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Fast and simple ways to trim pet care costs

Enjoying the company of a pet is one of life’s true pleasures. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the cost of caring for our animal companions in check.

When you have decided you can provide a caring home for an animal, a little planning and preparation can go a long way towards making the experience affordable. From daily activities to those done over the lifespan of your pet, it can mean shaving hundreds of dollars off your pet care costs.

Regular access to clean food and water, shelter, exercise and the company of other animals are the most important things you can give your pet. Time together and play sessions with you mean a lot more to them than fancy toys or equipment.

 

Thinking of getting a pet?

* Get a new friend from your local SPCA shelter, often for the cost of the spay/neuter procedure. You can save hundreds of dollars this way in the purchase price, initial vet visits and first inoculations. There’s the added bonus of the animal’s reduced desire to stray or mark its territory and the expense and bother of disposing of unwanted puppies or kittens, all of which can save you hundreds over the life of the pet.

Possible savings: $100 to $1,000 or more

* Get a healthy mixed breed to avoid breed-specific problems. Features such as pug noses are cute to look at, but can often lead to expensive vet bills for breathing problems, and sometimes, shortened lifespans.

* Learn as much as you can about the animal you would like. Borrow library books on animals. Talk to experts. Hang out with other pet owners to see how much care the pet takes. Think of getting a pet as inviting a two-year-old child to live with you. For 10 years. A little knowledge and planning go a long way!

 

General care

Two of the most important things to remember: feed your pet the best food you can afford and in the correct amounts. A steady diet of quality food will mean a happier, healthier pet you will enjoy even more. Maintaining your pet’s proper weight can also help ward off expensive arthritis, diabetes and joint problems.

Potential savings on average half bag of dog food monthly: $15 or more a month.

* Keep your pet indoors, or on a leash while outdoors, to keep him safe. This lessens the chance of unwanted matings, eating poisonous plants or being attacked by other animals. Indoor cats live much longer than their outdoor cousins do. The risk and trouble of fleas is greatly reduced, too.

* Keep your pet and his equipment clean and in good repair. A little soap and elbow grease can save a lot of cash, time and worry. Washing blankets and cages regularly can prevent the spread of health problems. A few minutes repairing a fence or cage will keep your pet safely contained, saving him from injury, damage to your property and stress for both of you.

* Keep poisons and other dangerous items away from your pet to prevent expensive accidents. Put your breakables out of reach. Keep craft or work areas and your pets separate. Set definite limits on where your pet is and isn’t allowed in your home. Baby gates are a great way to do just that.

* Buy in bulk where possible, and share the savings with another pet owner. This can apply to everything from pet food to carpet cleaning. Booking two appointments with your cleaning service will often save money for both of you.

 

Cleaning

* Dilute your pet’s shampoo by half to make it go farther. Many cleaning supplies can be diluted to prevent waste.

Potential savings: $6 per bottle of shampoo to start

Regular grooming keeps your dog feeling and looking good, cuts down on house cleaning and lets you see any changes in their health so you can address them early.

 

* Remove pet hair from furniture or clothes by:

- wearing a kitchen glove with a textured palm and running it over the chair or jacket.

- lightly dampening the pet hair and using short broom strokes to sweep it up. Or try a damp sponge.

- wrapping tape around your fingers, sticky side out, and patting down your furniture or clothing.

 

* Store your pet’s dry food in a metal container or one with a tight lid to prevent it from spoiling. This also discourages insects and pets from helping themselves between meals.

Potential savings: $15 per month for half a bag of food saved

 

* Baking soda absorbs most odours from your pet’s bedding. Also air the beds regularly to keep them smelling fresh.

Potential savings: $6 per bottle of laundry detergent not used

 

* If your pet tangles with a skunk, mix a pint of hydrogen peroxide, a small box of baking soda and a few squirts of dishwashing liquid to use as a pet shampoo. The mixture neutralizes the smell. Two cautions, however: don't get the hydrogen peroxide into your pet's eyes as it may potentially blind him. Second, the oxygen released by the mixture may lighten a dog's dark coat to grey that will change back as the coat grows out.

Chlorine bleach can be used on clothing, wood, tile, brick or other places to remove the skunk smell where potential bleaching is not a concern. 

 

* Some easy methods of flea control include rubbing a tiny amount of lavender oil through a dog's coat, concentrating on where fleas gather at the neck, ears and tail base. Wash surfaces such as tiles and floors with vinegar mixed with a small amount of water to repel the insects. For cleaning carpets, place a handful of mothballs in your vacuum bag and vacuum rugs daily.

 

Medical costs

* Get a healthy mixed breed to avoid breed-specific problems. Features like pug noses are cute to look at, but can often lead to expensive vet bills for breathing problems. An SPCA animal can be yours for the cost of the spaying and neutering operation, and they often throw in the first vet visits and shots!

Potential savings: $100 to $1000 or more

* Investing some of what you would spend on vet fees through a few extra dollars per week on quality food can really pay off. Your pet will generally be healthier and be less likely to contract kidney disease, urinary tract problems and other expensive, painful conditions.

* You can learn basic care such as grooming, nail clipping and health monitoring with a little bit of practice. Again, this keeps your pet healthy, lets you notice any problems early and saves money.

Potential savings: hundreds of dollars per year, depending on what you choose to do

* Some vaccinations need not given annually, but rather every two or three years. Talk to your vet about what’s best for your animal.

Potential savings: This can save you the cost of the shot and a visit to the veterinarian.

* Liquid honey can be used on some open wounds to help speed healing. Clean the injury well with clear warm water and apply. Consult your veterinarian for details.

* Cornstarch, flour or black pepper are home remedies proven to help stop bleeding for small open injuries.

 

Cats

* A hairbrush with rounded bristles makes a good grooming tool, especially for short-haired pets.

Potential savings: $5 per brush

* Turn a narrow belt into a cat harness. Loop it into a figure 8, with the buckle at the bottom of the larger, bottom loop. Place the smaller loop over your cat’s head and adjust for a snug, comfortable fit. Anchor the middle section, where the straps cross, above her shoulders. Attach a loop where you can attach a leash later. Loop the open ends down your cat’s sides, and buckle the belt under her belly, again snugly and comfortable. Trim off excess strap to suit. This device is especially good for large cats.

Potential savings: $10 to $20

* Giving your cat its own scratching post will save a lot of wear on your furniture. Sisal twine wrapped closely around a piece of 2x4 makes a fun scratching post. Or give your pet a spare piece of carpet to sharpen his claws instead of your couch.

Potential savings: $15 for a scratching toy to $800 for a new couch

* Two plastic laundry baskets, one upside down and tied to the rim of the other, make a good temporary cat crate for a trip to the vet.

Potential savings: $40 for a crate and not having to find a place to store it between uses

* Cat litter alternatives - Newspaper cut into inch strips, sand or wood pellets can be used. Or try ground corn or fine sawdust. Mix in baking soda to keep odours down.

* Growing a pot with catnip, sprouting oats or cereal grass will give your cat something of her own to nibble without destroying your other plants.

Catnip is also a natural insect repellent, with its juice proven many more times effective than DEET for warding off bugs. Placing a pot of the plant in your favourite outdoor seating areas will go a long way to helping keep your patio mosquito-free.

 

Dogs

* Make inexpensive dog beds from blankets, sleeping bags, chair cushions or carpet remnants. One of the most important features is to give your dog a corner of his own to relax.

Potential savings: $20 to $200 for fancier dog beds

* Choose play toys for your dog that cannot fit entirely in his mouth. An excited dog can easily swallow a tennis ball or a fragment of a stick in the excitement of a game of fetch, potentially causing him to choke. Sturdy rope toys, Frisbees or partially inflated soccer or basketballs are great alternatives.

* Your child’s outgrown teething rings make good chew toys for puppies.

Potential savings: $5 per item

* Recycle a sweatshirt into some welcome cold weather dog clothing by cutting the sleeves off and widening the collar so it easily slips over his head. Your dog will welcome the extra protection on your morning or evening walks.

Potential savings: $5 to $40

* Some dogs enjoy fresh carrots as snacks. They are a refreshing, inexpensive way to help clean his teeth and get necessary vitamins. Make sure to supervise him while he chomps away to ensure he doesn't choke on a large piece in his excitement.

* A hairbrush with round tip bristles makes a good grooming tool, especially for short-haired pets.

Potential savings: $5 to $10

* Teach your dog to come to you at any time. Practice calling your dog to you, especially when he is distracted. This can potentially save your dog’s life, and be a valuable tool to prevent a small situation from quickly escalating into a large, expensive or dangerous one.

Make coming to you a big fun deal so the dog really looks forward to it, even when tempted with other dogs, food or other distractions. Praise, praise, praise him for giving up the wonderful distraction to come to you! Using an excited squeaky voice, chest scratches and treats are good ways to appear irresistible to your dog.

* Brush a little baking soda through your pet’s coat to act as a dry shampoo.

Potential savings: $6 per bottle of dog shampoo and the mess of a soapy dog!

 

For pet owners interested in saving money on food costs while helping their pet's health, click here for advice on how to make your own dog food and cat food.

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