Financing Fido | Money Sense, April 2012

How Much is that Doggie

in the Window?

Prepare your budget for pet care costs

Click here to read in the zMag

Money Sense

Before adding a pet to the family, research and understand the time and financial commitments involved.

The cost of caring can be high, but as pet parents, we know that’s outweighed by the companionship and love we share with our dog or cat. Pets even boost health benefits for their owners, from decreased blood pressure and stress to increased physical activity, says Pampered Pets on a Budget Co-Author Kristen Levine.

According to the American Pet Products Association, owners spent $50 billion on their pets in 2011, with food and vet care expenses at the top.

Humane Society for Hamilton County Executive Director Rebecca Stevens tells perspective owners to budget $250 a year for general care. One-time costs may include an adoption fee, spay or neuter services, and initial products like a crate or scratching post. Annual costs include food, medical care, grooming, boarding, toys and treats.

Levine recommends adopting from an animal shelter or pet rescue.

“They say you get what you pay for, but that’s not true when it comes to pets,” she says. “I’ve had the most wonderful companions that were adopted for $30.”

Money Sense

Pampered Pets on a Budget shows you how to save money on toys and supplies while budgeting for preventative care and a healthy diet.

Ask your vet for the projected basic yearly costs, so you know how much money to set aside each month to ensure your pet gets the best health care, Levine advises.

Don’t skimp on getting your pet spayed or neutered, keep up on annual vaccinations and make sure they’re microchipped or wear an ID, Stevens adds.

Preventative care, such as annual wellness visits and a nutritious diet, is key to keeping your pet healthy and saving money down the line.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money; it’s just going to require some research and shopping around,” Stevens says.

Look for nutritious pet foods at a cost you can afford. Levine says to make sure that a protein like chicken or beef is the first ingredient, and avoid large amounts of fillers like cornmeal.

“The quality of the food means that you’ll feed less quantity, so it will actually last longer, and it will be healthier for your pet,” Levine says.

Consider shopping for pet food in bulk and keeping it in a sealed container to stay fresh.

Buy cheaper toys or make your own, and keep them clean and washed. Levine suggests rotating toys out for a couple months to prevent boredom.

Other ways to save include buying used equipment, exchanging pet care with a friend or neighbor when traveling, and doing at-home grooming.

Some breeds may require more frequent and specialized grooming, Stevens cautions. So before adding a pet to the family, research grooming needs and common health concerns to better understand time and financial commitments.

“Pets really just want to spend time with us,” Levine says. “They need that interaction with us, as their humans, and that doesn’t cost you a thing but your time.”

Learn more about local, low-cost medical clinics and pet food pantries here.

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