Owning a dog is expensive. In fact, estimates suggest that dogs will cost their owners £10000-18000 over the course of their life. If COVID has put you in a bit of a bind financially. You might be wondering how you can curb your spending on your canine pal. Whilst still giving them everything they need. 

Buy less expensive dog food

One of the things that every single dog will need is dog food. And there’s a whole range of different foods out there. With different price tags, different ingredients, and different marketing strategies, and they’re all vying for your purchase. The important thing to remember is that dogs need nutrients, not ingredients. They need a certain amount of protein, carbohydrate and vitamins just like the rest of us. Your dog doesn’t actually care whether he’s eating prime fillet steak, human grade chicken breast, ‘paleo grains’ or powdered goji berries. What he cares about is filling his belly. And as long as his food is marked as ‘complete and balanced’, it should provide everything your dog needs in terms of nutrition, day in, day out. Of course, there are medical conditions and allergies to consider, so you might have to do a bit of digging to find a brand that suits your dog if this is the case. 

Whilst we’re on the subject of allergies, grain allergies are very rare in dogs. Unless your vet has confirmed a grain allergy in your pet, it’s safe to feed grains. And, contrary to popular myth, dogs can digest them. As well as get much-needed nutrients from them. So cut the food costs and buy a large bag of something cheap but nutritious.

Insurance

It may seem like a strange idea to spend money to save money, but pet insurance is essential if you’re caring for a dog on a budget. After all, the last thing you need is to wake up to an ill dog and no money left for the vets. Pet insurance allows you to put small amounts of money aside each month to prepare for such a situation. And, unlike a bank account, the money is available in full. Even if you’re only a couple of months into paying your premiums.

Preventative medicine

People who say that vets sell vaccinations to make money are missing one important point. Vaccinations are cheap, and diseases are expensive. A parvovirus vaccination usually costs £20-30, whilst treatment for parvovirus is in the thousands. And there’s still a high chance your pet won’t make it. Keeping up your pet’s preventative care keeps costs down in the long run. 

I recommend vaccinations against parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and, in most areas, leptospirosis. Keeping up with regular flea prevention can also save a lot of money. Flea infestation needs several products and lots of time to treat. Some pets are even allergic to fleas, needing veterinary visits and medications to combat the symptoms if there have been fleas in the house.

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Practice Health Plans

Many vet practices will have practice health plans in place. These are often mistaken for insurance, but there’s an important difference. These health plans are a way of spreading the cost of your pet’s routine care over the year. Whilst insurance plans help you to spread the cost of emergency care and illness. Health plans usually cover the annual vaccinations and flea and worm prevention. Many offer discounts on visits or free nurse consultations as a reward. Most of the time these health plans help you to save money by giving you a discount over paying at the time. There’s something lovely about walking out of the vets with all the vaccinations done and six months of flea treatment and knowing it’s not going to be a huge bill on your bank statement!

Homecare

Whilst going to the dog groomer can be nice, it can be expensive. Unless you have a breed that’s very difficult to groom, chances are you can learn to do it yourself at home. But it’s not just learning when to bathe, how to brush, and where to clip. You’ll need to learn about nail clipping and tooth brushing, too. This is where those health plans come in handy, as they often include free nail clips with the veterinary nurse. Ask at your local practice for details. You can also ask the nurse to show you how to clip nails, and also how to brush your dog’s teeth.

Low-cost neutering schemes

Neutering your pet may seem like a big outlay, but it’s a lot cheaper than dealing with a pregnancy or puppies. A middle-of-the-night caesarean section to save your dog’s life can cost £2000 or more – a lot less than neutering. If neutering at your local practice is too much for you to afford, don’t give up. Many charities offer a low-cost neutering service for people who cannot afford the procedure.

Low-cost veterinary services

If you’re really struggling for cash, you might be eligible for veterinary treatment with the PDSA, Blue Cross or RSPCA. These are all charities who provide free or low-cost treatment for pets in the UK. They all have different eligibility criteria, and most have some sort of catchment that you have to fall into to be considered a client – but for some people, these services provide essential care during difficult times.

Stick to the essentials

I love spoiling my dog as much as the next person, but those purchases can really add up. Experts estimate that we’ll spend over £1000 on a healthy dog, every year. Treats, dog beds, new toys and even clothes can quickly cost you plenty of money. And realistically, your dog probably won’t love you any more for getting him these things! Stick to the bare essentials to keep your dog-spending within budget.

Online pharmacies

Pet medications are expensive. Companies put a lot of money into research and development, and they often have the sole rights to produce the medication for several years, so there’s no competition. There are also so many drugs, for so many conditions, and in so many species, that veterinary practices have to buy really small quantities just to fit them all in. We all know buying in bulk is cheaper, and that’s where the online pharmacies come in. Between bulk-buying and not having to pay the overheads that a veterinary practice does, they can pull prices right down. 

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If you can, I encourage you to support your local practice and buy from them – after all, they’re the ones who will be there for you if your dog needs medication at midnight. But when you’re stretched really tight, you can ask your vet for a written prescription for your pet’s medication. They can charge a fee for this, but even with the prescription fee and the postage charges, it’s often cheaper to get your medication online.

Staycations!

The Dogs Trust estimate that people spend over £200 a year on boarding services – and probably more if you go away. Not only are holidays in the UK often cheaper than going abroad, it’s easier to take your dog with you so you can relax together. There are dog-friendly holiday cottages, dog-friendly camping trips, dog-friendly hiking and even dog-friendly luxury hotels- so there’s something for everyone. Whether you go to the Channel Islands or the Cotswolds, staying closer to home and taking your dog with you will probably save you money.