Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to save on pet needs

I share my home with three furry four-legged creatures. Here’s the cast:

Sebastian (aka Bubby) is my beloved almost-twelve-year-old Chihuahua. Weighing in at about 6.5 pounds, he loves napping—preferably in the sun, string cheese and bullying the cats. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. His lovely black fur is now salt-and-pepper gray, making him a distinguished older gentleman. I’d like to claim that his “accidents” on the floor are due to his advancing age, but, in reality I’m pretty sure he’s just lazy since they’ve been happening his entire life. People who claim to dislike Chihuahuas will often admit to a fondness for this little guy. (I always joke that if my dog-rearing skills indicate how I'd do at parenting, my kids would be very well-adjusted, excepting the fact that tghey still wouldn't be potty-trained at 40.)

Artemis (Artie) is about 3 years old. He is not the brightest bulb, but he makes up in sweetness what he lacks in brains. He’s a good boy who enjoys napping, watching birds and taking over a lap. In fact, if you sit still for more than 10 minutes he will make himself right at home on top of you. However, don’t be fooled as he stretches out in the middle of the living room; he does NOT like his belly rubbed. Oh, and he is absolutely petrified of the mailman. Seriously, terrified.

Dilbert is a few months shy of his first birthday. He is naughty. He wakes me up every morning by 5:00 A.M. He is also very vocal, making all kinds of chirps and meows. He is also quite a snuggler and does love his belly rubbed. Dill steals headbands, rubber bands, bath puffs, and just about anything that seems fun when he bats at it. Apparently the shower curtain is also a great toy. Earlier this week, he pulled down the curtains in the yellow bedroom, including yanking down one of the brackets for the rod. I have had to securely stash all my yarn when not in use otherwise, he'll unravel it all through the house.

They are lucky that they are cute, soft and sweet.

It seems logical that as I’ve gotten older and my “quality of life” has increased, so has the quality of life for the beasts in my care. If anyone benefits from my being single, it’s the pets. I have become picky about what they eat. So while Riot Grrrl (may she rest in peace) started her life on 99-cent boxes of Dad’s brand cat food from Marc’s, now all of my pets get organic food. When I adopted Artie and Dilbert in January, I also determined that I wanted to use a more earth-friendly cat litter, so I’m no longer purchasing clay litter. When Riot Grrrl was ill, I chose to give her various medications. But these choices come at a financial cost.

So, here are some suggestions on minimizing pet expenses.

1. Adopt. You’ll save the life of a furry friend. You’ll save money over buying a pure breed pet. AND mixed breed pets have less health issues over their lives than do pure breed pets.

2. Feed your pet quality food. Some information on what to look for is available here.
Other ways to save on pet food and treats:
  • Use coupons. Check out the same sources you'd use for grocery coupons. (See my post on saving at the grocery store for sources.) Also, be sure to check out MyPetSavings for pet-related deals and coupons.
  • Use loyalty cards or frequent buyer programs. Large chains often offer discount cards. Many pet stores also buy-X-bags-of-Y-food-get-one-bag-of-Y-food-free programs.
  • Consider Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. You'll get 15% off and free shipping.
  • Buy in bulk. Buy the largest size you'll actually use. If you're buying canned food, buy by case.
  • Compare prices at various stores. You'd be surprised. Pet food isn't necessarily cheaper at the pet store than it is at the grocery store.
  • Make your own. If you're interested, here's a place to start.
3. Maintain your pet’s good health. This means GETTING YOUR DOG OR CAT SPAYED OR NEUTERED. (Yes, I’m shouting.) It also means yearly—at a minimum vet visits—and getting and keeping up on all routine shots. This is one of those areas where an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure (heartworm, rabies.) While I recommend finding a vet you like [If you live in the Akron, Ohio, area, please consider the fabulous staff at Keystone. In Rochester, we are grateful to have found the fabulous Dr. Robin Lovelock.], if your pet is young and healthy, you can save money by visiting a vaccination clinic. If you have a veterinary college in your area, you may be able to save by seeing a veterinary student.  [In the  Akron area, you are blessed to have Pet Guard where low cost veterinary care is available.] Remember that our dogs and cats age at a faster rate than we do. So regular care is terribly important. Skipping a dog or cat’s annual vet visit is like your not having a physical for 10 years.
Also, take your pet to the vet when he or she shows signs of illness. Unless you know what you’re dealing with, don’t “wait it out.”
There aren’t many ways to save on vet bills, but there are a few things you can do.
If cost is an issue, let the doctor know up front. That way, she might be able to provide you with options. And whatever option you choose, be sure to get an estimate up-front.
Ask for prescriptions for things like heartworm pills, or other medications, then buy them online from a reputable source that has the best price.
You can also consider CareCredit. I rarely use my credit cards, but almost all vet bills go on my CareCredit account. They provide six months interest free to pay the expenses and it provides me with an easy way to keep track of my vet expenses.

4. Grooming. Regular brushing and bathing is important for all doggies and kitties. To keep expenses low, consider a pet with low grooming needs. If it’s too late, or you just MUST have a standard poodle, then consider learning to groom the pet yourself. [Sebastian does not like his feet messed with, so I gladly pay the folks at Unipet for that task.] A happy medium may be a visit to the “dog wash” where you bathe, brush and dry your pet then leave the mess behind.

5. Toys. Toys can be expensive. Check out holiday clearance at pet stores to save. Also, discount stores like Tuesday Morning, Big Lots and Ollie’s can be great places to score good quality pet toys at discount. Don’t forget to check out Target, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.

6. Dishes. Cute little ceramic pet bowls can cost $5 or more. I buy small bowls at the thrift store for about a quarter each and use those. The dog and cats don’t seem to care what the food’s served in.

7. Keep pets close by. Pets who leave your yard unattended are more likely to come into contact with other animals that are carrying illness and/or hazards.

Next up: I'll be making a homemade dog treat recipe that uses baby food and Cream of Wheat. We'll see how it goes and get Bubby's review.

1 comment:

  1. "I always joke that if my dog-rearing skills indicate how I'd do at parenting, my kids would be very well-adjusted, excepting the fact that they still wouldn't be potty-trained at 40."

    Hahahaha Funniest thing I've read in a long time! Can't wait to see the dog treat recipe!