Making pet care costs less burdensome on the budget

Keeping Your Pet Out of the Economic Doghouse

by Sarah Pepel

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Millions of pets in the United States are euthanized because there are no homes for them. According to The Spayed Club website, more than 35,000 dogs, puppies, cats and kittens in the seven shelters around Greater Philadelphia are put to death each year.

In a difficult economy, many pets are abandoned to reduce homeowners' costs, but just like anything else in the house, with a little planning and research, pet care can be less burdensome on the budget.

When you first decide to add a pet to your home, there are several options to consider. keeps a list of local humane societies, SPCAs and pet rescue organizations. They also give valuable advice on things to think about when you are adopting.

With rescue missions available in almost every breed, checking with the one of your choice is definitely worth pursuing before looking at new puppies. The advantage of an older dog is perhaps maturity out of the young puppy chewing phase, completed vaccinations and spayed/neutering, and hopefully prior training on pet deposits. A new home usually requires some new training for dogs or cats, but with proper instruction, attention and affection, most pets should blend into the family quickly.

On the other hand, when adding a puppy or kitten to your clan, there are some start-up costs that need to be considered: initial vet bills, ongoing healthcare, food, and physical structures from crates to fences, if desired. Most pet stores offer books and instruction for new pet owners. Every pet owner should be aware of what symptoms indicate a bigger problem in their pet and what foods are allowed, whether intentionally or by accident. My family has a beagle and as she grew taller, she managed to get a lot of "accident" foods off the counter and I have learned to move things away from the edge. I learned not to underestimate the replacement value of chewed shoes, child toys and precious belongings, like anything made of real leather. We initially installed baby gates and restricted our dog to the kitchen until she grew out of treating the furniture like a chew toy.

Several steps need to be taken in infancy to encourage a long and healthy pet life. The Spayed Club offers low-cost spay/neuter certificates to qualified pet owners to reduce pet costs and discourage pet overpopulation that can lead to more abandonment with unwanted pet litters. Also, pet stores and vets usually have some information on types of pet insurance that, for a small fee, can eliminate costly bills later in life.

Save on your pet's medications at 1-800-PetMeds.

Friends and family can be tapped for advice on the best crate, bed and toys, but pets usually need an annual visit to the vet to update shots and treatments for worms, fleas and any other issues that arise. Once you know your pet needs, check reputable online sources for medicines. Discount prescription cards can be found for pets and humans alike.

Other ongoing costs to factor in are vacation time and grooming. When we couldn't take our dog with us, we exchanged services with neighbors also needing dog care throughout the year. For a short trip, we have paid a neighbor boy to check in on the dog or taken her to family who live close. For grooming, I bought a nail clipper, but I am always cautious since nipping a dog's skin can cause uncontrollable bleeding, only rectified by a special medicine. Make sure you know what you are doing if you decide to do-it-yourself to save money in this area.

Reviewed April 2017

Sarah Peppel writes a Frugal Living Column in The Phoenix.

Take the Next Step:

  • Don't let your pets take such a bite out of your budget! The Dollar Stretcher's Guide to Frugal Pet Care can show you smart ways to love your pet while spending less.
  • Stop overpaying for your pet's medications. See how much 1-800-PetMeds can help you save.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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