If you’re like most pet owners, you consider your animal companions part of the family. But pet-care costs can strain a household budget — so it’s important to evaluate how we care for the animals we love without dropping our hard-earned money into a veterinary sinkhole. Here are a few ideas:
Invest in Pet Healthcare
One of the best ways to combat the high costs of veterinary care is to prepare for them. Many financially savvy pet owners have a separate savings account for potential medical expenses, which include anything from emergency vet visits to end-of-life care. Another way to plan ahead is to invest in pet insurance. Vet bills tend to slowly trickle upward: For example, a series of $400 visits, over the course of a few weeks, that creep upward until they cost thousands. Pet insurance can offset these costs by providing a much lower month-to-month premium, allowing pet owners to enjoy the peace of mind that sudden emergencies can be addressed without breaking the bank.
Spay/Neuter Your Pets
The decision to spay or neuter has a lot of implications — not just for your own animals but also for animals in your community. Homeless animals are everywhere. The Humane Society reports staggering numbers, with 6 to 8 million animals entering shelters every year. Fewer than half of these are adopted. Spaying or neutering your cat or dog doesn’t just help curb the rampant overpopulation problem; it’s also better for your pet’s health, which saves you money in the long run. Neutered male dogs live 18% longer than un-neutered ones, while spayed female dogs live 23% longer than their intact counterparts.
Pet food costs can add up quickly, especially if you have an animal that needs a particular diet. Most cats and dogs get by just fine on garden-variety kibble or canned food, so you’ll definitely save by buying store-brand food from major pet supply retailers. If you’re concerned about quality, check with your vet first — but don’t buy food from the vet unless you absolutely must, because the prices will almost always be marked up.
Consider buying pet food in bulk.You can also avoid breaking the bank by making sure you feed your cats or dogs proper serving sizes for their weight and body type. If you overfeed or free-feed, you not only spend more money on food, but your pets could end up overweight, which can cause significant health problems.
One great way to save money on pet food and supplies is to sign up for loyalty programs through both local and major retailers. Major chain pet stores offer free loyalty programs that help cut costs by providing coupons, sale alerts and overall lower in-store prices.
Focus on Preventing Problems
Spending a little time and money on a regular basis to keep your pets healthy may help you save upwards of thousands of dollars in veterinary costs down the road. One important piece of the puzzle is to stay up-to-date on vaccinations — but there are also actions you can take at home.
Simple products such as a dog- or cat-specific tooth brushing kit will help keep your animal’s oral health in tiptop shape. Products made for humans may irritate their skin or digestive systems, but it’s not hard to find toothbrushes and toothpaste manufactured for animal health. Brush your pet’s teeth at least once a week to keep plaque, gingivitis and potential tooth loss at bay.
Watch for other problems, like any changes in your animals eyes. Your pets eyes should be free of discharge or cloudiness.
Spend Quality Time With Your Pets
Providing daily exercise, play and affection is completely free. Some pets have higher activity needs than others, and it’s important to make sure those needs are met. Keeping to an engaging exercise routine is critical not only for your pets’ physical health but also for their social needs. Most dogs are highly social animals, and they crave human attention. Similarly, while cats may seem more independent than dogs, they often need just as much interactive play and affection.
By spending time with your pets, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of their behaviors, which is invaluable knowledge for catching potential health concerns. When you know what’s normal for your animal, you’ll be far more likely to see smaller behavioral or bodily changes that could indicate serious illness. If you’re paying attention, you’ll be better equipped to notice problems early on, which will not only save money in the long run but can also save your pet’s life.
Photo Credit: Brambleberries Photography