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How to Save Money on Pet Care

12 Surprising Ways to Save on Pet Care

As much as we love our pets, we admit caring for a pet can get pricey. All You shares some tips on how you can save $700 or more on pet care.

We Americans dote on our dogs and cats — with cuddles and cash. In fact, on average, each U.S. house-hold spends about $500 per year on pets! You might have your own ways to save, but here you can find strategies to leave $700 or more in your pocket while giving your critters the love and attention they deserve.

1. Negotiate With the Vet

When choosing a practice, visit in person if possible, with an eye for cleanliness and professionalism. Inquire about the cost of a wellness visit, which can involve an exam and vaccines as well as testing and basic preventive treatments. According to the ASPCA, the annual cost for such a checkup is $160 for cats and between $210 and $260 for dogs, depending on size and age.

Sound steep? Discounts of between five percent and 20 percent might be available if you're a senior citizen, in the military or have a multipet home — so ask. Make the manager your point of contact for adjusting your bill, because she knows the office policies.

2. Spay/Neuter to Avoid Pricey Problems

You know a surprise pet pregnancy is going to cost you. But unaltered animals are also more prone to illness, even some types of cancer. What's more, intact males are more likely to run away — which can lead to injury. Veterinarians typically charge about $145 to "fix" a feline and up to $220 for a large dog, but you can find a free or low-cost spay/neuter clinic near you at aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter.

3. Consider Alternate Sources For Care

See if the veterinary technician at your local practice performs basic tasks including vaccine boosters, nail trimming and ear cleaning. That can save you the doctor's exam fee — about $50, depending on where you are. (Ask for the tech when you call.) Think outside the vet's office, too: You can get low-cost vaccines from shelters and pet stores on visiting-clinic days. The Luv My Pet clinic (luvmypet.com) offers a kitten pack with a dewormer, a leukemia vaccination and a three-in-one distemper combo for $49 — a $26 savings.

How I save: "The low-cost vaccine clinic at the animal shelter near me really helps with my dogs. I pay only $5 for their shots and the required city license — which has added up to a lot over the years." — Robin Hunt, 43, Bakersfield, CA

4. Feed a Little Less

Save money at mealtime! Some 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. So measure portions precisely — if you miscalculate by half a cup daily, it could add up to a 44-pound bag of food annually. Also, check with your vet, because inactive altered animals might need smaller amounts. You could save $40 to $62 annually with this strategy.

How I save: "I make my own diet dog food by swapping in salt-free green beans — at 50 cents a can — for some kibble. Our overweight lab got back in shape, and we saved $40 on her food last year." — Janelle Frick, 56, Columbia, SC

5. Explore a Deal-Packed Pet Expo

Snag discounted toys and accessories. With up to 175 exhibitors, from big chain stores to mom-and-pops, expos are full of discounts and even freebies on toys, grooming aids, leashes and clothing. Score food and treat samples, snag free nail trims and look for low-cost vaccines and microchips. Visit findyourpetexpo.com for the next event near you.

6. Discover New Pet Suppliers

You don't have to own livestock to love places such as Tractor Supply Co. and Rural King. Hit their websites and compare prices for basics, including scratching posts and pet beds, with prices of traditional pet shops. We saw a hooded litter box for $17 at Tractor Supply; the same item at one big store cost $25.

7. Shop When the Time Is Right

Pet clothes and bedding don't have to take a bite out of your wallet. Avoid buying dog coats and pet bedding from October to December, when prices are sky-high. Check in the off season for discounts from 30 percent to 50 percent. We found a $20 coat half off at one boutique. Visit flash-sale sites such as Gilt Home and One Kings Lane for chic cheapies, but check the return policy.

8. Buy Pet Food in Bulk

Make wise buys. You buy in bulk for yourself — why not do so for your pet? To get big savings, pick up one 30-pound bag of dog food for $34 instead of five 6-pound bags at $18 a pop. But bulk buying is wise only if it makes sense. Before you invest, make sure Miss Fussy won't turn up her nose.

As for brands, expensive price tags don't always add up to higher-quality food. Ask your vet to recommend food you can buy at the grocery store or at wholesale stores like Costco.

9. Skip the Groomer

It may be essential to take your dog or cat to the groomer occasionally, especially if its fur is long or curly. However, you can space out the time between visits by asking for a lesson from your vet or groomer. Have them teach you how to cut your pet's nails and explain the proper way to bathe and brush their fur. You can even use these newfound skills for other pets ― swap services with neighbors. For example, give your neighbor's dog a bath if they watch your cat while you go on vacation. You won't have to pay a pet sitter!

10. Spend Less on Accessories

There's no need to buy pricey items for your dog or cat. Instead, hit the dollar store for supplies like discounted pet toys and cat litter. Also, check out Web sites like Craigslist or Freecycle to swap pet equipment, such as a crate or a scratching post. You'll save a lot and your pet will be just as happy. (Be sure to clean traded items: Sanitize rubber and rope toys by running them through the dishwasher cycle without detergent. Throw plush toys and dog beds in the washing machine, and clean out the floors of crates.)

11. Get the Lowest Prescription Prices

Before you head to the vet to pick up your pet's medications, do some online research and see if you can find them for a lower cost. Check out sites like 1800petmeds.com and print out the prices you find. Then ask your vet to match the price ― chances are he or she will gladly do it. Getting the prescriptions from your vet is a safer choice, as they closely monitor elements like expiration dates. Plus there are no shipping costs!

How I save: "My dog and two cats needed different doses of the same drug, which would have cost $300 if I ordered online, because I would have had to buy extra. My vet sold me the exact amount, saving me almost $200." — Kim Beeler, 45, Lake Oswego, OR

12. Spring For Pet Insurance

If your cat or dog needs emergency medical care, you'll most likely be hit with a major bill. By spending a small amount on pet insurance each month, you'll avoid "economic euthanasia" ― having to put your pet down in lieu of an expensive surgery or treatment. The threshold of what you can spend on your pet's care skyrockets with insurance, so in an emergency you may not only save money but also your pet's life.

How I save: "Before I insured my pets one of my pugs was attacked at a dog park — which led to a $200 vet bill. Later, he cracked his tooth (cost: $500). For me, it's worth $18 a month to cover them." — Shannon Blood, 32, Temple, AZ

— Nina Malkin

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