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Five Ways to Radically Reduce Your Pet Care Budget

July 07, 2010 | 20,133 views
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pet careIn these challenging economic times, most of us are preoccupied with stretching a dollar and shrinking expenses.

If you have pets or are thinking about getting a dog or cat, there are lots of ways to save money on the cost of pet ownership, including:

  • Adopting rather than buying an animal
  • Buying used pet equipment like a crate or kennel
  • Grooming your pet yourself rather than paying a professional
  • Making your own pet toys
  • Trading pet sitting duties with a pet-loving friend

Dr. Becker's Comments:

Saving money on pet-related expenses doesn't mean you have to cut corners on your pet's well-being.

In fact, the more you learn about caring for your animal yourself, the better your pet's quality of life can become. Forgoing many of the "advances" of modern day living in favor of a return to basics and natural methods for acquiring health and longevity, can improve both your bottom line and the life of your beloved pet.

I do want to warn you that the following money saving tips require another kind of investment. They require an expenditure of time, energy and commitment on your part – there's just no getting around it.

But like any other task you learn to master, the more you do it, the better and faster you get at it.

Keep your eye on your goal – saving money and getting a healthier, fit dog or cat in the bargain.

Money Saving Tip #1: Feed your pet a homemade diet

Nutritionally balanced, species appropriate commercial pet food made with human-grade ingredients is hard to come by, and incredibly expensive when you can find it.

Chances are, unless you're already an expert at preparing your pet's food at home or you're spending a fortune on a high quality commercial formula, your dog or cat isn't eating an optimal diet.

Preparing your pet's food in your own kitchen, using balanced, varied recipes like those found in my book Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats, has so many wonderful benefits, including:

  • Feeding your pet species-appropriate nutrition minus the unhealthy grains, additives, and preservatives found in processed formulas
  • You're in charge of which vegetables and meat sources to include, which means you can customize ingredients to meet your pet's individual health requirements
  • You can insure your pet is getting perfectly balanced nutrition that includes vital omega fatty acids, vitamins and minerals
  • You can buy large quantities of meats and vegetables on sale and prepare your homemade pet meals days, weeks or months in advance
  • You can form a co-op with a pet-owning friend or several and share both the expense and the meal prep work

Money Saving Tip #2: Exercise with your pet

In order to stay fit and burn fat, your dog should get a vigorous, heart-pumping, muscle building, minimum of a 20-minute walk several times each week – and preferably daily. Whether your pup is a Yorkie or a Great Dane, he needs regular aerobic exercise throughout his life to stay physically and mentally fit.

What if you got up a half hour early in the morning and got right outside with your dog for a 20 minute power walk? Or how about when you come through the door at the end of the day, the first thing you grab is the leash and off you go for 20 or 30 minutes?

What if you incorporated both those walks into your daily routine, morning and evening?

If your dog is a breed with a high exercise requirement, you can easily branch out from daily walks to any number of physical pursuits that will benefit both of you and cost little to nothing. Activities you can do with your dog include:

  • Jogging
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Agility training
  • Cross country skiing

Money Saving Tip #3: Brush your pet's teeth daily

Dental work is one of the most costly procedures performed at veterinary clinics.

If you consistently care for your pet's teeth at home and get her into her vet for annual professional oral exams, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood your cat or dog will ever need expensive, risky procedures like tooth extraction.

In addition, poor dental condition is a major contributor to other problems including heart, lung and kidney disease -- all of which can mean a significant risk to your pet's good health and your wallet.

Brushing your pet's teeth can seem like a formidable task, but it's not as difficult as you might think. Once you both get the hang of it, it can become a daily routine that takes just a few minutes to accomplish, but pays huge dividends in terms of your animal's health.

Here's an instructional video on how to brush a cat's teeth that includes a four-week training program.

Visit here for instruction on how to brush your dog's teeth.

Money Saving Tip #4: Perform regular at-home wellness exams on your pet

At-home wellness exams shouldn't take the place of regular vet visits (preferably twice yearly), however, keeping a careful watch on your pet's overall condition can save you money and heartache down the road.

Regular wellness exams help you understand what is normal, and therefore what is abnormal, for your pet.

If something about your pet's health changes from one at-home exam to the next, you can react right away. Early intervention can save your animal's life and is often much less costly than treating a full-blown disease that has been in the works for months or even years.

Knowing your dog's or cat's body end-to-end – familiarizing yourself with how your pet normally looks, feels and smells – can help you make good decisions about when to see a vet or take your animal to an emergency care clinic.

Maintaining a relationship with an integrative veterinarian is very important. Annual wellness visits end up being a LOT cheaper than intermittent crisis visits due to a pet's illness. The cost of treating disease almost always ends up more expensive than partnering with a wellness veterinarian to prevent illness through routine well-pet visits that identify problems and potential issues early on.

Money Saving Tip #5: Use safe, natural pest control agents

Chemically based flea, tick, mosquito and other pest control products are not only hard on your pocketbook, but potentially dangerous to your pet's health

There are a number of safe, natural, effective ways to save Fido or Fluffy from an infestation.

For example:

  • You can make an herbal flea repellent by adding a few drops of certain essential oils to your pet's collar
  • You can make an herbal flea powder or rinse for your pet
  • You can buy cedar oil flea eradicator specially formulated for use on dogs and cats
  • You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth along the walls of your house to eliminate fleas, ants, cockroaches and other pests
  • In many parts of the country, year-round heartworm prevention is overkill and unnecessary. Reducing your pet's protocol to the bare minimum reduces costs and toxicity load

Your holistic veterinarian will be able to advise you on the effective use of natural products to keep your pets pest-free at a fraction of the cost and risk associated with harsh chemical preventives.

[+] Sources and References

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Food Democracy Now
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Vitamin D Council
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Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico