Saving money on man’s best friend

20 03 2009
Young Zachary at age 11, with 1-year-old Maggie

Young Zachary at age 11, with 1-year-old Maggie

When we first brought our dog, Maggie, home in the summer of 2001, we did everything wrong.

First, we purchased Maggie on impulse. Second, we paid top dollar to get her from a breeder. And third, we never researched or discussed the short-term or the long-term costs of a dog, which may live to be 15 or 20 years old.

What in the world was I thinking?

I’ll tell you exactly what I was thinking. My second son, then 10 years old, was an aspiring veterinarian with a booming pet-sitting business who was desperately yearning for a dog of his own. He begged and pleaded for a dog so much that I became convinced that if he didn’t have one he may be scarred for life. If you’re a mom, you know what I mean.

So we plunged into dog ownership on emotion.

After plunking down $250 for her, we giddily headed to PetSmart to purchase the full range of doggie necessities. I vividly remember cradling her tiny body in my arms while the kids wheeled the cart through the giant store, loading it with a crate, food, treats, toys, collar, leash, the works.

She hadn’t even been in our house or peed on our carpet for the first time and she had cost us a small fortune.

Add to that the many first-year vet checks, shots, spaying, the monthly heart worm and flea medicines, not to mention the failed obedience training classes, and I must admit I was having second thoughts.

Fast forward eight years. My son is a criminal justice major at Appalachian State University with absolutely NO thoughts of vet school in his future. And when he comes home for the occasional weekend visit, he rarely has time for Maggie. Her care has been left to me, my husband and our daughter, who is 10.

Maggie and all three kids, all grown up

Maggie and all three kids, all grown up

We’ve learned a lot as dog owners. Maggie is loved and cared for, but we don’t spend bundles of money on her. And we’ve gradually become more savvy about looking for ways to trim the costs of the absolute necessities in pet care.

Our latest cost-cutting measure?

We’re headed to a rabies clinic with Maggie tomorrow morning for a low-cost rabies vaccination booster. Three years ago, when she last had her rabies booster shot, it cost $17.90 at the veterinarian’s office. Tomorrow, we’ll pay just $5 for the very same shot.

In Wake County, North Carolina, where we live, the county periodically holds rabies clinics as a public service. Tomorrow’s clinic in Holly Springs is the first of 10 scheduled this spring. (They are also offering microchips for $10.) Click here to view the schedule. To find one in your area, call your local shelter, SPCA or county government. Or do an online search for “2009 rabies clinics” in your geographic location.

Other money-saving measures we’ve taken include:  buying her food with coupons combined with sales (just as we do our own food), bathing and trimming her ourselves and buying her medicines online or asking the vet to price match the online retailer.

If we had it to do all over again? I would definitely research the costs associated with raising a pet, and talk to friends and family about their experiences with pet expenses so we would go into pet ownership with no financial surprises.

Then, I would head to a shelter and adopt a dog, helping my bottom line as well as coming to the aid of a homeless pet. The adoption fees typically include a discounted price on spaying or neutering and initial shots.

And before bringing that pet home, I would get all the food and supplies I needed by using coupons, asking friends for their unwanted pet items and shopping at yard sales.

Here are other money-saving tips for pet owners, courtesy of the Wake County SPCA:

1. Ask your vet for a multiple-pet discount. Often, if you have more than one pet, veterinarians will give you 10 percent to 15 percent off their services.

2. Invest in preventative care to avoid costly vet bills later. 

3. Price compare local vets in your area. Veterinarian offices vary widely in pricing so pick one that is convenient to your home and affordable, then stick with them to develop a relationship. This is not only good for your pet, but may also mean the vet will be more willing to offer you discounts.

4. Be a vigilant pet owner. Ensuring your pet’s safety from cars, poisonous plants and other hazards will also save you money in the long run.

For more tips, click here to check out the SPCA site, which is a wealth of information on pets.

Next up on our mission to save money on Maggie? I want to learn how to clip her nails. Her last nail trim cost us $12 so that’s a lot of potential for savings. Could it be any more difficult than clipping the nails of a squirming toddler?

Do you have any money-saving tips on caring for a dog, cat or other pet? Leave me a comment so we can all save.

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9 responses

20 03 2009
MiserMary

I heard that Banfield Animal Hospital (inside Petsmart) has clinics on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons to give shots, etc. and they do not charge for an office visit during these specific hours. My neighbor takes advantage of these clinic hours and said it has saved her a great deal of money. Best to call your local Banfield for specifics but worth checking out, for sure!
Banfield also price matches internet prices for medications. I simply bring in a printed copy of the offer (including shipping charges) and they are great about matching it.

20 03 2009
freetobefrugal

Wow……….I am taking Maggie to Banfield for her other shots asap! Thanks for the tip, MiserMary!

20 03 2009
Carolyn in NC

Most animal shelters or rescue agencies that I’ve researched still charge around $100 for you to walk out the door with your new dog. Lots of times though it does include the first round of shots and check for worms, etc…. and while we still have not adopted one yet, we are certainly researching costs more.

20 03 2009
freetobefrugal

You’re right Carolyn, adopting is by no means free but still a deal. Wake County SPCA charges $115 to adopt a dog or puppy but includes a wellness exam, first shots, spay or neuter surgery costs, microchipping, deworming and flea preventative. I just looked at the vet bill for Maggie’s spay surgery. It was $197.50 and that was eight years ago. Add another $100 or so for the shots and the $250 we paid for the dog…….Well, over $500…..As I said, we love Maggie, but if I had to do it again, I would be adopting from a shelter. That’s a lot of money toward dog food!

20 03 2009
Ashley

I recently bought the pedi-paws nail trimmer for my cat who is scared to death of it. I lost the sales slip and can’t bring it back. It works for dogs and cats, and came with a couple of replacement pieces that i have not used. I should have known better since my cat is afraid of his own shadow but i guess it was an impulse buy. I would love for you to have it, if you would like it. It bothers me that i have this thing and can’t use it, you can have it for free. I just hate to waste things so let me know if you want to give it a try.

20 03 2009
freetobefrugal

Gosh, Ashley. What a kind offer. I’d love to give it a try.

21 03 2009
ashley

I live in the Morrisville/Cary area, if you are near there we could meet somwehere, or maybe I can mail it to you. Just let me know what works for you, I am so happy that you might be able to use it.

23 03 2009
Mel

I wrote to my pet food company to see if they would send some coupons my way.

I did find several spay/neuter options for savings and thought I would share.

There is a whole list on the website for Animall Adoption Center in the Morrisville outlet mall. (They also sell food and mine was $2 less for 6lbs than where I buy) http://www.animall.org/spay-neuter-resources.html

friendsofanimals.org you buy a certificate from them and go to participating vets all over the country. There are 12 vets/clinics within 30 miles of my zip in Raleigh participating. ex: female cat $65, male dog $64.

SPCA has a new spay/neuter program that started Jan 9th…they are wayyy backlogged. I emailed and after two weeks left voicemail and have been waiting a return call for five weeks now. I went with friendsofanimals for $64 and Oliver was neutered at Oberlin/Care First. And, they had a new patient coupon on their website for $40 off. I was able to get post surgery pain meds and microchip for less than $20!

There is also a program called The $20 Fix for those under $20k in income.

23 03 2009
freetobefrugal

Wow, Mel. Thanks for the great info!

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