photo credit: Brian Blade/iStockThe American Pet Products Association forecasts that total pet spending in 2009 will reach $45.4 billion, up from $43.2 billion in 2008. But just because you want to give your pets the best doesn't mean you have to sit back and watch your bills escalate. Instead, try these smart tips for spending less - while still showering them with love.
Can your pet make you sick? Find out.
Lower Food Costs
- Feed less. If you can't see or easily feel your pet's ribs, he could probably stand to shed a few pounds. Some 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats in America are overweight, the 2008 National Pet Obesity Awareness Study found. If a medical condition isn't to blame, you may be unintentionally overfeeding. Petobesityprevention.com will tell you your critter's true caloric needs. Then, feed the lowest recommended amount on your pet food package. If your pet stays at a healthy weight, you may help him avoid diabetes, kidney disease, and other ailments - and you'll definitely save cash.
- Bulk up. If you don't already buy your pet food at a warehouse club, start now. At Costco, we found a case of 24 22-ounce cans of Pedigree Chunky Beef dog food for $24.99, versus $33.36 at a local supermarket; Purina Fancy Feast cat food was $17.49 for a case of 36 three-ounce cans at Costco, versus $28.80. Or try Costco's house brand, Kirkland Signature; 40 pounds of dry dog food were being sold for $23.99 and 25 pounds of dry cat food for $15.89 at press time.
- Try fruits and veggies. Since pet treats are pricey, try offering apples, bananas, and baby carrots (all good for, ahem, regulating the digestive tract). Never give grapes or raisins, though - they're toxic to many pets.
Whittle Grooming Fees
- Get professional grooming less often. Chances are, you've spaced out your trims at the salon to save money. Share that same tactic with your pooch. "If you pay $60 per grooming and cut your grooming frequency from five- to seven-week intervals, you'll save $178 a year," says Billy Rafferty, owner of Chicago's Doggy Dooz Pet Styling and co-author of the book Happy Dog: Caring for Your Dog's Body, Mind, and Spirit.
- Train up. Learn to give your pet a bath and pedicure. "Taking just the tip off your dog's nails weekly saves as much as $20 a month," says Rafferty. For how-tos on bathing and clipping, "ask a professional or vet," says Ann Hohenhaus, internist at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.
photo credit: Alexander Kochetov/iStockSave on Medical Care
- Reach out to shelters. Most municipally run animal shelters across the country offer some type of free or low-cost spay/neuter program, vaccinations, and more. You may also find discounts on heartworm- and flea-prevention meds. Contact your local animal shelter or humane society to find out about available services.
- Get the Rx to go. Vets can turn a healthy profit by dispensing medicine. "About 12 to 15 percent of a small practice's income comes from the sale of prescription meds," says veterinarian Karen Felsted, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. If your animal needs medication right away, get it from your vet - but only perhaps a week's worth, and ask to take a prescription with you so you can order the rest online. Prices vary, so shop around. Some to try: 1800petmeds.com, drsfostersmith.com, and kvvetsupply.com. Or see if your vet will match the online price rather than lose business to e-tailers.
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