3 Places to Save on Pet Care And 3 Places You Shouldn’t Skimp

If you’re reading this you know that caring for a pet can be expensive.

And while you don’t want to cut corners on things that matter, like good vet care and quality food, there are places you can lower expenses and still end up with a happy, healthy pup or kitten.

SPEND: Buy High-Quality Dog Food

When it comes to your pet food, you really get what you pay for. Cheap food (the kind available at supermarkets and corner stores) is usually full of fillers, including lots of corn, wheat gluten and additives. These are there for two reasons: they are cheap and create bulk, so manufacturers can cut down on more expensive ingredients, including high quality meats and veggies.

When you buy premium food, you’re getting foods where all the main ingredients are nutritionally powerful. For example, the first five ingredients in The Honest Kitchen’s Grain Free Turkey Dog Food are: Turkey, organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery, spinach. No added fillers, no unnecessary grains and plenty of antioxidants.

High quality foods do more than just quench hunger. They also provide additional nutrients that can help stave off disease, control weight and keep your pet more active for longer. The results? Fewer vet bills and huge savings, even if the sticker price of the food seems higher at first.

SAVE: Shop for Cheaper Vaccinations

Animal shelters and private nonprofit animal advocacy groups often offer vaccination at a much cheaper price than you can get at your regular vet. In many places, there are also ambulatory no-cost or low-cost vaccination clinics that pop up at different places a few times every year.

Don’t know where to start? Ask your local pet shop or Humane Society for tips.

SPEND: Get Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is another one of those things where spending a little more can end up saving you thousands of dollars in the long run, especially in the case of an accident or major illness. Even if you choose an insurance that covers hereditary conditions and medication (which usually brings the monthly premium up), you should still save considerable money in the long run.

Certified dog trainer Tonya Wilhelm carries pet insurance on her dog Dexter, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Dexter was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation by a specialist and an MRI just before his second birthday. “That bill would have been over $3000, but my insurance covered 80% minus the $200 yearly deductible,” Wilhelm explains. “He was prescribed medications that were well over $100/month that are fully reimbursed by his insurance.”

In addition, because Dexter is on daily medications, his veterinarian wants quarterly bloodwork, urinalysis and thyroid check. “Another $200 a pop that is fully covered by our plan,” says Wilhelm. “This past year, we added weekly rehab visits with a veterinary therapist ($80-150 each session), which is also covered.”

©istockphoto/srhuppert

SAVE: Don’t Buy So Many Toys

You can quickly go broke buying toys, especially if you have a dog that will destroy whatever you get him. Rather than keep replacing broken toys, buy a few sturdy ones, such as a Kong ball or bone.

You can also make homemade toys (really, your dog won’t know the difference). Simplest one: grab a small plastic bottle and drop a few doggie treats inside. Then place the bottle inside a thick winter sock and tie it up. Your dog will love the crinkley sounds when he bites down on it, plus the smell and sound of the treats moving inside will keep him busy for hours. You can also cut up old t-shirts or jeans into strips and braid them to mimic those expensive chewing ropes you get at the pet store.

SPEND: Regular Veterinarian Care

Here’s the thing about vet care: it’s not cheap. A quick visit to the vet, especially if there are tests involved, can easily set you back $100 or more. However, that’s nothing compared to what you might spend if you let a small issue get bigger, which might require more invasive treatment, an array of tests and maybe even surgery. So yearly checkups are not only essential, they can also be very important as a way to save money in the long run.

To save, ask your vet if they offer a wellness plan. Many practices offer a flat fee annual service that includes basics such as a checkup, a fecal parasite evaluation, urinalysis, blood chemistry panel, and even extras such as a nail trim. Or ask if there are special discounts for cash payment.

SAVE: Rethink Pet Medication

While you probably buy any prescribed medication right at the vet’s office, this might not be the smartest financial move. Before you take any pills home, talk openly with your veterinarian. “A lot of times there are a variety of medications that can be used for a medical condition,” says Wilhelm. “Like human medications, some medications also have a generic form; you may need to ask if this is an option because pharmaceutical reps frequent veterinary hospitals and a vet may be more prone for the brand vs. generic.”

In addition, Wilhelm recommends looking into compounding pharmacies. “This is what I do with two of Dexter’s medications and I was able to drop one price by 75 percent,” says Wilhelm. Finally, look at the dose of your pet’s medication. Sometimes a vet can double the dose of a prescription and you can cut that pill in half. “I just recently did this with one of Dexter’s heart medications,” explains Wilhelm. She paid only $2 more for the same quantity of pills, but because they were double the dosage, she was able to cut the pills in half, which meant the batch of pills lasted twice as long.

©istockphoto/bradleyhebdon

Meet the Author: Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia,snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com

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