How Much Should You Spend on Your Pet?

Fluffy and Fido cost a pretty penny, according to a recent report from the American Pet Products Association (APPA). After crunching the numbers, the APPA projected that Americans will spend an astounding $60.59 billion on food, veterinary care, and supplies in 2015 — up more than $2 billion from the $58 billion spent on pets in 2014.

All of this begs the question: Where is all this money going? The report shows overall pet spending is spread across a number of expenses, such as food, supplies, veterinary care, live animal purchases, and pet services such as grooming and boarding.

About 80 million American households (65%) owned a pet in 2015, and dogs were the most popular household pet by far, at 54.4 million households, with cats (42.9 million) close behind. Other common pets included freshwater fish (12.3 million), birds (6.1 million), and other small animals such as gerbils, guinea pigs, and hamsters (5.4 million).

On average, dog- and cat-loving households spent approximately $551 and $398, respectively, on surgical vet visits for dogs and cats, plus $239 and $196 for dog- and cat-related routine veterinary care. In total, the APPA estimates that the average family will spend $1,641 on each dog and $1,125 per cat in 2015 — more than the median savings rate in the U.S. last year, which happens to be zero.

What’s Driving Up the Costs of Pet Ownership?

While the cost of kibble, a rope, and a tennis ball hasn’t risen significantly in years, the costs of veterinary care have risen faster than inflation, notes the report. Further, an array of “luxury” pet services have driven up costs as well, from in-home dog-walking to doggy day care, pet wellness classes, and upscale grooming and boarding services.

A December 2015 report from IBIS World predicts that pet owners will continue to invest in these premium services and products as the economy improves. Where the family dog was once an addition to the family, many people are now calling themselves “pet parents” and treating their four-legged friends as if they were their own offspring. From the report:

“The emerging trend of pet parents has bolstered demand for price-premium pet products and services. Since pets are treated as family members, pet owners frequently lavish them with all-natural and organic pet foods and treats, in addition to high-end services. Examples of pet services go beyond the traditional grooming, dog walking and training; today, premium services, such as pet therapy sessions and pet-only flights, are available for four-legged family members. This is the case particularly for dog and cat owners.”

Because of these trends and a predicted increase in disposable income, IBIS World predicts that profit margins in the pet-care industry could increase from 5.5% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2015.

dogs in stroller wearing hats

Pets are part of the family, and it can be tempting to spoil them with largely unnecessary new products, from gourmet doggie snacks to upscale accessories. Photo: Rain0975

How Much Should You Really Spend on Your Pet?

While luxury pet care is readily available, it doesn’t mean you have to use — or pay for — these “extra” services. Doggy day care while you work might be nice, but it’s probably not necessary in the real world.

If you really want to save on your pets, you should look for ways to make your animals feel special (and perhaps ease your pet-parent guilt) without relying on high-dollar services to make it happen. Trent wrote about his experience saving money on pet care a few years ago, and the lessons he shared still ring true. Here are a few top tips for saving on your pet without sacrificing quality of care:

Adopt, don’t ‘buy’ a pet.

With millions of pets sitting in shelters each year, it’s a shame to not at least consider one of these low-cost, ready-to-adopt animals. The APPA predicts Americans will spend around $2.19 billion on live animals in 2015. You can dramatically cut the cost of acquiring a pet by adopting a homeless animal from a shelter instead of buying a pet from the store or a breeder.

As a bonus, rescue animals often have their shots already taken care of when you adopt them, saving you an extra expense. More importantly, you can be proud of the fact that you saved a life. Check out PetFinder.com to see dogs and cats available for adoption in your area.

When you buy food, stock up.

Whether you buy regular pet food or opt for an organic brand, you can save money by buying 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,” writes Trent. “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 your pet yourself.

Unless your animal requires excessive grooming, it’s more than possible to groom your pet yourself. YouTube offers how-to videos on grooming nearly any kind of pet, and you can buy needed supplies at your local pet store.

“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,” writes Trent. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and clean your pet yourself.”

Consider boarding options other than fancy dog day cares.

While fancy dog hotels and doggy day cares abound, there are other options to consider when it comes to boarding your pet while you’re away.

We wrote about Rover.com earlier this year — essentially an Airbnb for pets — and highlighted how it is often cheaper than using a traditional boarding service. For as little as $19 per night, someone in your area may be willing to watch your pet in their own home. You can also offset some of your own pet’s costs by hosting another animal for a weekend.

Treat simple things -like fleas, ticks, and heartworm – yourself.

While you might have to read up on how to treat your pet before you get started, taking care of pet-care maintenance yourself is one way you can save.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,” writes Trent. “It’s much less expensive to order the treatment yourself than to consult a vet for the most common ailments.”

Again, YouTube is an excellent place for how-to videos on basic pet care. You can even buy your veterinarian’s recommended heartworm pills online anywhere from Walmart.com to 1-800-Pet Meds.com.

Consider pet insurance.

Like health insurance for people, pet insurance provides financial protection in the event your pet becomes sick or needs expensive surgery. While many believe pet insurance isn’t a good value, others swear by it. Either way, pet insurance may be worth considering if you’re worried about paying expensive veterinary bills.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to an array of new pet products, higher-quality veterinary care, and luxury pet-care services, the cost of owning a pet continues to surge. Still, you can avoid much of the added costs by taking care of the bulk of your pet’s needs on your own and avoiding flashy luxury services you (and your pet) can probably live without.

At the end of the day, pets can be as inexpensive or expensive as you make them. It’s up to you to decide what kind of lifestyle your pet lives — and how much that lifestyle is worth.

How much do you spend on your pet each year? Do you spring for any pet luxuries? 

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...