis and surgical removal of say, a swallowed sock, can be up to $4,000, it’s worth it in my opinion.

    Reply
      • pawandclawdesigns
        pawandclawdesigns says:

        We use https://www.healthypawspetinsurance.com/ and are very pleased. We’ve only ever met our high deductible plan once, but the reimbursement deposits came in less than a week and we used their app to upload scans of the vet bills. The managers of the rescue all our animals come from recommend https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/.

        We opt for a high deductible/low reimbursement plan for our younger animals, so the monthly rate is lower. As they age, we rework the coverage to a lower deductible and higher reimbursement. It’s a higher monthly rate, but we have always found our animals have developed old age related illness. Then, all but one of our cats lived past 16, 8 years beyond ‘senior’ age. Our oldest nearly made it to 21!

      • Juli Sharpe
        Juli Sharpe says:

        We, too, use healthypaws insurance and are extremely pleased. My research led to that company as it was ranked #1. Our first fur babies were as it was unheard of until late in their life. We spent many thousands between them for orthopedic surgeries, arthritis medicine, osteosarcoma, and age-related illnesses.
        When I got a new puppy the first thing we did was insure him. Before he was 18 months old HealthyPaws had paid more in vet bills than we will pay in premiums over his life. (Ortho surgery, physical therapy, etc) For a solid year, until he was around 2.5 yrs old, he required daily arthritis medicine for which HealthyPaws reimbursed us more than the monthly premium. In my opinion, if you choose a quality insurance policy not insuring your pet’s health is as risky as not insuring your family’s health. Our vet strongly recommends pet health insurance but doesn’t endorse any company.

      • pawandclawdesigns
        pawandclawdesigns says:

        ‘ In my opinion, if you choose a quality insurance policy not insuring your pet’s health is as risky as not insuring your family’s health.’

        This!

        When you adopt an animal, you are committing, emotionally, physically and YES financially to providing them with a good life for as long as you or they live.

        IMHO, if someone with a pet views them as an ‘expense’ that can be trimmed by taking shortcuts with lower-quality food or medical care…eh…maybe consider rehoming your pet to a home that can, and will, treat them like a family member, not an ‘expense’.

  7. Jan New
    Jan New says:

    To get your pet neutered, look for low cost spay/neuter clinics. I’m paying $40 a piece to have my female cats spayed. They need a $15 rabies shot as well. However, my local vet charges $128.00 per cat to spay them. I do have to drive 22 miles to the clinic, but it’s a huge savings.

    Reply

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