There’s just no way around it: Pet care is expensive.
In fact, according to CNBC:
The likely cost of owning a dog through its lifetime, as calculated by the PDSA, falls in a range of $27,074 to $42,545, depending on the breed.
These costs not only include recurring things like food, toys, and flea treatments, but also things like vet treatments and the occasional stay at a boarding facility.
But there are a variety of ways frugal owners can save some money, while still meeting all of their pup’s needs.
Below, we’ll share some of the most effective money-saving strategies, as well as a few “money-saving solutions” that are not as helpful as you may hope.
But first, let’s deal with a hard truth.
Don’t Get a Pet You Can’t Afford
As far as I’m concerned, in a perfect world, everyone who wants a dog and is willing to provide the care that a canine needs should get one.
But alas, our world is not perfect.
Pets cost money, and some people simply cannot afford to support another mouth at the dinner table.
One only needs to read some of the heart-breaking stories in the comment section of our article about free dog food for low-income owners to understand how tragic it can be when an owner is unable to support his or her pooch.
So, while most people reading this probably already have a pet, we’d like to encourage prospective owners to be sure they have the resources to give a new pup the life he deserves.
This not only includes being able to afford things like food and vaccinations, but you also have to be able to afford unforeseen medical problems, which may cost thousands of dollars.
It is a shame that it costs money to take care of a pet, given the profound way dogs can improve human lives. But it is just a fact of life. And while you may be sad that you can’t share your life with a pooch, that’s much easier than dealing with the gut-wrenching pain you’ll experience if you have to re-home a beloved pet.
With all of that said, let’s get into some of the money-saving pet-care strategies you can employ.
DIY Savings: You Can Make Some of the Things Your Dog Needs
Do-it-yourselfers can often save a ton of money on dog supplies. You’ll still have to spend a little bit of money, but by investing a bit of leg work and elbow grease, you can often save a few bucks.
1. Make Your Dog’s Bed
All dogs will benefit from a high-quality dog bed. And for some, such as those dealing with hip dysplasia, arthritis, or other joint problems, a good pet bed is a necessity. For that matter, owners with fancy furniture may love their pooch deeply, while still instituting a no-sleeping-on-the-couch policy.
But healthy-and-happy pups who’re allowed to sleep on the furniture probably don’t need several-hundred-dollar dog beds to get a good night’s sleep. They just need a place that’s all theirs and more comfortable than your hardwoods.
So, pick up a couple of square yards worth of fabric and some filling material and get to work. Check out our article about DIY pet beds to get a few ideas – just note that some of the beds discussed will be more affordable to assemble than others.
2. Make Your Own Playpen or Dog Run
Dogs need room to roam, and if you don’t have a fenced yard, it can get old taking your dog to the park several times a day. One semi-affordable way to give your dog some off-leash freedom is by providing him with a run or playpen.
You can buy playpens or runs for dogs, but they’re often a bit pricey for budget-limited owners. That said, if you plan carefully, you can often construct these types of enclosures yourself and save a little money in the process. Just be sure that you do not compromise on the playpen’s security and safety while doing so.
We’ve written about DIY dog runs before, so be sure to check out the plans and tips we’ve shared.
3. Keep Your Dog Cool with a Kiddie Pool
There are a variety of really effective ways to help keep your canine cool, and we’ve talked about most of them before. For example, you can suit your dog up in a cooling vest or hook him up with a chilled sleeping mat.
None of these things are even that expensive either. You can get most of them for less than twenty bucks. But for those of us who understand that chicken Ramen noodles are empirically superior to beef Ramen noodles, twenty bucks is twenty bucks.
So, just head down to your local bargain-store and pick up a kiddie swimming pool.
Inflatable pools are clearly the more convenient and easily stored option, but a hard-plastic pool will stand up to your dog’s claws better. Even dogs who don’t like to swim very much will often enjoy chillin’ out on exceptionally hot days.
I can neither confirm nor deny that you can pull this off on the porch of an apartment if you are careful.
4. Make Your Own Toys
Many budget-limited owners find that making their own toys helps to save some money, and it also gives them the chance to custom-design their pet’s playthings.
But it is important to make toys that’ll be safe for your pet – you don’t want your pup to suffer an expensive injury because you were trying to save money in the first place! This essentially means making toys that your dog will play with, rather than chewing to pieces.
In other words, stick to store-bought chew toys, but consider making fetch or tug toys yourself. This should help keep your pet safe and let him play the way he deserves.
You can also make DIY interactive toys that’ll give your dog something to do when he’s bored. Just be sure to keep safety in mind, and don’t use any materials or items that may cause him to choke. We share six great DIY plans for interactive dog toys here, so be sure to give them a look!
5. Make Your Own Collar or Harness
If you are handy with a sewing machine and tape measure, you may be able to make your dog a collar or harness on your own. Commercial collars and harnesses aren’t the most expensive items in the world, but every dollar counts when budgets are tight, and the DIY route will usually save you a bit of money.
Additionally, by making your own harness or collar, you can customize it to satisfy any unique needs your dog has.
For example, you can add a bit of reflective tape to help increase your dog’s visibility in low-light conditions or a little padding to help prevent rubbed skin or pulled hair. You can also customize the collar in ways that’ll make you happy, such as by using fabric that is especially fancy or advertises your dog’s favorite football team.
However, we want to be clear about one very important thing: Collars and harnesses are safety devices, and your dog’s very life can depend on them (a broken collar can allow your dog to run into traffic or get into a tussle with another dog).
So, unless you are supremely confident in your DIY skills, you may want to avoid making collars or harnesses for big and strong pups. It’s not very hard to make a collar strong enough to withstand a pulling Yorkie, but making a suitable collar for your Great Dane is a different matter entirely.
6. Get Creative with Your Pet’s Clothing
There are a few different reasons to suit your pooch up in some clothes. You may need to help keep your pup warm in cool weather or use clothing to help keep your dog from licking a wound while it heals. You may even want to use clothing to help reduce your dog’s anxiety. And, of course, many owners dress their pooch for cuteness’ sake.
There are a variety of commercial products designed to address these issues. For example, there are a ton of cold-weather coats on the market to help keep your pooch warm. You can also buy a Thundershirt – a specialty garment designed to swaddle your pup and make him feel more confident.
But you can also make many of these items yourself.
If you just need to keep your dog warm, just dig an old sweater out of your closet, get creative, and figure out how to fit it to your pet. We have a large collection of DIY dog sweater plans, so check them out to get some ideas. You can even make a Thundershirt yourself if you have an anxious pup.
If your dog is healing from an injury and needs clothing to keep him from licking the wound, you can just grab an old T-shirt (or a pair of shorts, depending on where the injury is located), and get to work. It may, however, be easier to just build a DIY E collar for your pet.
If you’re strapped for cash, you may simply need to forego fashionable and fabulous threads for Fido. But we will point out that small dogs may also be able to wear clothing designed for children or dolls.
Aside from food, veterinary care will almost always represent the most expensive part of dog care. Even if your pup is fortunate enough to remain healthy and happy for his entire life, you’ll still end up spending a ton of money at the vet over time.
However, there are a few things you can do to keep your costs as low as possible.
7. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
Dental care is much more expensive for dogs than many first-time owners expect. Dogs should usually be sedated for the procedure, and this helps drive the average cost of a dental cleaning is about $200 or $300. Some vets charge even more for a standard tooth cleaning procedure.
If your pup has cavities or other dental problems, you will end up spending even more money to get these problems fixed. So, you should always do everything you can to keep your pet’s mouth in tip-top shape. And this means brushing your dog’s teeth regularly.
Neither a canine toothbrush nor dog-safe toothpaste is expensive (you can also make homemade dog toothpaste), and if you start while your pup is young, he’ll probably learn to tolerate the procedure without too much fuss.
8. Buy Your Pet’s Medicine Online.
Medications can be quite expensive in some cases, so it is important to shop around if you are trying to save money. Many vets sell medications directly, but they often charge more than some other sources do.
You can inquire at your local pharmacy – some pet medications are identical to human medications. However, you’ll usually find that buying your pet’s medications online is the cheapest route.
But you have to do so in a sensible fashion. There are a lot of shady retailers selling questionable medications online, and you definitely want to avoid them. However, mainstream sites like Chewy.com and 1800PetMeds.com often offer good deals on common medications.
9. Look for Low-Cost Vet Clinics in Your Area
Anytime you take your pooch to the vet, you’ll have to pay for the office visit, as well as any vaccinations, cultures, medications, or other services required. It isn’t uncommon to walk in for a routine checkup and walk out with a $200 or $300 average vet bill.
You must provide your pet with the veterinary care he requires, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to save a little money while doing so. One way to do so is by looking for low-cost vet clinics in your area.
Some of these clinics operate year-round, while others pop up on weekends to offer things like low-cost vaccinations, flea treatments, or spay and neuter clinics. You may also be able to receive discounted services at colleges and universities that offer veterinary programs.
Note that some veterinarians offer a sliding payment scale based on income, so it doesn’t hurt to ask your current vet before you start looking for clinics and the like. You might also consider researching to see if there are any local organizations that will help pay for your vet bills.
10. Use a Good Flea & Tick Treatment
Preventative flea and tick treatments aren’t terribly expensive, and they help keep biting bugs from driving your pooch crazy. But they can also help you avoid much bigger problems too.
For starters, fleas and ticks are important disease vectors that can cause you or your pup to become very sick.
I learned about this first hand a while back when I contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick that crawled off my dog and started feeding on my arm. Fortunately, my pooch didn’t get sick, but I ended up going to the E.R.
This not only caused me to feel absolutely rotten for a week, but it also saddled me with pretty substantial medical bills — hardly the kind of thing you want to endure if you’re on a tight budget.
But even if you avoid such dramatic problems, a simple flea infestation can put a dent in your bank account. You’ll not only find yourself buying flea-killing medications or shampoos, but you may even need to throw out some of your pet’s belongings – including things like beds, blankets, and crate pads — if they become coated in flea eggs.
These types of things won’t amount to huge amounts of money, but they’ll represent expenses you can avoid by simply using a preventative flea and tick treatment on your pet. I use Frontline Plus for my pooch, but there are other options available. Just speak to your vet about the best flea and tick treatment if you aren’t sure which one to use.
11. Spay or Neuter Your Pet
Spaying or neutering your pet is a big decision that you should always discuss with your vet. It isn’t the right choice for all situations, and the procedure will cost money, but it can sometimes help save you money in the long run.
For starters, sterilization will eliminate the possibility that your pooch will have (or sire) puppies. Puppies, as you can likely imagine, are expensive little buggers to raise.
Assuming you find homes for all the puppies, it’ll still take about 8 weeks or so for them to be ready for new homes. Until then, you’ll have to pay for all of their care, including food, vaccinations, and assorted supplies.
But even if you keep your canine under metaphorical lock and key to prevent unintended pregnancy, spaying and neutering can provide health benefits for some dogs.
For example, neutered males are less likely to develop testicular or prostate cancer than their non-altered counterparts. Meanwhile, spaying drastically reduces the likelihood of females developing breast cancer.
These types of medical problems will not only be difficult for your pup to endure, but they’ll also cost you a fortune in treatments. So, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of having your dog spayed or neutered with your vet.
One other tip: Have your dog spayed or neutered as early as your vet thinks is prudent. This will help your dog recover more quickly, and it’ll often save you a ton of money in the process.
Beauty on a Budget
A lot of owners get their dog groomed voluntarily, but grooming is a necessity for some breeds. In either case, there are a few things you can do to help keep your grooming expenditures reasonable.
12. Learn to Trim Your Dog’s Nails
You may think that trimming your dog’s nails is largely a cosmetic issue, but it’s actually important for your pet’s health (and it’ll also help keep your dog from scratching you and your furniture). Dogs with severely overgrown nails can end up having difficulty walking and suffer from joint problems over time.
Most vets will trim nails as a matter of practice, but you probably don’t take your dog to the vet once a month. So, many owners have to make a monthly or bi-weekly trek to the grooming salon or local pet store to have the deed completed. This will usually only cost ten bucks or so, but that’s ten bucks you can often avoid spending.
Nail trimming isn’t exactly easy (and a lot of dogs hate it), but owners can learn to do the task on their own. Try to start while your pup is young so he gets used to the procedure, and be sure to trim your pup’s nails on a consistent basis.
We walk you through the nail-trimming process here and recommend a few good tools for the job.
13. Bathe Your Own Dog Whenever Possible
Some breeds require regular, professional grooming, but many dogs have pretty low-maintenance coats, which owners can maintain themselves. Especially when it comes to regular baths.
You’ll likely spend about $40 to $100 having your dog bathed and dried by a groomer, but you can buy a bottle of dog shampoo for a couple of bucks. You can even make your own DIY dog shampoo if you like.
For that matter, most commercial dog shampoos are stronger than necessary, so go ahead and dilute them with a bit of water to make them last longer.
You can bathe your pup in your bathtub if you like, but there are also a variety of bathing tools and tubs you can pick up that’ll make it easier to wash your dog outdoors.
Bathing your dog can be a bit of a pain, but if you’re trying to save money, this is one of the easiest ways to do so.
Food and Treats for Less
Aside from expensive vet procedures, most of the money you spend on your pooch will go right down his gullet. So, it makes sense to save money on your pup’s food whenever possible. Just be sure that you do so in a sensible manner and in conjunction with your vet’s guidance.
14. Buy Dog Food in Bulk
While making your own dog food may not prove cost-effective, you can save money by purchasing your pet’s food in the largest quantities possible. Your pet’s food will still be a pretty significant expense, but you may be able to save up to 25% or more by buying big bags of kibble.
As an example, my dog’s food costs about $1.45 per pound if I buy 30-pound bags. But if I were to buy 15-pound bags, it’d end up costing me $1.97 per pound.
That’s a difference of $0.52 per pound. And while that may not sound like very much, that would come to 15 bucks and change per month, or about $185 a year!
Additionally, if you have to pay for shipping (or the gas to get to the pet store), you’ll save even more money by purchasing larger bags.
Just be careful that you don’t overdo it – kibble only lasts about 6 weeks once opened. This isn’t usually a problem for big dogs, your 5-pound Yorkie probably won’t finish a 30-pound bag of dog food in 6 weeks.
15. Make Your Own Treats
In the strictest sense, treats aren’t necessary for your dog, but most owners want to give their floof tasty snacks from time to time. Treats are also useful (if not outright necessary) for training most dogs too.
But commercially made dog treats can be expensive. So, consider making your own treats instead. This will also give you the chance to customize your pet’s treats to suit her palate.
So, go check out our article detailing great DIY grain-free treat recipes, and get to work.
16. Don’t Overfeed Your Pet
Because food is one of the biggest expenses involved in dog ownership, it makes good sense to avoid waste at all costs.
One of the best ways to do so is by feeding your pooch the proper amount of food and nothing more. Most dogs will gladly slurp up as much food as you provide, but this can lead to weight gain and it’ll put a dent in your wallet too.
Start by consulting with your vet about the amount of food your dog will need. You can also check out a calorie calculator for dogs, but that involves a bit of math.
Your vet will likely give you a target calorie range, which you can then convert to cups by consulting the packaging on your dog’s food. That will provide you with a good starting point, but you’ll want to watch your dog’s body condition and weight to see if any adjustments are necessary.
Let’s take my 95-pound Rottie as an example.
Most calculators indicate that she needs about 1,800 Calories per day. Her food contains roughly 350 Calories per cup, so she needs about 5 big cups per day.
However, I can’t help but share the occasional French fry or pizza crust with her, and she’d consider it torture if I didn’t give her a bite or two of chicken anytime I make it. She also gets quite a few training treats every day when we work on her manners at the park.
So, I have to deduct for all of these extra calories.
Additionally, it turns out that my pooch is apparently quite good at turning food into body tissue. Despite the fact that she gets lots of exercise on a daily basis, 1,800 calories will cause her to put on a bit of weight. So, I’ve had to experiment a bit with her food quantity.
Ultimately, I find that in addition to treats, snacks, and the condiments I sometimes add to her food, she only needs about 4 cups of food each day to maintain a healthy body weight. I watch her body condition like a hawk (Rotties are prone to over-eating, weight-gain, and joint issues), and my vet always agrees that she is in the ideal weight range for her size and breed.
Of course, some dogs may require more or less food than this. The point is, you should determine the proper amount of food for your dog and then use a good measuring device to provide this amount consistently. A dedicated measuring cup will work well (don’t use the same one you use while baking), but even a cheap plastic cup with a magic-marker-drawn line on it will work.
17. Kick the Can and Stick to Kibble
Canned foods have a number of great benefits. They help ensure your dog stays hydrated, they often contain more protein per unit of measure than kibbles do, and most dogs prefer the way they taste.
But these things all come at a price; canned foods are almost invariably more expensive than comparable kibbles. Canned foods may not be prohibitively expensive for owners of small dogs, but it will likely cost you a fortune to feed a 100-pound Newfoundland a canned diet.
So, kibble will typically be the best option for budget-conscious owners.
If your pooch turns his nose up at kibble, you may be able to get by with using canned food as a topper. This will still cost you a bit more money than providing a kibble-only diet, but it’ll be much cheaper than providing a purely canned diet.
Anytime you have to break out the credit card and purchase some stuff for your pet, you’ll want to take advantage of any savings available. Below, we’ll point out a few of the most helpful and common places you can save a few bucks while buying things your pup needs.
18. Look for Frequent Buyer Programs
A number of retailers offer “frequent buyer” programs or clubs. The specifics will vary from one to the next, but you’ll usually save a small amount of money by purchasing from the same retailer over time.
Amazon, for example, gives pet parents the opportunity to “subscribe and save” when buying some dog foods. This essentially requires you to set up reoccurring purchases (say, once per month) in exchange for a discount of about two bucks or so.
Petco, Petsmart, and most other big retailers provide similar programs. Some may cost you a bit of money, so make sure you do the math before plopping down your credit card. Nevertheless, most do so in exchange for your email address and some other basic info.
These types of programs won’t ever amount to gigantic savings, but you don’t really have to do anything to get these discounts and rebates, so it’s largely found money.
19. Skip the Name Brands: Know When to Go Generic
Budgeting for dog care is like budgeting for anything else. You have to pick and choose your places to spend money.
You could write a book about this subject, and reasonable minds will differ about the things they recommend you spend your dog-care dollar on.
But we’ll leave you with some food for thought:
- Your dog’s food is probably one of the things you should spend money on. Your dog’s food not only provides him with the very building blocks of his body, but it also provides him with the fuel for everything he does. Plus, he’ll be consuming a lot of it over the course of his life, so you probably want to spend a few extra bucks to ensure he’s getting the good stuff over this time.
- Your dog’s chew toys are also a place you don’t want to skimp. Chew toys present a number of potential hazards, but they’re very important dog-maintenance tools that can drastically improve your dog’s quality of life. So, we generally recommend going with the best and spending a few extra bucks for your pup’s sake.
- You can save a few bucks on fetch and tug toys. Because of the way they’re used, chew toys are not a good place to save money. But fetch and tug toys are a different matter. As long as you don’t allow your pet to play with these types of toys in unattended fashion, you can try to save a few bucks while buying these things. For example, cheap tennis balls won’t last as long as premium ones, but it won’t really matter much to your pup, and cheap ones won’t present much more of a safety concern either. You could say the same thing for rope toys and similar playthings.
- Collars, harnesses, and leashes are not smart places to skimp. You don’t want to cut corners with anything that relates to your dog’s safety or security, and this can include leashes, harnesses, and collars — at least for large dogs. Poor-quality gear can break, which may allow your dog to get into all sorts of off-leash mischief. If your pooch runs into traffic or gets into a tussle with another dog, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in veterinary bills. So, it doesn’t make sense to try to save ten or twenty bucks when picking out your pet’s collar and leash.
- Be creative with food and water dishes. You must always use safe food and water dishes for your pup. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy them from a pet store who’s selling the same thing you can get elsewhere for half the price.
20. Look for Manufacturer Coupons
Before you pick up your dog’s next bag of food, or a fancy new orthopedic mattress, be sure to search the manufacturer’s website and see if they offer any coupons. Many do, and this is a quick-and-easy way to save a few bucks.
For that matter, if you don’t mind a little spam from time to time, consider signing up for the mailing lists for your favorite brands. Brands will often send out notifications when they are offering sales or special discounts, usually in conjunction with a new product release or pet-oriented holiday like National Dog Day.
Note that you cannot use manufacturer coupons on Amazon. However, Amazon does offer an array of coupons to Prime members, so be sure to search the database before clicking the “buy” button.
21. Stop Buying Poop Bags
It is important to pick up after your pet when walking, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend money to do so.
There are a variety of great poop bags on the market, but if you’re trying to cut corners and save money, just use old plastic grocery bags. They aren’t perfect, but they’ll work. Besides, it isn’t as though you’ll be using them to carry precious cargo.
Lifestyle: Money-Saving Habits
In addition to the other tips we’ve provided, there are a number of adjustments you can make to your lifestyle that’ll ultimately help you save money. We’ll discuss a few of the best strategies below.
22. Pet-Proof Your Home
It is vital that you take a look around your home and make any necessary changes to keep your pup safe. This just the right thing to do as an owner, and it’ll prevent your dog from suffering injuries that may result in expensive veterinary bills.
A few of the most important things to address include the following:
- Make sure all household chemicals are in locked cabinets. Many of the things we use every day can be toxic to dogs, so make sure that your dog can’t access bleach, ammonia, drain cleaner, or similar products in your home.
- Cover electric sockets with plastic plugs. The chances of your dog being electrocuted by licking an outlet are probably not terribly high, but plastic covers will prevent the possibility entirely, and they’re crazy cheap.
- Be sure that your pool (or hot tub) is inaccessible. Most dogs can swim, but that doesn’t mean they can do so well or indefinitely. Unfortunately, a number of pets die each year when they fall into pools and are unable to get out on their own. So, be sure that you keep your pool off-limits to pets (unless they’re under supervision).
It is also wise to keep your belongings off the floor if your pup is a chewer. Not only can some items be dangerous for your dog to chew, but it’ll also force you to replace all your stuff!
23. Make Sure You Provide Your Pooch with Plenty of Exercise
One of the most common health concerns among modern dogs is weight gain and obesity. These issues can cause a number of problems for dogs – just like they can for humans.
Overweight and obese dogs are more susceptible to things like cardiac problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and liver disease. Obesity can also make it difficult for your dog to breathe, and reduce his ability to run, jump, and play in a normal manner.
Additionally, it is important to note that carrying extra body weight around can also take a toll on your dog’s joints. Back problems, hip problems, and arthritis are all more likely to occur in overweight dogs than their svelte counterparts.
Any of these problems can end up requiring veterinary care, and in many cases, you’ll need to have your dog treated for multiple issues. These treatments will often become quite expensive, and many of them will be of the on-going variety.
So, to avoid all of these things, be sure to watch your dog’s body weight very carefully and ensure that he gets plenty of exercise. This will help keep his body weight at the appropriate levels, and it’ll help tire him out, which can be helpful for addressing a number of behavioral issues.
24. Train your own pooch
All dogs should undergo basic obedience training.
It’ll not only make your job as a pet parent easier, but it is also important for safety’s sake too – you simply must ensure that your dog will drop things he shouldn’t chew on or come back when called.
But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on private training sessions to do so.
Let’s be clear: Private sessions with a certified trainer are often a fantastic investment, but they aren’t always affordable. Dog trainers can cost quite a lot!
So, if you are strapped for cash, you may want to investigate some of the free dog-training resources out there.
We want to offer one other caveat though. You can tackle basic obedience (teaching your pup to sit, come when called, etc.) yourself, and you can also teach your dog silly and adorable tricks on your own. You can also investigate group training classes, which are typically cheaper than private sessions.
But, if your dog has problems with aggression or fear, and you worry that he may bite someone, you should always seek professional assistance.
If you think training is expensive, you should see how expensive a lawsuit is.
25. Start a Pet Savings Account
I know…I know… I’ve been there.
How can you possibly start saving money when you’re doing everything you can just to make ends meet? There are no magic solutions, and everyone has to figure out their own budgetary challenges.
But one thing’s clear: You’ll be in much better shape is you set aside some money for unexpected pet-care needs than if you rely on credit to do so. There are companies that provide credit specifically for pet health care, but anytime you borrow money, you’ll end up paying it back with interest.
So, do whatever it is you need to do to start squirreling away some nickels and dimes. Hopefully, some of the other tips mentioned in this article will help you create a little bit of slack in your budget, which will make it easier to save up some cash.
And for the record, even if you are doing well and have plenty of credit available, it will still make better financial sense to set aside some money that is specifically dedicated to your pet’s care.
26. Work Your Social Network
There’s one pretty cool thing that happens when you get a dog that few people expect: You’ll meet lots of other owners. And many times, you can use this to your advantage. Other owners will often hear about sales and specials that you missed, and they can also be a source for second-hand items.
So, be sure to reach out to your friends with dogs and join a few local dog-owner groups. Keep your eyes peeled for good deals that your pals share, and never be afraid to ask your friends if they know of any deals before you make major purchases.
It may even make sense to buy some items as a group to benefit from the power of bulk buying. This probably won’t work for highly individual things like food, but there are a lot of broadly useful items – such as training clickers and toys — that are cheaper when purchased in bulk. Also, by pooling your resources, you’ll all pay less for shipping too.
Pup-Picking Tips: Things to Think About Before You Get a Dog
Most of those reading this article probably already have a pooch, but for those who’re considering adding a canine to the family, the following tips may save you some money.
27. Pick a Small Pooch
As a lover of big dogs, this one pains me to write, but it simply costs much more to care for a large dog than a small one.
The most notable way small dogs help you save money comes in the form of food, but most of the things you buy for your pet will cost more if you need large or extra-large sizes. Big pet beds and crates, for example, are much more expensive than small ones.
You’ll also save a bit of money at the vet if you have a small pup. Your pup’s size won’t usually change the amount for an office visit, for example, but you will have to pay more for surgeries and expensive medications than you would for a small pup.
28. Pick a Pooch with a Low-Maintenance Coat
Unless you have your heart set on a specific breed, it is often a good idea to select a dog with a low-maintenance coat. Low-maintenance coats not only create fewer headaches than their high-maintenance counterparts, but they’ll also cost you less money.
Some high-maintenance breeds, like chows, Afghan hounds, and old English sheepdogs, among others, will require daily brushings, and routine attention from a professional breeder (you can learn to groom your dog yourself, but this will take quite a while and force you to buy a bunch of expensive tools and equipment, thereby offsetting the savings).
Instead, stick to breeds or mutts with shorter hair, like most Lab- or pit-mixes. If you’d like a small dog with a low-maintenance coat, you may want to consider a short-haired Chihuahua or a miniature pinscher.
29. Avoid Breeds with Common (and Expensive) Health Issues
One of the most effective ways of saving money is by simply avoiding breeds that typically have a number of health issues. Or, at the very least, avoid those breeds who often suffer from expensive health issues. This includes things like hip dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, and brachycephalic airway syndrome.
These problems may cost you thousands of dollars to treat, and in some cases, the treatment may not even be completely effective.
So, it is wise for budget-conscious folks to exercise great care when adopting or buying any of the following breeds:
- German shepherd
- Boston terrier
- French bulldog
This does not mean you have to avoid these breeds completely. High-quality breeders typically screen their animals for common, inherited health conditions, such as hip dysplasia.
30. Keep an Eye Out for No- or Low-Fee Adoption Days
If you are looking to adopt a new pooch, keep an eye out for no- or low-fee adoption days. Shelters often put on such events when they’re running at full capacity and have to find homes for dogs quickly.
The best way to stay informed about these types of events is by following local shelters and rescue organization’s social media accounts (it can also be helpful to tap into your social network, as described above). You may even want to call around and ask your local shelters if they’re planning this type of event in the near future.
Bad Ideas That Seem Like They’d Save Money
Saving money isn’t just about looking for deals and foregoing things you don’t need – it is also about avoiding expensive mistakes. Below, we’ll discuss three mistakes owners often make, which can end up costing them money in the long-run.
1. Making Your Own Dog Food
A lot of owners fall victim to this one.
You’re walking down the meat aisle, and you notice that chicken is only $3 or $4 per pound. Meanwhile, a 300-pound bag of rice costs approximately $0.45, and they hand out things like peas and carrots for free.
So, you consider making your dog’s food at home.
But let me save you some trouble and money: Homemade dog foods don’t work out to be as cheap as you think they will be.
Currently, I feed my pooch Blue Buffalo Large Breed Chicken and Rice (check out a few other recipes we recommend for Rottweilers here). However, I fed her a homemade diet for about a year, so I’ve experienced this firsthand.
Making your own food will require you to purchase a combination of meat, carbohydrates, vegetables, and some fat. However, as mentioned above, the cost for the carbohydrates, veggies and a few teaspoons of cheap olive oil will be relatively negligible. Accordingly, protein will represent the bulk of the money you spend.
My pooch weighs about 95 pounds, so she needs about 95 grams of protein per day (healthy adults usually need about 1 gram of protein for every pound of their ideal body weight).
That works out to be 665 grams of protein per week. Raw chicken breast has about 6.5 grams of protein per ounce, so she needs about 100 ounces (6.25 pounds) of chicken each week.
Chicken breast costs about $3 per pound at my local grocery store, so I’d spend about $18.75 a week for chicken.
We could probably put together the necessary rice, veggies, and fat for about $1.25 or so a week, so let’s just say a homemade diet would cost $20 per week, or $80 a month.
You could probably shave off a few bucks by using ground beef instead of chicken, or by purchasing in gigantic quantities, but these strategies aren’t going to change the cost that significantly.
Meanwhile, a 30-pound bag of Blue Buffalo lasts about four weeks and costs a little less than $45 on Amazon. If you’re a Prime member, you get free delivery too. But even if you go down to your local grocery store, a 30-pound bag only costs about $55 to $60.
In either case, the commercial dog food is significantly cheaper than the homemade option.
Additionally, we haven’t taken prep time into consideration yet. I’m pretty proficient in the kitchen, but I’d end up spending about 2 hours per week on food prep for my pup. Even if you only value your time at $10 an hour, that means you’ll be investing about $80 more a month to make your pup’s food.
There are a variety of reasons we don’t typically recommend homemade diets (I stopped doing so myself), but we’ll leave that discussion for another day. For now, we’re only focusing on the dollars and cents of the proposition. And it just doesn’t make good financial sense to make your dog’s food at home.
2. Some Pet Health Care Plans
Veterinary expenses can be extraordinarily high, and many owners are not prepared to come up with a five-figure pile of money on short notice. So, the concept of paying a small fee each month in exchange for help covering these types of high-cost services seems like a good idea.
In some cases, this will prove to be true and pet health care plans will be helpful. Some owners have been extraordinarily happy they signed up for a pet insurance policy or veterinary savings program like Pet Assure and have saved money in the long run. Some have surely been able to pay for life-saving treatments that they’d have been unable to if they hadn’t obtained this kind of protection.
But in other cases, these types of programs end up being little more than a long-term drain on your bank account.
For example, some pet insurance plans exclude pre-existing conditions. Your pet may need hip-replacement surgery, but your vet diagnosed him with hip dysplasia when he was a pup, so you’ll be on the hook for the full cost of the operation.
Other health care plans may end up covering the surgery your pooch needs, but they’ll only cover a small portion of it. This may still make good financial sense over the long-term, but it won’t matter if you can’t come up with your portion of the payment.
So, you’ll just have to read through the policies available to you, crunch the numbers and make the best possible decision. Sometimes, these types of plans do, in fact, save pet owners money. But that isn’t guaranteed.
3. Adopting Instead of Buying
A lot of articles discussing ways to save money on pets recommend that owners adopt, rather than buy. But this isn’t always a good idea.
Don’t misunderstand: It is always a good idea to consider adoption when adding a new pooch to your family.
There are millions of dogs in the country’s shelters, and you can save a life by adopting one. For that matter, dog adoption – even at relatively pricey shelters – is almost always cheaper than buying a purebred dog from a breeder.
However, adoption isn’t the automatic win that many people believe it to be. In some cases, adoption can lead to problems – and sometimes these problems are expensive.
Let’s consider the following example:
Family A goes down to their local shelter and adopts a new Lab. In the process, they spend about $100 (for the sake of argument – adoption is often cheaper than this).
Family B, on the other hand, finds a high-quality Lab breeder in their area, and picks out a puppy. This new floof sets the family back $1,000.
All seems good for Family A, and they bring home a puppy for about $900 less than Family B. But then a few years later, Family A notices their dog bunny hopping instead of running normally. He also appears to have trouble getting up and laying down.
They go to the vet, who explains that their pup has hip dysplasia. The good news is that the problem is treatable. The bad news is that the surgery will cost about $5,000.
Meanwhile, Family B purchased their pup from a breeder who screened for hip problems. So, they ended up with a happy and healthy pup, whose hips work perfectly. This means that despite spending a little more up front, they end up saving thousands of dollars over the long run.
The takeaway is that you should always consider adoption, but if you have your eye on a breed that often suffers from health problems, you may be better off purchasing the dog from a high-quality breeder.
4. Buying from a Low-Cost Breeder
If you have decided to purchase rather than adopt, it is important to avoid low-cost, puppy-mill-style breeders. Doing so may save you a couple of hundred dollars at the outset, but you could end up running into the same types of health problems that can plague shelter dogs of unknown origin.
This doesn’t mean you have to limit your choices to the most expensive breeders around, but you should definitely look for breeders who are dedicated, compassionate, and screen their pups for common health problems.
You can still shop around for price a bit, but this will generally only save you $100 or so. Dogs who cost a fraction of what most others cost are unlikely to be a very safe investment, and you’ll likely end up spending more money in the long run.
If you’re trying to care for a pooch on a budget, try to implement some of the tips described above. They won’t all be applicable for all situations, but you should be able to find a few that’ll work for you among those discussed.
Do you have any other money-saving tips you can share? Let us hear all about them in the comments below.