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Top 4 Money-Saving Tips for Pet Owners

Being a good pet owner requires a significant investment of time and energy, not to mention money. The pet industry is big business, raking in more than $55 billion in 2013 according to the American Pet Products Association. Depending on the type of pet you have, you could easily shell out several hundred dollars a year on food alone.

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Throw in the cost of medical care, grooming and all those extras like toys or treats and you could be spending even more. The good news is there are some things you can do to keep your costs down. Whether you’re a dog-lover, cat person or other, here are some budget-friendly ways to care for your furry friend.

Low-Cost Preventative Care

When it comes to the health of your pet, you can’t afford to skimp on preventative care. Making sure their shots are up-to-date, getting flea and tick treatments and taking steps to prevent heartworms can help you to head off potentially expensive health problems down the road. If you’re trying to keep your pet’s basic health care costs down, it’s worth it to consider cheaper alternatives to traditional veterinary care.

Some of the places that may offer free or low-cost pet care include pet rescue organizations, nonprofit pet advocacy groups and pet wellness clinics. You can also check around in your community for pet fairs, which may offer services such as heartworm testing and prevention, rabies vaccinations, flea and tick preventatives, microchipping and deworming at little to no-cost.

Take Control of Food Costs

When you cruise down the pet food aisle at your local grocery store, it can be difficult to avoid the temptation to buy that pricy premium kibble. While there are certain situations where it may be necessary to pay more for your pet’s food, such as an allergy to certain ingredients, chances are Fido will be just as happy with a less expensive choice. Just make sure to check out the nutritional content before you buy.

If you’re used to giving your pet treats as a reward, the cost can easily inflate your food budget. One money-saving option is to start buying food and treats in bulk. Another is to try your hand at making your own treats. This allows you to control what’s going into your pet’s food and save money since you’re using food items you already have around the house. Another good substitute for treats can be ice cubes – some dogs will be just as happy with the frozen treat.

Looking Good for Less

Another part of keeping your pet healthy involves grooming them regularly to check for things like ticks, fleas, rashes, tooth decay, skin inflammation, nail problems and infection. A trip to the pet salon could easily cost you $100 or more but you don’t have to pay a lot to maintain your pet’s appearance. Doing certain things at home can minimize the need for professional grooming and keep them in good physical shape.

Brushing your dog or cat’s fur regularly with a high-quality comb or brush helps to remove tangles, dead hair and dirt and it also stimulates natural oils in your pet’s skin. Trimming their nails regularly can prevent infection and if you have a cat, it can cut down on their need to scratch which means you won’t have to worry about destroying their furniture. Investing a few dollars in an electric pet trimmer is also a good way to extend the time between visits to the groomer.

Consider Pet Insurance Carefully

Pet insurance is a relatively new concept but millions of pet owners shell out big bucks for this type of protection. According to the most recent Pet Insurance in North America report, pet owners paid $536 million in pet insurance premiums for 2013 alone. While pet insurance can provide some peace of mind, it’s not necessarily a good investment for everyone.

When you’re comparing pet insurance policies, it’s important to pay close attention to what types of events are covered. Certain insurers may only offer coverage for preventative care while others may pay for major surgeries or ongoing treatments for serious illnesses. You should also look at how much you’ll pay for the premiums and out-of-pocket costs. If your pet’s relatively healthy, you may end up spending money on insurance you don’t really need.

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/vpi-petinsurance/

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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