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17 Ways to Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy on a Budget

We know. Caring for a pet can be expensive. But it’s entirely possible to keep your pet happy and healthy on a budget. Here are 17 ideas for saving money on pet care without compromising your pet’s wellbeing or quality of life.

1. Start with Realistic Expectations

 Most pet owners pay for pet supplies and veterinary care from general household funds without ever separating out and adding up the total costs of pet care. If you’re serious about trimming your pet care budget, the first step is to determine what you’re spending now on your pet. 

Our post “The Costs of Owning a Pet” will help you get started on tallying your ongoing, periodic and one-time expenses.

2. Plan Ahead

Most pet care costs (unrelated to accidents or illnesses) are predictable and can be budgeted for in advance. 

You know you’ll be buying pet food, treats and irresistible toys regularly throughout the year (unless you decide to make your own treats and toys, as we suggest in tip #14). 

If you use professional grooming services, you can anticipate when and how often the appointments will be (until you put tip #13 into practice and learn to groom your pet yourself). 

If you board your pet when you travel on business or for fun, you can probably predict the timing and approximate amount of these expenditures (unless you barter services, as suggested in tip #15).

You know when your pet’s routine wellness check-ups, vaccines and parasite preventives will come due and if you ask us, we’ll give you an estimate of what these essential services and products will cost next time. 

If, after adding everything up, you know you can easily pay these ongoing and periodic expenses as they occur, great! Of course, you can still benefit from our money-saving suggestions to reduce your pet care costs. 

If you find you can afford the relatively minor ongoing expenses but the more substantial pet care costs tend to put you into a financial bind in the months you have to pay them, see our post “Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills” for ideas on generating cash to cover pet care when you need it. 

Our favorite source, by far, is savings you’ve set aside in advance to cover these anticipated costs.

3. Reduce Your Financial Risk

We recommend insuring your pet as the best way to reduce your risk of substantial financial loss in the event your pet has an accident or becomes seriously ill. See our “Pet Insurance” series to find out how to choose the best insurance policy for you and your pet. 

The five-part series includes—

4. Feed Your Pet Well

We recommend feeding the right amount of high-quality, age-appropriate food as foundational to your pet’s health and wellbeing. 

For an overview of nutrition basics, see “Dog Nutrition Tips” and “Cat Nutrition Tips” from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

While there’s no need to buy the most expensive premium foods containing exotic ingredients, you must avoid the false economy of buying cheap food made with inferior ingredients that provide little or no nutrition. These “economy” pet food brands can cause allergies and intestinal problems—conditions that often clear up when our clients upgrade to a better-quality pet food.

For most pets, we suggest feeding a mid-priced food from a reputable manufacturer. You can save money by not overfeeding—not only saving on the food itself but on treating the health problems that can develop with overweight and obesity. 

Generally, but not always, buying food in larger sizes saves you money provided you can store the food properly and use it before it spoils. The best deals on high-quality pet foods may be private label brands at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. We’re happy to read ingredients lists to determine if the food you’re considering will be nutritious for your pet.

You can also save money by having food automatically shipped to your home by subscription. 

Although it may seem counterintuitive, preparing a nutritionally-balanced homemade diet for your pet will most likely cost you more than feeding commercially prepared food from a reputable manufacturer. 

5. Keep Up With Wellness Exams

We consider regularly-scheduled wellness check-ups essential to your pet’s continuing health and happiness. We know it can be tempting to postpone these exams—especially when your pet seems perfectly fine—but the benefits of maintaining a regular wellness check-up schedule are well worth the effort and expense. 

See our post “Preventive Care for Better Health and Lower Costs” to find out how wellness exams can result in a healthier, happier pet at a lower total cost for veterinary care over the pet’s lifetime.

See also “Getting the Most from Your Pet’s Regular Check-Ups.”

6. Keep Up With Vaccines

As part of our wellness exams, we recommend and administer the vaccines your pet needs to avoid the most common, preventable illnesses (and obey Indiana law). For more specifics about vaccines, see our post “Essential Vaccines to Protect Your Pet.”

7. Protect Your Pet From Parasites

As part of your pet’s wellness check-up, we test for heartworms and intestinal parasites and examine your pet for fleas and ticks. 

Keeping heartworms, fleas and ticks under control is a year-round challenge in our part of the country, so we recommend year-round heartworm and flea and tick preventives. We understand preventives can be expensive—especially when you buy a year’s supply at once—but the challenges and expense of treating an infestation as well as the damage to your pet’s health more than justify the costs of preventives. 

See our post “Protecting Your Pet from Heartworms” to learn more about this especially dangerous parasite. 

For more information about protecting your family from diseases your pet can transmit to you—many of which are caused by parasites—see our post “Your Pet Can Make You Sick.”

8. Price-Shop for Drugs

For quality assurance, immediate availability and convenience, you can’t beat our in-house pharmacy and our online store.

We realize, however, that with some research, you may find your pet’s prescription drugs and parasite preventives for sale at a lower price than we can offer. If you’d like to buy from an outside pharmacy, we will provide you with a written prescription or call or fax the prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. Just let us know.

Make sure you buy from a reputable pharmacy. We believe pharmacies in national warehouse clubs, big box stores and major grocery chains are most likely to offer authentic products that have been handled properly. Many of the cheapest online veterinary pharmacies have poor quality control practices and sell counterfeit products that have no medical benefit and may even harm your pet. We suggest you avoid those.

9. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

To reduce the risk of periodontal disease and delay or possibly even eliminate the need for a professional cleaning, we recommend brushing your pet’s teeth every day. See our post “Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health” for more advice about dental health care for your pet. 

10. Keep Your Pet at a Healthy Weight

As with humans, overweight and obesity are associated with a number of serious, often expensive-to-manage health problems. See our posts “Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health” and “New Year’s Resolutions for Overweight Pets” for our advice on helping your pet achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

11. Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Spaying or neutering your pet does have an up-front cost for the surgery, but you are likely to save money in the long run by preventing the birth of unwanted litters and by avoiding serious health problems such as uterine, ovarian and testicular cancers. 

Your veterinarian will answer your questions about spaying and neutering and advise on the best timing for your pet’s procedure. See our post “When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated” to find out more. 

12. Be Careful

One of the very best ways to save money on veterinary care is to keep your pet safe from injury. For more information about pet safety, we recommend reviewing these articles from our blog:

Safety Precautions for Better Health and Lower Costs

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Cold Weather

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Hot Weather

Fire Safety Precautions to Protect Your Pet

Safe Travels With Your Pet

To find more posts about keeping your pet safe, browse our blog’s entire “Safety” category.

13. Groom Your Pet Yourself

If you’ve been paying for professional grooming services, you may be able to save money by learning the necessary grooming skills needed to care for your pet and doing it yourself. 

You’ll need tools and supplies—brushes, combs, shears, clippers, nail trimmers and pet shampoos and conditioners—plus training (for you and your pet), practice and patience. 

You’ll find plenty of tools and supplies for sale online and YouTube videos to show you how to do the grooming. In addition to your own learning curve, your pet may need time to adjust to your newfound interest in grooming at home. We suggest introducing steps in the grooming process gently and incrementally so that you and your pet learn to enjoy grooming sessions with minimal stress.

14. Make Your Own Toys and Treats

You can skip the monthly toy and treat subscription boxes at $15 to $50 a month and make your own toys and treats using low-cost or no-cost materials and ingredients you may already have around the house. Ideas, instructions and recipes are easy to find online, and it can be a fun family project to create entertaining toys and tasty treats for your pet.

Be sure to review lists of foods that are toxic to dogs and cats before cooking up your own treats. And make sure your homemade toys don’t present any sharp edges or choking hazards.

15. Barter Services

If you are currently paying for dog walking, doggie day care, boarding and pet sitting services, you may be able to reduce those costs by swapping services with reliable, pet-owning family, friends and neighbors. 

16. Ask for Help

We maintain a resources page listing nearly 40 organizations that provide grants to qualified applicants to help pay for veterinary care. If despite your best efforts at budgeting for your pet’s care, you find yourself needing financial assistance to cover veterinary expenses, we encourage you to visit our “Financial Resources” page and look for organizations whose missions align with your circumstances and needs. 

Please note: The information we provide about these charitable organizations is based on their websites. You’ll need to conduct your own research to decide if you want to apply for a grant with any of the organizations.

 17. Talk to Us

Our veterinarians and technicians encourage you to ask questions about the costs of various diagnostic and treatment options for your pet. We can also provide printed estimates to help you plan your budget and make cost-conscious health care decisions. 

Admittedly, conversations about money are not always the most comfortable, but we believe it’s important to address not only medical concerns but the related financial issues that come with them. See our posts “The Care-Cost Conversation” and “Is Gold Standard Care Always the Best Option?

To browse all our posts related to the costs of pet care, browse the “Pet Care Costs” category on our blog.