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We’d do anything for our furry friends — including break the bank. But that doesn’t mean we have to.

The modern pet is pampered. Like our babies, we give them the best food and toys. We even buy our homes with them in mind. With all the expenses, it’s important to know how to save money on pets.

The average pet owner spends more than $1,500 a year on everything from boarding to vet bills, says a poll from personal loan website Opploans. Here are a few ways to cut those costs, while making sure your four-legged friend is well fed, healthy, and happy…

How to save money on dog food

If you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, don’t forget about your pet. He may need an exercise regimen of his own. It could save money, not to mention his life.

Pet obesity is gaining for the seventh year in a row, says a study by insurance company Nationwide. They’re getting fatter and it’s costing you twice over — first for the pet food and then for the vet bills, which totaled over $62 million for obesity-related diseases and conditions in 2016.

“Obesity can be detrimental to the livelihood of our pets,” says Nationwide VP and medical officer Carol McConnell. “Pet owners need to be aware of the quality and amount of food or treats they give their furry family members.”

Nationwide discovered a fifth (20 percent) of all pet insurance claims were for conditions and diseases tied to obesity. That’s 280,000 of 1.4 million claims — a 24 percent growth over the last four years.

Losing the pounds means losing the vet bills. Here are some of the most common health issues in obese dogs and cats, and what they’ll cost you:

  • Arthritis in dogs: $310 treatment
  • Bladder/urinary tract disease in cats: $443 treatment

If you’re one of hundreds of thousands of people with an obese pet, don’t lose hope. With the right regimen, your pet can squeeze back into their old swimsuit.

Here are some simple resolutions to get your pet’s weight on track this year…

  • Don’t offer pets any table scraps.
  • Make your pet’s diet consistent by giving them the same amount of food at the same time every day.
  • Limit the number of treats you give.
  • Establish an exercise/play time schedule for your pets to keep them happy and healthy.

Buy quality pet toys

Toys can keep your pets occupied, and it might be tempting to buy a cheap one during your pet store trip, but those costs add up. Believe it or not, one way to save money on pet toys is to spend more.

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.

You can also look for reusable items. 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.

Another easy way to cut costs on toys, you can make them yourself. ParkBost has 33 DIY ideas.

Make sure your property is pet-friendly

Thirty-three percent of first-time home shoppers were looking due to wanting a dog, according to a study from SunTrust bank. Only 25 percent said they were looking because of marriage and 19 percent because of a future child.

There are a few steps you can take to make the home-buying process easier for you and your dog.

  • Make a reasonable timeline: Getting your credit score in shape and securing a loan takes some time, so get started as soon as possible.
  • Pre-qualify for your mortgage/loans: pre-qualifying for a loan can help you get an offer in before everybody else, in addition to forcing you to figure out what you can afford and can pay for in the future.
  • Stay organized: Don’t let your finances fall into disarray due to your move. Make sure you organize everything to easily fetch documents when needed.

Having a pet in tow means you’ll pay more at lease signing – and maybe more overall – than other tenants. According to the Apartment.com survey, nearly 80 percent of renters polled said they paid a pet deposit up front. Many renters are also asked to pay “pet rent” – a monthly fee for as long as you live at the property.

“The average pet deposit is $300 to $500, and pet rent is usually $25 to $50 a month,”  says Kevin Ortner, CEO of Renters Warehouse. “In rare instances, I have seen pet deposits in excess of $1000.”

To make sure you’re getting a good deal, ask about pet deposits or fees before you sign the lease. Also, compare with other landlord’s prices to make sure you’re not overpaying. And if you can, find a landlord who doesn’t charge pet rent. Many don’t.

There are also a few things to consider before signing your lease. Make sure your landlord includes your pet fees written in the lease. And if you’re thinking of adding another furry member to the family, discuss it with your landlord before signing the line.

Saving up for another pet

Speaking of adding another member to the family, take time to determine whether you can afford it. There are a few variables to consider before adopting another furry friend:

Industrial-size food costs

Pet food normally costs $20-$60 a month, adding up to the average $125 monthly cost of owning a pet. But that money multiplies when you get another pet. Are those extra costs in the budget?

[Read 4 Ways to Save Money on Pet Food.]

Personal finance columnist Deb Hipp said adding more four-legged members to her family made her expenses sky-rocket.

“When I had four dogs, I had to buy a 40-pound bag of dog food every week and a half, spending around $130 a month compared to the $45 it would have cost monthly for one dog,” Hipp says.

Multiple vet bills

Sure, you can take your dogs and cats to low-cost clinics for vaccinations or to be spayed or neutered. In fact, if you have more than two pets, you’ll have no other choice unless you’re OK with spending hundreds of dollars a year for the whole bunch.

With more animals, you also increase your chances of unexpected veterinary bills for illnesses or accidents.

Old pets are pricey

Down the road, once your pets get older, sudden illnesses, injuries, and various medications will start to add up.

Hipp’s dog Toby lived to be 18-years-old, and the annual blood work exams vets recommend for old pets had her spending several hundred dollars.

“I spent around $5,000 on Toby over a 3-year period due to a couple of sudden illnesses, laser treatments for arthritic hips, glucosamine supplements for his joints, and various meds,” Hipp says. “Remember, costs for your pet will increase with age.”

If you’re thinking of adding another pet to the family, try to stagger their ages. If you get two pets who are close in age, you’re looking at double old-pet costs in the future.

Travel costs

You’ll have to pay for boarding or a pet sitter unless you have some pet-sitting arrangement with a friend or family member. Some pet sitters charge $15 per visit plus $10 for each extra pet.

Try arranging a pet sitting service with your friends where you take care of their pets while they’re away, and they will take care of yours, free of charge. But if you don’t have such an arrangement, you can add hundreds of dollars to travel expenses.

[For more tips, check out 10 Ways to Cut Your Pet Expenses in Half.]

Cameren Boatner contributed to this report.

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Meet the Author

Brittany Ferrendi

Brittany Ferrendi

Writer

Ferrendi is a freelance writer and the webmaster for South Florida Gay News.

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