By Katelyn Schutz, CPDST

Let’s face it, being a good pet owner can get pricey at times. But as I always say, “If you can’t afford the vet, you can’t afford the pet.” There’s nothing worse than worrying about funds when it comes to your fur family member. Wouldn’t you rather be spending your money on hiring a professional dog walker or pet sitter? Here are some tips for more affordable pet care so you can really enjoy life with your pet!

Hire a Professional Dog Walker. Obesity is one of the most common health problems in our pets. If you have an overweight dog, you could actually save money in the long run by hiring a professional pet sitter or dog walker to help exercise your pooch and shave off those excess pounds. Loosing weight could prevent your dog from developing serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, and pre-mature death. Your money will go towards your pet’s physical and emotional well-being, instead of insulin, pain meds, and low-fat foods.

Plan Ahead for Emergencies. No pet parent wants to deal with an emergency, but it happens, and it’s best to be prepared, especially financially. Consider applying for interest free options in advance, such as Care Credit, which is accepted at many veterinarians and animal ERs. For larger vet bills, these programs allow you to pay off your debt for several months interest free. Sadly, some owners will elect for euthanasia because treatment is too costly. Consider saving a small percentage of every pay check to go into a savings fund, specifically for your pets in case of an emergency.

Invest in Pet Insurance. Be proactive, and get assistance for health problems with pet insurance. Some will cover pre-existing conditions, while some will not. Many cover yearly needs, such as vaccinations and heartworm and flea/tick preventative. Every pet, and every owner, is different, so be sure to do your research to find what fits best for your family.

Take Advantage of Frequent Buyer Programs. Many pet food and products now have “frequent buyer programs” that reward you with free merchandise for your continued support of their company. Fromm’s, a partner of Wisconsin Pet Care, offers a FREE BAG of pet food for every 12 purchased! Wisconsin Pet Care offers a referral program for free services — refer us to a friend, and receive a free visit!

DIY! Learn how to “do it yourself” to decrease grooming expenditures. Ask your veterinarian to teach you how to trim your own pet’s nails, express anal glands, or clean your cat or dog’s ears. Cut back on grooming bills and save a few bucks by bathing your own pet at home. Educate yourself, and then train your pet to accept these different protocols to save money over the lifespan of your pet.

Generic medications are more economical. Have a sick pet? Ask your vet to write a prescription for your pet’s medications that are also used in human medicine. Generic medications can be filled for as little as $4 at particular pharmacies (Target, for example), regardless if you have insurance coverage or not. Many antibiotics and pain medications can be carried for much cheaper at a human pharmacy, than at your local vet.

Feed a high quality diet. Save money overall by having a healthier pet from feeding a high quality diet. Just like people, if we feed and exercise our pets adequately, they are more likely to have a longer, healthier lifestyle. This makes for less vet bills in the long run. Win, win!

Make your own dog treats. The pet store can get very expensive, especially when you want to love and spoil your pet. Consider baking or making your own pet treats, and put those extra treat expenses away for that dock diving class, or next annual vet bill.

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Did you know that most rescue pets come already vetted? Many shelter and rescue pets come vaccinated, neutered/spayed, and already microchipped. They are often already on flea/tick and heartworm prevention. Consider how much money this saves! Puppies and kittens, though adorable, are much more expensive than adult pets. They require frequent vet visits while receiving their series of vaccinations, and still need surgery to be fixed. This can add up to over $1000 easily in the first year of life. Instead, consider rescuing a pet, and putting aside that money for training, toys, treats, and treatments.

Follow these tips, and your life with your pet will be pure gold!