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As much as you may love your four-legged friend, you can admit they’re expensive.  According to the ASPCA, the annual costs of owning a large dog or cat are $1,040 and $809, respectively.  But there are some cases where it can cost a lot more.  For instance, your typical pet owner spends almost double that amount during the first year.  That’s because you have to get them spayed or neutered, training classes, a collar/leash and cover other one-time expenses.  Your furry friend doesn’t have to send you to the poor house though.  There are a few tricks you can use to provide good quality care at a much lower cost.

Groom them yourself

Depending on the size of your dog, taking them to a professional groomer can cost anywhere between $30 to $90.  Probably more if you live in the Northeast.  Typically, the groomer bathes the dog, cleans their ears, trims their nails and cuts their hair.  Although it’s easier to pass these tasks off to someone else, you’re quite capable of doing them on your own.  Don’t worry, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that can guide you through the process.

Sign up for reward programs

Many retailers have special reward programs for loyal customers.  It’s free to join and comes with a host of benefits.  A prime example is Petco’s Pal Rewards program.  Shoppers earn 1 point for every dollar spent.  Once you reach 100 points, they’ll give you a $5 reward.  Members also receive a free gift on their pet’s birthday and free shipping with Repeat Delivery.  Find out if your local pet store has a rewards program of their own and sign up to start saving.

Get special offers sent to your inbox

Some people are very picky about the brand of food they buy for their pets.  If you’re one of those people, join the manufacturers mailing list.  By doing so, you’ll receive special offers, coupons and sale notifications in your inbox.

Compare vet prices

You can save a lot of money on medical care by shopping around for vets before you actually need one.  Read reviews about their service so you know all the pros and cons.  Keep in mind, some people do leave negative comments for minor things but that’s where your own judgement comes in.  Once you find a few vets you like, call them up and ask what they charge for specific services.  For example, vaccinations, routine check-ups, dental care, etc.  Choose one that makes you feel comfortable and offers good service at a fair price.

Fill prescriptions online

Do you buy all your pet’s medication from the vet’s office?  If so, you’re probably overpaying.  Many pet medications are sold online for a lot less.  Some pharmacies worth checking out are 1-800-PetMeds, PetCareRx and Doctors Foster and Smith.

Pet-proof your home

Taking some time to pet-proof your home can keep your belongings in good condition and avoid unnecessary trips to the vet.  Basic tips include:

  • Using childproof latches on cabinets
  • Placing cleaners, chemicals, laundry detergent and medication on higher shelves
  • Moving dangling cords and wires out of reach
  • Closing the toilet lid when it’s not in use
  • Checking which plants inside and outside your house may be poisonous
  • Using garbage cans with secure lids

For a complete room-by-room pet proofing checklist, visit American Humane.

Seek outside help

Occasionally we fall on hard times and it’s difficult to figure out how we’re going to feed ourselves, let alone a pet.  Fortunately, they don’t have to suffer, nor do you have to give them up.  There are numerous pet food pantries across the country that receive and distribute food.  These programs are designed to help people who have limited financial resources.  Therefore, you may be required to submit an application and proof of income if you need assistance.