I’M A DOG LOVER. I’ve had four Cardigan Welsh Corgis share their lives with me. Over the past 25 years, dog food, veterinary care and training classes have consumed a large percentage of my disposable income. By necessity, I’ve learned a few simple ways to reduce the cost of pet ownership—including these five strategies:
1. Pet insurance. One of my Corgis, Riley, needed a $5,000 orthopedic surgery when he was a puppy. Back then, pet insurance was rare, so I didn’t have coverage. To pay for his procedure, I applied for a credit card with a 12-month, interest-free grace period. I paid off the balance of Riley’s surgery just as the card reverted to a 21% interest rate.
These days, many companies offer insurance plans for pets. Owners can dictate the size of the deductible they’ll carry, as well as how much coverage they want. Virtually all pet insurance plans come with limitations on the procedures they’ll pay for, so it pays to read the policy fine print and compare coverage.
My advice: Get insurance on your pets for at least the first two years of their life. Juvenile pets are more prone to injury than their mature counterparts. Half of all bone fracture injuries in dogs occur in puppies under 12 months. Congenital conditions also frequently appear in the first year or two of life. Be aware, however, that many insurance policies limit their coverage for certain genetic conditions.
2. Buy secondhand supplies. Craigslist and garage sales are among the best places to buy used dog supplies. Items such as dog crates, doghouses and cat towers are often available for free or at very reasonable prices. Pet beds can easily be crafted from used pillows and pillowcases. And don’t feel like you need to go into debt to keep your pet happy and entertained. There are numerous web pages explaining how to make dog and cat toys from items you may already have around the house.
3. Automate pet food deliveries. Many online pet retailers allow the scheduling of regular deliveries of dog and cat food. Not only is it convenient to have food delivered to your doorstep, but many companies also offer additional discounts on auto-shipped products, as well as free shipping.
4. Learn to groom your pet. Paying for nail trimming, bathing and grooming can add hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of pet ownership. After investing in a few good tools, almost any owner can learn basic grooming techniques.
5. Keep your pet healthy. In 2018, Americans spent more than $18 billion on veterinary care for their pets. While pet insurance can ease the financial burden, owners can take additional steps to reduce the overall cost of health care for their pet.
Many communities offer low-cost vaccinations, as well as spay and neuter clinics. Warehouse stores often sell flea and tick prevention products at significant discounts. Pharmacies will frequently fill veterinary prescriptions for less than what you’d pay at a vet’s office. Preventative care, such as keeping your pet at a healthy weight and exercising them on a regular basis, will also help to keep health care costs low.
Kristine Hayes is a departmental manager at a small, liberal arts college. Her previous articles include Educated Consumers, Nervous Bride and Prime of Life. Kristine enjoys competitive pistol shooting and hanging out with her husband and their three dogs.