Pet ownership is a wonderful experience, but it is one that doesn’t come cheap. The ongoing costs of providing your pet with food, hygiene and vaccinations are compounded by unexpected costs for medication and emergency care. Can you really afford to keep your pet? Probably, but you should get smart about doing so when money is tight.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Tricia Wang 王圣捷

Invest in Proper Basic Care

The most important thing that a pet owner can do when living on a budget is to avoid the temptation to skimp on a pet’s basic care. Don’t get cheap dog food or skip your dog’s vaccinations. These things end up costing you because they mean that you have to pay vet bills down the line when your animal gets ill. By investing in the proper care of your pet, you will actually save yourself money in the long run.

Make sure that you understand the minimum care required to keep your pet healthy:

  • Provide your pet with healthy, nutritious pet food.
  • Take the time to properly groom your pet. A clean pet is less prone to illness.
  • Give your pet the exercise that it requires.
  • Make sure to keep all appointments for the vaccinations your vet says are required.
  • Protect the pet from harm. For example, make sure that you have a fence around your property so your dog can’t get out and get hit by a car.

Invest in Prevention

One of the things that can end up costing you an arm and a leg as a pet owner is if your pet does damage to someone else’s person or property. This is more common with some pets (such as certain breeds of dogs) than others, but it is something to ask yourself about your own pet. You can also lose out on money if your pet does damage to your own home since it reduces the resale value of the property. To avoid the high cost of these problems, you will want to make sure that you invest in prevention. Get proper training for your dogs to reduce aggression. Pet-proof the house to reduce damage to household items. If you have any money left over after you’ve taken care of your pet’s basic requirements, then it is worth it to put the money towards these smart investments.

Reducing the Cost of Emergency Pet Care

Despite your greatest efforts, there may come a time when your pet does need emergency care. It can happen at any time, although very young and very old pets are especially prone to problems. So how do you afford your pet’s emergency care? Here are some top options:

  • Invest in pet insurance. You may not think that it’s in your budget but it can actually be a huge money-saver for some pet owners. Not sure if it’s right for you? Check out our ten signs that you need pet insurance.
  • Dip into your emergency fund. Hopefully you have created an emergency fund to help you cover unanticipated expenses. Since your pet is part of your family, it is certainly reasonable to dip into your emergency fund to pay for emergency pet care as needed.
  • Look for free / reduced fee pet care. Sometimes you can get a lower cost on emergency care by going to a local vet school or local vet clinic rather than going to a private veterinarian. Alternatively, you can seek out financial aid for pet owners; the Humane Society has a comprehensive list of organizations that provide such aid, as does the ALF. Financial aid organizations are particularly helpful to assist you in covering the costs of pet care when your pet has a long-term disease such as cancer or diabetes.
  • Low interest loans. If you find yourself in a position without an emergency fund and unable to qualify for financial aid as a pet owner, then your only other choice may be to take out a loan. Look for a low interest personal loan that you can pay off quickly to limit the impact that this setback has on your budget. Re-work your family budget to incorporate the pay off of the loan.

Is Pet Care Worth It?

Many people consider their pets to be a part of the family. Pets provide companionship and entertainment. However, you should be realistic about your ability to care properly for a pet. If you are having trouble meeting even the basics of pet care, let alone preparing for a pet emergency, then it may be time to consider whether there is a better alternative for the pet than remaining in your home.