Dogs are loyal creatures, and their companionship brings joy and happiness to our lives. According to latest National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), about 60.2 million households in the U.S. have dogs. But with the significantly increasing demand for a wider variety of pet products and services, the prices, too, seem to have gone up in the past few years.
If you’re living from paycheck to paycheck or suddenly find yourself in circumstances that have changed your financial stability, it can become difficult to provide quality care for your pets. However, don’t lose hope just yet! With a few simple changes and smart decisions, you might be able to tame your expenses without having to compromise on your dog’s well-being or, worse yet, having to give up your canine companion.
Here are 8 tips for being economically smart with your dog:
1. Don’t Spend an Arm and a Leg on the Grooming Sessions
Grooming sessions are essential for dogs, particularly for the ones with thicker coats. Proper grooming doesn’t only make your dog look good, it’s also vital for his health. Of course, you can’t miss the sessions altogether; but you can shop around for the best deals, use coupons, barter with local groomers or learn the art of grooming your own dog yourself.
If you opt for grooming your own dog, you may initially have to invest a small amount of your pet care budget in tools such as clippers, brushes, otic solutions, tweezers, gauze and scissors for a trim. You can ask your groomer to teach you or consult your veterinarian about learning the basics as you don’t want to get into an accident. YouTube is also a wonderful way to learn basic grooming and nail clipping skills.
Bathing your dog regularly and/or brushing him to keep his coat free of tangles and knots, and keeping his nails clipped, can save additional costs down the road. So can learning how to brush your dog’s teeth!
2. Don’t Skip Preventive Care
Regular checkups by the veterinarian play a significant role and really shouldn’t be missed. It’s important. It is better to catch diseases and health problems in the beginning, before they advance and become a serious risk to your pet’s health and serious dents in your budget. Preventing emergency vet visits and severe health issues helps.
Of course, don’t panic in case of minor ailments. If your dog sneezes or coughs once there isn’t really any need to run to the vet for an emergency visit. What’s important is to stay up to date on vaccinations; it is best to prevent your pooch against nasty illnesses instead of putting him at risk. You can also ask your vet about any special discounts for multiple pets, or to let you know when they have deals on teeth cleaning or other such services.
3. Don’t Pay Full Price for Pet Meds
Some vets mark up the medicines they sell, leading to higher bills. A smart way of saving on these medicines is to look online and compare prices. Many websites offer discounts (just make sure you are dealing with a reputable pharmacy and don’t get scammed).
Sometimes the companies themselves offer coupons and deals via vet office and you can also check local pharmacies across town and see where you can get the best deal.
4. Don’t Get Pet Insurance
Pet insurance can pay vet bills in case of surgery or illness, but it is tricky. It all depends on what plan you opt for and what it covers. You may pay a premium and never make a claim or end up using the insurance to pay for an unfortunate surgery that costs thousands of dollars; you need to decide if you want to pay the price for your peace of mind if, and only if, it’s in the budget.
Besides insurance, you can commit to setting aside your own “premium” in an envelope labeled “Pet Emergency Fund” or consider your financing options should the need for an expensive vet bill become a reality. Some vets will work with you so long as you’re making consistent payments. Some won’t. It’s best to know what your vet’s policy is before something happens.
5. Don’t Compromise on the Quality of Food
Keeping your pup healthy is a top priority, especially if you’re on a budget, so don’t compromise on the quality of food your giving your furry friend. While it’s tempting to feed table scraps to supplement their food, you have to be very careful. Don’t feed your dog pork bones, toxic foods or any food that doesn’t have nutritional value.
Although various affordable dog food brands are excellent in quality, you can always get discounts on the expensive ones, too. Learning how to read the labels helps. And purchase dog food in bulk, when possible, to help minimize costs. Various online sites put up great deals every once in a while, keep a look out for those, too.
There are other pet supplies, toys, bowls, collars, harnesses and leashes, for example, where you can opt for the lower cost, budget-friendly versions without compromising your dog’s health. No matter how many toys you purchase, some dogs can just chew through them all really quickly – so opt for the occasional toy and start getting creative with things you can use as dog toys. Most dogs are just as happy to play fetch with a stick as they are with a fancy toy.
6. Don’t Skip Exercising
Take your dog for long walks or short runs. You can play fetch with your pup, build an agility course using old household items and try other outdoor activities to strengthen the bond with your puppy.
The regular walks and exercise will help keep your dog healthy and boost his immune system. And it helps keep you healthy, too.
7. Don’t Board, Barter
Whenever you travel, you have to consider the needs of your pup, too, which either means boarding him, begging favors from friends or taking him with you. If you’re on a budget, you’ll probably need to skip the fancy boarding spas, pet-friendly hotels and pet sitters.
Instead of boarding or hiring a sitter, consider asking friends and neighbors to watch your dog and offer to return the favor later on. You can trade dog-sitting for dog-sitting, but you can also trade dog-sitting for plant watering, house cleaning, babysitting, etc. Get creative.
If there’s no other option for providing your dog with quality care in your absence, make sure you research your options and look at reviews as well as rates.
8. Don’t Forget to Spay or Neuter
You already have a pup to care for; the last thing you would want or need is more mouths to feed. If you’re on a tight budget, spaying or neutering your dog is the best investment you can make up front. It’s also the responsible thing to do.
The Humane Society also has a list of national and state resources for dog owners in need; you can check them out here.
If you’re thinking about getting a dog and don’t have a very large budget, look for dog breeds that don’t require lots of maintenance. It will help you cut down costs on grooming and health care as well. And, obviously, smaller breeds don’t eat nearly as much as larger breeds.
DO: Adopt a Dog
Adopting a dog from the shelter will not only help you cut costs but will enable you to play your part in saving a life. The pets at shelters are spayed/neutered, up to date on their vaccinations, and many are even house trained.
While it might not be as easy to manage having a dog on a limited budget, it is possible. The most important thing you can give your dog is love.