How to save money on your pet’s care
The Mornington News recently ran an article emotively titled “Owners giving up on costly pets”. This article held some truths with reports that the Mornington Shire Council have increased their pet registration, pound release and non-compliance fines. The cost of feeding pets has similarly increased in line with supermarket bills and many families are facing financial hardship and having to make compromises on where money is spent in the weekly budget. Sadly, for some pets, this means missing out on premium foods, perhaps not getting timely veterinary care, or for some it even means the possibility of being relinquished if financial hardship is too tough.
The article reports that pet rescue centres are seeing a large increase in the demand for surrender services, partly brought on by the current economic situation, but there are other factors at play here as well. The previous two years of relative restriction in movements during COVID meant many new puppies were brought home, but often, the required time and effort into socialising that puppy was not able to be given, or even, as was the case in Melbourne, it was forbidden. This has contributed to a large increase in social anxiety being seen in our pet dogs.
Now imagine that if a pet ended up loose and at the pound, and that pet was an anxious dog requiring extra efforts in management, socialisation, medication and training. The owners now need to pay a large release fine to get that pet out of the pound. And that family was facing financially hard times – you could understand the conflict in the decision to get that pet back… or not.
So, given that we will be facing these uncertain financial times for the next 12-18 months at least, what are some ways that you can save money on your pet’s care? Read on for some great tips;
Can I afford a new pet right now?
If you are yet to purchase a new puppy or a dog, and you are living close to the line financially, I suggest pausing on the decision to adopt and ride out this difficult time. A new pet WILL DEEFINITELY increase your weekly budget and now might not be the most sensible time to bring home a new fur-baby.
Consider the ongoing cost of your Breed?
If you have decided that you can financially care for a new pet, carefully consider the breed. Remember that all of the -oodle breeds, with their attractive non-shedding coats require a professional clip and groom every 6-8 weeks. With groomers in high demand and grooming being a very specialist skill, their fees are also increasing and you can expect to pay ~$550-$900 per year on their grooming appointments alone.
Some pitfalls of designer breeds
Also think carefully about the currently popular brachycephalic breeds of dog such as the French Bulldog, Pug and Boston Terrier. Their cute squish faces do not easily allow them to breathe and many of them require corrective surgery, before 12 months of age, just to improve their ability to breathe, exercise and exist in warm weather. This surgery can cost $2500 – $3500 depending on if a specialist performs it or not. This is on top of the usual puppy costs of multiple vaccinations, parasite prevention and desexing procedures. These breeds, as well as the ever-popular mini dacschunds can be prone to spinal injuries and the cost of this surgery is eye-watering. Look for breeds that are less likely to incur high vet fees instead, they are just as loveable, just less likely to be found on a designer T-shirt.
Parasite prevention - what is needed?
Since we live on the enviable Mornington Peninsula, our exposure to certain pet parasites such as the paralysis tick and Heart worm is much less than the northern parts of Australia. We can reduce our use of anti-parasite medication which can save you hundreds of dollars over the year. Talk to your vet about your pet’s specific risk factors and which medications they need and how often you need to apply it. You may find it is much less than what is printed on the back of the pack.
Annual health exams help lower costs
Keep up with your pet’s Annual Health Exams. This is the yearly appointment where your vet will thoroughly assess your pet’s health and condition and give you expert advice on how to keep your pet well for the long term. Paying a bit extra now for proactive health care will ensure your pet stays well and healthy long into their senior years and will reduce veterinary fees as your pet ages.
Why is dental care important?
Pay attention to your pet’s teeth. Dental disease is the single most devastating condition faced by pet dogs and cats and the longer you put off an important dental procedure, the worse the condition will get and the more expensive the treatment becomes. Investing in a regular scale, clean and polish can save you hundreds when compared to surgical dental extractions that are required once periodontal disease progresses past a Grade 2. Better yet, feed your pet foods that will naturally help keep their teeth clean, like fresh raw bones (not marrow bones) and a fresh food type of diet.
How to save money when feeding your pet
Feeding your pet need not be that expensive. If you need to look for a less expensive option for the next 12-18 months, do what you need to do and don’t feel too bad about it. Did you know that you can add mixed vegetables and the right food scraps to your dog’s food (up to 20% of their diet) and you may actually improve their internal health? Think about green leafy vegetables, eggs, meat scraps, canned fish and yoghurt. Avoid onion and grapes or sultanas and of course chocolate, these can be toxic. Also avoid starches such as bread, rice and pasta as these are not helpful additives to your pet’s commercial diet. Parents with small children can make good use of any leftovers (particularly vegies) from their kids’ plates.
Pet insurance is always a good idea to help buffer the financial stress of an unexpected veterinary crisis (is there really any other type?). If you don’t have ready access to an emergency slush fund for an accident, injury or acute illness then you should have pet insurance. This means that your pet will get the care they need, when they need it, without having to make that excruciating decision of how much you can afford that week. Veterinarians can no longer offer credit for vet care as they don’t hold financial lending licences and all of their running costs have increased too. They can no longer afford it if an honest sounding client does a runner with the bill. Credit or payment plans from veterinarians are a thing of the past but thankfully, there are credit companies that loan finance just for veterinary fees. Vetpay.com may be an option for you if you find yourself stuck, but pet insurance is an even better option.
And just in case you’re wondering, “do I practice what I preach?”. The answer is a resounding yes. Our dog Ash is a rescue dog – she cost us $600 desexed and fully vaccinated, she gets scrap vegetables every second day, she has never needed any parasite prevention, although we regularly check her for fleas, intestinal worms and heartworm, she gets an annual health exam and titre test yearly, we also feed her chicken frames and bones to keep her teeth clean. And she is as healthy as she can be
Is she the perfect pet with no problems? Absolutely not, she has anxiety… but by following these same tips we have given her a solid foundation, which means we are able to spend time and money on her anxiety (her real issue) and not on the things that aren’t necessary.
I hope these tips have helped you when it comes to affording your pet’s care. Remember, our job as veterinarians is to keep your pet healthy and out of the veterinary clinic for as long as possible. What other profession does that for you??