Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Saving Money on Pet Expenses

I have two dogs and one cat, and as I am sure many of you pet lovers know, pets are expensive. They cost money to adopt, feed, shelter, groom and train. So I thought it only proper to have a post dedicated to the furry creaturces that steal our hearts.

Vet Bills and Mediations
Ask for Discounts
Some Vet offices are really cool (mine is) and offer discounts, especially if you have more than one pet. Some offices have payment plans as well, but I haven't asked if mine has one, since I have an ING Direct Sub-Account for my pets bills. Still, it never hurts to ask!

Buy Vaccines Directly
Rather than pay the vet office visit fee and the vaccination cost, order the vaccines online or from a catalog and do it yourself. Administering subcutaneous vaccines is not a difficult task and can be done very easily and quickly once you get the hang of it. My top picks for online or catalog ordering:
Drs. Foster & Smith

Visit a Low Cost Clinic
Petsmart and Petco offer low cost clinics in my area for basic vaccinations. Some of the non-profit shelters also do the same. These are often cheaper than the do-it-yourself method.

Buy meds online and use coupons
I buy flea and tick medications online. I have found several different ways to save money doing this, but the best savings is found when you combine a few different methods.
Often, I find my dogs K9 Advantix on eBay. I know many people will not buy from eBay, but I have never had a problem with any products I buy from power sellers with good feedback. Before logging on the eBay, I visit and find out if there is a cashback on eBay purchases. (search for 'ebay buy it now'). Then enter the eBay site by clicking on the cashback symbol. Your savings should appear on all of the pages next to a cashback icon. Also, visit or to see if eBay or PayPal has any cashback rebates availble. Even if it is 1% it can add up. Lastly, pay through PayPal with a credit card that offers cash back rewards for additional savings. On my last purchased I saved a combined 11% and received one years worth of Advantix for a slightly over $100. (Retail Price: $170 at 1-800-PETMEDS)

See if the vet will price match
I was lucky enough to have a vet that price matches for medications I get often, such as the heartworm medication given monthly. Every time I have to buy more, I search online for the cheapest deal I can find, print out the information, and my vet will give the heartworm medication to me for that price. No shipping, no waiting and no faxing in prescriptions.

Hair Cuts
Some pets don’t need a whole lot of grooming, and those owners are lucky! If you have a pet that needs to be groomed, why don’t you try to do it yourself next time. You can buy a Grooming Kit from Amazon for a very good price. I found my clippers for a few dollars at a garage sale. I have a cattledog mix who is very hairy, so I decided to try it out on him. The finished product probably wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at, but it kept him cool in the summer and didn’t cost me much. And, no matter how big the mistake, the fur will grow always does. Try the Oster Pet Grooming Kit from Amazon. I use an Oster clipper myself, and they work great.

Nail Clipping
For nail clipping, use the same principle. You can get a nail grinder from Amazon for a good price (I use the PediPaws Pet Nail Trimmer). One trip to get my dogs nails cut costs me $10+ (and I have two dogs). So for the price I pay to get both of their nails done once, I can buy the tools to do it myself.

Boarding can be very expensive, but it can also be a necessity for those who travel without their pets. To cut costs on this, try out a pet sitter instead. I usually ask my friends first and see if they would like to stay at my house and take care of my pets while I am gone. Its more of a house sitting arrangement, but friends usually only want food in the fridge and cold beer. If you don't have a friend who will do it, you can try Craigslist for advertisement on pet-sitters, or try a quick Google Search to see if there is a company the offers pet-sitters in your neighborhood.

Dog Walkers
Enlist a Friend
Exercise is a necessity for all dogs (along with discipline and boundaries, but I wont go all Dog Whisperer on you just yet). I don't have the time to walk my dogs without doing so at 11:00 at night, and I just don't feel comfortable with that in my neighborhood, so I enlisted the help of a friend. I pay him to walk my dogs twice a week. If I didn't have this option available to me, I would have gone for the Craigslist advertisements for dog walkers.

But lets say I could do the best alternative here, to walk my dog myself. I gain exercise, my dog gains situation. But lets up the ante here, why not take on a client. For every other dog you walk you could actually make some money, and you are already walking your dog anyway. Just make sure you can handle walking multiple dogs! You could advertise on telephone poles on your normal route if you want to stay within your neighborhood. Average dog walking rates are $10 an hour per dog!

Dog Toys
Both of my dogs are chewers. They prefer the TV remote and the Couch, but I’ve been trying to get them to stick to their toys. I buy my dog toys from the clearance section at either Dog.Com or Jeffers. Both are great sites that offer excellent toys at a bargain. Couple that with free shipping in some cases (check, a coupon code (try RetailMeNot), and/or a rebate (Try Cashbaq or Ebates) and you have a pretty sweet deal on a whole mess of toys.

The most inexpensive method, of course, is the homemade method. I ran across a site called Homemade Dog Toys a while back but I haven't tried any of them myself, thought I plan to. Wanna go really cheap? Go to a thrift store or garage sale and get a pair of jeans, any size will do. Cut off the legs and tie a few knots in each leg and presto...two instant toys.

Dog Training
There are a few options here, depending on the level of training your dog is currently at, and any behavioral problems you might be experiencing.

You could find a coupon for training. Petsmart had coupons a while back for $20 of their $109 training. (I used this and am currently at week 4 of 8)

Private Instruction

You could go with a private instructor, which can be very expensive ($800+), but if there are some behavioral problems then it can be well worth every penny. They usually offer lifetime support as well, so if you ever have an issue you can call them up and have someone come out to help. Some private instructors are not as expensive, and charge per session. This may be a better way to go, since you control how much you spend and it isnt a large amount all at once. Still, I am most likely going to put my 2nd dog in private instruction instead of group instruction at Petsmart, simply becuase he has some barking and biting issues that need one-on-one help.

The most inexpensive method is the do it yourself method. Try a book from Cesar Milan (
Cesar's Way). Or try a DVD on dog training (Cesar Milan Dog Training DVD). The best person to train your dog is you; After all, you are the one who will be pack leader. (Okay, its kinda obvious I am a Cesar Milan fan, but there are many, many other books and DVDs out there!)

Related Posts:
1) Money under 30 writes about the True Cost of of Pet Ownership
2) Xin Lu at WiseBread wrote a great article about Things You Must Consider Before You Get a Pet
3) J.D. at Get Rich Slowly questions if Pets are Worth the Money (we all know they are!)

What do you do to save money on your pet costs? Do you find some, more expensive methods of pet care, are worth the cost?

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