Owning a dog is expensive. With the cost of food, vaccinations, preventative medicine, grooming, incidental vet bills and toys, it’s no wonder that in a tough economy Fido is the first to receive his walking papers.

While at our local shelter a few weeks ago, I noticed that almost half of the dogs that are there were turned in by their owners. My heart broke for the poor animals looking at me with hope in their eyes and my heart broke for the owners who had to make the decision to give up their beloved pet.

I said as much to the manager of the shelter and he told me that over the next year, as the economy gets tougher there will be more and more owner surrenders. So, how does a loving pet-parent avoid having to make a decision like that?

Is there any way to save money, while still providing the best care possible for your dog? In short, yes, there is. Below are just a few of the ideas that were provided to me by owners of rescues and shelters.


Always feed the highest quality food that you can afford to feed. In the long run, it saves you money because you won’t have diseases associated with malnutrition to deal with. However, check the recommend serving size on the bag.

Dog food manufacturers want to sell more food, so they will recommend that you feed your dog more food than he actually needs in order to meet their goal. Start toward the low end of the scale and add or subtract as needed.

Watch for coupons for your dog food. Check out the manufacturers website for coupons or bulk-deals. Many manufacturers offer frequent-buyer programs where you get one free item after buying 10 of like value.

Heartworm and Flea and Tick Prevention

Shop online. Check www.kvvet.com and www.1800petmeds.com, they offer medicines much cheaper than your vet probably sells them. Ask your vet about generics! There are options available other than Heartgard and Frontline, and they’re much less expensive.

Do not make the mistake of skipping these medicines. If you absolutely cannot afford them, talk to your vet – they may be able to sell you a month at a time or help you out for a month.


If you know what you’re doing, it is possible to give your dog vaccinations yourself. You can buy the vaccines online. However, for most of us, this isn’t a particularly thrilling thought.

Instead, talk to your vet and explain that you are in a financial bind right now and ask them to make recommendations. They can advise you to what vaccines can wait or suggest other ways to save money.


How about bathing Fido yourself? Skip the frou-frou doggie shampoo and instead, share some of your shampoo with him.

As long as Fido doesn’t have skin issues and you’re not using a medicated shampoo – there’s no reason why you can’t share with him. Do you have a dremmel tool?

It makes a great grinder for Fido’s nails. With a little practice, you can give Fido a trim and have him looking spiffy. You might want to leave the frou-frou poodle cuts to the professionals but for a quick trim, you can do it.

Vet Bills

Hopefully by now, you’ve made friends with your vet and explained to him that you’re trying to save money while still providing the best possible care for your pet. If you have a concern about Fido – call first, if possible.

Your vet will let you know if it’s imperative that he see him. For minor scrapes my vet has recommended Neosporin and an e-collar. For a case of the itchies? Benadryl. I’m not saying that you should self-medicate – but there are times when a phone call with the vet will save you a heap of money.

If you have a dog with anal gland issues, next time you’re at the vet ask him to show you how to empty them. It is NOT a fun thing to do – but again, it will save you some money.

The only thing that you can do about injuries… is prevent them. If your dog is injured and you feel that he needs to see the vet… take him. If you have to go to the emergency vet – take him.

Be honest with them about your financial situation and ask them to give you the most affordable care possible – perhaps a sedative will get your dog through until morning when you can see your personal vet.


One of the greatest expenses in owning a dog is kenneling. Especially if you own more than one. Do you have friends with dogs?

Ask them to keep your dogs for you while you’re out of town… then return the favor. If they can’t keep all of your dogs – ask them to keep one… even a small savings is still a savings.

The goal is to save as much money as you can so that you can keep your dog through financial difficulty. Ask the right questions, be honest with those in a position to help you and be creative.

If, however, you find that you absolutely cannot keep Fido, do your best to rehome him. Advertise in the paper or on Craig’s list. Insist on doing a vet reference check. Ask to see where Fido will be living.

You owe it to your friend to do your absolute best to find him the best home possible. If worst comes to worse, call a local rescue.

Make sure that wherever you take him has a no-kill policy. Fido will thank you for it, and so will animal lovers around the world.


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