7 Ways to Save Money on Your Pet

From pet insurance to dental care, this guide will help you reduce the costs of your furry best friend.

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Is the cost of your doghouse keeping you in the poor house? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says the annual cost of owning a medium-sized dog is around $1,580 while a cat can cost you $1,035 each year. If these feline fees and puppy prices leave you scratching for funds at the end of the month, try these seven ways to cut your pet costs and put more purr in your purse.

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1. Make a pet budget.

You can't bark about your dog digging you into debt if you don't track your monthly pet expenses. Put your nose to the ground and download this free Budget Spreadsheet to tally the costs of pet food, veterinarian bills, litter, collars and leashes, pet carriers, toys, and cages. Be sure to also account for special costs like grooming, training, and even household damage to floors and furniture. Knowing what you can afford on a monthly basis can help you choose the right pet for your household budget without howling about the unknown costs. No bones about it.

2. Adopt a pet.

Skip the expensive pet stores and breeder boutiques by adopting a pet from your local animal shelter or the ASPCA. Purebred puppies and kittens can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to buy, while adoption fees at shelters are generally under $200 for dogs and $100 for cats. Also, adopting an adult animal over a newborn helps you identify any behavioral quirks and health problems, and lets you better prepare for known medical costs before bringing your new pet home.

3. Shop around for a veterinarian.

Not all veterinarians charge the same price for similar services, nor do they all provide the same level of care for your pet. Before bringing Spot or Fluffy to the closest vet in town, try to meet with at least three in your area and ask for regular checkup prices and emergency service fees. Don't be afraid to ask neighbors and friends which vets they use, what they think of the vet and what the vet charges. Doing your research before your pet needs medical attention is the best way to prevent surprises later when you get the bill.

4. Avoid doggie dress-up or feline fashion.

Your pet doesn’t need to have the hottest fashion accessories, wear a fancy Halloween costume, or play with hundreds of toys to be loved by you. Sure, protective wear may be a necessity for those living in colder or damper climates, but there is no sense in spending hundreds of dollars for silly outfits when just the basics will do.

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5. Get your pet spayed or neutered.

Litters of puppies or kittens may be cute, but they sure are expensive when you factor in veterinarian bills and the cost of finding homes for them. Spend a little now by spaying or neutering your pet to save down the road. And with many unwanted animals put down by shelters each year, simply being responsible by getting your pet fixed will save the lives of many animals.

6. Smile and brush those teeth.

Help take a bite out of doggie dental decay by cleaning your pet's teeth regularly. Ignoring the dental health of your cat or dog could cost you hundreds, even thousands in tooth-related problems such as infections and tartar buildup. Spending as little as $5 on a doggie or kitty toothbrush and using the appropriate paste could help your pet live a longer life with more reasons to smile.

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7. Skip pet insurance?

Insuring your pet against accidents or illness is becoming popular. There's no doubt an ill pet can cost thousands while also causing emotional grief to your family. Depending on your pet (cat or dog), plans can range from $10 per month for limited accident coverage to $50 per month covering illnesses and accidents. But before spending money on pet insurance, run the numbers to see if your pet’s insurance premium would be better off invested in a high interest savings account. And always read the fine print to understand what is covered and the size of the deductible.

Sure, having a pet hang around your household isn't the cheapest way to live, but it can bring a lot to your life. Even though my own adopted mutt can be expensive, I value the priceless moments we've shared. For fun, see 10 Financial Lessons I Learned from my Dog.

Kerry K. Taylor writes at Squawkfox.com, a blog where personal finance and frugal living are sexy, delicious, and fun. Kerry is the author of 397 Ways To Save Money: Spend Smarter & Live Well on Less.