How to Save on the Cost of Pet Ownership

Over $60 billion.

That’s the record-setting amount that Americans spent on their dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs and other four-legged friends in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association. Considering the fact that some 65 percent of U.S. households own pets (according to the National Pet Owners Survey), it’s no wonder that sometimes our wallets feel strained.

But whether your concern is the high cost of food, boarding, grooming, or healthcare, we found some smart ways to save. 

1
Boarding

The cost of doggie daycare can add up. Hero Images / Getty Images

An overnight stay for a small pet at a kennel is $20 to $25, according to Care.com. If you go the pet hotel route, the cost ranges from $35 to $90 a night, depending on the services you choose. And boarding with an individual is generally somewhere in-between. The solution? Friends or family who love your pet enough to step in when you’re gone. That’s why one of the most important things you can do to save money on boarding is to raise and train a well-mannered pet. It’s hard to ask people for a favor when your dog isn’t house-trained or has separation anxiety.

As for actually finding a friend to take care of your pet? “Create a social circle of caregivers,” says pet expert Andrea Arden. You can trade-off with other friends who have dogs or cats.

2
Grooming

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Grooming can cost anywhere from $45 to $50 for a bath and as much as several hundred dollars for more extensive grooming, says Arden. That adds up when it’s multiple times a year. So, you’re going to want to take on certain tasks yourself. Get your pets comfortable with grooming while they’re young by handling their feet, brushing them and clipping their nails. And just like with your bi-monthly haircut and color, you can stretch out time between a pet’s grooming sessions with DIY general upkeep. In general, if you brush your animal once a week and clip their nails every two weeks, you might only need to get them professionally groomed twice a year.

Also, before bringing them in for grooming, make sure your animal is matt-free to avoid an extra charge. Kendal Perez, savings expert with CouponSherpa.com, recommends the “Furminator” brush she uses on her dogs. She says it can often save you a trip to the groomer, so the $20 to $40 investment quickly pays for itself.  

3
Pet Food

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Once you find a brand of food you (and your pet) like, it’s important to price compare. Just as they do on food for humans, warehouse clubs like Costco often offer the best per-pound deal on food for pets. First compare unit prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal, then look for coupons and special offers. Perez found that her local pet store offers every 10th bag for free, which saves her family about $40 every six months. Additionally, some websites (including Petco) offer discounts of up to 20 percent when you sign up for repeat deliveries of pet food. The key here is keeping track of how long it takes you to run out and setting the schedule afterward.

And just as human food does, pet food brands go on sale. Sites like Wag.com will send you email alerts indicating what’s discounted, and when.

4
Healthcare

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Preventative measures are as important for pets as they are for humans. Make sure your animal gets enough exercise and the right amount of food – that is, not too much.

And – this is key — brush their teeth on a frequent basis! Dental care is expensive, and neglecting it can lead to heart disease (to say nothing of bad breath). Three times a week brushing can save you from having to get a professional cleaning that can run $300 or more. (And if you didn’t think you could brush cats’ teeth? Arden says you can. Look on YouTube for how-to videos if you’re not comfortable yet.)

Put in the effort to get your animals comfortable with being handled so you don’t need to pay to have them tranquilized or put under for veterinary visits. For vaccinations, Perez recommends opting for clinics —Petco’s Vetcoclinics.com service, for instance, offers two-hour windows for vaccinations (cutting the normal office visit fees required at a regular veterinarian), plus savings of $30 to $50.

If your pet needs a prescription, ask for the generic alternative and — before buying — compare prices on sites like 1800PetMeds.com and PetRx.com, which are often much cheaper. For example, the vet prescribed HeartGard for Perez’s pet for heartworms, a six-month supply of which cost $100, but she found a year’s supply of the generic version online for $52.

And when it comes time to spay or neuter? Depending on where you live, this procedure can cost anywhere from $100 to $700 or $800. Save money by opting to have the procedure at a local shelter. At the Humane Society of New York, for example, neutering a dog costs between $82 and $152 depending on size. Plan ahead, however, because there can be a wait of a week to several months for an appointment. 

5
Other Supplies

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Finally, there’s everything else. Buying in bulk on Amazon is often your best bet for pricing on things like wee-wee pads and litter. And for more discounts on beds, bowls, mats, litter boxes and more, Perez recommends hitting T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and Ross — she says you can save 50 percent or more compared to pet stores. 

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