Pets are a wonderful thing. They are great companions; they show us love, keep us active, lower our blood pressure, reduce our anxiety, and teach our kids responsibility. But they don’t come cheap. While the bare minimum cost of having a dog is around $700 a year, when you add toys, flea control, home repairs, vet bills, fences, grooming and accessories to their monthly food costs, you could be forking over a small fortune to keep your pooch happy and healthy.
If you are thinking about getting a pet, consider the costs and be prepared for the worst. You are adding a new member to your family and it’s not fair to them if you didn’t plan properly and end up providing poor care or taking them back. Can you really afford it for the next 15 years of your life?
Kibbles and What??
It might not seem very frugal to pay $40-60 for a bag of food, but paying a little more for a good quality food will almost certainly save you a ton in vet bills down the road. Not all dog foods are created equal. Many cheaper brands are chock-full of fillers, meaning Fluffy will have to eat a lot more of it to get her nutritional needs met. While there is much debate, I believe fillers such as corn gluten meal and meat by-products are not ideal and should not be in the top 7 ingredients of any food (or at all).
That said, when it comes to pet food, expensive doesn’t always mean good (I’m looking at you, Hills Science Diet). Check out Dog Food Advisor and Pet Food Talk for nutritional analysis, reviews, and ratings of every brand. For a well reviewed, inexpensive food, check out Kirkland Signature.
An Ounce of Prevention
Don’t skimp on vaccines, preventative care and maintenance.
- Get good flea/tick and heart worm medicine.
- Take care of their teeth and ears. Buy teeth treats, teeth cleaning spray, or use a damp tooth brush with baking soda.
- Make sure they get plenty of exercise. A lot of problems arise from a sedentary lifestyle.
- Take the time to properly groom your pet. A clean pet is less prone to illness.
These are all simple things that are guaranteed to save you in the long run.
Despite your greatest efforts, there may come a time when your pet does need emergency care. It can happen at any time, although very young and very old pets are especially prone to problems. So how do you afford your pet’s emergency care? Here are some top options:
- Make your own insurance. In 90% of cases, pet insurance just isn’t worth it. They don’t cover a lot and you’ll pay out a lot more in the long run. Make an emergency fund and put $20-30 a month into it. If an emergency arises, you’ll be prepared. If not, the money is still in your pocket.
- Free/Low Cost Care. Sometimes you can get a lower cost on emergency care by going to a local vet school or local vet clinic rather than going to a private veterinarian. Alternatively, you can seek out financial aid for pet owners; the Humane Society has a comprehensive list of organizations that provide such aid, as does the ALF. Financial aid organizations are particularly helpful to assist you in covering the costs of pet care when your pet has a long-term disease such as cancer or diabetes.
- Comparison Shop. Veterinary costs vary widely so call around and ask how much they charge for this and that. I’ve found Vetco (The Petco clinic) to be VERY affordable. They don’t have vet’s office like Petsmart, but they hold clinics every 1-2 weeks where you can get a free exam and vaccines for next to nothing.
Are you a proud pet owner? How do you cut costs?