My husband and I have two beloved pets: a yellow Lab named Kashmir and a black Lab named Sadie. These giant kids occupy a huge spot in our hearts and will forever be equal parts of our family. But it can be hard to think of how to save money and still give them the best care possible. Their needs are so basic — how on Earth can you reduce or limit anything?
Fortunately, I found a few ways that you can reduce the cost of having a dog — and maybe even become a better dog owner.
1. Start with the food
When choosing the best food for your dog, look for nutrition and high quality (check out our story on picking a healthy dog food, and check out Dog Food Advisor for reviews of specific products). Compare brands to make sure that you are getting the best food for your money. Once you have decided what you are going with, compare prices. Stock up when you find a great deal. Some pet and feed stores have reward programs that will get you a discount, but make sure that it’s worth it — sometimes food can be more expensive at these places. Also check for any rebate programs the pet food company may be running.
2. Brush, brush, brush
Brushing your dog once a week will help to keep trips to the groomer fewer and less expensive. The more work the groomer has to do, the more the visit will cost.
Another tip is to choose an odor-free, bacteria-resistant, easy-to-clean collar. When your dog starts to smell … well … like a dog, it could mean that his collar is carrying that smell. In addition to brushing her coat, brush your dog’s teeth. Regular brushing can prevent illnesses like periodontal disease, which carries bacteria that can spread to their organs. Come on, who doesn’t love a challenge?
3. Get moving!
Dogs need regular exercise in order to stay healthy. Not only does it keep them at the proper weight, but it can have a positive impact on their digestion, mood, and behavior. A happy dog is a tired dog. It’s also a great way for the owner to get some exercise as well.
4. Watch for signs that something is wrong
You know your dog. If there are signs that something isn’t right, take him into the vet right away. This can prevent a problem from getting worse — and you can avoid an expensive trip to the emergency vet.
In addition, try to keep your dog from eating what you eat. There are all kinds of foods that we eat that are potentially harmful to dogs (grapes, onions, and chocolate, to name a few). Stick to dog food and treats.
5. Don’t skimp on preventive care
Make sure your dog is protected from common diseases that affects dogs. For example, ticks can carry diseases like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and anaplasmosis, so don’t delay a good tick preventative. Another concern is heartworm, which is a disease carried by mosquitoes and has been found in all 50 states. These prevantatives can be expensive, so be sure to shop around for the best deals.
6. Make your own toys and treats
There are many websites that teach you how to make homemade dog toys and treats that are safe, easy, and inexpensive. Keep in mind you don’t want to make dog toys out of something that smells too much like you. It might give your dog the impression that he is free to chew on your stuff!
Get creative when trying to find ways to save money. If you can cut out just one expense, like expensive toys, you could pay that extra money torwards debt or save it for a rainy day. Or you can put it toward a vacation with your pet. What would make your pups happier?
Ashley Hagelin is a Certified Financial Counselor at LSS Financial Counseling, a nonprofit consumer counseling agency based in Minnesota. Its blog, Sense and Centsibility, was created to help people gain financial freedom and Conquer Your Debt.
More tips from Dogster: