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Money-saving tips for pet parents

We all love our pets, but spoiling them as they deserve could also end up costing thousands of dollars a year. Here's how you can save money on your furry friend.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This month 13 ON YOUR SIDE has been helping you find ways to save since inflation continues to increase the cost of just about everything—including owning a pet.

Having a furry family member has always been a long-term financial commitment, but in this economy, it’s especially true.

We all love our pets, but spoiling them as they deserve could also end up costing you thousands of dollars a year.

According to Daniel Caughill, co-founder of 'The Dog Tale', an online resource for new and experienced pet owners, there are things you can do to save money.

Their first recommendation: Adopt, don’t shop.

“You can get a dog from your local shelter for as little as $50 to sometimes maybe a couple of hundred,” Caughill said.

A shelter animal also comes fully vaccinated, microchipped, and fixed, saving you hundreds of dollars.

Experts say medical care will be the single biggest expense over your pet’s lifetime, which is why they suggest investing in pet insurance.

“If your goal is peace of mind, I do recommend it. If you don't think your family can handle emergency $5,000 surgery, you should get it," Caughill said.  

Pet insurance policies vary when it comes to cost and coverage, with some starting as low as $20 a month. Accident and illness benefits can cost up to $600 a year for a dog and about $350 for cats. Accident-only is close to $220 a year for dogs and $134 for cats.

Also, consider veterinary discount plans like 'Pet Assure'.

“They basically operate like AARP, but for vets. So the way it works is you pay a pretty low monthly amount, much less than pet insurance will cost you and they'll send you a card and it'll get you an automatic 25% discount on any participating vets,” Caughill said.

Pet food is where most of your money will go next.

Loyalty or rewards programs offered at stores like Chow Hound save you a few bucks each visit.

“It averages out to about seven to 7.5% per bag if you're doing the buy 12 get one free program, which most of our brands participate in, that can be big savings per bag," said Jess Calton, Store Manager at Chow Hound in Standale.  

While it might be tempting to buy a cheaper brand, experts say don’t skimp on quality.

“If you buy the higher quality, you'll notice that it provides more nutrients per cup, so you're actually feeding less in that bag will last you longer,"  Calton said.

Companies like Amazon and Chewy allow customers to subscribe to regular deliveries saving an average of 5% on orders.

Finally, take advantage of deals in-store and online on grooming tools and services, plus your pet’s favorite treats and toys. Or give your pet a single-ingredient snack like sweet potatoes, cheese or carrots.

Your furry friend will thank you.

Low-cost spay/neuter and veterinary services:

Other online resources:

  • Humane Society — humanesociety.org — Great general resource for finding care assistance.
  • Find Help — findhelp.org — Like the Humane Society, another good general starting point if you’re looking for help.
  • Petfinder — petfinder.com — A good resource for finding shelters in your area if you want to reach out to them for help.

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