Part Two: 10 Ways to save money on your pet

This is the second part of a two-part series on how to save a little cash on your furry friends. To start from the beginning, check out Part One: 10 Ways to save money on your pet.

Don’t forget to vote in our new poll How much do you spend on your pets? — the results are astounding! So far a whopping 53% only adopt from animal shelters while 64% spend nothing on dog walkers or pet groomers each month.

Let’s continue on with the final five ways to save money on your pets.

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6. Make your own pet food?

I make a lot of my own pet food. Sure, there are days when I put a little bit of quality dry kibble into the mix. But for the most part, my dog eats a Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) diet which consists of a lot of raw meat and organs, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. It’s not for everyone, and I certainly wouldn’t call this type of dog chow cheap.

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I started rethinking packaged pet food in 2007 after the massive pet food recall in Canada and the United States. Many dogs and cats became ill and died after adulterated wheat gluten was found in several brands of pet food. Watching families lose their pets was heartbreaking, and I’m fortunate that my dog was not fed this food.

Switching to a raw dog food diet was easy for my family. Since we live on an organic cattle ranch, sourcing quality organ meat is generally inexpensive (if not free). This probably won’t be the case for you though.

Want to see the meaty math? The Mint Blog makes the case for homemade pet chow in Does it Pay to Make Your Own Pet Food?, and offers up these dietary numbers:

“A balanced, home-cooked diet for a 30-pound dog would cost $3.52 per day; $5.58 if you go organic. Thatโ€™s two to four times the price of commercial dry dog foods of similar qualities, but up to half the cost of commercial wet foods.” — Dr. Jules Benson, vice president Petplan

If going raw is not for you or your budget, try these tips to keep pet food costs from wagging your wallet:

  • Shop at a farm supply store. Farm stores generally sell high quality pet foods for at least 15% less than retail stores. Farm suppliers sell in bulk and without fancy packaging, so don’t expect resealable bags and fancy brand names! Be sure to bring a car with a sizable trunk.
  • Skip wet pet food, buy dry. Wet pet food is pricey! To cut your costs per serving in half, opt for dry kibble that’s high in protein and low in corn and grains (if any at all). Many pet owners claim that dry food keeps their pets fuller for longer, so you can feed your furry friend a little bit less.
  • Buy the largest bag. If your pet is accustomed to a certain brand of chow, go ahead and buy the biggest bag to save a few bucks. Most stores offer a 5% to 10% savings on volume bags for budget-conscious shoppers.

Bottom Line: A BARF dog food diet for a 30 pound canine costs $3.52 per day and adds up to a hefty $1,285 per year. But if you’re feeding commercial wet foods to your pet, then a homemade diet can cut your costs in half. Switching from wet to dry pet food can also cut your food costs by over 50 percent. Lastly, feeding your pet quality ingredients might prolong the life of the animal while reducing vet bills due to illness. You are what you eat, right?

7. Get your pet fixed. Yes, FIXED!

Does your macho male dog really need that big set of balls? Do you want your female cat to go into heat? Keeping one pet is fun, but caring for a litter of little ones (and finding homes for them) can get expensive, fast. With many thousands of unwanted animals put down by shelters each year, be a responsible pet owner and help control the pet population (Yeah, I watched a lot of Bob Barker and The Price is Right as a kid). Anyways, spaying and neutering early may also help minimize your vet costs down the road by helping to decrease the odds of infection and illness in older animals.

Bottom line: Litters of puppies or kittens can be cute, but costly when you add up vet bills and the challenge of finding homes for them. Spend a little money now by spaying or neutering your pet to save some cash in the future. Pets adopted from your local shelter may already be fixed, so you’re saving money while saving the life of an animal. Kudos.

8. Shop around for a veterinarian.

Don’t be afraid to call up and few vets and inquire into their common check-up fees and overnight stay charges. Asking is free! Not all veterinarians charge the same, nor do they all provide the same level of service. When looking for a veterinarian, try to meet with a few in your area, and ask neighbors and friends for vet recommendations, what they think of the vet, and what the vet charges. Doing your research before your pet needs medical attention is the best way to prevent surprises later when you get the bill.

Bottom line: Do your research and find a veterinarian you can trust to provide your animal with the best care, while not overcharging you. You may save yourself thousands in pet care costs by finding the right vet for your pet and pocketbook.

9. Only vaccinate if necessary.

Common wisdom holds that pets should get their shots every year, but check with your veterinarian to determine what shots are actually necessary for the life your pet leads, and if they need to be applied yearly. For example, some types of rabies vaccination are needed only every three years, and may be completely unnecessary in areas of the country where rabies is non-existent.

Bottom line: By limiting vaccinations to the required amount, you could save $50 or more each year.

10. Save those medical devices.

Has your pet ever come home from the vet with a cone head? Yeah, those medical devices designed to prevent licking sure do look funny, but they cost a small fortune! At $50 a cone (depending on the size of your animal), a pet medical device like an Elizabethan collar can be costly, especially if you toss it only to need it again later for another incident or even another pet. When your pet is done with his cone, keep the device clean by wiping with a light bleach solution and store it in a safe place — you never know if youโ€™ll need it again!

Bottom line: Keeping Elizabethan collars and other pet medical accessories could save you at least $50 each time your pet returns from surgery.

Don’t miss the first part in this doggone series: Part One: 10 Ways to save money on your pet.

Your Thoughts: Have you made pet food, shopped around for vets, or fixed your pet to save money? What’s your best tip for saving money on your furry friends?

Your two cents:

  1. Jules June 8th, 2011

    When I lived near Reading Terminal Market, it was super-cheap to feed Shadow and the Tweeb a raw diet: I was a good customer to one of the butchers, and he’d give me sacks of organ meat for $1/lb (livers, gizzards, hearts–whatever he couldn’t sell). It was definitely cheaper to make the raw food than it was to buy quality canned food. But then again, we only have cats ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. J June 9th, 2011

    I have 2 vets: One for the annual thing and small problems. This vet is in a pretty cruddy (scary) part of town, his office is gross, but he has 25 years experience, really cares about animals and he’s cheap. My yearly stuff costs about 45 dollars. And he matches online flea/heartworm prices. My other vet is high tech – he has lasers and private kenneling suites, all the goods. He’s super expensive. He rapes my wallet every time I see him. But I only see him for the major problems, like surgeries, cancer…the biggies.

    Saving medical devices is a great tip. I’ve had to reuse devices many times. Also, if your vet loads you up on meds save what’s not taken. After a few times of my vet prescribing me the same stuff over and over I finally realized I have enough. So I either bring in the bottles I have or make an exact list of the meds and how much I have left. Then he can either not give me more or give me exactly the quantity I need.

  3. Kelly June 9th, 2011

    I “treat” our dog to healthy scraps. Her favourites are raw carrots, apples (good for her teeth) and some of Daddy’s steak once in a while ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. DD August 25th, 2011

    my pups about 28 pounds maybe 29 as shes getting older but we got her from a rescue shelter “by donation” (minimum donation $100) and she was not doing so hot back then she had mites and alot of food… sensitivities because they were not allergies they just didnt agree with her so we popped around a couple different brands flavours and found the right one for her natural choice lamb and rice. well lets skip back a little the mites i beleive we were given a big discoount because she was rescued. so her food the lamb and rice one is about 35-40 dollars about ever 3-4 months but man do we spend on milk bones lol(thats our choice) and she is very prone to eye infections but its not hard to deal with at all 2 drops in the infected a few times a day and trim the hair by her eyes we have now decided tp keep it short because it help not get as many she has basicly fatty balls in her eyes and you actually can see them if you look they are just round things which block her vision slightley but nothing can be done other than risky expensive and shes happy so we see no need someone did step on her tail a couple years ago and dislocated it we took her to the vet a couple days later the vet gave us some pain meds for her and that was that over all she is not an expensive dog at all as a puppy when she was teething the toys were expensive those are the only medical problems
    it sounds alot worse then it is summing up her nine year existince! haha

  5. Kelly August 25th, 2011

    DD, you’re a good person to care for your beautiful dog. She obviously was “in need” and you answered the call. Big hat-tip to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. DD August 26th, 2011

    thank you kelly that means alot there is a drunken fellow who seems to think im a horrible owner for not giving gourmet wet dog food lol thanks again!

  7. Kikkatar August 1st, 2012

    I agree with everything you’ve said so far except for one thing. Choosing dry food over wet food for cats. Cats are biologically designed to get a lot of their water from their prey (aka a mouse). Cats also have a low thirst drive so providing fresh water to drink just isn’t enough and even cats who seem to be getting enough water only drink ~50% of what they should. Dry food causes urinary problems and even kidney failure as time wears on.

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