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9 ways to save on pet care costs

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February 13, 2016
Expenses for pampered pups and coddled cats add up quickly.

The best food for our finicky four-legged friends racks up the dollar signs at the grocery store checkout counter. And a trip to one of the pet franchises can easily blow your budget.

If they get sick, the veterinarian bills skyrocket.

But we adore these guys. They greet us when we come home, and shower us with unconditional love. Some even crawl into our lap while we watch TV. We tend to want what’s best for them.

It is possible to take good care of Lassie and Garfield without breaking the bank. Here’s how.

Spay or neuter.

Besides being the correct thing to do to cut down on the unwanted animal population, you thwart all kinds of behaviors that can set you back financially.

After our collie was neutered, he quit “marking” his territory throughout the house saving on cleaning expenses like extra rolls of paper towels, disinfectant and carpet cleaning.

Pets who haven’t been spayed or neutered are more aggressive towards other dogs and cats, leaving you open to vet bills for someone else’s companion.

Neutering also lowers the chances of testicular cancer and some prostate issues.

Spaying reduces the incidences of uterine infections and breast tumors.

Do a “vet check” once a week,

Pick an evening like Sunday when everyone, including your dog and cat are mostly quiet.

While brushing them, take time to look for any new bumps or abrasions and any changes in their skin.

Brush their teeth. Sniff inside their ears and their mouth. If the scent seems off, chances are your canine or feline is showing signs of illness.

Call your vet and ask him what to do.

Clip the dog’s nails if they’ve gotten too long. Ask your vet to show you how. Doing this simple chore yourself can save hundreds of dollars over the life of your pet.

Following this routine every week, as soon as you adopt the animal home, keeps you on top of your companion’s well-being.

Buy pet food in bulk.

You can still bring home healthy food, high in protein, when you shop at a warehouse store or on Amazon.com.

If the food is dry, pour a manageable amount into a plastic container and keep a measuring scoop in it so the canine or feline in your home gets the same amount at every meal.

If your pet doesn’t gobble up what’s in the dish within a reasonable time, remove the dish and feed it to the pet again at the next meal.

Letting the animal graze leads to obesity. Feeding them table scraps can also harm their digestion.

Make your own treats.

You don’t have to go all Martha Stewart doing this and create bakery-worthy offerings.

Many recipes on the Internet use ingredients you may already have in your fridge and pantry.

Giada, of Food Network fame, offers an idea for peanut butter delicacies.

Dogaware.com describes how to make some yummy liver bread, bits and brownies.

Buy toys at the dollar store.

Charlie, our dachshund mix, likes tugging on play ropes. Prices for these at chain pet outlets start at $7.99.

I bought similar ones at the dollar store for a $1 each and they have lasted longer than their more expensive counterparts.

Save for medical care.

For a healthy pet, insurance premiums will most likely run higher than the vet bills over the lifetime of the animal.

Instead sock away about $200 every year in a special household fund to pay for any sickness or injury your pet may suffer.

That way you can offer cash to the veterinarian instead of going on a high-interest payment plan or using a credit card.

Ask your vet for a discount.

Mine gives 10% off to anyone over 65, but always ask if you fall into the senior category.

Employees don’t want to embarrass themselves by asking if you qualify for a senior discount.

Some veterinarians give a lower rate to those who own three or more pets.

Trade pet sitting duties with a friend.

As an alternative to paying for expensive boarding when you travel, arrange to exchange pet watching with someone in a similar situation.

This person should be familiar with your dog or cat, which makes the care of your pet more personal than at an unfamiliar boarding facility.

You could also hire a reliable teenage neighbor to come in a couple of times a day to feed and exercise your companion. He or she would do it for a fraction of the cost that you’d pay for professional boarding.

Exercise your four-legged friend regularly.

This keeps the animal from gaining weight and becoming more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and arthritis.

If you spend active time with your pet, then you’re upping your own healthy quotient, too.

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