Americans spend more than $41 billion  each year on pets. From routine care to pet spa appointments, the pets industry is big business. Increasingly, people consider their pets to be part of the family, and spend accordingly. This can include everything from specially made pet clothes to expensive medical procedures.
Even those most in love with their pets, though, occasionally wonder how they can reduce the costs associated with pet ownership. The economy may be showing signs of recovery, but, for many, the recession is still a reality. And that means that costs need to be cut somewhere. If you are looking for ways to cut back on pet expenses, here are seven ideas:
- Find the recommendations for vaccines: Double check the vaccine requirements. Some vaccinations are no longer required each year. Find out from your vet, or check with the American Animal Hospital Association  for recommendations on how often to get your pet vaccinated. With the new guidelines recommending three years for some vaccines, instead of one year, you could see your costs go down if you have been over-vaccinating.
- Do some things yourself: There are some things you can do yourself. Save money on grooming by bathing and brushing your pet yourself. You can also brush your pet’s teeth, saving money on dental visits. Cleaning your pet’s ears, clipping claws and other basic things can be done at home, saving you having to pay someone else to do these things.
- Follow feeding directions on packages: You might be surprised to find that you are over-feeding your pet. Follow the directions on the package so that your food lasts an appropriate amount of time. Your pet will be healthier, and you’ll save money on pet food. Additionally, don’t get the cheapest food with fillers. Find a good quality pet food that results in better health. As with humans, prevention is a great way to save money on heath care down the road.
- Comparison shop on pet items and services: Shop around for the best prices on vet services, as well as the items that you purchase for your pet. This also includes shopping around for medications. Make sure you are comparing products and services of similar quality, and look online as well as at smaller pet stores.
- Look for coupons and discounts: You can find coupons for some pet products, and many pet food companies will provide you with free samples. Check your local paper, and look online for coupons and promos.
- Stay away from unnecessary expenses: Really evaluate whether or not you need something. Your cat probably doesn’t want to wear a sweater. Your dog doesn’t seriously need a special facial. Consider what you are buying, and whether your pet needs it. After all, Fido doesn’t care about a rhinestone collar. Fido just wants you to play with him.
- Spay/Neuter your pet: Interestingly, spaying or neutering your pet can have positive health impacts. You reduce the chance of certain cancers, and pets are less likely to prowl the neighborhood.
Some feel that pet insurance  is another way to save money, but you need to make sure that the benefits outweigh the costs, and that you have very specific idea of what you need in terms of coverage.
What are the ways you save money on pet expenses?
(Photo: ozstryker )