Family

Forget Spending a Fortune on Fido

Unloading endless cash on kitties or pooches is silly. Try these 10 smart tips.

Caring for a pet should be a joy, not a burden. The estimated amount of money to take care of a cat or dog is upwards of $1,000 for the first year, according to the ASPCA.

That cost includes veterinary visits, food, and pet supplies.

Here are 10 smart ways to provide for your pet without skimping on your animal’s super-important health care.

1.) Adopt your pet from an animal shelter or breed specific rescue.
You may be surprised at what types of breeds you can adopt. Petfinder is a good place to start looking for a pet. Pets are listed by breed, location, age, and gender. Petfinder also lists horses, farm animals, birds, and fish. Adopting a pet will save you hundreds, possibly, thousands of dollars. My first pet was a purebred miniature poodle that was on its way to a shelter.

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If purchased at a pet store or breeder, the dog would have cost at least $1,000.  The fee at most shelters range from as little as $45 for kittens that have been spayed or neutered with no shots to under $200 for dogs with all of the necessary vaccines that have been spayed or neutered.

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2.) Spay or neuter your pet.
In the long run, it’s healthier for them. Plus, it’s the best way to avoid having a litter that can be costly. “Spaying/neutering cats and dogs reduces the chance of hormone-related cancers such as mammary cancer, uterine/ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, perianal adenomas in dogs and contagious cancers such as transmissible venereal tumors,” said Patricia Patterson, DVM, staff veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Society. “Fixing a dog or cat reduces behavioral problems such as aggression, roaming, and marking.”

3.) Schedule and keep annual veterinary visits.
Pets should have annual wellness exams. “Many people ask me, ‘How often should my pet see their veterinarian?’ My typical answer is at least annually,” said Michael Cavanaugh, DABVP, American Animal Hospital Association executive director. “Depending on the pet’s life stage, lifestyle, and overall health status, they may need to be seen more frequently. The individual pet’s veterinarian is best positioned to determine how many visits per year are in order.”

Preventive care, as the name suggests, keeps animals healthy. “Annual checkups saves pet owners money by reducing or eliminating the risk of health problems that can be more expensive,” said Dr. Meghan McGrath of Radnor Veterinary Hospital in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The cost of preventive care usually pales in comparison to the cost of treating the disease or problem that would have been prevented. Regular exams can also detect problems early, before they become more serious and probably more expensive to treat.”

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4.) Keep your pets fit and trim.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of obese pets,” said Dr. Julie Churchill, veterinary nutritionist at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. “Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer are associated with obesity in animals. It’s critical pet owners understand an overweight dog or cat is not a healthy pet.”

5.) Buy the best food.
When you visit a supermarket or pet product supply store, you can be overwhelmed by the number of pet foods that are available. Look for the best food that you can afford.

6.) Buy in bulk.
While the smallest bag of pet food seems to cost the least, it can actually cost the most per pound. A three-lb. bag of my cat’s (admittedly very high-end) food costs $17.99 online, and a 15-lb. bag is $42.29. If I buy the same amount of cat food in 3-lb. quantities I end up paying $89.95 for 15 pounds of food — more than twice as much!

7.) Make your own treats.
The ASPCA and other sites have easy-to-bake pet treat recipes. All are free of chemicals and food colorings. Many contain pumpkin and other vegetables that are healthy for pets.

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8.) Craft your own pet toys.
Google “make your own pet toys.” You can save a lot of money making toys for your cats or dogs.

9.) Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about installment plans.
When I found a cat with a broken leg, I contacted a local veterinarian who knew that I couldn’t easily afford the $2,000 treatment. So we worked out a payment plan — it was easier on my budget and made sense.

10.) Be prepared for unexpected costs.
Some people believe in pet health insurance; others do not. Some companies offer different tier insurance plans where some policies cover more than others; the ones that cover the most, of course, cost more. It’s a gamble. If your pet is healthy, you won’t use it. If your pet gets sick, insurance can help. However, not all conditions are covered.

Buyer beware: Read all of the fine print.

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