Keep Your Pet Healthy Without Breaking The Bank

We love our four-legged friends. They’re part of the family. According to CNBC, 50 percent of dog owners and 65 percent of cat owners sleep with their pets. We buy them food, treats and vet care; some of us even go so far as to pamper our furry friends with days at the spa, or purchase them elaborate housing units—Fido loves to have his nails done, and Fluffy insists on a cat condo complete with scratching post and outdoor view.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that pet owners spend almost $63 billion on food and supplies, veterinary care, grooming, boarding and other related costs. The first year of pet ownership can exceed $1,000, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

However, while caring for our four-legged friends is expensive, there are ways to cut the cost of pet ownership. Just like with our own health, proactive pet care contributes to a long and healthy life for our furry friends. From getting the necessary vaccinations to choosing healthy foods and treats, here’s how you can help your pet enjoy a great life while limiting expensive veterinarian visits.

What You Should Know About Vet Visits

Find a vet in your area, and keep your pet up-to-date with its vaccinations. While you might think you can save money by skipping a vaccination or two, if your pet comes down with an illness he or she could have been vaccinated against, it will end up costing you more in the end. Vaccinating a pet is one of the easiest ways to ensure he or she lives a happy and healthy life.

  • Core vaccines for dogs include: parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies.
  • Core vaccines for cats include: panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotractheitis) and rabies.
  • Depending on your pets’ risk of exposure, the veterinarian will determine whether or not your pet needs non-core vaccines as well.

Don’t run to the vet every time your dog or cat has a runny nose or an itch it can’t scratch. Minor ailments often cure themselves. Sometimes a 24-hour stomach bug is just a 24-hour stomach bug. Take a wait and see approach. Unnecessary emergency vet visits add up quickly. At the same time, many veterinarians offer payment plans to existing customers, which comes in handy if your dog suddenly needs $1,500 gum surgery.

Pets are such an integral part of our lives that there are some companies that actually give paid time off to employees to care for their animals when they’re sick or newly homed. It’s an enlightened concept; however, while almost one in 20 pet owners in the UK have been offered time off to look after their pets, the concept has been slower to catch on in North America. Still, if you have a pet, it’s something worth inquiring about.

Purchase Pet Food in Bulk

While it’s important to buy high quality food for your pet, high-quality food can break the bank in no time (and remember, expensive price tags don’t always mean high quality pet food). The best way to save money on pet food is to buy in bulk. According to The Guardian, you can cut the cost of pet food by as much as 50 percent when buying in bulk. Skip the small bags of pet food, and purchase the largest bags possible; wholesale stores such as Costco are perfect for buying in bulk, and online pet stores often have good deals.

Look for Online Discounts

More bark than bite is an old idiom. It means that something isn’t as unpleasant as you expected. When it comes to the cost of pets; however, the opposite is true. The price of toys, treats, accessories and animal day care has more bite than bark, as in… the cost of caring for and pampering a pet takes a bite out of your wallet.

Look for online discounts to save money on everything from treats and toys to grooming products. Sites like Groupon,, and offer a variety of daily deals and printable coupons. In addition, by following a company’s social media account or joining its membership club, you’ll have access to even greater savings.

Exercise and Lifestyle Tips

In order to avoid health issues and live long and happy lives, dogs need to get plenty of exercise. Research indicates that dogs that spend hours trapped in cramped conditions can develop joint issues as well as weight-related problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Before getting a dog, it’s important for you to make sure that you have enough space in your house or apartment to keep a pet. Large dogs such as Greyhounds, Mastiffs and Great Danes suffer the most when kept in small spaces. Is the breed of dog you want going to fit comfortably into its new home? Where’s the dog going to stay when you’re at work? How many hours a day is the dog going to be cooped up? These considerations are particularly important  for pet owners living in a busy city setting. By ensuring that your dog gets plenty of exercise and outdoor time, and this includes off-leash activities such as swimming and playing fetch as well as daily walks, your dog will life a happy, healthy and calm life.

While your cat might enjoy lazily looking out the window all day, and getting off the royal perch only to lap up milk and eat some salmon-flavored kibbles, felines need to stay in shape, too. According to Susan Nelson, DVM, an associate professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State’s University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, multi-tiered “cat towers” are a great way to ensure your cat has plenty of places to play and climb. It’s important to keep toys around the house; it’s true, cats like to spend time by themselves but most felines also enjoy playtime, and playtime provides a vigorous workout. String, Ping-Pong balls and balled-up pipe cleaners make great inexpensive cat toys.

You can groom a dog at home for a fraction of what it costs for a professional grooming service. Have your veterinarian show you how to cut your pet’s nails and brush his or her teeth. A DIY approach to grooming and pampering saves money. This also holds true for boarding and day care. Instead of using a kennel service, ask a friend or relative to look after your pet if you need to go away.

Think of it like this: if a dog really is “man’s best friend,” then he’s not going to watch you go broke trying to take care of him (Ditto for your feline best friend, too.). There are many different ways to save money and still pamper a pet. In the end, our four-legged friends want our love, not our money.