We adore our furry pals, but as any pet owner knows, keeping them healthy and happy can be pricey! In fact, the annual cost of pet care runs around $678 for cats and $1,201 for dogs. Here, experts offer their best tips to cut the cost of vet visits, grooming, and more.
Bypass pet stores to save 75%.
“Thinking outside the pet-store box can be a huge money saver,” says Sarah Logan, blogger at TheBunnyHub. “For example, if you use natural litter for cats or rabbits, which can cost $17 for an 18-pound bag, buy wood pellets at hardware stores instead. Lowe’s sells a 40-pound bag for less than $6. And sure, a pet-store food dish with little fish printed on it is cute, but those dishes tend to be too narrow to prevent whisker fatigue (where whiskers get uncomfortably overstimulated) — and you can score large casserole dishes for water bowls and shallow gratin dishes for food at thrift stores for a fraction of the price.”
Groom at home to spend hundreds less.
“Considering that each visit to the groomer costs about $65, trimming your pet’s nails and cleaning their ears at home can save you at least a few visits a year,” says Sherry Morgan, founder of Petsolino. “It’s pretty easy to learn how to do it, too! Just visit YouTube and search words like ‘dog nail trimming how-to’ or ‘cat ear cleaning tips.’ You’ll find a treasure trove of helpful pet care videos.”
Whip up your own low-cost treats.
“Store-bought snacks can cost upwards of $5 per bag — pricey when using them as training rewards,” says Susan Jones, a dog owner in Lincoln, Nebraska. “I’ve discovered that dehydrating sweet potatoes, beans, and blueberries at a low temperature in the oven can be just as delicious and costs nothing to make! You can also do an online search for pet treat recipes and make your own for up to 75 percent less!”
Trim $50 per year off Fido’s bed.
“My mastiff is so heavy, she wears beds out fast, no matter how expensive they are,” says Jenna Hansen, a dog owner in Austin, Texas.” So I learned to look around the house and see what I can recycle, and found that our shabby old pillows work well. In fact, I haven’t bought a new bed in years, which saves me at least $50 annually. All I do now is just wash the old pet bed cover, unzip it, and then fill it with stuffing I’ve ripped from the old pillow. I’m sure using old winter coats or comforters would work as well and cost nothing.”
Slash vet bills in half.
“When Fluffy gets sick, you can take her to a mobile vet clinic, which, thanks to lower overhead costs, charges about half the price of a vet office visit for pet care,” says Claire Watts, who lives in Chicago and owns two dogs. “Simply ask your local Humane Society where to find one, or search ‘mobile vet clinic’ and your city name — many have partnerships with pet stores, which will have all the info on their websites. Also smart? Visit a vet school hospital. They typically offer reduced rates, since vet students need to gain hands-on experience examining pets. You can get a list of ones near you from The American Veterinary Medical Association.”
Score 70% off cat carriers and more.
“I already knew I could find deals on secondhand clothes, accessories, and home goods on the discount app Poshmark,” says Katie Matthews, a cat owner in Kansas City. “But I was so excited when I discovered that they have a pet category too, with both new and gently used items ranging from pet accessories and beds to toys, grooming supplies, and more! Recently, I found a pet carrier that retailed for $50 selling for just $15, with $7 for shipping. It was slightly used but looked like new! To find items, you simply go to the home page, scroll down and click on the ‘Pets’ tag.”
Seek out deals and discounts on kibble.
“Sites like Coupons.com (where I found coupons for $5 off a 3-pound bag or larger of Purina Beyond Organic Cat Food and $3 off a 12-count package of Beneful Wet Dog Food) help offset the cost of pet food, ” shares Robert Bradley, blogger at SuperbDog. “And TheKrazyCouponLady recently paired a $3 off coupon with cash-back app Ibotta, and I got a 3.5-pound bag of Purina Beneful Dog Food (which retails for $5.69 a bag) for just $1.44!”
Nab 70% off prescriptions.
“If your pet becomes ill, your vet may prescribe medication — and while it may be easy to just buy it directly from them, the vet’s prices are often marked up,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. Instead, run a quick search online for the pet medication to see which sites sell it for the best price. You can even use coupons to save more on pet care meds through CouponFollow.com, where you can find deals such as 25 percent off at PetCareRX and 20 percent off your first prescription order at Chewy, a site that most vets are more than happy to call in prescriptions to.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.