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DIY Dog Care: Save Money with These Low-Cost Remedies

A vet is still your best bet in serious matters, but these options can help with minor maladies.

 |  May 14th 2013  |   11 Contributions


The price of caring for our dogs can add up. I haven't saved receipts and added up the cost for caring for my dog, Sasha, but the individual cost of raising a dog ranges from $1,314 annually for smaller breeds to $1,843 for big dogs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This figure includes dog food, pet insurance coverage, basic preventative veterinary care, and grooming costs. So whatever we can do to keep them healthy and save a little coin in the process is a good thing.

Here are some remedies that you can do at home with minimal cost. These remedies are by no means a replacement for visiting your veterinarian annually for check-ups or when your dog is ill, but they can make your dog more comfortable.

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Home dog by Shutterstock.

Relieve aches and pains

Large breed dogs with hip problems (such as hip dysplasia) as well as older dogs may get aches and pains more often. I spoke with Eri Suzaki, a certified canine massage therapist with Canine Therapeutics, about some of the techniques she uses to manage pain with her own dogs and with her clientele. One of her suggestions was to use a heating pad to release tension in the hip and hamstring areas. She recommends heating up a beanbag heating pad in the microwave, wrapping it in a towel and placing the pad under the dog’s hind leg, in the groin area. She says to make sure your dog’s legs are parallel. (Suzaki demonstrates this technique in the video below.) You can also apply the heating pad to your dog’s back, if your dog will allow it.

For dogs with sore muscles, soaking their paws in warm water can help improve blood circulation and relieve pain. And who doesn’t like a good foot soak? Even active dogs who have cold paws from poor circulation would benefit from a paw soak. You can use the kitchen sink if your dog is small, and a bathtub for a larger dog. To make the remedy more effective, add a few drops of essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus to the water. Suzaki says if your dog is in pain, the more often you soak the dog's feet, the better. For preventive measures, she recommends a weekly or monthly foot soak.

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Warm water makes for happy paws. Puppy in a tub by Shutterstock.

Reduce anxiety

There are natural ways to calm your dog -- without using medication -- during a thunderstorm or fireworks, or if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. One of Suzaki’s methods is to wrap an elastic bandage around the dog’s torso. The binding feeling of the bandage has the same effect as a ThunderShirt -- a product designed to reduce anxiety -- and is soothing to your dog. I tried this remedy on Sasha, an Australian Shepherd and Border Collie mix, during one of Suzaki’s workshops. It was easy to do, and Sasha enjoyed it.

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Sasha "under wraps." Photo by Jessica Mitchell-Stoddard

Another suggestion to lower anxiety is to put your hands just above your dog and stay there for 20 to 30 seconds. The heat from your hands calms the dog. I’ve unknowingly done this technique to Sasha in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm, and it really helps. Suzaki says it’s an effective technique to soothe agitated dogs.

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Photo by Jessica Mitchell-Stoddard

Essential oils can help create a peaceful environment in your home. Add scents such as lavender or ylang ylang to a diffuser or apply the oils diluted in carrier oil (such as jojoba) while massaging your dog. Suzaki cautions that you should always dilute the essential oils in water before applying them directly on your dog.

Control fleas

In the war on fleas, many pet parents are in search of an effective repellant and some would like to also reduce the amount of pesticides their dog encounters. Here are some nontoxic remedies you can make at home.

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Spray bottle by Shutterstock.

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water together in a spray bottle, and spray the mixture directly to your dog's coat and then rub it in with your hands. Repeat every couple days to maintain the effectiveness. Yes, your dog does smell like a salad, but it keeps the fleas away. Another alternative is to add one teaspoon of Brewer’s yeast to your dog’s kibble or wet dog food.

What homemade remedies have you tried that have worked on your dog? Tell me in comments.

More tips from Dogster:

Can Aromatherapy Help Dogs?
Is Your Dog Really Ready to Go Off Leash?
Dog-Walking Etiquette: 7 Tips for a Better Walk

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