Is Fido breaking the bank? How to save money on pet food, vet visits and more

Choosing to have a pet is rarely viewed as a money-saving venture, and for good reason. As prices rise in just about every aspect of daily life, the basics of pet care have followed suit.

The increased cost caused by Fido or Fifi doesn’t have to break your bank. There are many discounts, alternatives and programs that can significantly lessen a pet’s impact on your finances.

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If you would like to keep more money in your wallet when it comes to pet care, consider these money-saving measures from the Beacon Journal.

Does your pet need meds? Consider human pharmacies

Sometimes pharmacies will offer discounts on pet medications, making them less expensive than from the veterinarian directly. It is important to note that you’ll need to ask for a prescription from a vet to give to the pharmacy. While this option depends on the medication and pharmacy practices near you, it’s worth checking out.

Some pet vaccinations can also be obtained at stores such as Tractor Supply and be administered at home.

Visit a local pet food pantry

Depending on the size of the animals and quality of their diet, pet food can raise the grocery budget significantly. One way to combat this would be to get food from Summit County Animal Control or People Care Pet Pantry.

Summit County Animal Control gives out donated pet food and supplies on a first-come, first-served basis from 4 to 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month. The facility is at 250 Opportunity Parkway in Akron.

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People Care Pet Pantry has bimonthly drive-thru distributions of pet food and supplies at the Petco in Brimfield on alternating Sundays. Those in need must register using an intake form on the organization’s website.

Winston, a bulldog belonging to Diamond Howell of Cuyahoga Falls, enjoys playing in the ball pit during Playing Dog; Come, Stay, Play! at Akron's Hardesty Park in 2019.
Winston, a bulldog belonging to Diamond Howell of Cuyahoga Falls, enjoys playing in the ball pit during Playing Dog; Come, Stay, Play! at Akron's Hardesty Park in 2019.

The Humane Society of Summit County partners with local food pantries to ensure owners have access to pet food when they need it. Supplies of pet food at certain locations are subject to availability, so the group suggests calling ahead.

Check for Chewy and vet discounts

Chewy, a popular online store for pet supplies, has a sign-on bonus for when pet owners sign up for auto shipping. Customers can save 35% of their first order and 5% on subsequent orders when they opt to have those products shipped to them on a set schedule.

In addition, some veterinarians have a reward program for established patients that pet parents can take advantage of.

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There are many health benefits to sterilizing your pets, especially if they are susceptible to pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus common in intact female dogs. But the cost of such an operation can make owners balk at the decision.

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Friends of Animals, an international animal advocacy organization, has online certificates for purchase that certain vets may accept for discounted services. Visit to find a vet near you who accepts the certificate.

Another option is scheduling an appointment with a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in the Akron-Canton area. Some examples are: One of A Kind Pet Rescue (Summit County), Pet Guards Clinic (Cuyahoga Falls and Green), AlterClinic Animal Care (Stark County), Humble Creatures Veterinary Clinic (Stark County) and Mission Possible Animal Hospital (Medina).

Consider your pet’s diet

Sometimes, you get out of your pets what you put into them. If they are having health or behavioral issues, consider doing some research and changing them to a higher-quality diet.

While it may mean spending a little more on a monthly food bill, it could prevent costly repeat trips to the veterinarian or extensive training. It is important to note that this change should come after, or alongside, a medical examination — not in place of one.

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Look ahead in case of emergencies

When your pet is having an emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is how much treatment will cost. Therefore, many people opt into pet insurance, acquire an emergency pet care credit card or have a savings account for emergencies. There are some caveats to most pet insurances that are important to point out.

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Pet insurers do not cover pre-existing conditions, regardless of if they’ve been officially diagnosed, though in most cases, animals with preexisting conditions can still be insured for new injuries or illnesses — the policy may just be more expensive and none of the treatments, vet visits and medications associated with the preexisting condition will be covered. They also may have maximum age limits for new policies, with a cap that is often 10 years old, according to Progressive.

To help identify preexisting conditions and assess the overall health of a pet, some companies require proof of a full medical exam before enrolling in pet insurance. They may also ask for veterinary records. Some well-known pet insurers that require an exam or past medical records are Embrace, Pets Best and Lemonade.

Amy Moore, left, lead RVT and practice manager, clips the nails of Frankie, a male pug, who is being soothed by Kristin McGonigal, a veterinary assistant at the Veterinary Wellness Center of Green in 2021.
Amy Moore, left, lead RVT and practice manager, clips the nails of Frankie, a male pug, who is being soothed by Kristin McGonigal, a veterinary assistant at the Veterinary Wellness Center of Green in 2021.

Pet insurance companies may also enact waiting times before a pet is eligible for different types of coverages. A preexisting condition for cat or dog insurance is typically an illness or injury a pet shows signs of any time before the end of a pet insurance waiting period.

One option that does not require a veterinary exam, medical records for enrollment and does not have an upper age limit is the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program. Unlike many other companies, this insurer also covers bilateral conditions. The exceptions are those considered ligament and knee conditions including ligament, meniscus, patella, and knee soft tissue disorders.

Not into pet insurance? Consider a wellness plan

If Buster is or will soon be a regular at Banfield Pet Hospital, it may be a good idea to sign onto one of its Optimum Wellness Plans. Pet insurance doesn’t work well for everyone, often because of a pet’s preexisting conditions or insurance companies’ reimbursement method for claims — which assume the owner has the money upfront to pay for a service.

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Optimum Wellness Plans are most often used for proactive wellness care and are not based on a pet’s breed, age or preexisting conditions. Each plan is a 12-month package of preventive pet care services, like physical exams and vaccinations, with additional savings on most other Banfield services and products, according to the Banfield website.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Tawney Beans at and on Twitter @TawneyBeans.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: How to save money on pet care amid rising food, supplies and vet costs