Karen B. London
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Pets Are Expensive
Some animals are more costly than others.
Where does the money go?

Money is on everyone’s mind lately, and that interest extends to pets. A few months after starting to write a weekly animal column for my local newspaper, I asked the editor if there was anything particular that he wanted me to cover. His first request was a column about the expense of having pets, which we both agreed was relevant in these troubled times.

For people who have had certain types of animals for years, the costs of buying and maintaining them come as no surprise. However, it’s easy to be startled by the expenses associated with animals that we have not had the pleasure of having in our lives. For example, unless you’re experienced at keeping birds, it may be news that you can easily spend thousands of dollars on housing for your avian companions. Similarly, unless you have competed seriously in Agility or know someone who has, it might be hard to fathom the way money flows in torrents from each paycheck, going directly to lessons, equipment, matches and travel.

What’s your biggest canine expense?  Have you figured out strategies to trim your budget without compromising your dog’s quality of life?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.


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Submitted by vicki | May 13 2009 |

I found out recently that my dog needed a tooth extraction. Luckily he's been on pet insurance since he was a puppy and we've done regular vet checks and kept up with their recommendations for healthy teeth so the pet insurance will cover the majority of the procedure.

Some people are diligent enough to save money and put it away for emergencies like this, however I like the security of knowing I have pet insurance for these occasions. I still save for his food, shots, and annual check-up costs.

Submitted by Kathy Konetzka-Close | May 13 2009 |

There are several online or catalog companies who give discounts when you purchase supplies in bulk, so I try to do that whenever possible. If you're lucky and your pet is healthy, the first year of medical costs is usually the highest and it's maintenance from there. My biggest cost involved buying all the grooming supplies I needed for our Collie pup, but now that I have them, it's not so bad as I won't need to replace them for several years, if ever. At this point, the first year of medical expenses is over,and his grooming stuff is all purchased (along with his crate, leash, collar, etc., etc.) so the biggest expense is probably food. I don't skimp on that, but I do use a frequent buyer program where the 10th bag is free.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 13 2009 |

Get Pet Insurance! I love PetFirstHealth Pet Insurance! They rock! It really does save you on vet visits and illnesses AND... routine care such as vaccinations, heartworm preventative, and flea control. Go to www.petfirsthealth.com and see for yourself!!

Submitted by Cynthia Christian | May 14 2009 |

I work at an animal hospital and see the impact our economy has on every pet parent that walks through our doors. It is extremely heart-wrenching to turn caring people away when their pet is in need of annual vaccinations or emergency surgery. Pet insurance is great and so are credit cards such as www.carecredit.com and www.citicards.com/cards - if one is eligible and can afford such gifts. It is true that pets are expensive; however, the benefits outweigh the costs anyday. I only hope our economy improves soon for the sake of all the pets out there who desperately need to be seen by a professional.

Submitted by Carolyn (with M... | May 16 2009 |

I keep costs down by doing the best I can to keep my dog healthy. I feed her home prepared food, appropriately balanced and supplemented -- while that is more expensive than kibble, I figure the trade off is a worthwhile investment toward her health. I make sure she gets plenty of exercise daily. I am a believer in preventative care -- I groom her daily and check her over for any minor injuries, lumps, bumps or fleas and ticks, and deal with those right away. I brush her teeth daily using a Vitamin C solution (see Dr. Pitcairn's website for details on how to make it). I no longer splurge on fancy dog shampoo -- I bathe her with plain mild soap and use a very light white vinegar rinse. No fancy toys -- a knotted sock is fine. No fancy dog bed, I've made a pillow slipcover from an old towel that comes off for washing. No fancy collars or leashes, just plain and simple from the discount store. No more fancy chews, a raw carrot works fine.

Submitted by Karen | May 29 2009 |

Food is an issue these days, for both people and animal alike. Scour your local pet stores for sales. I recently scored a 40 lb bag of Merrick BG buffalo at half price, so I picked up all they had (checking the expiration dates of course). Feed a high quality food. Most people don't realize that their dog (or pet of choice) will eat less of a good food than a regular grocery store brand. Animals instinctively know their limits and what's good for them. You might pay more for a high quality brand at the start, but it will last longer, and cause fewer vet visits, than the cheaper brands that are chock full of fillers. Prevention is the best medicine! Get your pet on a rotation in case one food is less expensive than another. Buying fresh chicken in bulk for a treat is cheaper than buying treats in bags. Carrots make an excellent goodie and cost much less! Don't fall for marketing. A pretty package doesn't always mean a good food/treat. And don't even get me started on toys! Your dog doesn't know Easter from Christmas! Buy them out of season and rotate them throughout the year.

Submitted by Anne | June 2 2009 |

First, by keeping them healthy, proper food, nutrition and exercise. I've also found a secret, it's a website for dogs, like a woot.com, for dogs. Things are usually 45-50% off what they normally retail for. They say they go up to 80% off, but I haven't seen that yet. It's www.barkworthybargains.com. Also, I've had to cut back on doggy day care, and am doing a lot more hiking with my dogs, which is great for both of us. When I travel, I take my pets with me, so I don't have to pay boarding fees.

Submitted by Lorraine | June 6 2009 |

Tiger and I used to take agility classes but simply cannot continue due to finances. My answer: I bought a hula-hoop ($1.29)
I also set up my coffee table and my couch (which are about the same height) and put the handle of a mop across -- that becomes a hurdle.
There are several places along our morning route that have slanted side areas next to stairs. I take the stairs, but Tiger walks on the slanted area -- practicing the dog's walk.
For practice doing weave poles, I use: two music stands, a candelabra and a plunger.
I still haven't figured out how to practice a see-saw at home -- but other than that - we have our own, cheap agility course!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 18 2009 |

Some ways to save money are to buy food in bulk, and shop at discount stores, or Dollar Stores.

Places like Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Costco, Sams Club, Ross are all great places to find dog supplies at a discounted price.

Dollar Stores also have bowls, toys, and leashes and collars that are, what else, $1, and believe it or not, most are quality products.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 23 2009 |

Sign up for a PetCo PALS card, or sign up for coupons from PetSmart.
Both provide regular savings that I continually use, or post in my apartment building if I won't be using them.

More expensive/larger supplies such as crates can often be found used on Craigs List, just make sure the items you get are well-cleaned and have not been exposed to anything that could harm your pet.

Also, for doggie sweaters, I've recycled my own old sweaters, getting creative with it. This is a fun activity and a great gift idea too, since each sweater is handmade and unique!

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