Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
I hadn’t planned to get a new dog after my beloved Daphne died just short of her 15th birthday. However, I developed a bad habit of scrolling through the adorable faces of dogs up for adoption at my local Humane Society.
As soon as I spotted Matilda and her huge ears, I had to jump in the car and drive out to the shelter to claim her — quick! — before anyone else did.
The adoption fee was $150. With that, I got a free vet visit. Matilda had already been spayed and microchipped, but she needed a couple of shots. The free vet visit turned into an expense of about $45.
I had given away all of Daphne’s pet paraphernalia, so I had to buy new bowls, blankets, kibble, treats, toys and a leash. Then I learned that Matilda, barely a year old, has a chewing habit.
So replacing the leash (several times), the blanket (several times), a harness and numerous toys added to my pet care costs. And that’s not counting the molding around the door that got demolished before I learned the magic of crating a dog for my short absences during the day. Fortunately, I got the crate for free from a friend, a savings of nearly $200.
Now that Matilda’s been part of my household for almost two months, I realize I could have saved some money on pet care if I hadn’t been so impetuous. Here are some ways you can save on the biggest pet care costs, including supplies and vet visits.
How to save on pet care and supplies
If you make smart choices, you can cut the costs of adopting a dog, cat or other pet, as well as on their care and upkeep.
First of all, make the right decisions. Ask yourself the important questions before acquiring a pet. Are you ready to commit to this living being for 10 years or more? Are you able to attend to its needs?
Life events happen to all of us, so make some plans in case you are ever in the position of not being able to take care of your pet. Talk to friends, family or neighbors about a back-up plan for care if you are incapacitated or if you pass away. Plan ahead for peace of mind by checking out these resources for making pet care affordable when hard times hit.
1. Look for adoption specials
Adoption fees at humane societies and shelters, like the $150 I paid for Matilda, aren’t peanuts, but they’re a fraction of what a dog would cost from a breeder. If you want your pet adoption to be affordable, consider giving a home to the many older dogs and puppies living in a shelter.
Even then, you can do a little bargain hunting by asking when your local shelter’s adoption specials are coming up. At my local Humane Society, there are occasional half-off specials for all pets, or adopt-one-get-one-free deals for cats.
There are some specials connected to holidays, such as Valentine’s Day. I mean, what says “I love you” better than a slobbering dog or drooling cat? Just make sure that special person knows about it — never use any animal as a surprise gift. They are living creatures, not stuffed teddy bears.
2. Get chew toys that last
Don’t buy cheap, easy-to-shred stuffed toys, or you’ll constantly be replacing them.
Make sure toys are not made from the same material as your blankets or furniture, or your dog might confuse your upholstered couch pillows with his favorite plaything. Spend a little more money on strong, rubber toys that can be filled with treats for hours of chew time.
3. Make your own toys and treats
One big benefit at DIY-ing a pet toy is that your pet will love it as much as a proud parent whose kindergartener did a finger painting. They absolutely won’t care if it’s Pinterest-worthy! We have a tutorial for an easy braided-rope dog toy you can make and some easy pet treat recipes here.
4. Shop thrift stores for pet supplies
Your dog or cat won’t care if its things are brand-new or secondhand. You can save money by stocking up on cheap blankets at your local thrift shop, such as Goodwill.
You won’t mind so much when they get destroyed. I lucked out and also found a couple of bowls while I was shopping for blankets. Run them through the dishwasher, and they’re as good as new.
5. Save money with healthy treats
Save on treats by introducing your dog to the joys of vegetables. Lots of dogs love carrots almost as much as they like bones. Dearly departed Daphne would do anything to wrap her lips around a ripe tomato.
Make your own dog treats rather than buying them from a store to save money. Here’s a list of dog treat recipes with five ingredients or less.
6. A walk every day keeps the vet away
Don’t skimp on the walks or play. The exercise will keep your pet and yourself healthy and fit, so you won’t have to visit the vet (or human doctor) nearly so much. Thanks, Matilda, for getting me back on my dog walk schedule.
But when you do need to take your pet in for regular immunizations and checkups, you can still save money at the vet. Good pet health is important, but it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive.
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