6 Clever Ways to Save Money on Your Pet

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The annual costs for caring for a pet are well over $1,000 and climbing, according to the American Pet Products Association: over $1,200 for a cat and over $1,600 for a dog. So how can you give your pet the best care without having to cancel your vacation or every night out? There are some surprising ways to save on pets — take a look at these 6 simple tricks to spend smarter on your pet.

1. Invest Where it Counts: Yearly Vet Visits

It can seem counterintuitive to spend money in order to save money, but when it comes to health — both ours and our pets’ — prevention really is less costly than treatment. Veterinary Pet Insurance recently released stats that show dental problems in pets are more expensive to treat than to prevent. On average, claims in 2013 for dental cleanings were $170, compared to $221 for treating dental-related disease. Another example? The average cost of preventing parasites such as heartworm and ticks is $84.89 annually, compared to $180.67 for treatment.

2. Reuse, Recycle, and Be Creative About Supplies

Some pet supplies just don’t have to be fancy. Toys, beds, cat trees, and scratchers fall into this category. You probably already have an old tennis ball in your dog’s toy box. Sometimes pets even prefer simple, inexpensive items as toys. Ever seen how excited internet sensation Maru gets over a box? You might know a few cats who agree.
Beds can be made from old sweaters and sheets, and if you’re feeling crafty, old upholstery or carpeting can be wrapped around scrap wood for a homemade cat tree. Dog shampoo can also be mixed up quickly from what you have in your pantry.

3. Get Tips and Advice from Other Pet Parents

Should you splurge on that $3-a-can cat food, or will something else be gobbled down just as quickly? LearnVest interviewed pet parents to get at the answers of some of those questions in their series, Pet Owner Diaries: What I Really Spend. The verdict on that particular question? Go for a food that’s priced in the mid-range, and get the good litter instead. Ask your friends and neighbors what they’ve learned is worth splurging on, and what’s just extra.

4. Find Discounted Spay/Neuter and Vaccination Services

Did you know that local humane societies all over the US will host free or low-cost spay and neuter or vaccination services? These groups have made it their mission to keep the pet population healthy, so they’re out for the greater good. You can find an event in your area with this search tool from The Humane Society.

5. Buy Pet Medications at Accredited Online Pharmacies

Buying pet medications right at the vet’s office can mean you’re instantly paying double or more. “Vets’ markups over wholesale start at 100 percent and frequently hit 160 percent, plus a $5 to $15 dispensing fee,” says Consumer Reports.

Instead, find a Vet-VIPPS certified online pharmacy. Ninety-seven percent of websites selling prescription drugs are not recommended by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) (the organization that makes sure online pharmacies meet state and federal licensing requirements). Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS), a status granted by the NABP, are safe places to purchase medications online. You can find a list of such pharmacies on the NABP website.

6. Consider a Prescription Plan

For pets who often need prescription medications (and all pets should be on heartworm preventatives, which require veterinary prescriptions), a prescription plan like PetPlus could mean tons of savings. PetPlus partners with local pharmacies (Walgreens, Walmart, Ride Aid, CVS, and more), to provide medications at up to 75% off the normal price. If your pet regularly takes medications for arthritis, diabetes, or even cancer, a prescription plan could mean thousands of dollars in savings.