Reducing Pet Costs: Some Final Thoughts
My previous two posts on saving money while having a dog were my two heavy hitters on how to save some dollars, since it’s how to make a month’s worth of food for around or less than $20 a batch and how in less than a year I was able to get reimbursed 82% of over a thousand dollars in vet bills.
Make Friends With Other Dog Owners
I have friends who have dogs who have unabashedly used their dogs to try and find significant others. My own little guy is a total lady killer. Seriously, he has paparazzi: last time I took him out, random girls were surreptitiously taking photos of him. Not that I’m bragging or anything. Though this has never led to a significant other for me, it has been a wonderful way to both meet new people and socialize with people I already know. Looking for a low cost outing? Pack a sandwich and organize a trip to the dog park. Or take the dog on a hike. Dogs need exercise to help keep them well-behaved and it also leads to outdoors time which is great for humans combating seasonal affective disorder, getting a dose of vitamin D and generally getting a mood boost. Even something as simple as a pre- or post- work walk with friends is good for you and your companion.
Having a doggie social network is also great for having built-in pet sitters and walkers. I have a network of friends in and around my apartment complex with whom I regularly rotate dog watching details. It usually works out pretty equitably in terms of time put in and the exchange of favors means I don’t have to shell out for a dog walker or kennel services. The bonus is they often chase each other, tiring one another out and reducing the amount of work you have to do to make sure your dog gets sufficient exercise.
Too many dog owners I know say that they know they should be more attentive to their pets oral hygiene. (This goes for cat owners too!) The scary thing is that tooth problems can get bad before there are any real cues that anything is wrong and when teeth have issues they can be expensive. Practice brushing your animals teeth. People will think you’re crazy but when you don’t have to worry about things like your pet’s teeth rotting and developing infections, both of you will be happier. As a bonus, your pet will have much nicer smelling breath when they welcome you home by covering you in kisses.
Most often the excuse is that your pet wouldn’t stand for it. And while some animals may be more difficult than others, most often it’s just a matter of patience. It took several months to get my dog to his current level of comfort with having his teeth brushed, so don’t expect miracles. Finger brushes can be the easiest to start with: they’re a little brush that slides over your finger. Practice getting the front teeth and canines only first and you can build to getting the rest. When they get more comfortable with getting their teeth brushed, graduate to a tooth brush appropriately sized for your animal’s mouth. I am partial to one that has bristles on three sides, meaning that the brushing process goes much faster. Maintaining oral hygiene for your pet is also a good way of checking in on them: my dog had given no indication that he was in pain, but it was only in a regular tooth brushing that I found out that his tooth had broken and was infected. Regular check-ins like that can help catch infections before they become a serious issue.
Make Your Own Dog Treats
This is one that I picked up from my sister who has been making them for her boyfriend’s dog and together we’ve been honing the recipe. Previously I would by the fancy, all-natural training treats because they were nice and smelly (making them sure to get my dog’s attention) but if left in the treat bag, they’d become hard and lose the odor that made them (oddly enough) desirable. Plus, my dog totally lost interest if they weren’t soft. And the treats were $5-$7 a bag. This recipe gives me probably three or four times as many dog treats for less than half the price.
The base recipe that I use now is:
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375’F. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well.
Often, I’ll modify this based on what I have. A good substitute for milk is chicken stock and I often add bacon (or any meat) grease for flavor and a strong, strong smell. Last batch my neighbors gave me a cup of bacon and beef grease that would have otherwise gone into the trash. We doubled the recipe, using 2 cup peanut butter, 1 cup oil and 1 cups of chicken stock. To cut costs, the peanut butter can be replaced with grease and the milk with chicken stock, yielding lots and lots of tasty smelling treats for very little cost. If your dog has a sensitive stomach, just like with homemade dog food, pumpkin is your friend. Replace peanut butter for pumpkin and you still have a pungent but tasty treats with extra fiber to keep your dog regular and together.
You can roll the resulting dough out and cut it using cookie cutters if you have a larger dog, or if you have a smaller dog like I do, you can pinch or roll small pieces of dough. This approach works really way for training because you can give more treats to the dog without worrying about them getting a stomach ache. Making your own dog treats is a great way to customize based on your (and your dog’s) needs. (The picture is a stock photo; since dogs don’t care what the tasty treats look like, I have yet to spend the time making them pretty and often make them very small so I can dole out lots of them as training treats. If you’re looking at the picture for a reference color or texture, whatever you have is probably fine.)
Once again, I’m not here to shill products, but like I mentioned in my article on customer service, I believe that good customer service is rewarded by customer loyalty. Lupine has totally won the prize for my favorite brand of dog collars and leashes because of their absolutely amazing lifetime guarantee. Though Buddy doesn’t chew his leash, collar or harness, he has a doggie friend who loves to try and “walk” him, grabbing his leash in the middle and tug it. Eventually, this led to his leash getting pulled nearly in half. His leash was replaced, no questions asked. When the spring that attached the leash to the harness or collar started to catch, preventing it from working properly, back to the store we went and again it was replaced. They scanned the new leash and handed it over to me and that was that. They product is good to start with, and the customer service makes it a definite win. Buddy has two leashes and two collars, meaning I always have a spare if one is being exchanged (the company offers in-store and mail-in exchanges). Though I paid a little more up front, now that I have a spare I will never have to buy him another leash or collar. Andven though I don’t have to worry about him destroying his own leash, it’s been a good fail safe for when it begins to break down from general wear and tear. (That’s my little guy modeling his Lupine harness and leash in the blue argyle “Dapper Dog” pattern.)
Do you have any tips on how to save money on pet costs? Email them along, especially suggestions for cats in particular, since I’ve got nothing on that front. Now go put that money you saved into an emergency fund or a targeted savings account for emergency vet bills.