We spoil our dogs, but that doesn't mean we have to spoil our budgets, too.
The modern dog is a pampered one.
Beyond having full reign of my house, my pup also plays with designer puzzle toys, has her own special seat belt for car rides and even has a monthly subscription box just for dogs delivered to the house.
I — like everyone else who treats their pets like furry children — spend a good chunk of cash on my dog. In fact, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says a small dog will cost you an average of $1,314 the first year, while a big dog like mine can run up to $1,843.
Fortunately, we do have a whole bunch of ways you can save money on everything you do buy.
A routine wellness exam can cost anywhere from $75 to $200, according to Petfinder. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, follow these tips…
- Ask for referrals: Your friends and family are the best source of vet leads. Ask around to see who likes their vet and what they usually pay for an annual exam.
- Check online reviews: Sites like Yelp are a great source. Some vets even offer discounts to clients who find them from a review site.
- Always call first: Don’t assume the price someone else paid is still the current rate. Before you make an appointment, call two or three vets and ask what their base price is for an exam.
- Ask for a rescue discount: If you’ve recently adopted or agreed to foster a pet, ask the rescue which vets they use. Then when you call or see the vet, ask for the “rescue rate.” (As a rescue worker myself, I’ve learned that while not all vets are willing to offer a discount, many will cut you a deal for helping an animal in need.)
- Check social media: Many vets run sales or coupons on their social media pages. Like or follow any vet you’re considering to see what deals they currently have.
When it comes to pets, prevention is easier (and much cheaper) than a cure. For example, WebMD says a 12-month supply of heartworm preventative medicine costs $35 to $80 depending on the size of your dog, while treatment for heartworms can cost up to $1,000.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t save money while you protect your pet…
- Compare meds: Preventative medications vary in cost. Ask your vet to recommend more than one and compare costs before you buy.
- Get a prescription: Often, you can find preventative meds online cheaper than at your vet’s office. However, if you’re going to buy online, get a prescription from your vet and buy from a reputable retailer like 1-800-PetMeds or PetCareRx to make sure you’re getting the real thing.
- Ask your vet to price match: If your vet doesn’t want to give you a prescription, or you’d rather not buy online, ask your vet to price match. Many vets will honor online prices if you print and bring in the deal.
- Watch out for sales: Topical flea and tick medications don’t require a prescription, and big retailers like Petco and Petsmart run occasional sales.
- Buy in bulk: No matter where you buy, you’ll get a bulk discount for buying a 12-month supply.
Food and treats
Feeding your dog low-grade kibble is the equivalent of feeding yourself from the dollar menu at McDonalds every day. Here’s how to find good quality food and treats at a discount…
- Know your ingredients: The ingredients list is the easiest way to spot a low-grade dog food. As a general rule, any dog food that lists “meat meal” (animal byproduct), grain or corn (low-nutritional fillers) as the first ingredient isn’t great food. Instead, look for dog food that lists whole meat and vegetable sources as the top ingredients.
- Check the rating: Sorting out higher grade dog food can be confusing. To make it easier, check the rating and ingredient break down on DogFoodAdvisor.
- Avoid illness: Both pet food and treats can cause illness in animals — and sometimes in humans who have contact with those animals. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration reported it had received 4,800 reports of pet illness related to pet jerky treats (most of which were manufactured in China). To keep your pet safe, stick with U.S.-made treats and check recent pet food recalls through the FDA’s Recalls & Withdrawals list.
- Stack sales with bulk deals: Check weekly ads and buy the largest bag possible when your local pet store is having a sale.
- Shop bulk stores: Bulk stores like Sam’s Club and Costco sell both their own brands of dog food and treats as well as other popular brands.
- Use subscribe and save online: If you’d rather buy online, many popular retailers like Petco and Amazon.com offer an automatic discount if you set up automatic shipments of the brands you buy most.
Toys and supplies
Toys can keep pets occupied and happy. To keep your wallet happy too, try…
- Buy quality toys: Cheap toys don’t hold up long, especially against an aggressive chewer. To get more bang for your buck, look for toys designed for larger dogs. Dog Tuff has a list of tested and reviewed toys from popular brands like Kong and West Paw Design.
- Look for reusable: Most toys are meant to be played with, destroyed, and trashed. But some toys can be given a new life. For example, Kong sells squeaker refills for their squeak toys.
- Make your own: You can also make toys from things you already have. ParkBost has 33 DIY ideas.