7 tips for reducing the cost of pet care

This is Ernie. He was free. He is a rescue dog. We love him very very much. He tells us that he loves us too. I’m sure that you love your pets too. But there is no more frustrating expense category on the planet than pet-related expenses, well, other than maybe speeding tickets.

I’ve written about pets before. I wrote about my dog, Otis, dying. It was expensive. But we were fortunate to be able to pay for his care. But there are ways in which you can reduce the costs associated with pet ownership. I wanted to know what these ways were, so I turned to an expert. My friend, Dr Greg Magnusson, is veterinarian. Below, you will find his best 7 tips for reducing the short and long term costs associated with pet care.

1. Get pet insurance BEFORE your pet gets sick. Usually considered in hindsight,
pet insurance purchased before an injury or illness can repay up to 90% of what
you spend at the vet after unexpected accidents and illnesses. I recommend
Trupanion pet insurance.

2. Feed cheaper pet food. I realize this flies in the face of what most of us have
been taught by the pet food PR people these last few years, but here’s what I
recommend. If your pet is young and healthy and has no medical problems,
you probably won’t see any benefit over good-quality grocery-store food, by
feeding the high-dollar All Natural Organic Grain Free Grass Fed Farm Raised
Fancypants kibble from the pet store. There, I said it.

3. Don’t supplement your pet’s diet unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Every
commercial pet food is required by law to contain all the protein, carbohydrates,
vitamins and minerals to support healthy life. Any supplemental vitamins you
feed will just end up peed out in the litter box or the yard.

4. DO test yearly and give heart worm preventives. Just about the least expensive yet
most effective health maintaining medicine you can give your dog is a once-a-
month pill to prevent the deadly mosquito-spread blood disease, heart worms. Yes,
heart worm-infected mosquitoes can come inside your house. Yes, mosquitoes bite
your dog when she goes outside to potty. Heart worm disease is a terrible problem.

5. Don’t feed treats. The average 25 oz bag of Beggin’ Strips at Wal-Mart runs about
$9.50 plus tax, which equates to feeding your dog crappy nutrition for $6/lb.

6. If your pet has chronic arthritis, don’t buy “pet-branded” glucosamine, use human generics. IMHO glucosamine that is adequate for my use is probably acceptable
for my dog.

7. Don’t ever buy “pet-branded” medicine, “medicated” shampoos, flea shampoos, hot spot gels, or other assorted varieties of snake oil from the pet store. I promise you, a complete physical exam by a licensed veterinarian will get you to the RIGHT treatment way faster, and way cheaper, than self-diagnosing and getting
your pet’s diagnosis wrong.

Greg Magnusson @IndianapolisVet is a veterinarian in Indianapolis practicing at
Leo’s Pet Care at College and 106th.

8 thoughts on “7 tips for reducing the cost of pet care

  1. I think the thing about #2 is to use *good-quality* food. My vet recommended Purina One, Iams, and Eukanuba for dog food (my cat has eaten Iams for years), all of which can be found at a local superstore. So now my new dog happily eats Purina One, and I feel good about feeding it to her. Save the Fancypants kibble for when you need to rule out food allergies somewhere down the line.

    One thing to keep in mind is that pet stores (ie Petsmart) often run sales with prices only good if you have a loyalty card. I can usually save about 10% off a giant bag of cat food, and it lasts several months.

    In regard to heartworm/flea preventative, I found out that buying more at one time is significantly cheaper (per month) than buying one at a time.

    When your vet prescribes a medication for your pet, always ask if it’s available as a human medication, then take the Rx to your pharmacy.

  2. Okay, I agree that you shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage to purchase the high priced pet foods that are out there but here is my problem with #2.

    My dog has trouble with her anal glands. The higher cost foods usually give her a firmer stool. If she eats cheaper food it causes her stool to be loose and she has more trouble. How do I get around this issue?

  3. what a joke, Vets are in the business of making money, and feeding crap food to dogs had made the industry flourish. Educate yourself and feed a raw species specific natural diet.

  4. I, also, disagree with #2. You can feed the cheaper foods to your young, healthy pup but this is setting yourself up for disaster. You may not notice any issues for years, but they’ll happen. It’s just the same as humans. You can be healthy but keep eating junk and it’s bound to turn on you. I suggest getting ANA titers first and THEN vaccinating if your dog is low. The ANA titer test isn’t cheap, but will save on 1- future vaccination costs and 2- health problems.

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