10 Ways to Save Money on Pet Care

Pet care is increasingly expensive. In fact, American pet owners spent almost $51 billion on their pets in 2011, notes a recent USA Today article, and more than $14 billion of that was paid out in veterinary bills. In the face of rising pet care costs and difficult economic times, pet owners are eager to find ways to control expenses without shortchanging their pets. Here are 10 ways to save money on pet care:

1. Ask your veterinarian about lowering costs.

Some veterinarians offer sliding scale payments, discounts, and payment plans to facilitate care. Other veterinarians may barter, allowing you to volunteer in the office or provide a service to reduce costs. Many veterinary offices also offer free or discounted annual well checks, vaccinations, dental cleanings, or other basic services.

2. Shop around for a pet health insurance plan.

As veterinary costs increase each year, so do enrollments in pet healthcare plans. Research your options and find a plan that fits your budget and your needs. Small payments now can save thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses should a serious injury or health problem arise.

3. Invest in your pet's health now.

Proper measures for keeping your pet healthy help prevent costly care needs later. Make sure your pet gets regular exercise and eats an appropriate diet. Purchase foods that provide essential nutrients, even when this means passing up the cheapest products. Talk to your veterinarian about whether your pet can benefit from a dietary supplement. Get your pet regular checkups, and use products to prevent parasitic infections.

4. Perform basic grooming tasks yourself.

Learn how to give baths, trim nails, clean teeth and gums, clean ears, and complete other grooming tasks. Buying the necessary items is significantly cheaper than visiting your veterinarian for these services.

5. Shop online for discount products.

Purchasing medications, supplements, and other pet items directly from your veterinarian is usually the most expensive way to get them. Buy these items from online companies that offer the same quality products at considerably lower prices.

6. Buy in bulk.

Pet food and other items are often cheaper when purchased in large quantities. If bulk packaging is too much for you, split the cost and the items with a friend or family member whose needs match your own.

7. Shop smart for pet supplies.

Shop consistently at a pet supply store that offers a loyalty reward program to earn coupons or discounts for purchasing the items you have to buy. Do not overlook discount retailers for pet toys, bedding, and other supplies. Check discount pet websites online, too.

8. Find cheap spaying/neutering and other services.

Local shelters and animal charities often provide cheap or free spaying, neutering, and other pet care services. The ASPCA can help you find a place near you that spays and neuters at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter/. In addition, veterinary schools in your area may be another option for free services. Find these opportunities to skip costly veterinary office visits.

9. Reduce the risks of accidents.

Caring for a pet following an accident, poisoning, contraction of a communicable disease, or other mishap is expensive. Make sure medications and other hazards are locked away or stored out of reach of animals. Keep dogs fenced in or on a leash and keep other pets indoors. 

10. Research financial aid options for medical costs.

There are options available to pet owners faced with significant veterinary care costs. Some are state-funded, while others are offered through animal- or breed-specific organizations. The Humane Society has a helpful article with resources at http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/trouble_affording_veterinary_care.html.