March 26, 2012

10 Tips for Pet Owners to Save Money & Prepare For Emergencies

This is a guest post from Kendal Perez. After the post about our new puppy it caught my eye. I am on a mini-vacation so there will a slight delay in response to any comments. Back Tuesday afternoon!

According to a recent article in USA Today, Americans spent over $50 billion on their pets last year, up from $10.1 billion just four years earlier. That's a lot of money for Max or Fluffy, but still nothing compared to the unconditional love they shell out for you every day.

As the proud owner of two Labrador-Australian Shepard mixes, I'm no stranger to the rising cost of pet care. In addition to frequent exercise and annual check-ups, my husband and I save hundreds of dollars on pet care by adopting the following savvy strategies.

1. Create an Emergency Fund

There are at least nine reasons for an emergency fund, according to Kiplinger, including the ability to offset a costly vet bill should your beloved animal need expensive treatment. When my dogs were just 12 months old, one choked the other during aggressive play and -- $1,700 later -- we had a very tired but recovering puppy. Our savings account kept this traumatic experience from creating a financial hardship.

2. Don't Skimp on Food

Food is likely the most expensive necessity next to vet visits, but that doesn't mean you should opt for low price over quality. By purchasing healthy food, you're enhancing your pet's quality of life and ultimately saving yourself from costly vet bills down the road. Purchase discount gift cards to PetSmart and other stores from sites like to nab some savings.

3. Consider Pet Insurance

If you're the type of pet owner who will spare no expense for veterinary care, consider signing up for pet insurance. The number of pet insurance carriers has increased significantly from just ten years ago, and most offer several levels of coverage. Visit for information on available policies, reviews and questions to ask providers.

4. Take Advantage of Clinics

Some veterinary practices offer free clinics one or two times a year, waiving appointment fees that compound the cost of annual visits. My husband and I always schedule check-ups and vaccinations during these times. If your vet doesn't offer this service, check with your local Humane Society or animal-control unit for recommendations.

5. Research Your Options

When facing a hefty vet bill, you might assume your only option is to throw down a credit card and pay off the expense over time. However, there are other sources for financial aid, including state programs and breed-specific organizations. Consult this article from the Humane Society for more information.

6. Buy Discount

I shop discount retailers like TJMaxx and Ross for clothes and housewares, and always peruse their pet-care aisles for deals. I've found great pet beds, bowls and toys for much less than pet-store prices, though I avoid treats and food items since I'm not familiar with the brands. Ultimately, new pet owners can score serious savings by stocking up on discount supplies.

7. Be Loyal

PetSmart and PetCo each have free loyalty programs that offer discounts and, in the case of PetCo, 5-percent cash back on purchases. You should also sign up to receive email notifications about upcoming sales and exclusive discounts, and stock up during these specials to tide you over until the next promotion.

8. Order Meds Online

Most pet owners know medications purchased directly from the vet come with a hefty price tag. Unless it's an emergency, request the prescription information and shop online at sites like I save 34 percent on our dogs' heart worm medication by ordering online and using the generic alternative.

9. Fix for Less

Neutering or spaying your pet is crucial to avoiding the exponential expense of caring for a litter down the road. The average cost of the service from your local vet is between $200 and $300, but many organizations offer this service for less to curb the number of homeless animals. Consult ASPCA's Low Cost Spay/Neuter Programs page to find a provider near you.

10. DIY

Though I wouldn't attempt to clean a cat's teeth, there are several services you can administer at home to save money. Brushing, ear cleaning and nail clipping are just a few necessities you can likely handle without the assistance of a professional. In fact, your vet will happily share with you the best techniques for at-home care, as they'd much prefer to spend time on more specialized services.

Kendal Perez is a self-proclaimed frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., she has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR, TIME Moneyland and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit For all media inquiries, please contact Kendal Perez at

I have receievd no compensation for using this post.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Kendal,
    I finally put the dogs on our budget! the one thing you left out for us is kenneling. As retired people we travel quite a bit and a good kennel is key to our happiness. We do not have family nearby, so the owners of the kennel are our newest friends. Kenneling has changed, significantly, in the last ten years. Ours has a large warehouse where the dogs run free all day- sleeping on couches and playing with toys.

    Saying that, dogs are the fourth largest expense in our household after housing, food and travel! We don't live anywhere near a Petco :<( WE are considering on line for our Pet meds. Our vet is a sole practitioner in the middle of no where and we like to try to support her. For now, that is where we get the stuff.

    Great article! Thanks for inviting him Bob.

    1. We have a friend who dog sits. She stays at the house and is extremely reasonable. A backup for longer trips will be the day camp and sleeping facilities at a nearby Petsmart. Yes, we have built all of this into our budget. It is a cost we have decided is worth it.

  3. Great tips. Healthcare for my dog has gotten so much more expensive over the last decade. I'm don't mean because she needs more care, but the basic stuff has risen in price so much that I wonder if I can afford another dog after she is gone. I'm sure I'll manage, but I might look into insurance for the first time. Thanks!

    1. We may look into buying meds over the Internet. So far the biggest expense has been all the toys Betty has bought for Bailey!

  4. I got smart several years ago and set up an efund for my pets. I allot $100 each month into my targeted savings account for my pets.

    At one time I wound up with 3 large dogs, 1 was a neighbor's dog that needed rehoming when the family broke up, and the other was a rescue from the south. They both developed health issues - the rescue from the south had heartworms. I spent $6,000 in 1 year on et care. Yes, just meditate on that for a moment. That was half of a year's worth of mortgage payments - I had to raid my regular efund account on top of the pet care account.

    I cannot stress enough having an efund for pets! But for me, every dime is worth it. They enrich my life and have given me so much joy and love. Pets are also a great way to meet other likeminded people!

  5. oops, meant to say *spent $6,000 in 1 year on VET care.

    1. $6,000 in one year for vet care? That is a scary figure. I have never considered pet insurance but may look into it. Petsmart has a yearly plan that covers unlimited visits and exams, several fecal and worm tests, and spaying. Other services are discounted. We bought that for Bailey, but who knows what we may face when she is older.

  6. They ARE expensive. We've always had one or two, got a second a year ago. THEN, our daughter moved to London (taking our grandchildren ... grrrr) and leaving her Lab for future shipment. Well, she's still here with us waiting for the call to London! So we have three. She is a good dog and us caring for a third is much less work than daughter and her family caring for a dog in London. Sigh. The only regret is it's one more obstacle to traveling.

    I will add a sad note as someone extolled good food. We buy excellent food. We had a 1 year old pup in 2006 that we fed Diamond food, a good food the breeder used. It had corn in it and there was national coverages of how it was contaminated with aflatoxin mold. Yes, we got it and found out too late. It was one awful experience for us (and the poor dog). They paid to replace and the vet bills, but my wife was so upset we almost swore dogs off for good. So now it's the $50 a bag stuff; 2 Bassetts and a Lab go through that pretty quick!

    1. We were strongly warned to avoid corn in dog food and treats. I had no idea how dangerous it can be. Luckily, Bailey will never grow to be more tan 15 pounds so food will be a reasonable expense. We are going with only dry food since Cockers tend to get pudgy and wet food is both expensive and contributes to obesity in dogs.

      Should we assume at this point that the Lab is never going to bark with a British accent?

    2. Actually, the Lab spent ~3 years in London when they lived there before (and before the kids). However, we visited New Years and the 4-1/2 year old and 2-1/2 year old definitely are developing accents! It's cute, but a tad view your grandchildren a bit a foreigners!

    3. Interesting..your grandkids sounding like proper Brits. That would take some getting used to.

  7. I agree with the author and it is important to save money for the pets that can be used in emergency. People must know about the quality of food that can be used by the pets. All the above mentioned tips if followed would save you a lot of money.


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