Received mail offer?   |   Log In

Here’s How to Save Money on Your Pet Care Budget

Posted by MoneyKey on December 7, 2018
pet golden retriever

As far as months of the year go, November doesn’t usually win many popularity contests, but maybe we can change your mind. Afterall, it’s the official ‘Adopt a Senior Pet’ month — a time of year when shelters and rescues help older cats and dogs find new and loving families.  

Luckily, many of them are adopted thanks in part to this national campaign. As a way to celebrate senior pets, we’ve come up with some tips for pet owners, generally, to save on the cost of their pet care. Because let’s face it — taking care of a pet is a huge financial commitment.

Pets are meant to lower your stress — not add to it in the form of bills you may not be able to afford to pay! If your finances have become tighter as a result of the cost of pet care, you may need some help managing your expenses. Check out these tips to reduce what you pay to care for your furry friend.

Revisit your budget

A basic budget is a great start to managing your pet care costs. By tracking how you spend your money, you may be able to create some financial breathing room.

While tracking your cash, you may find that the largest, most common expenses are rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and groceries. Though important in their own right, these aren’t the only expenses that should pique your interest.

Creating a budget is a useful tool as it sets out expenses you tend to overlook. Things like buying a coffee daily, how much you spend on data overage charges, or the cost of street parking in front of your work may seem inconsequential on their own. But add them all up and these small expenses tell another story.

You can use your budget to help limit what you spend on these habits, so you have more room in your finances to spend on your pet. Although “buying less and saving more” is a basic rule of budgeting, you may find more in-depth pointers in this quick guide. It explains different budgeting methods to help you better manage your finances.

When taking care of a pet, unexpected costs may come up. When you can’t cover those unexpected costs on your own,  payday loans may work as a potential stopgap. However, being proactive and developing a budget should help you to be better prepared for those unexpected expenses. There’s no doubt that developing a budget will take time — time you’d much rather spend cuddling with your pet — but the end results may be worth the effort.

Try finding a less expensive vet

Your pet’s medical fees are a basic cost that should be built into your budget. Although personalized vet care varies from breed to breed — and even from pet to pet — we’ve shared Pet Finder’s estimated costs to help pet owners anticipate what they may spend at the vet.

Dog owners may expect the following routine veterinary expenses:

  • Routine veterinary care and vaccines: may range between $80–$250 each year.
  • Flea and tick prevention: medications could cost between $40–$
  • Heartworm tests and prevention: could cost anywhere between $36–$167.

Meanwhile, cat owners may expect the following routine veterinary expenses:

  • Routine veterinary care and vaccines: may range between $110–$550 each year.
  • Flea and tick prevention: may cost between $20–$200 each year.

Although these basic outlines are helpful when you’re first calculating your pet care budget, you’ll find more accurate costs of routine vet care for your pet by looking back through your finances from the past year. By tallying the routine vet expenses you faced in the previous year, you may be better able to evaluate what you’ll spend in the future.

Pet chartreux cat with stethoscope

If you aren’t happy with how much you’ve spent on routine care, try calling around to other clinics to compare prices. You may also want to check out Facebook or other active community boards to see where other pet owners take their pets. You may find a highly rated vet who offers lower prices than your current vet.

Plan for unforeseen illnesses

Even with this extra legwork, putting an exact value on your pet care budget can be challenging. Emergencies happen — like when your cat swallows a rubber band, or your dog eats a whole chocolate bar, wrapper and all. You may also encounter more medical emergencies as your pet ages.

An old or sick pet may rack up unforeseen charges at odds with your usual budget, and the final vet bill may be much more than you anticipated. You can lessen the impact these surprise bills have on your finances by saving regularly. Building an emergency vet fund into your budget puts you in a better position to cover those added medical costs.

If you aren’t sure how you can increase your savings, check out these tips to find creative ways to reduce your monthly expenses. These suggestions may help you make daily, weekly, and monthly changes to your spending habits to help put more cash towards any savings goal, including an emergency vet fund.

Eventually, you may have a sizeable sum of money waiting in the wings, but don’t panic if your emergency trip to the animal hospital happens before you can put this savings plan into action.

When it comes to your best friend’s health, we understand you may not be able to wait weeks or even months until you save enough cash for their treatment. Luckily, a personal loan can help you with urgent, unexpected vet bills as soon as they occur. Applying for online loans is typically easy and quick and can be done conveniently from your home.  

Consider pet insurance carefully

Instead of using installment loans to cover unforeseen medical expenses, some people choose to purchase pet insurance. Those that do usually pay a monthly or annual premium to access protection against unexpected illnesses or injuries their pets may face.

The cost of these premiums varies depending on species, breed, and age of the pet. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s latest study on pet insurance, the average owner can expect the following costs:

  • For dogs: owners of pooches can expect to pay anywhere between $25–$70 each month. 
  • For cats: people with cats can expect to pay anywhere between $10–$40 each month. 
  • The sweet spot: regardless of species, most owners end up paying somewhere between $30–$50 each month.

Given the cost of extensive testing, surgeries, and other expensive treatments, it may make sense to start paying these premiums when your pet is young and healthy, as insurance could come in handy as your pet ages or suddenly becomes ill.

In some cases, however, pets with pre-existing conditions may not qualify for basic coverage, and some basic insurance policies won’t cover a pet over a certain age. Owners of older and/or chronically ill pets may have to pay higher premiums if they want specialized insurance that covers long-term issues or veterinary care related to old age.

Insurance also may not cover all emergency expenses, according to the New York Times. In most cases, owners still have to pay 20 percent of their pet’s emergency veterinary expenses.

pet owner reviewing invoices

So how are you supposed to arrive at a decision of whether you should purchase pet insurance? According to Consumer Reports, there’s no easy answer; it’s a matter of playing the odds. For example, owners of young and healthy pets may end up paying more in premiums and deductibles than what the insurance pays out.

However, if your otherwise healthy pet faces unexpected serious and/or chronic illness, the pet insurance payout may offset what you’ve paid in premiums. So you end up paying less than what you would have paid had your pet not been insured.

If you still aren’t sure where you and your pet falls on this scale, you may want to reach out to other pet owners you know. You may also ask your vet for guidance when deciding which is a better course of action for you and your pet.

Visit the vet more often

Between regular vaccinations and special medical care, the vet is likely the source of your biggest expenses when it comes to your pet. So it may seem counterintuitive to visit them more often when you want to save money.

But like your own health, your pet’s well-being benefits from proactive care. It’s usually more affordable (and less risky) to protect against costly illnesses than to treat them after the fact. A regular checkup may also give your vet a better chance at catching age-related illnesses or any underlying health issues that could spiral into something both serious and expensive if left untreated.

A yearly exam is an easy way to keep on top of vaccinations and other important treatments. It’s also an opportunity for some savings. While some vaccines (like the rabies vaccination) are usually required by law, others are entirely voluntary. By opting out of shots your pet doesn’t need, you may free up cash you can put towards other expenses for your pet.

You should carefully consider what vaccines/preventative medications are required for your pet to stay healthy. Skipping heartworm medication, for example, may save some cash one day at the vet’s office, but it may leave your dog at risk of a fatal infection.

vaccinating your pet regularly can prevent costly medical bills down the line

Similarly, you may want to pass over a monthly tick medication to keep your costs low. However, skipping this treatment may leave your dog or outdoor cat susceptible to diseases carried by these parasites, resulting in care that may cost significantly more than the initial medication.  

If you aren’t sure which shots/preventative medications you can safely omit from your pet’s healthcare, speak with your vet about a broad, yet affordable, health care plan that fits your budget and your pet’s health.

Avoid expensive medication

After the initial assessment, the most expensive part of your trip to the vet may be your pet’s prescribed medication. You may be able to cut some of these costs when you:

  • Reconsider buying medicine at the vet’s clinic: According to the American Animal Hospital Association’s Veterinary Fee Reference, medicine purchased at the average clinic sees a considerable markup. You may end up paying a markup fee as high as 160 percent on top of the wholesale value of the drug.
  • Talk to your vet about generic drugs: Like human medication, branded drugs for animals are often more expensive than their generic equivalents. You should speak with your vet about the alternatives to buying brand-name medications. Some medications made for humans may also be effective in treating certain symptoms your pet may be experiencing, at a lower cost. However, you should always confirm with your vet before you give your pets any human medications, as some medicine formulated for humans may be toxic to your pets.
  • Shop online with caution: Buying medication online can be convenient, but you’ll want to make sure you purchase it from the right source. Speak with your vet to check if they know of a website they trust, avoiding any site that claims you don’t need a prescription. Instead, you should ensure the site is an accredited pharmacy by checking they have Vet-VIPPS status, or Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site. This certification is granted by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) as a way to ensure that customers have the option to purchase drugs for animals from certified online pharmacies, which are properly licensed and comply with state and federal laws and regulations.

In the heat of the moment, you may feel like you have no choice but to accept the first and easiest way to treat your pet’s issues, but in many cases, you need to take a step back to gain some perspective. Depending on the issue and your pet’s medical history, you may be able to find a cheaper alternative.

Find savings in their diet

If you have a Lab or Golden Retriever, you may be convinced your pet is half garbage disposal. And if you don’t have one, we recommend you watch this video of a Golden Retriever competing in an eating contest against a German Shepard. The Golden smokes his rival in fewer than 4 seconds.

Certain breeds of animals are notorious for their large and adventurous appetites, but even the average dog’s or cat’s diet can take a bite out of your budget. Pet Finder estimates the average cost of food for cats and dogs ranges between $120–$550 every year.

jack russell terrier with bowl of pet food

While you wish you could serve them gourmet meals of the finest, free-range chicken and organic grains, these ingredients aren’t always possible on a tight budget. You can improve your chances of serving the best food on a dime by:

  • Buying in bulk: grabbing bulk-sized bags of kibble and multi-packs of canned wet food could save you considerable cash. Just remember to confirm the price-per-unit is less than what you’d pay at the average supermarket or pet food store, as this will help you avoid stocking up on expensive bulk items.
  • Buying online: you may be able to find your regular brand at a discounted price when you switch to an online retailer. These stores may also have sales on gourmet brands that may typically be out of your price range. Purchasing food online may also come with the added convenience of delivery, depending on the quantity you purchase, potentially saving you from having to lug a gigantic bag of kibble out of the store!

Whether you are making the jump to bulk food or an online alternative, if you are choosing a new brand, make sure you read the reviews. You may also want to speak with your vet to confirm a change in food won’t upset your pet’s stomach or interfere with any medication. This way you can ensure you’ll still meet your pet’s nutritional needs while you shave a few dollars off your monthly expenses.

DIY treats and toys

Raise your hand if you refer to your pet as your fur baby? If your hand is in the air, you are not alone. Some people think of their pets as if they were their very own, albeit hairy, children. Regardless of how you view your pet, you have to admit — with gourmet treats, designer beds, and trendy toys, it’s certainly easy to spoil a pet just like it was a human child.  

Insisting on the best stuff for your fur baby can easily overextend your budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive your pet of the richer side of life. You can still spoil your pet by:

  • Making homemade treats: If you have time to spare in the kitchen, you can use some leftover ingredients from your own meals to make dog-approved biscuits and cat-friendly treats.
  • Upcycling materials: Some pet beds can cost a pretty penny. You may save some cash by following this simple and affordable video. It breathes new life into an old sweater, creating a comfy spot for your pet to snooze without the expensive price tag of a store-bought bed.
  • Creating handmade toys: Many of the ideas shared here repurpose common household items to create low-cost toys for your cat.
Skip the groomers — stay on top of hygiene at home

The average cat spends much of its day cleaning itself. On the other hand, the average dog’s idea of self-care is shaking the mud off after a particularly messy romp in the rain.

orange tabby cat grooming and bathing

Depending on the breed, the cost of professional grooming to keep your dog (and home) well maintained can add up, costing the average pet owner between $30–$90 for each visit. You may save some money by carrying out simple tasks on your own, including brushing and trimming their fur, bathing them, and cleaning out their ears and eyes. You can take on more challenging grooming tasks, like trimming their nails, by following this guideline.

Regularly grooming your pet also helps to avoid potential health issues. Bathing, trimming claws, and even brushing their teeth can help them look and feel good and may help to keep your vet bills low as you address issues before they become expensive medical conditions.

Avoid doggy daycare when possible

With wide, adorable eyes that watch you close the door to your home every time you leave, your pet doesn’t make it easy to leave them behind for any length of time. Plenty of dog owners wind up taking their pooches to doggy daycare during their workday, so their pet isn’t left alone for too long.

Unfortunately, these services can be expensive, costing anywhere between $250–$550 for a monthly package. If the alternative of leaving them alone is too hard to bear, try the following tricks to reduce your costs:

  • Sign your dog up for a daily walk: you may be able to find a dog walker willing to add your pooch to their daily pack. They’re often cheaper than a full day at daycare, yet they give your pet a chance to socialize with other dogs while they stroll around the block.
  • Ask your boss about the office’s pet policy: is your place of employment pet-friendly? It’s a question worth asking, as an increasing number of workplaces encourage their employees to bring their pets to work with them.
  • Use boarders as a last resort: for those longer trips away from home, sending your pet to a boarder or kennel is usually an expensive option. Consider asking friends, family members, and even co-workers if they’re willing to look after your pet while you’re gone. Even if they can’t help, they may be able to recommend a trustworthy person who can.

There’s no harm in asking your boss or your friend for help. The worst they can say is no, but they may just surprise you with an affordable solution!


Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see MoneyKey's Terms of Use.

Posted in: Financial Tips Lifestyle

We’ve helped over 250,000 customers.Let us help you!

Not all applications are approved; duration of approval process may vary.

* If your loan is approved before 9:00 PM ET from Monday through Thursday, or before 6:30 PM ET Sunday, the funds will typically be deposited into your bank account the next business day, otherwise, your funds will be deposited into your bank account in two (2) business days. The date and time funds are made available to you are subject to your bank's policies.

Disclaimers: Product availability varies by state. To see loan products offered in your state of residence, please visit our Rates and Terms page. MoneyKey – TX, Inc. is licensed as a Credit Access Business (CAB), License No. 16641-62815, by the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner and registered as a Credit Services Organization (CSO), Registration No. 20110150, by the State of Texas. All loans for which MoneyKey acts as a CSO and/or CAB are funded by an unaffiliated third-party lender and serviced by MoneyKey.

In the State of California, MoneyKey – CA, Inc. is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight pursuant to California Finance Lenders Law License No. 60DBO43590 and California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law License No.1004516.

Reviews and any ratings referenced are based on TrustPilot reviews. Images are for illustrative purposes only. Reviews reflect individuals’ opinions and may not be illustrative of all individual experiences with MoneyKey.

Download Our Mobile App

Download MoneyKey app on Apple iTunes icon Download MoneyKey app on Google Play icon