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Fast and simple ways to trim pet care costs

 Façons simples et rapides pour réduire les coûts de soins pour animaux



Enjoying the company of a pet is one of life’s true pleasures. Yet, the annual costs of caring for our animals companion can run into hundreds of dollars per year. (A conservative industry estimate is $1,000 for food, vet care and equipment for a dog or cat's first year, and $500 per year after that.) Fortunately, there are ways to keep the cost of caring for our friends 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. The purchase price is often the most affordable part of your new friend! Fortunately, from daily activities to those done over the lifespan of your pet, you 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 on the purchase price this way, including initial vet visits and first inoculations. Mature pets or long-time shelter residents are often offered at even lower rates. 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.


* Know your pet

Learn all you can about your pet and his behaviour. Learn what he is trying to tell you. Understanding what is normal for your pet and when he is not feeling up to par can help catch problems early, saving plenty of worry and expense.


* 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. In the case of multiple cats, dogs or horses, having separate grooming tools for each creature helps stop the spread of diseases and germs.


* Classified information!

You can often find pet supplies and equipment advertised for a fraction of their retail price in classified ads. Check for pet carriers to fencing in the pet section. And ask around your friends and family if they have pet supplies they are finished with. A few simple queries can result in some serious savings!



* 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. Learn which house and garden plants are safe for your animals, and which are not.  By creating distinct areas of your home where your pet is and is not allowed, you can help keep them away from many potential problems.


* 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. You can often buy animal-grade baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in 55-pound bags from livestock feed stores for about $25, about half the price of a small box of cooking quality soda at $1.


* Sterilize your pet.

Investing the funds into spaying or neutering your pet provides one of the best returns for your pet care dollar. A sterilized pet is healthier and more apt to live longer, will not roam in search of a mate and is far less apt to urinate or mess your home. You're also saving the time, expense and suffering of unwanted pets.


* Tag that wag!
Invest a couple of dollars in a pet ID tag with your name and telephone number (or make your own!) to attach to your pet's collar. Industry statistics show cats and dogs with no identification stand less than a five per cent chance of returning home safely if they get loose and go wandering. However, an average 40 per cent of dogs with identification make it home safely. A neighbour or passerby is more likely to help your pet find its way home if your contact information is easily found on your animal. It's a small investment with a huge return!


Read how a microchip brought a cat home after Hurricane Katrina



Making your own pet food from natural ingredients can add up to significant savings and a healthier pet, which can also reduce vet bills. Talk to your veterinarian about this and you can also find several reputable web sites on the topic.


You can also save by making your own pet treats. Look for recipes online or you can purchase home baked treats from an increasing number of businesses. Carrots and other fresh vegetables can also make great dog treats.

Pet food manufacturers sometimes offer coupons or discounts to mailing list members. Or check out popular web sites such as for pet food and cleaning supply coupons.


Retail outlets will often match a competiting price on an item to keep your business. Simply show your favourite outlet the flyer with the competitor's price and ask your store if they will offer the same bargain. The store keeps a happy customer and you save driving.




For immediate savings


* 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


* 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.

You can often buy baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in 50-pound bags from livestock feed stores for about $25. Adding a 1/2 cup baking soda to a load of laundry boosts the cleaning power of the detergent, deodorizes, kills more bacteria and is easier on those with sensitive skin. Also air the beds regularly to keep them smelling fresh.

Potential savings

: $6 per bottle of laundry detergent not used


Fast and simple solutions


* 1 - 2 - Smell free!  Hydrogen peroxide is a valuable disintectant. Use a straight 3-per cent solution, as found at your local drugstore, for cleaning work surfaces. Or mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water to clean your bathroom and kitchen.


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.

- spray hairspray on a paper towel to make it sticky and attract the pet hair away from the furniture


* A clean pet without the mess.

If your pet is only lightly soiled or does not like getting wet, sprinkling a couple of teaspoons of baking soda or oatmeal through your pet's coat will reduce pet smells without the mess. Let the powder sit in their coat for 5 to 10 minutes and then thoroughly brush it out.


* Keeping up with the paper.

If your pet loves unwinding the TP roll, you can slow the amount of wasted tissue by flattening the roll before you put it in the TP holder. This makes it harder to unwind, and may leave you some for your own use.


 * A place for everything.

Keeping fragile items away from pets is the best way to protect them from breaking. But, if your pets are regularly knocking over knicknacks on your shelves or window ledges, consider using a small amount of sticky gum or poster putty to hold the items in place.



Pest control



Send ants packing

* Ants hate chalk. If ants are raiding your pet's food bowls, draw a line around the bowls with a piece of sidewalk chalk to keep them at bay. And if ants are visiting your kitchen surfaces, wipe them down with a 50:50 solution of vinegar and water.



* Some easy methods of flea control include rubbing a small amount of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or 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.


* Place cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil in places where fleas are likely to gather — under furniture, in pet bedding, etc. For cleaning carpets, place a handful of mothballs in your vacuum bag and vacuum rugs daily.


* A daily dose of brewer's yeast (up to a teaspoon for a 45 pound dog) will help keep fleas at bay. Planting pennyroyal, lavender, mint, rosemary, fennel, tansy, lemon grass, citronella or rue around parts of your yard where your pet hangs out will also help keep fleas from hopping aboard your pet.


* Dust lavender essence or lavender flowers through your pet's bedding to discourage fleas. It smells good, too!


* Borax as well as cedar chips are popular as natural flea control materials.


* A pot of catnip planted near doors or windows where mosquitoes enter will help keep flying insects at bay.


* If you have fleas in your home, you may wish to try placing a plate of water with a few drops of dish detergent in an area with the most fleas. Suspend a light over the plate to attract fleas, which then fall into the water and drown. Doing so overnight works well. Keep doing this for several days until no more fleas are detected.



Keeping flies away

* A resealable bag half filled with water and placed near a door where the sun shines reduces the number of flies in a room.

Mice repellents

Help ward off mice where you store pet food with natural repellents eucalyptus, bay leaves, peppermint, vinegar and hot pepper.



* 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. 




Medical costs


Vet Video advice on basic pet care tasks


* 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.


* Get to know your veterinarian. Many animal health care professionals are willing to offer advice on how to care for your pet in a cost-effective manner. They will work with you to prevent problems and be able share tips on procedures and other routine care.


* Veterinarians in smaller communities can offer a substantial savings in service costs and procedures.

If you live in a large centre, call around vet clinics in outlying areas to ask about their rates. The savings can often make it worth the extra travel time. A convenient list of New Brunswick veterinarians is available in both the NBSPCA Resource Directory and our Rover Kit.

 * Pet insurance may be a viable option should your pet require major surgery or fall ill.

A few minutes of research into the coverage should reveal if it is a good option for you.


* 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 be 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.


* Online pet pharmacies can provide many medications at reduced costs.


* 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.

* If your dog has problem with his hips, you can easily make a sling to help him move around. Cut an old bath towel in half lengthwise and pass one of these sections under his belly. Holding on to the ends of the towel, you can offer support when he is walking upstairs or at other times when he needs help getting around.



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

Potential savings

: $5 per brush


* A teaspoonful of SMOOTH peanut butter every couple of weeks works great as a hairball preventative.  Other suggestions are olive oil, plain butter and/or giving your cat access to fresh grass.


* 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 ¼ inch strips 3 to 5 inches long, sand or woodstove pellets can be used for your pet's litter box. Or try ground corn (available at feed stores)  or fine sawdust. Mix in baking soda to keep odours down.


Get great tips on litter box training here and here.



* 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.


* Do your kittens enjoy hanging off the screen door? You can repair early damage and make the screen bug proof once more with a simple trick. Fill small holes with nail polish for almost invisible repairs.




* 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


* Stop your dog from chewing your shoes

Mix 10 parts water with one part perfume and spray on the soles of your shoes. What is a faint pleasant smell to us is off-putting to your dog, and convince him to pass your shoews by.

 * 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


* Make a homemade diaper for dogs in heat.

This is one step to protect your furniture and carpets when your unspayed female is in heat. You can see great savings using human diapers and feminine pads for this task over specialized pet products. For a no-sew alternative, children's swimming diapers (reusable or disposable) are a good choice, with you simply cutting a hole in the bottom for your dog's tail. Regular children's diapers are another option but they may leak occasionally.


* 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!




* Replace cedar shaving bedding with cotton rags

Try giving your hamster a bed of old cotton clothing instead of cedar shavings. An old sock, a cotton rag or other soft item will give them a cosy place to rest, help prevent them having itchy skin, and save you money!

Estimated savings: $50 per year






* Protect your tack and gear

Tack rooms can be dusty and dirty places. Save on cleaning duties while protecting your valuable leather tack and other gear by hanging a clear shower curtain over your items. Dust will not settle on your tack and you can spend more time polishing your riding instead of polishing your equipment! 


* Protect your horse cross-ties

If your horse likes to chew on his cross-ties when being groomed, cut two lengths of PVC pipe into two-foot long sections and cover the lead ropes with them on the clip end.