A morkie in a pile of money notes. The cost of owning a dog or cat can pile up

Managing Pet Costs While Giving the Best Care


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The cost of owning a dog or cat can add up, to say the least. Apart from their food, toys and grooming, there’s the biggie of vet bills. Many pet parents don’t expect pet healthcare to cost as much as it does, so are often unprepared for the financial spend required when their fur kid gets sick.

Just have a gander at what pet owners across the pond are spending on their fur kids in all kinds of ways! Don’t want to be that big a spender yourself? Below we outline the largest costs associated with being a pet parent – and how you can manage them. We’ll be covering nutritious food that won’t break the bank, DIY toys, ways to prevent some of those expensive vet visits, and more.

Cute little dog impersonating a business person. The cost of owning a dog/cat can add up

The cost of owning a dog/cat – Food

We recently spoke to Dr Cath Watson, veterinarian and Chair of Healthy Pets NZ (a PD Insurance partner) about pet food bills. She says that you CAN provide your pet a balanced, nutritious diet without breaking the bank.

“Feed pets a well-balanced diet that meets AAFCO standards, as a minimum, so they get all the nutrients they need. Premium brands may cost more upfront, but you can feed less due to the higher quality ingredients, so it lasts longer.”

“Dry biscuits are much cheaper than feeding wet food in any form and you can always add water to make a porridge. There’s no need to buy special treats but vegetables like carrots work well for dogs if you grow your own and have spare. If you want to use wet food, like pet roll, you can slice it thinly, bake it to remove the moisture and use dried pieces as treats.” 

Food cost-saving tips

Here are some other ways to save on food while still giving your pet the best diet:

Buy in bulk

Purchase your pet’s food in larger quantities. Look for deals or discounts when buying larger bags or cases of pet food. Just make sure you have proper storage to keep the food fresh. Speaking of food costs, new research shows that many Americans prioritise their pets expenses over their own groceries!

Compare prices

Research and compare different brands and retailers. Check both physical stores and online outlets to find the best deals. Be sure to consider the quality of the ingredients and nutritional value along with the price.

Look for sales and coupons

Keep an eye out for sales, promotions, and coupons. Subscribe to newsletters or follow social media accounts of pet food brands or retailers to be updated on any discounts or special offers.

a cat eats dry pet food. The cost of owning a dog/cat can add up
Consider alternative brands

There are many pet food options available at different price points. While it’s important to choose a brand that provides balanced nutrition, you may find more affordable options that still meet your pet’s dietary needs. Read the labels and consult with your vet to make sure the food is appropriate for your pet.

Mix in homemade or natural foods

Supplementing your pet’s diet with homemade or natural foods can be a cost-effective way to add variety and nutrition. Chat to your vet to make sure you’re giving them the safest and most appropriate homemade food options that meets their specific dietary requirements.

Check out these great resources for more on pet nutrition:

The cost of owning a dog/cat – Toys

We know those expensive cat or dog toys you see in the pet stores are enticing. They’re all so new and shiny! The thing is, they probably look better to you than they do to your pet. The point of toys is to give your pup or cat a form of mental stimulation.

It turns out, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to do that.

Toys cost-saving tips

Here are just a few ways to manage pet toy costs:

Make your own toys

Many pet toys can be easily made at home using inexpensive or recycled materials. For example, you can create a simple tug-of-war rope toy using old t-shirts or make a treat-dispensing toy from a plastic bottle. Look for DIY pet toy ideas online for inspiration.

Happy white dog on a hike with its owner is handed a blue chewy bone-shaped toy. The cost of owning a dog/cat can add up
Rotate toys

Instead of buying new toys frequently, try rotating your pet’s toys. Introduce a few toys at a time and swap them out every week or so. This helps keep your pet’s interest in the toys while making them feel like they have something new to play with.

Explore natural options

Nature can provide plenty of free or low-cost toys for your pets. Take your pet for walks in the park or pet-friendly forest, where they can enjoy playing with sticks or chasing leaves.

Visit thrift stores or garage sales

Many people donate or sell gently used pet toys, which can be a cost-effective way to add variety to your pet’s toy collection.

Teach new tricks

Involving your pets in training sessions not only gives mental stimulation, it can be a form of play. Teaching them new tricks or practicing obedience commands can be an entertaining and rewarding way to spend time with them without relying solely on toys. Read our 5 Easy Dog Training Tricks article to get you started.

children play cat games with their white cat

The cost of owning a dog/cat – Grooming

Some cats and dogs require more grooming than others, we get that. Know that reducing the amount of money you spend on pet grooming can be achieved through various strategies.

Grooming cost-saving tips

Here are some tips to help you save money while keeping your pet well-groomed:

Groom your pet at home

Invest in grooming tools such as brushes, combs, and nail clippers to perform basic grooming tasks at home. Regular brushing helps maintain your pet’s coat and reduces the need for frequent professional grooming. Trimming your pet’s nails at home can also save you money on regular nail trims.

Learn basic grooming skills

Offset the grooming cost of owning a dog or cat by learning basic skills such as brushing, bathing, and ear cleaning. There are many online resources, tutorials, and even classes that can teach you how to groom your pet effectively and safely. With practice, you can become proficient in handling routine grooming tasks yourself.

Opt for a low-maintenance haircut

If your pet’s breed or coat type allows, consider choosing a low-maintenance haircut that requires less frequent professional grooming. Talk to your groomer or do research to find a style that suits your pet’s needs and minimises grooming visits. Perhaps even try trimming your pet’s fur yourself – again, there are plenty of tutorials online. Considering getting the clippers out? Read our Can I Shave My Dog… Yay or Nay? article first (and note the same answer applies to cats).

The cost of owning a dog/cat – Vet bills

If you’re on a tight budget, organisation is key. You don’t want to resort to surrendering your pet because you just can’t afford them anymore. A pet shelter owner recently said to us that vet bills are a prime reason people are having to give up their pets, so get pet insurance and then if an accident happens or illness emerges you have financial support.

Also, get your pet is desexed. So many litters arrive at shelters due to families not being able to care for them.

Vet cost-saving tips

“Healthcare costs tend to go up with age, but a good diet and exercise along with pet insurance will help mitigate these costs and can be included in a budget,” Dr Watson says.

Kittens eat a healthy diet of wet and dry AAFCO approved cat food brands
It’s all about preventive care

One of the best ways to reduce the cost of owning a dog or cat is to prevent health issues before they occur. Keep up with your pet’s vaccinations, regular check-ups, and preventive treatments such as flea prevention and worming medication. Preventive care can help catch potential health problems early and address them before they become more expensive to treat.

Maintain a healthy diet

Providing your pet with a balanced and nutritious diet can contribute to their overall health and reduce the risk of certain medical conditions. Consult with your veterinarian to choose the right food for your pet’s specific needs. Avoid excessive treats and table scraps, as they can lead to pet obesity and weight issues.

Keep up with grooming at home

Regularly groom your pet at home to maintain their hygiene and prevent common grooming-related health problems. Brush their coat to prevent matting, clean their ears and eyes to prevent infections, and trim their nails to avoid overgrowth. Good home grooming practices really can minimise the risk of associated health issues that cost money to treat.

Brush your pet’s teeth

You can offset the dental cost of owning a dog or cat by regularly brushing their teeth. Regular brushing can prevent dental diseases such as gum inflammation, tooth decay, and periodontal disease. Poor dental health can lead to costly dental procedures and future related health problems. Read our tips on looking after cat teeth and about dog teeth cleaning for all the info.

Exercise and mental stimulation

Keeping your pet physically active and mentally stimulated can contribute to their overall wellbeing. Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens their immune system, and reduces the risk of certain health conditions. Engage your pet in playtime, provide interactive toys, and consider puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys to keep their minds engaged. Be sure to check out our Dog Breed Exercise Requirements article to make sure your pup is getting the right amount of exercise.

Consider pet insurance

Lastly, a very effective way of managing vet bills is getting pet insurance. Unexpected accidents or illnesses can be a shock – both mentally and financially. When to comes to the cost of owning a dog or cat, pet insurance can really help. A good insurance plan will give you a soft landing when those vet bills arrive.

Have a look at our dog insurance and cat insurance plans and find the right one for you and your furbaby. Plus, with PD Insurance you’ll receive one or more months of free insurance when you sign up online.

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