Blake, our Cairn Terrier, is due for his checkup. Our vet books him and Sydney (our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) months in advance for their regular visits, so we can plan ahead for the added expense. Each time, I'm reminded that taking care of our four-legged friends isn't cheap. On average, dog owners spend $1,000-2,000 each year per pooch, while cat owners spend about $800 annually.
Have you seen the news about people giving up pets during the recession? Rising home foreclosures are forcing families to relocate—many can't bring their pets with them. It's so sad. In Boston, the ASPCA reported a 45 percent increase of pet owners surrendering animals due to housing and economic concerns, and the number of people giving up their pets from home-loss has doubled. It's not a just a problem in the Northeast, either. Recently, shelters in California and the Pacific Northwest have reported a huge increase of abandoned pets. My brother Ronic, who lives outside Seattle, just adopted a new dog. But, unfortunately, he's in the minority as animal shelters around the country are overflowing with abandoned pets.
Pets are such an important part of our families. We would all be very sad without Blake and Sydney. It's hard to imagine being in the place of owners who have to give up their pets and experiencing the pain they go through. In light of all this, I wanted to share ways to save money and avoid giving up your four-legged family members as the country braces for more economic troubles.
Save on Pet Care
If you use a pet sitter or dog walker, consider sharing their services with a neighbor as a way to split the costs and save money. If you can, try arranging your lunch break so you can go home for a quick "hello" and a walk.
Remember that you can be creative about reducing costs without sacrificing the quality of care for your pets. As pet owners, we have to balance saving money with making sure our animals still receive the exercise and attention they need.
Cutting Costs at the Vet
Pets need regular doctor visits, shots, and checkups, but you can save money while making sure your animals have all the medical attention they need. Ask your veterinarian if you can work out a payment plan to spread out the costs. You can also make sure your dog has a tailored health plan—not every pooch needs every shot, so make sure she's only getting what she needs. Going for regular checkups is not only good for your pet, but it also helps solve immediate health issues, while preventing them from building into bigger issues (and higher expenses) in the long run.
Also, there are local organizations, charities, and funds to help pet owners pay medical bills. This Care.com article on saving money on pet care gives great tips if you're coming up short on expenses.
Create a Pet Budget
Pet accessories, fancy leashes, and expensive toys can add up quickly. If you're feeling a budget squeeze, make sure your animals have what they need, then cut out the extras. Replace a new plaything with a little extra one-on-one attention and they'll never know the difference.
Make sure you're also scanning the supermarket circulars for coupons and sales. If you can get your brand of pet food at a discount, it'll go a long way toward helping make ends meet.
If you find it's too expensive to keep your pet in the home, why not find a friend or relative to temporarily care for them? Instead of giving them up to a shelter or stranger, someone you trust will look after your baby. This arrangement doesn't have to be permanent—think of it as a vacation for your pet. It can also be a chance for another family to experience the joy of pet ownership. Maybe they'll even adopt a companion pet, too!
Pitch in to Help
Shelters are losing funds as sponsorship and donor money dries up. Here in Massachusetts, three animal shelters just closed their doors. There wasn't enough money in the budget to keep them open. This problem will just get bigger as more families are forced to give up their pets.
You can help by supporting your local chapter of the ASPCA. Even better, have Care.com make a $20 donation to the ASPCA in your name—at no cost to you!
We love our pets and want to make sure the have the best care possible. I want to hear how you're saving on pet care these days. Leave a comment and share your tips, hints, and pet stories with the community!