Pet Connection: Money-saving ideas for pet owners

01/29/2013 12:00 AM

01/28/2013 4:48 PM

If you're trying to save money – and really, who isn't? – it's important to understand a couple of key concepts when it comes to budgeting for pet care:

It's almost always less expensive to prevent health problems than to treat them.

Taking your pet's health care expert – your veterinarian – out of the picture is never going to be the best way to save money.

And, yes, they go hand in hand. Veterinarians know money is always an issue, and they're ready to offer wellness plans that will help you keep your pet healthy. A wellness check once or twice a year can catch little problems before they're big ones, and gives you access to cutting-edge care and advice that will help you save at home, too.

Some more tips for keeping costs down include:

Take the weight off your pet. Extra pounds increase the likelihood of serious health problems such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer in pets, just as they do in people. And yet few people recognize when their pet is overweight – or even grossly obese!

If your pet is normal weight (you should be able to feel his ribs), measuring food, keeping treats to a minimum and working in a daily exercise session will keep him that way. If your pet is overweight, get your veterinarian's help to reduce weight slowly to avoid the health risks of sudden weight loss, especially in cats.

Change your buying habits. You can save money buying the largest bags of food or litter, or get case discounts on canned goods. Split your dry food purchases with family or a friend, and store portions in an airtight container. (Do keep product info from the bag, though, in case there are questions or problems.)

Other purchases should be considered carefully. Replace things such as collars when they first begin to show wear – you don't want a collar to break and your dog to get loose in a dangerous situation. Buy quality, not silliness: One good collar is a better value than a lot of cute but shoddy ones.

Be careful when cutting down on toys, though: Good chew toys have saved many an expensive pair of shoes.

Get the do-it-yourself bug. Most people can learn to handle basic pet grooming at home, from bathing to nail trims. If nothing else, you can probably stretch out the time between professional grooming with some at-home care. Check your library for grooming guides and hone in on breed- specific tips with an Internet search.

Don't forget the value of bartering. Ask about trading goods and services for your pet's needs.

Poison-proof your home. Go through your home with an eye toward possible hazards. From food hazards such as raisins, Xylitol-sweetened goodies and chocolate to houseplants such as lilies, many poisoning risks can be prevented just by removing them. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are also a danger, and these are best dealt with by putting them behind cupboard doors.

Don't be shy about asking your veterinarian to work with you on keeping costs down. For example, ask your veterinarian to give you prescriptions for medications to be filled elsewhere or to match prices. Comparison shopping for medications may offer considerable savings, especially if there are generic equivalents available.

We also recommend looking into pet health insurance, because no pet lover wants to say no to a pet that can be saved because the money isn't there for the care.

Talk to your veterinarian, and you'll get even more good advice.

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