Budgeting for your pet

       

By James Smith

Owning a pet, from a goldfish to a horse can be incredibly rewarding. The positive health and wellbeing benefits are well documented. However as with all major life decisions there are pros and cons to consider before taking the plunge and deciding to give Fluffy a new home. Right up there as probably the biggest consideration is the not insignificant financial outlay of owning a pet. This is not just the upfront expense but the ongoing financial commitment as well. This guide addresses some of those costs and looks at ways to help ease them. Despite everyone's best intentions there are things that you just can't plan for and this is where an emergency loan can step in.

Ongoing expenses

Pets give us lots of love and affection but demand regular care to keep them happy and healthy. Below are some costs to take into consideration if you are considering pet ownership

Pet food

When budgeting for pet food (weekly or monthly), keep in mind a bargain brand food may not be the best option for your little friend. This can be the equivalent of eating junk food so do bear in mind that they too will need a well-balanced diet to keep them healthy. The cost of food differs depending on the size of your pet. It is good to keep in mind that some pets have a special diet because of health issues. Certain foods are off-limits for example chocolate and onions, can be poisonous to dogs!


Cost of dog food

Another hot topic in the world of pet food and pet food nutrition is the use of canned food versus dry meals. The debate continues with some people never using canned food, some exclusively using and some combining the two. When digging into why people choose not to use canned food the argument often goes along the lines of the product being nutritionally poor.

However, it is argued that to brand all canned food poor quality is too simplistic and that some canned food can be good for your pet. For example, canned food often has a higher moisture content which can make sure your pet avoids dehydration and all the complications that goes along with that. Another way that canned food can be advantageous is that it can dilute the calories that your pet receives due to the higher water content which is good if you are watching their weight. Owners also report that their pets enjoy the soft texture and actually this can be helpful to older dogs and young puppies who may have difficulty chewing harder foods.



Remember that you don't have to have to go one way or the other completely as a combination of canned and dry foods is great. In fact, a varied and balanced diet is exactly what your pet should be getting. If you are going to do both then ensure that you select a canned food that compliments the dry food you have for your pet. Ideally the canned food should contain the dry equivalents. This way you will know that your pet is getting the correct nutrients they need in the right amounts.

Pet vaccinations

Some vaccinations are mandatory and not only help keep your own pet fit and healthy but other pets too. However, there might be optional vaccinations that you might feel are not applicable to your pet and you should discuss these with your vet. For example, if your pet is rarely around other animals and does not venture outside that might rule out some of those optional jabs, saving you some cash.

Pet toys

Pet toys aren't just to keep your pet entertained they can also be important for their learning and development as well as keeping them fit and active. The average cost for a good quality dog chew toy for example is £10, but more elaborate training aids can cause costs to rise significantly. It is best to give your pet a variety of good quality toys that will ideally last them a while, paired with a few cheaper toys that can be easily replaced.

Pet-sitters

Unless you are lucky enough to be able to bring your pet to work (or work from home) or perhaps don't work, then spending all day every day with your pet is not going to be option. What to do can depend on the pet, a goldfish for example is not going to present much problems being left to its own devices for the day or even a few days. A dog on the other hand may not respond well to be left alone for significant periods of time. For dogs then, leaving them in a day care centre or paying for a dog sitter to come to your house may be an option to keep your pet from being lonely. Day care for dogs may charge by the hour per dog, or in half or full-day blocks. The prices vary and some centres may also offer additional training and grooming. Pet-sitting is big business.



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Pet training

It is your responsibility to make sure that your pet is properly well-trained. Some pets may need extra training due to behavioural issues. It is recommended to train your pet from an early age. Training does not have to be a negative experience, it provides mental stimulation and is a great way to bond with your pet. Like pet day-care, prices may vary depending on the company or trainer you decide to sign with and some classes can take up to a few weeks.

Track your pet expenses

One option could be to have a separate savings account for your pet. Setting aside money every month, starting when your pet is still at a young age, will be helpful to overcome any emergencies or issues that arise when your pet gets older. It might be an idea as well to look into the financing options should a situation arise where you need an emergency loan. For example, if you have savings tied up or need to sell assets, they might not be free in time to use when required.

Here is a breakdown of a typical monthly and annual costs of owning a cat or dog:


table showing costs of cat and dog ownership

What the above table shows is that the average yearly cost to own a dog is £1,136 compared to a cat at a still significant sum of £910. The table is only a guide and does not include training nor go into much detail with regards to food. As pet food can vary significantly in price so to can the effect on the annual costs. Bear in mind also that an average dog eating an average amount requiring an average amount of trips to the vet is incredibly hard to predict however the gist of the table is clear.

Save money on pet expenses

There are many ways in which you can save when it comes to your pet:

Find discounted medical care

Some non-profit organisations, rescue groups and shelters often offer low-cost vaccinations, spraying and neutering, as well as other routine costs. Another alternative are veterinary schools, which are typically cheaper than clinics and animal hospitals. Even though students will perform the procedures, they will always be supervised by a vet. You never know, you might be meeting your pet's future veterinarian!

Pet insurance

Medical care is quite often the largest expense incurred by a pet owner, so pet insurance could be a useful way to put your mind at rest that that a trip to the vet isn't going to cause any financial shocks. As with all insurance make sure to factor in what the coverage is and weigh that against the premium.

Much like private health insurance for humans, pet insurance involves paying a monthly premium that helps to cover the costs of medical care for your pet. Whilst it can also reduce the cost of vet visits, the main benefit is to help with medical emergencies. Your pet insurance might have a higher limit on its yearly coverage amount depending on the provider. If this is the case, it would be better to reserve your coverage for times when it will be needed most instead of using the insurance to reduce the costs of veterinary care. It is suggested that the best time to insure your pet is when you first purchase it. The primary factors determining the cost of insurance depends on where you live, the age of your pet, and its breed.

Following fashion

The decision to get any pet is a big one not just because of the financial outlay which is the main thrust of this guide but you are going to be responsible for another living being. Animal welfare should be at the top of your priorities. With this in mind old sayings such as "a dog is for life not just for Christmas", shows that this is not always the case. Also consider that some fashionable pets that you may see the latest hot celeb with, such as a snake, might not always make for the best pet. In the world of dogs, it may be tempting to go for the fashionable pure breed with an impeccable blood line but you will be parting with a lot of cash for the privilege. Whilst some people are hesitant to adopt mixed breeds because of their unknown background, the odds of the animal being healthy are actually greater than a pedigree because pure breeds may have inherited health issues.

Rescue pets

By this we mean adopting a pet from a rescue agency or a shelter, rather than a pet that can rescue people from avalanches! Not only is it very rewarding to give a pet a new home it can be much cheaper. Adoption fees are in place to help the shelter function and are used towards sheltering and providing medical care for other animals. Back to dogs again, the cost of a grown dog can be less pricey than a puppy. Whilst puppies are adorable, they aren't always the best option for people who are trying to save money. They require extra attention and care, including veterinary care, neutering, immunisations and obedience training. You can save yourself from all of these hassles by finding an already well-behaved adult.

Bulk buy

Taking a general cost saving tip of buying in bulk to leverage economies of scale, bulk buying your pet food can save you some serious cash. However, ensure that the food you purchase is of good quality. A poor diet can lead to long-term health problems and medical bills.

Embrace DIY

Roll up the sleeves, dust down the craft box and the tools and do it yourself. Not only can this be a fun rewarding experience it can save you some serious amounts of cash.

Pet shampoo. Easier than you think! Mix 400ml of apple cider vinegar and natural/organic soap with a 7-8 pH with 800ml of water. Then add 110g of vegetable glycerin to your mixture. Shake well upon mixing, and again before every use.

Hours of fun for your doggy friend. Grab an old tennis ball, an old t-shirt, some strong string and scissors. Cut your fabric into 2 strips. Fold the fabric strips in half and wrap around your tennis ball. Knot the string tightly the base of the tennis ball and wrap several times around. Slice the tail of your fabric into small strips, then braid them into sections knotting them at the end to make sure they stay tied. All done!

Dogs love cheese and they will love this recipe for a cheesy treat. All you need is 125g all-purpose flour, 25g grated parmesan cheese, 25g grated cheddar cheese 1 egg and 350ml evaporated milk. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Blend together all ingredients until well mixed. Scoop out small blobs and roll into balls. Put balls on a greased baking tray and oven bake for 12 minutes. Lovely jubbly!

Compare before you buy

Learn to compare everything before you buy and rack up the savings. When it comes to prescription medications, determine if the generics can be bought from a pharmacy as opposed to a brand name. Over the counter products can be quite costly, so try to research whether the same medication is available from a different shop at a cheaper price.

Vets

Probably the largest single expense pet owners face however that depends on the frequency of your visits and the severity of the treatment.

How often do dogs need to go to the vet?

For dogs, it is suggested that puppies require frequent visits whilst they are receiving vaccines, but once they turn one year of age, most veterinarians will then recommend yearly visits. As your dog ages, it is recommended to take them at least twice a year as they are often more energetic and thus become more prone to injury.

How often do cats need to go to the vet?

It is suggested that cats should be taken to the vet at least twice a year because cats are skilled at masking health issues, by the time you notice something is wrong it might be too late.

Create an emergency fund

The costs of pet ownership can be unpredictable when taking potential major illnesses or surgeries into account. It's prudent to set aside some cash for the well-being of your pet. The last thing you want is to be put in a situation where you might not be able to afford all of the medical options available should your pet take ill. If this does happen this is where emergency loans can play a part, ones that are delivered to your account fast. Remember that there are loans out there if you have bad credit.

Budget, plan and project

Figure out how monthly expenses will affect your budget. Are you currently overspending in an area where you can cut back, such as on luxury items, travel or eating out? It's important to establish which of your expenses you are willing to cut back on in order to finance the ownership of a pet.

Summary

We hope this guide helped you to understand the costs involved in taking care of a new pet. If you want more information why not talk to your local vet, other pet owners or visit authoritative websites like the RSPCA. With careful planning and consideration both you and your pet can enjoy each other's company for many years to come.