Petonomics 101: Pet owners tightening belts while getting animals the best they can afford

Bathing and grooming pets at home is one way owners are saving money.
Bathing and grooming pets at home is one way owners are saving money.

Rising prices for veterinary care, food and pet-related products and services have pet owners looking for ways to save while still ensuring that their pets don’t have to do without. Even small changes can make a big difference. Regular wellness care or purchasing pet health insurance call for spending money upfront, but they can save your bacon if they mean discovering a pet’s health condition early or having the means to treat an expensive illness or injury.

We asked pet owners and experts around the country how they recommend dealing with higher costs for pet care. Here are their tips.

✤ Take advantage of subscriptions to products you buy regularly. “It was a huge pain initially, but for recurring products, I set up subscriptions,” says Indiana-based Maggie Marton. “For nearly everything — meds, food, fountain filters, Feliway, litter — there’s a website out there that offers a discount for a subscription. All told, I spend 10% to 20% less on these items.”

✤ Do it yourself. Christie Keith, who has four dogs — one of them a giant breed — has begun bathing and grooming her silken windhounds and Scottish deerhound herself instead of sending them to a professional groomer. Beth Quade learned to sew so she could make clothes and collars for her thin-skinned Italian greyhounds.

✤ Take preventive care seriously. “Early intervention can save thousands,” says veterinarian Kathryn Primm, owner of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee. “People think they are saving by doing an internet search and trying stuff at home, but many times it won’t work, and the delay makes the pet sicker.”

Preventing parasites also saves money.

“Heartworm prevention ranges in cost based on size, but is usually less than $10 per month,” Primm says. “Treatment costs more than $1,000.”

✤ Ask if you or your pet might qualify for special programs or discounts. Some veterinarians offer senior discounts, says Jose Kirchner of Sacramento, California.

✤ Don’t wait until your pet is sick to establish a relationship with a veterinarian. It’s a good way to head off problems, Kirchner says. “They’ll know your pets and have records and prior lab results, avoiding the need for a more extensive workup and working blind with a pet they’ve never seen before.”

✤ Get pet health insurance before problems develop. No pet insurance company covers preexisting conditions. Avery Folsom of Delta, Colorado, says, “I have pet insurance to help with vet costs, and PetCo has a program where they give store credit for taking your dog to the vet as well as discounts.”

Some employers offer discounted pet health insurance as an employee benefit. “It’s cheaper than buying it directly, helps with some routine costs, and is helpful for emergency visits,” says Linda Dennis.

Laura Anne Gilman of Seattle occasionally considers dropping her dog Max’s pet insurance, “then she goes and does something stupid," and Gilman is glad she kept the coverage.

✤ Be creative if your dog is a treat hound. Retired librarian Lis Carey’s Chinese crested service dog Cider — with Carey as her amanuensis — landed a gig reviewing dog treats for science fiction fan and industry news blog File 770 (, for which Carey reviews books. The blog editors send treats directly to Cider, and she shares her opinion. Couldn’t hurt to contact the editor of your fave knitting or other special-interest blog to see if they need a canine or feline pet treat reviewer.

✤ Quit smoking. “I have seven dogs, and I am actively quitting smoking,” says Kirst Clements, who is based in the United Kingdom. “I cannot afford to (both smoke and care for my pets), and my dogs come first.”

✤ Shelters may have programs that can help if money is tight. Austin Pets Alive! in Texas (, Jacksonville Humane Society in Florida (, Calaveras Humane Society in California ( and Santa Fe Animal Shelter in New Mexico ( guardian-assistance) are among the shelters nationwide that provide services or information on local resources for food assistance, affordable behavior and veterinary care and other pet care needs.

— Kim Campbell Thornton

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit Pet Connection is produced by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, journalist Kim Campbell Thornton, and dog trainer/behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. ©2023 Andrews McMeel Syndication

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Pet Connection: Hints on how to keep up with rising pet care costs