How to Spend Less On Your Pets

As many families were hit hard by the recession, it became difficult for them to provide for the human needs let alone man’s best friends needs. In some sad cases, long-time pet owners had to give their beloved pets up to shelters when they could no longer afford to care for them properly. Shelters around the country are chock full of family pets that suffered from the recession and high costs of living for their human counterparts. If you are feeling the pinch and worry you can’t give your pal a good life, don’t give up. There are ways to care for a pet without having to sacrifice your human family.

Photo by John Talbot via Flickr

Here are some tips for saving money and keeping your furry friend.

A Healthy Diet

While many experts advise against table scraps, there are plenty of foods you eat that are also beneficial to your dog. Check with your vet first but dogs can share your healthy treats with you.

Things like fresh fruits and vegetables are good for and well-liked by dogs. Stop buying prepackaged dog treats and substitute other dog-friendly choices. Remember that dogs like to be mentally stimulated. Even a simple piece of an ice cube with a healthy treat* inside can provide entertainment and nutrition. You can make the ice adventure even more delicious by freezing broths instead of plain water.

* Update: grape is bad for dogs, see comments below.

Plenty of Exercise

A dog of any size and age needs daily activity in their lives to maintain optimum health. It’s not enough to let them out to do their business. You need to regularly walk them and keep them active to help stave off expensive health problems. The additional benefits are than you also get on a regular health kick and it’s a good way to bond with your buddy.

Health Maintenance

In addition to diet and exercise, you need to take your dog for regular checkups, shots, and maintenance checks. By keeping tabs on your dog’s health, you can avoid the risk of them developing a serious health problem that will increase the size of your vet bills. While veterinary appointments can be a bit pricey, it can be much easier to pay a small bill regularly than one huge bill for neglecting the health of your dog.

You should also do price checks with other vets in the area if you are willing to leave your current vet. Some people may not be willing to do this — so loyal clients of a vet may be able to request a payment plans to help ease the burden of vet bills. It won’t always work but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

To reduce the costs of regular vaccines like rabies, keep an eye on the local newspaper to see if any vets are sponsoring vaccine clinics. Many times a vet will set up shop once a month where pet owners can get their pets up to dates on shots for considerably less cost than a regular vet visit. Take advantage of these clinics. Contact the local ASPCA to see if they have information on upcoming clinics.

Frugal Grooming

Depending on the type of dog you have, you may find you are spending a fortune on professional grooming. Learning to care for your dog can save cash but it is key you stick to a regular grooming regimen. Dogs will be accustomed to the routine if you stick to your plan and regularly brush their coats, brush their teeth, and clean their ears.

You can make a one-time investment in a tub large enough to bathe your dog in the backyard or basement if they are too large for the bathtub. Keep professional grooming appoints once or twice a year if your dog requires a professional haircut if you don’t feel skilled enough to clip fur on your own.

Preventative Maintenance

Along with grooming, you need to take a proactive stance on preventing problems arising from tick and flea infestations. You also should speak with your doctor about other over the counter medicines and supplements to keep dogs healthy and free of internal parasites like heartworms. While the treatments may cost a bit of cash, it is nothing compared to the bill you would receive if your dog got sick.

Totally Stuck

If you find that even with the frugal tips for caring for your dog you still cannot keep them in the family, do not just leave them on the side of the road in an act of desperation. Contact friends and family and ask them for help in finding a home. Do not be ashamed to admit you are in need of help or the life of your dog could be at risk. People you know may be willing to provide a temporary or permanent home for Fido so you’ll know he is safe. Your financial situation may not last forever. Call a no-kill shelter as a last resort. They will accept your pet or refer you to other resources.

About the Author

By , on Jul 22, 2010
Tisha Tolar
Tisha Tolar is a co-owner of Trifecta Strategies, LLC and the author of Gen X. When she is not busy being a fiction writer, she writes personal finance articles for several web sites, including

Leave Your Comment (11 Comments)

  1. moolah babe says:

    My dog died and I haven’t gotten over it. He’s such a nice pal but indeed required expensive maintenance. But you’re right on the DIY grooming. With little practice I did the entire brushing, blow drying and stuff. It’s sometimes a lot of work but if you love saving cash and your dog, nothing is impossible. We now have cats for pets instead. I find them so easy to maintain plus I don’t have to deal with poop. We just have to keep the litter box clean and that’s it! But they say they are prone to diseases? Luckily I haven’t have one yet.

  2. Roger says:

    I had dogs as a kid and they were great. I don’t have dogs (or other pets) now partly for the freedom, in a minor way for the money, and partly because we spend enough on pet food in the US to provide clean water to all of Africa (or similarly scaled accomplishments). I know that unspent dog-food money will NOT go to do any such thing, but I don’t feel good about participating in diverting all that money, food and other resources to optional animals when (sorry to sound like your mother at the dinner table) people are starving. I also notice and appreciate what seems to be a trend toward smaller breeds. If you need a companion one that eats and poops less seems like a good idea. This is my personal view and you don’t have to take on any guilt – that’s not my intent (and you wouldn’t have to even if it was my intent).

  3. Kris says:

    Whenever we give our dog any kind of “human food” she gets sick. So we stick with dog food from a holistic pet food store, not the name brands from the supermarket, which seems to be healthy, and our dog loves it. And of course, exercise helps too.

  4. Meg says:

    PLEASE remove the part about feeding dogs grapes. They are NOT healthy for them.


  5. TODHD says:

    Pets are expensive and can cause you to spend a lot of money if you don’t know how to shop wisely

  6. Jenna says:

    Same with a lot of nuts and chocolate.

  7. L says:

    Grapes and raisins can cause a dog’s kidneys to shut down.

  8. ps says:

    From your example of grapes inside an ice cube, I’m pretty sure grapes are poisonous to dogs.

  9. kt says:

    we had a bunch of german shepherds once. They were the next best things to best friends i ever had. The only problem is that they had ravenous appetites and after eating everything in sight, poop a literal storm most of which i ended up collecting. {nomination for Worst job in the world}. Apart from the hole in the wallet and the disgusting work, it was very nice having big playful security dogs around.

    • Pinyo says:

      @kt – that’s an absolute gem. Thank you for sharing that. Some dogs do eat a lot. My aunt used to have a dog that only eat Boar’s Head meat — it won’t eat anything else. That was expensive. 🙂

  10. Craig says:

    Having a fish is easier for met to take care of, the costs are very minimal.

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