It’s a sad sign of the recession: according to a recent survey, more than 80% of animal shelters and rescue groups say they have taken in pets that were given up because of job losses or other money problems.
Other cat or dog owners may be trying to cut spending by skipping veterinary exams, a tactic that could backfire because it invites pet health problems that could be very expensive later on.
So what’s a cash-strapped pet lover to do? Here are 8 sure-fire tips for cutting the cost of pet ownership:
1. Don’t try to save money by buying cheap pet food. Quality food has less fillers and more real nutrition, meaning your pet won’t eat as much. Also, the health benefits of better pet foods can cut down on the need for veterinary care in the future.
2. Buy food and other pet supplies in bulk. You might save 5 to 10 percent by shopping at warehouse clubs such as Costco. You might also want to check the prices at the large discount stores, like Target or Wal-Mart, where items usually cost less than at pet specialty stores.
3. Shop around for pet medications. Check online outlets like 1800petmeds.com and find out what they charge for the medicine (both prescription and non-prescription) your pet’s doctor has recommended. You may be pleasantly surprised!
4. Save with coupons. Using a search engine like Yahoo! Or Google, type in “pet coupons” and click “search.” You’ll be able to print out dozens of manufacturer’s coupons. Also, check your newspaper for coupons from your favorite pet store chain such as Petco or Petsmart.
5. Try shopping for dog or cat toys and other new pet supplies at a dollar store. They often carry the same products as other stores, but charge a lot less.
6. Fire your groomer! Invest in a pet trimmer and go online for basic grooming tips. This tactic could pay for itself in just one or two grooming sessions.
7. Brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis can save on a professional teeth cleaning, which could cost hundreds of dollars.
8. Consider pet health insurance. If you don’t already have a policy for your pet, do some research, compare insurance companies and choose the pet insurance policy that fits your needs best. Depending on your pet, this could save you thousands of dollars a year!
It’s nearly summer. Time for a vacation. Every year around this time a strange, beautiful sound, like a choir of angels, fills the air. It beckons me out of the house and, strangely, into my car. What is it? Ah yes, it’s the call of the open road!
Whether I drive to the mountains, the beach, or to my favorite picnic spot, I like to bring my dog—a huge, floppy-eared adventure-loving Labradoodle named Murphy. A road trip with pets, of course, is more complicated than traveling without them, but well worth the effort. After all, pets often enjoy the adventure of travel as much as humans do. (Maybe even more!)
Here are a few tips to make sure you and your pets arrive safe and sound.
- Never, ever, ever leave pets in a parked car, even with the windows down. When it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside your car can reach more than 100 degrees in just 10 minutes, possibly leading to death.
- Consult your veterinarian before you go. If your pet has any health conditions (or a very nervous disposition) that could be aggravated by traveling, take these into account.
- If it’s Fido’s first road trip, start by taking him on several small trips around town to make sure he does well with car travel.
- Make sure to pack your pet’s food, a supply of cool water, a leash, comfortable bedding and any medications your pet might need.
- For extended trips, check with motels or hotels along the route to make sure they are pet-friendly.
- Make time for rest stops, when you should offer your pet a drink and check for signs of stress or car sickness.
- Make sure your pet is wearing ID tags. Bring a photo of the pet in case they get away and become lost.
Finally, you should seriously consider using a pet car harness—a “seat belt” specifically designed for dogs. In the State of California, these pet restraints are mandatory, and for good reason: every year hundreds of dogs are injured, maimed or killed in car accidents.
I recently priced some harnesses that range from $12.99 for small dogs up to $29.99 for big guys like Murphy. This seems like a pretty good deal when you think about what you’d pay if they were hurt. Protecting your best friend is priceless.
Oh, one last tip—make sure to have fun and take lots of pictures! Those memories are priceless, too.
When it comes to my dog, I’m pretty devoted. I always want the best for him. But, like most people, I’m not an expert. I learn a lot by talking to various people; my vet, the dog trainer, other dog owners, etc.
The other day, in an online chat room for pet owners, I met a guy who was extremely upset. He had purchased a pet health insurance plan from a major pet insurance company (NOT Pets Best) and he felt he had been scammed.
What was the scam? When he first enrolled in the pet insurance plan, he knew that it would be renewed every year. What he did not know is that, once the insurance policy was renewed, any condition that existed during the previous year suddenly became a “preexisting condition!”
What does this mean? Consider the following hypothetical (but very frightening) scenario:
- Let’s say your dog is diagnosed with a serious illness on a Monday. You schedule a costly, major surgery for Wednesday.
- Your insurance plan is set for renewal on Tuesday.
- The dog has surgery on Wednesday.
- You submit your insurance claim for the surgery on Thursday, and the claim is denied: under the terms of the plan, the illness was a preexisting condition.
Any condition, he says, that existed even one day before the policy renewal will not be covered. Also, if your pet has a condition that lasts more than a year, it won’t be covered for the duration of the condition.
I was pretty happy to point out that this is not the case with Pets Best—all Pets Best plans include Lifetime Continuous Coverage, and won’t automatically disqualify claims as preexisting after the policy is renewed. This is extremely important when it comes to treating chronic problems like diabetes or cancer.
It just goes to show that you need to really understand the ins and outs of a policy before you make a decision.
A company might advertise the fact that their pet insurance policies reimburse you for 90% of your veterinary bills. Sounds good, right? Do some digging, though, and you could find so many exclusions it would take a contortionist to wiggle their way through them. Or a payment schedule that caps their reimbursements at a ridiculously low rate.
If you find that a specific company’s policy is confusing and hard to unravel, do what I do—go online and find out what other folks are saying about that company and their policies. Often, if the company’s customers feel like they’ve been scammed, they will want to help you so you won’t make the same mistake.
I definitely did my research, and most of the folks I talked to agreed that the Pets Best name says it all. They really are the best!
These days, it seems like we can’t stop talking about the economy. In the newspaper or on TV, the radio or the Internet, it’s a constant drone: “recession, recession, recession.”
And no wonder: unless you live in a cave someplace, the economy affects almost every aspect of your life, including your family pets: your beloved dog or cat.
In our society, pets are more like family these days. Most of the dog owners who took part in a recent American Kennel Club survey, for example, said that they buy Christmas presents for their pets, spending up to $50. Some, of course, spend much more than that. In the current recession, 69% percent of these people said they would rather spend less on friends or extended family members than to skimp on Fido’s presents!
Plus, there’s more good news for pets: a whopping 96% of latte-loving survey takers would give up their fancy coffee drinks before they would cut back on pet expenses. And 97% would give up luxuries like massages or spa treatments.
Other cutbacks dog owners would be willing to make?
- 97% would skip their favorite restaurants and eat at home more often.
- 94% would spend less on new clothes
- 88% would skip buying new car or buy a less expensive model
- 72% would give up their gym membership
Yes, some pets may have to live with less during the recession, but it seems that most Americans would rather go without luxuries than keep their furry family members from enjoying the finer things. Kind of makes you think life in the doghouse might not be so bad, eh?
It was my dog’s groomer that brought it to my attention: my Labradoodle, Murphy, had just gotten a sleek trim for summer when the groomer and I were chatting.
“He sure is a big boy,” she said.
“I know!” I said with pride. One of the largest Labradoodles I’ve seen, he’s just a few inches shorter than I am when he stands on his hind legs.
“Um, big, like sort of round, I mean,” said the groomer.
Uh oh. Was my dog fat? A trip to the scales confirmed that he had gained almost 20 pounds since last fall. How had I let this happen?