Budgeting For Pet Care in a Bear-ish Market

Dog MoneyIn today’s economy there is a lot of talk about bulls and, unfortunately, bears. So what kind of return can pet owners anticipate from their friends that bark, purr, hop, slither and scurry?  

Any financial advisor worth his or her salt will say that you must evaluate expenses before considering potential returns. But it’s so easy to impulsively fall in love with a pair of longing puppy eyes, or a kitten’s adorable antics. The last thing on our minds is the cost of cages, leashes, collars, training classes, vet visits, grooming, feeding and toys –  not to mention cleaning and replacement costs that may arise if your pet damages something of value in your home, like carpet, furniture or shoes! But caring for pets – no matter what size – comes with annual costs we must consider. A practicing pet owner is familiar with these expenses, but first time pet parents, or those who have spent many years pet-less, might overlook a pet’s effect on the family finances.

To give you an idea of the financial commitment that accompanies pet ownership, here are a few estimates compiled by the ASPCA, which account for the standard costs of pet food, medical care, grooming and necessary supplies.

Estimated Annual Pet Ownership Costs
Small Dogs: Little dogs are the fastest growing pet trend. But while their size may save in areas such as feeding and crates, they aren’t always light on costs. A typical small dog, (5-20 pounds), can cost $1,314 a year.

Medium Dogs: Stepping up the size of your canine to 20-45 pounds will increase your spending in areas such as feeding, vet care and supplies to an annual outlay of $1,580.

Large Dogs: Dogs weighing 45 or more pounds can make a dog-gone dent in the wallet! Large dogs need more food, bigger crates, and higher doses of medications when necessary. Expect to spend $1,843 annually for your big bowzer.

Cats: Kitty costs are slightly less than those of their canine counterparts. Cats have fewer expensive needs, but offer just as much love and companionship. The typical cat owner will spend $1,035 each year.

Guinea Pigs: Believe it or not, these little fur balls will go through more than twice as much litter in one year than their feline friends! But they can save you in the veterinary costs department. Expect to spend about $705 each year for your Guinea Pig.

Rabbits: Surprise! A bunny buddy can cost more than a cat or a Guinea Pig. The costs of suitable cages and litter can run rabbit owners approximately $1,055 the first year.

Keep in mind that during your first year with your pet, your costs will be a bit higher because of one-time expenses for necessities like crates, cages and spaying or neutering. However, you’ll also want to save your pennies for when Fido enters his senior petizen years and his medical costs may rise.

 

Can you put a price on unconditional love?
Some people find that as their savings evaporate, their need for companionship grows stronger. It’s been proven time and again that pets comfort us – and they don’t care if our 401(k) loses value! Fido is one member of the family who is not going to stress about money.

With that in mind, what can pet owners do to keep the costs of owning a pet down? Here are a few cost savings tips for the money-conscious pet parent:

  • Go to the vet!  In troubled times, it’s easy for pet owners to skip annual checkups to save money. However, Benjamin Franklin’s famous adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to preventative veterinary care.  Early diagnosis can deflect illnesses that get more costly over time. Some vets even offer special incentives for wellness visits, like a free microchip or free nail trimming.
  • Vaccinate wisely. While certain vaccinations, such as rabies, are required by law, each individual animal’s risk of exposure to illnesses and disease may be different. So before subjecting your pet – and your wallet – to general vaccinations, ask your vet which vaccines he or she recommends.
  • Spay and neuter your pets. Spaying or neutering will diminish your pet’s desire to wander and save you the surprise of an unplanned litter. Plus, the ASPCA asserts that pets who are spayed or neutered will live longer, healthier lives and be better behaved. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer in female animals, while neutering reduces chances of testicular cancer in males.
  • Save for the future and consider pet insurance. Inflation will affect the cost of emergencies, elderly care and end-of-life care for pets as well as people! Invest the money you’re tempted to spend on toys and extra treats into a fund for possible emergencies, and consider purchasing pet insurance. Pets are living longer thanks to technology, but the life-saving procedures pets can now undergo – MRIs, cat scans, cancer and diabetes treatments – can be very costly. Pet insurance is one way to take some of the bite out of the bill.
  • Serve Fido and Fluffy quality food in moderate portions. While this may sound like one of your own New Year’s resolutions, it also applies to pets. High-quality pet food is more digestible and provides the necessary nutrition in smaller portions. It’s also important to resist the urge to spoil pets with too many treats! 
  • Groom pets at home. Regular brushing can save you a pricey visit to the groomer and save Kitty the inconvenience of a nasty hairball! Learn to trim your own pet’s nails – it’s easy to do and is much cheaper than new furniture and curtains.
  • Spend time, not money on your pet. Animals value our companionship. Be sure to set aside time each day to play, to practice training techniques or simply walk your pet. Giving them time and attention provides exercise, socialization and bonding that meets every companion animal’s needs, and won’t cost a dime.

Pets don’t have to break the bank—they can actually bring healthy returns … even in a bear market!

Kristen_Buck-60x60

Written by:
Kristen Levine

March 19, 2010

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