by Angie Picardo
All pet owners know that the cost of keeping our pets safe, happy and comfortable comes with a price. Financing pet expenses can be a daunting task, and effectively finding the sweet-spot for a monthly budget is a constant work-in-progress.
There are the knowns: Yearly visits to the vet for checkups, grooming, medications, food, litter, toys, etc.
And the unknowns: Emergency trips to the vet, breed-specific illnesses, boarding for the unexpected out-of-town trip, replacing demolished toys, etc.
However, there are several ways of keeping the roller-coaster of expenses under control in terms of your pet’s health and general food intake.
Pet health is the greatest concern to pet owners and the largest strain on a pet owner’s budget. Some dog breeds are more prone to specific health issues like glaucoma, hip dysplasia, susceptibility to bloating, bone cancer, digestive and breathing disorders, etc., so preparing a savings fund ahead of time will soften the blow if a health issue arises.
Exercising leads to healthier, happier pets and therefore fewer health issues and trips to the vet. If you can’t get your lab into a search or agility training workshop, just read a few books and toss the Frisbee in your backyard. Take your pets for a run or a walk. You’ll both enjoy the benefits and get some bonding time in. For cats, play with feathers, chasers, or catnip.
Pet owners should have a secure yard with a fenced in area to not only keep out strangers or intruding animals, but also keeping your pets from wandering out into the neighborhood. Furthermore, pet owners should keep their home pet-proof by locking up chemicals and keeping items like rat poison where pets can’t reach them.
Beyond the cost of regular checkups and vaccines, pet owners should always prepare for emergencies. Pet insurance is available from many companies, and is accepted at most vets. Like regular insurance, there is a small monthly fee and most contracts imply that a pet has to be healthy for a year, with no preexisting conditions. Buy when your pet is young to safeguard against the unknown disasters and medical emergencies. Some of these insurance providers include: VPI, Petplan USA, Healthy Paws, ASPCA, and PurinaCare.
Furthermore, there are other financial assistance programs regarding emergency pet help financed privately or through grants, including: Angels 4 Animals, Cats in Crisis, Care Credit Card, HandicappedPets.com and the Mosby Foundation, to name a few.
Dog and cat food labels usually include general serving sizes similar to those found on human food packaging. As with humans, overfeeding a pet means buying more. Read the label and look for high-quality ingredients. One may spend more for higher quality foods, but will generally have to feed pets a lower quantity. Higher quality food will extend a pet’s life and a better diet may prevent complications and trips to the vet later in life. Higher quality foods include good proteins (being the first ingredient listed), veggies and fruits, whole grains, and make sure you avoid corn and other by-products. Variety helps, too, so introduce plenty of raw, dry, and wet foods into your pets’ diets.
Cat owners on a budget could save money by looking into a raw food diet. Overall, a varied raw food diet of chicken, turkey, rabbit or pheasant helps pet health and even decreases waste odor (so less money would go to buying scented litter). It also decreases the likelihood of kidney stones. Putting cats on a raw food diet is time consuming, but is a cheap alternative to weekly trips for canned food in a multiple-cat household. Owners can also save more by freezing in bulk.
A final way to finance your pet’s expenses is by budgeting for utility materials like toys, beds, and mats. Websites like Pinterest and Youtube show pet owners how to make their own beds and toys, cheap frisbees, balls, cardboard boxes, and paper towel rolls. In many cases, household-found chew toys will provide just as much fun as a $50 chew toy—pets have no concept of money, only joy.
Financing your pet can be costly and time-consuming, but with a little planning and budget establishment, a pet’s life can be extended, their health sustained, and their happiness increased tremendously. Follow a plan that fits your financial situation and lifestyle, and you may end up saving much more than you’d expect!
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a website dedicated to helping pet lovers find the best credit cards to finance all their furry friends’ needs!