Pets for Less: Save on Your Best Friend

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

It's that time of year again. Time to take our old friend, a mutt whom we adopted at the pound twelve years ago, to the vet. He'll be excited until he gets there, but when it's over he'll happily leave with a treat and new vaccination tag. For me, however, the pain of the shots lingers a bit longer.


Last year we invested more than $150 in one single visit to our veterinarian. Add onto that the year's supply of flea and tick medicine, and he's topping $200. This year, with the economy the way it is we decided that everybody was cutting back, everybody.

The Shot

The first place we decided to cut our vet costs was at the vet itself. Knowing that our dog has been an exceptionally healthy animal who has been on routine worm medication, we opted to only have him vaccinated. At this point we'll recognize signs of serious illness; we've gotten to know him pretty well by now.

However, to vaccinate at our vet incurs a hefty office visitation cost as well as a slew of vaccines. Instead, we called our local chain pet store (Petco for our area) and asked about vaccinations that they offered. Luckily, they offer a Saturday clinic that provides all of the required vaccines for dogs and cats for $49. If we opt for the additional heartworm and other parasite check our bill still comes in under $75. The only cost? We have to arrive on a Saturday at 2pm and wait in line. Our trip to the vet takes well over an hour, so we figure we'll bring a book and find our place in line.


The Maintenance

Again, luckily we have a healthy pet. However, a few years ago we cut the cost of our flea and tick medicine by ordering it online. The exact same box arrives in our mailbox (just like the ad on TV claims) and we save nearly half the cost of buying it at the veterinarian. By purchasing a year's supply at once we save even more, sometimes getting a full month free. It pays for the shipping. If we combine orders from our family and buy all the dogs' medicines for the year in one large order we receive free shipping and the months free. Not bad.

The Food

Before our dog became a permanent fixture on our couch (remember, he's twelve. That's the equivalent to an 84 year old man), he required more energy than a teenager. We were tempted by the ads for the high-priced dog food like Eukenuba and Iams. They touted benefits for the active dog and the growing dog.


However, before buying we talked to a very down to earth veterinarian who offered this test: Lay a handful of dog food on a non-waxed paper plate overnight. In the morning if the food left some greasy marks, it was a valuable dog food. He claimed that the brand name foods are only selling the brand and not the benefit.

However, he cautioned against foods that didn't have the level of moisture that showed on his test. One such food we quickly found was Ol' Roy marketed for Walmart stores as well as our local grocery store's generic Dog Chow. The same veterinarian recommended Purina or Alpo, but warned that the dog would decide which he preferred (Dogs must be like people deciding between Pepsi or Coke; it's either one or the other but not both.) We've been cycling through Purina Puppy Chow (yes, he's a Pepsi type of dog), Purina Dog Chow, and now Purina Senior. He seems happy with it, and at $8 a bag so are we.


The Love

Regardless what level of care you give, your pet will appreciate nothing more than your love. If he needs veterinary care, give it. If she needs special food for a sensitive stomach, feed it. Just love your pets; they'll love you back! (It's also not a bad idea to invest in an at-home care book which can save many trips to the vet for silly doggie things like swallowing a bee or cutting a paw. We've been there for both. The bee cost us $120.)

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at

May 30, 20090 found this helpful

I've also heard that the rabies vaccine lasts up to seven years but now vets give them once every 3 yrs (vaccines account for a good percentage of vet's income) .

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June 1, 20090 found this helpful

Another good idea for all pets is to have an identification tag on your pet's collar. We have been getting our tags at for many years. Custom engraved tags are $5 with free shipping. Customer service is great! I always get the brass tags, but they have plastic and aluminum tags also. (My husband swears by the brass collar tags for his hunting dogs.) Five dollars is pretty cheap to make sure your pet finds his way home. Also remember to spay and neuter your animals!

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April 8, 20110 found this helpful

Be careful about "cheap" dog food. While a vet may say it contains the appropriate nutrients, It can be similar to eating McDonalds every day and then taking a vitamin! The first listed ingredient should ALWAYS be meat. Never a grain or other "filler". Also, look up the definition of "meat byproducts". Did you know this can mean just about anyting. The QUALITY of the food we feed ourselves and our pets is very important. Also, the better the quality of food, the less you have to feed and the less you have to clean up-lol

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April 8, 20110 found this helpful

Iams and Eukanuba are not actually high quality dog foods. is an unbiased great web-site to check out how a dog food ranks.

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April 8, 20110 found this helpful

I agree with almost everything you say except the food part. Buying cheap food is only going to lock you into a life time of vet visits as your pet will get ill more frequently and more severely. The person who said feeding cheap food is like feeding McDonalds every day was correct, put crap food in your dog will only lead to bad results. Feed the highest quality you can afford. There are lots of good choices out there and dgofoodadvisor or Whole Dog Journal is a great place to start looking. And another thing, if you don't want to vacinate older dogs for rabies every 3 years, have your vet run a titer test to see if the old vacination is still effective. If so, you are still "legal" and don't have to put more medicine into your dog.

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April 8, 20110 found this helpful

Please read all of my past posts if you love your pet. NO grocery store food. No poisons, they kill. Food grade diatomacious earth for intestinal worms. NO poison vaccines. Immunities present in almost any dog with just a few years of age. Did you know there are euthanized animals from the shelters being put into pet food? Complete with the euth poison that does not cook off. Google it for the proof if you like. Borax for fleas. Natural remedies, no poisons, no vaccines, decent food. Protect them please. Don't kill them

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July 16, 20130 found this helpful

What happened when he swallowed the bee?

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