21 ways to cut the cost of pets!

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Australians spend more than $25,000 on their pet dog over its lifetime, according to the latest Bankwest Social Indicator Survey.

The survey, also known as the ‘Family Pooch Index’ reveals that families are spending $2,452 a year on top of their initial purchase of a pup of $585. Over the average life span of a dog – 10 years – this adds up to $25,000.

By comparison, cats cost on average $1,772 a year, while pet fish cost $610/year and for pet birds cost $810/year.

Despite the expense, pet ownership in Australia is extremely high. The Australian Companion Animal Council indicates that 12 million Australians own pets – or 63% of the 7.5 million households. So it’s safe to say that Australians love their animals, but it’s a love that doesn’t have to break the bank.

These tips will help you cut costs while still keeping your animal friend happy and healthy.

1.)    Consider shelter animals: When looking to adopt, consider visiting an animal shelter such as the RSPCA. Not only will you be helping to rescue an animal, but the purchase costs can be considerably cheaper than buying a pet from a shop or private breeder. Animals adopted from the RSPCA are behavior-assessed, vaccinated, desexed and wormed before going to their new home. In addition, dogs and cats are microchipped and dogs are heartworm tested before adoption.

2.)    Choose wisely: If you don’t have a preference, consider getting a small dog over a big one as they tend to have less health problems. Also, keep in mind that some breeds are more prone to illness than others as a result of inbreeding.

3.)    Spay or neuter your pets: Bob Barker’s advice is sound. Aside from reducing unwanted pets, spaying and neutering pets decreases their chances of getting a variety of serious illnesses, which could save you hundreds of dollars in the future. According to veterinarians, there is a 99% reduction in malignant breast cancer in dogs and cars if spayed before their first heat cycle. As well, un-neutered male dogs have a greater risk of prostate infections.

4.)    Look for discounts: Some cities offer discounted desexing services for residents who have Pensioner Concession cards and Health Care Concession cards, for example the City of Sydney charges $40 for cat desexing services; and $159.50 for desexing female dogs/$115.50 for desexing male dogs.

5.)    Keep track: Keep a record of your pets inoculations and other health-care services to ensure that procedures are not repeated if you have to switch vets.

6.)    Research inoculations: Not all inoculations need to be performed yearly – some can be repeated in two or three-year intervals and be just as effective.

7.)    Second opinion: Unless the situation is an emergency, it could be worth seeking a second opinion about your pet’s medical condition and treatment options.

8.)    True emergency: The cost of emergency and specialty after-hours care reflects the higher overheads associated with running a 24-hour veterinary hospital. As such, it’s worth learning what constitutes a true emergency – such as difficulty breathing or weakness. While online research should not replace professional advice from a veterinarian, there is an online veterinary manual called the Merck Vet Manual that lists symptoms and conditions.

9.)    Pet shop advice: Pet shop owners tend to be great sources of information. Even if the problem is more complicated, they could steer you in the right direction.  

10.)  Overfeeding: Overfeeding is a common problem with all pets – including fish. (Uneaten food pollutes the tank water.) Obesity in dogs can lead to: heat stroke, diabetes, ligament rupture, stress on arthritic joints, hot spots, breathing problems and reluctance to exercise. As a rule of thumb you should be able to feel about 1/2 cm of fat over the ribs and rib bones.

11.)  Dental care: “Dog breath” can be a symptom of something more serious. If left untreated, dental disease can lead to serious heart and kidney disease later in life, not to mention loss of teeth. Giving cats and small dogs a daily dose of chicken wings or giving larger dogs uncooked bones can help break down plaque. You can also ask your vet how to clean your cat or dog’s teeth at home (good luck!).

12.)  Free samples: Ask your vet or pet shop for free samples.

13.)  Flea prevention: Fleas cause more skin problems in dogs and cats than all other causes put together. The best treatment is prevention. Pet owners are advised to maintain flea treatment all year round and treat all dogs and cats in the household.

14.)  Tick patrol: Poisoning from ticks can cause paralysis. Check your pet thoroughly for ticks everyday starting at the tip of the nose and working down to the tail. Ticks usually have to be on the body for two days to cause paralysis. If you find a tick, treatment will depend on severity of the symptoms. You can minimize tick infestations by using a tick collar and rinsing pet with insecticidal spray. Oral insecticides are also available.

15.)  Free resources: Look for free information online, or follow radio or TV programs that deal with pet issues.

16.)  Improve diet: Buying the cheapest cat or dog food could cost you more money in the long run. A little more investment in their daily chow could save vet bills later on.

17.)  Prevent jumpers: Cats in highrises have an uncanny knack for falling from windows. Avoid these accidents by keeping windows closed, or slightly open, or installing windows that slide from the top down.

18.)  Shop online: You can purchase medication and food online at heavily discounted prices.

19.)  Toys: Animals need stimulation, but you can save yourself some money by making your own toys such as dog balls or tug toys. One word of caution though – avoid making anything that has small parts (such as bells) that could be a choking hazard.

20.)  Second-hand: Look for litter boxes, cat/dog carriers, leashes, beds and accessories second-hand

21.)  Pet insurance: The Family Pooch Index reveals that families spend around $450 a year on veterinary costs. Only 2% of pet owners in Australia insure their pets – yet it could save you substantial sums of money over the long run. The yearly insurance cost to cover your pet ranges from $250 to $350.

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