Tough economic times put extra pressure on owners trying to care for their dogs. Pet Lifestyle Advisor and author Wendy Nan Rees offers advice on how to save money on pet food, veterinary care, toys, and more.
Tips for Cutting Dog Care Costs
I open this week's tip a bit differently by openly saying I too am personally affected by what happens in the economy. I have been so moved by the amount of emails I receive on a daily basis. After talking with my editor, we both felt that that this would be an appropriate and welcome topic for today's tip.
The bulk of emails I get are about families and individuals concerned about the possibility of having to give up their beloved family pet. Many of us think of our dogs as family members, and just the thought of having to drop one of our furry "children" off at a shelter is heart wrenching and unbearable! I personally do not have any children, so my dogs mean the world to me. Right now, times are just as hard for me as they are for many of us out there. What I am here to say is that the single most important thing is to keep your family together, happy, healthy and strong.
Lowering Dog Food Costs
First of all, you can cut corners on the type of food you are feeding your pet if really needed. Yes, it's always best to serve the highest quality kibble you can afford, but whatever you offer is going to be far better than what a shelter could do for your dog. Love, fresh water and whatever kibble that you can afford right now will do just fine for the time being. When my assistant, Ruthie, is going through tough times like now, she augments her pets' kibble with vegetables and fruits from her garden. Hit the farmers' markets in your area, and you can usually find fresh eggs and produce at better prices than you will see in the grocery stores. Some cities now even have food pantries that offer dog and cat food. Check with your local food banks and don't hesitate to use one of these services if you need to. You can donate back to the program when better times return. Clip all the coupons you can and keep your eyes open wide. You never know where you'll find that next bargain that will keep you going a bit longer.
Keeping Up With Veterinary Care
Unfortunately, regular veterinary care is one of the first things many pet owners feel they need to sacrifice in tough economic times. If you can, keep up with your yearly vet visits because this will ultimately help you catch health problems earlier and avoid larger expenses. Also check around; many veterinarians are offering special vaccination clinics where you can get shots at reduced rates. You may not like having to use a different vet, but at least your pet will still be protected.
Don't be afraid to ask for a payment plan with your regular vet. He/She may prefer to take payments on a large bill rather than lose another client.
If you have to cut your budget in other places, do it! Ruthie is even making toys from recycled fabrics and odds and ends she finds. For example, an old knotted sock makes a fun tug toy. You can make a simple stuffed toy by cutting up a worn out shirt, sewing it into a simple shape, and stuffing it with rags. Your dog will smell your scent on it and love it even better than any store-bought toy.
When times get tough, all you can do is the best that you can. What I am saying is that you do not have to "keep up with the Jones". As I think back, my father always tried to teach us that it did not matter how much or how little we had. It was who we were and what we did as a family that truly mattered. A recession isn't going to go away overnight and giving up a family member isn't going to make you feel better in the long run. One look into Fido's soulful eyes can lower your stress and blood pressure, and that will make you feel better. After all, Fido doesn't care about what he eats, he just wants to be with you. Bless you all.