Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Owning a Dog on a Budget

Annual Dog Budget*

Annual Exam
Annual Bloodwork
Heartworm Antigen Test
Heartguard (6 months)
3-Year Rabies Vaccine
Grooming (quarterly)
Specialty Treats
Fish Oil (200)
Cosequin (200)
*This is just a sample with costs I got from my receipts, costs will vary

Owning dogs as both a college and graduate student encouraged me to find the most cost-effective and conscious way to take care of my furbabies.  People often think that owning a dog is a huge expense, and don't get me wrong, it definitely can be especially if unforeseen medical expenses present themselves (I will address what to do in that situation), but for the most part I have found a way to take care of my babies for a little over $100/month per dog and if you were to ask any of my friends they would say I spoil them.

What I discuss is merely what I do and should not be taken as recommended/what you "should" do,  what to feed your dogs, an endorsement for any product, etc. I just wanted share some tips and tricks that I found that have worked for me and saved me quite a bit of money.

Vet Expenses

I cannot stress how important it is to find a vet you like and trust, and personally I will pay a higher price for someone I trust (e.g., "you get what you pay for").  Annual vet exams and tests are extremely important to your dog's health and wellness. 

However, there are some medical things that you can get for less than your vet charges.  For example, if your vet prescribes your dog a medication that is also used for humans (and there are quite a few), you can get it filled at your local pharmacy, often times for a significantly lower cost.  To illustrate, call or even look on the website of your pharmacy and see if they fill pet meds.  Don't be afraid to ask your vet if the medication is a human medication.  A note of caution here (personal experience), pet medications that are not purchased directly from a veterinarian by the pet's owner are subject to sales tax.  So any medication you buy anywhere other than your vet's office will be taxed, including heartworm preventive.  Some times the medication is so cheap from an outside pharmacy the tax is not signficiant, but for something like a 12 month supply of Heartguard, the tax is close to $10.

Also something to note with respect to Heartguard--there is almost always a "Buy 12 doses get $12 back" coupon on their website.  Print the coupon and bring it to the vet when you get your dog's heartworm test done or whenever you are buying their heartworm preventive.  [Note:  Having your dog on preventive could potentially save you hundreds of dollars if your dog needed HW treatment (treatment ranges from $700-$1,200).]  Spend the $100/year to keep both your pup and your wallet healthy!

Rabies vaccinations are something that you can be done significantly cheaper elsewhere if you choose.  Vaccination clinics are often held and open to the public, where vaccines can be as low as $10.  Call your local animal shelter and ask if they hold a clinic or how much it costs to have the vaccinations done there.  Usually it is cheaper than what your regular vet charges.

Food, Health, & Wellness

I am picky about the quality of dog food I feed my two, but I am also cost conscious, which leads me to the best purchase I ever made--a Costco membership!  I literally bought a membership for the dog food, I know it sounds crazy, but it paid for itself within two months, literally!  Costco store brand, Kirkland, is manufactured by Diamond and is ranked 4/5 stars on most dog food rating sites, which is comparable to what I was feeding mine two previously--Blue Buffalo, and Kirkland is only ~$27 for a 40# bag vs. ~$50 for a 30# bag. [Note:  If your dog requires a special diet/food, try and explore different avenues to find their food at a lower cost.  For example, many stores have online sales + free shipping; some stores have "Get your 10th bag free" programs, etc.]

I also give my dogs fish oil capsules, which I get at Costco ~$12 for 400ct (1000mg).  My older dog takes Cosequin which is relatively expensive, but I can get a twin pack of 180 tablet bottles for $99, which I have found it on sale there for as low as $75 in the past.  Depending on how quickly you go through the bottle, I like to split the twin pack with a friend.

Also at Costco--HUGE dog beds for $19.  Big enough for my Pyr with a little extra room.


I have found that local, independent groomers are often less expensive and do a better job than groomers at the chain stores.  Additionally, they usually personally blowdry your pup rather than use cage dryers like PetSmart or Petco (one of my dogs has been traumatized by the cage dryer).

I only get my Pyr groomed a few times a year, but I found a fabulous place that only charges me $70 (vs. the $100+ quoted by Petsmart & Petco).

If you brush your pup on a regular basis, depending on the breed, you can often cut down on the frequency in which they need to be professionally groomed.

Toys or other sites like it have really good brandname toys (ex:  Kong, Chunkit, treats, etc.) for super cheap.

Also, don't forget about the clearance rack/aisle at your local pet supply store, sometimes there is some really good stuff in there (you might have to dig)!

Rainy Day Fund, Care Credit, and Pet Insurance

I recommend putting aside ~$3,000 (or more) per dog as a rainy day fund.  We don't anticipate our dogs getting seriously ill, being hit by a car, etc. but things happen and we want to be prepared.  You will not want to have to face an extremely emotional and tough decision because you didn't think ahead and don't have the financial means to provide your dog with the care they need and deserve.

CareCredit is another financial option.  CareCredit is a personal line of credit for healthcare treatments and procedures for your entire family, including your pets. 

Pet Insurance is also an option, but I am personally not familiar with it.

- Christie Cotter

Just remember well visits and preventive measures will save you money in the long run!

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