Tips ‘Fur’ Keeping Pets (and Their People) Happy and Healthy

in First Person: Our Blog, Personal Finance

For many people, four-legged friends are part of the family. And just like any of our human friends or family, we want what’s best for them. But keeping our cats, dogs and other creatures healthy doesn’t mean it’s necessary to overspend. Here are some tips for minding your pets — and your wallet:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

With household pets, this couldn’t be truer. By keeping your dog or cat up-to-date with vaccinations, heartworm, anti-flea and tick medications as well as having an annual visit to the vet, you are more likely to prevent many problems and catch any underlying issues before they become bigger problems. There are many online discount options for pet prescriptions, and Kroger offers $4 generics for common Pet RXs as well. And just like people, dogs and cats need exercise for the sake of their bodies and their temperament. An in-shape feline or pup will have a healthier heart, and hopefully will need fewer trips to the vet.

Also, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), brushing your dog’s or cat’s teeth at least two times a week can prevent a host of problems including advanced dental disease and reducing the amount of bacteria that enters an animal’s system through compromised gums. But don’t share your toothpaste with Fido, though. Fluoride can upset a dog’s stomach! Not to worry — pet stores carry special toothbrushes and toothpastes for both dogs and cats.

Food for thought

According to Banfield Pet Hospital, a quarter of dogs and a third of cats are obese. In addition to the importance of getting exercise as we mentioned earlier, filling your pet’s food bowl — too much or too often — is a bad idea for a number of reasons. By overfeeding your pet, you’ll go through food faster, which costs more, and you may endure the heartache of obesity-related conditions for your pet. Discuss serving guidelines for pet food and treats with your vet if you have any questions.

Dog food is kind of like a car. You don’t want to drive a rust bucket that keeps breaking down, but at the same time you don’t need the most expensive model with all of the bells and whistles either. With this in mind, the most expensive dog food isn’t necessarily going to be better for your dog (unless he or she has special dietary needs). For the best prices on quality food, shop at membership discount outlets or big-box stores and buy in bulk. If you don’t have storage space for extra kibble, see if you can split the bulk supply with a pet owner in your neighborhood.

Accidents and illness

Pet insurance has become more common the past few years, but don’t buy with abandon. Like regular insurance, shop around and compare coverage and rates. Your payments and/or deductible will be affected by your animal’s species, breed, age, gender and zip code. There are three coverage types – accident only, accident/illness, or accident/illness/wellness. Take a moment to read over pre-existing condition exclusions, and think carefully before signing a long-term contract.

Just like people, pets can get into an accident or get sick and require expensive medical attention. Pet insurance can help ease financial worry and allow you to make the care decision that’s best for your pet. While pet insurance can help with unexpected emergencies, it’s also a good idea to include pet expenses in your budget and consider opening a savings account for unforeseen costs. (Shameless plug: First Internet Bank has some online savings account options that might help.)

DIY animal care

Consider grooming your pet at home, to avoid expensive trips to the groomers. If your pet has uncomplicated fur and will let you brush him or her yourself, in-home “primping” can save you hundreds of dollars each year. Another way to DIY your animal care, is to browse sites like Pinterest for do it yourself pet toys or accessories. Try making treats at home, recycling old sweaters to make a cozy bed or braiding old towels together for a tug-a-war toy. (Just make sure to avoid anything with small parts that could be a choking hazard.)

Taking care of your pet should decrease stress rather than increase it. Following these tips can help make caring for your pet a little more budget friendly.