My wife and I are considering getting a puppy for our son, who really seems to love small dogs and often asks us whether we’ll ever have one. While we haven’t made up our minds yet on this decision, I did take a few moments to ask a few of my pet-owning friends if they had any advice about how to reduce the costs of acquiring and caring for a pet without skimping on the quality of care. Here’s what they suggested.
Visit a shelter to pick out your pet. Yes, you have to be more selective when visiting a shelter because some of the animals have been mistreated and may not react well to children (or adults). However, if you visit a hand full of shelters, you’ll often find many wonderful pets that will fit your needs well. There are a lot of reasons that pets wind up at shelters, and neglect/abuse is just one of them.
Donate $100 to the shelter. Check out their programs first, but quite often, a $100 donation will ensure that you get a pet that has already had vaccinations and has already been spayed or neutered. These procedures can cost hundreds of dollars if you take your pet in to a vet to have it done later.
Don’t skimp on food. A fifty pound bag of Ol’ Roy might be a cheap way to feed the pet, but it will result in long-term health issues that will be expensive to treat. Instead, research what kinds of food are most appropriate for your pet and be willing to spend a little more to get good food. This will help to keep your pet healthier, happier, and active for a lot longer. One of my friends doesn’t even feed her dog traditional “dog food,” but has studied what raw foods their diet should consist of and feeds the dog those items.
Buy that food in bulk. Once you figure out the best food for your pet, don’t hesitate to buy it in bulk and store it somewhere out of the pet’s reach. Depending on what you choose as the optimum food, you may find it at your local warehouse store or you may find a bulk seller in your area.
Groom the pet yourself. Taking your pet to a pet salon might be an easy way to get the pet clean, but almost everything done there can be done quite quickly at home and a lot cheaper. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and clean your pet yourself.
Know their routine. Pay attention to your pet. If the pet’s routine starts to change, that’s a sign that there’s some sort of medical issue coming down the pipe. If you notice it now, it’s often easy to treat with a dietary change or something else that’s simple. If you wait until it’s disastrous, it can be very expensive.
Hit the library. If you have a new pet, learn about it. Learn what things it needs. Learn about some of the basics of caring for that pet, as well as signs for the most common ailments and how to treat them. Learn how to train your pet in the skills that it will need – and put in the time to train the pet yourself.
Treat simple things, like fleas, ticks, and heartworm, yourself. This involves understanding your pet’s health (the tips above), but if you’ve actually invested the time to know how to properly care for the pet, then you’ll know what simple ailments you can treat yourself instead of paying a vet to treat. It’s much less expensive to order the treatment yourself than to consult a vet for the most common ailments.
Keep the water bowl full. If you notice the water bowl for your pet is low, fill it, and keep an eye on the bowl throughout the day. Appropriate amounts of water is perhaps the best insurance for a pet’s long term health. The exception to this is when you’re housetraining a puppy, in which case you need to stick to a strict watering schedule. Too much water for a puppy can result in accidents and a big setback in training.
Check Craigslist for supplies. Need a pet carrier, a leash, or a food bowl? People on Craigslist are often selling this stuff for a pittance (and sometimes it’s free on freecycle). When you need reusable supplies like this, heading straight to the store is a sure way to spend more than you probably need to.
The best thing you can do for any pet, however, is to show the pet love. Just like humans, most pets thrive on being loved by others. So, go ahead and give that big, slobbery dog a vigorous petting and stroke the cat until it begins to purr.