If you visit with anyone from Paula Deen Enterprises for more than two minutes, you’ll quickly learn that we are all animal lovers. I might even be the extreme as I started my own pet rescue here in Savannah ten years ago, something that has been a great love but a lot of work. While pets offer a lot of fun, love and companionship, they aren’t without financial burdens. Here are some tips I hope will help you to keep your pet and your checkbook in balance.
1. Chew toys are cheaper than replacing furniture. Bored pets can become destructive pets, and are one of the top reasons they end up in animal shelters or rescues. Just like you, your pet needs stimulation. If you leave him to his own whims, he can’t be held responsible for the outcome. Take advantage of Kong toys, busy bones, etc (proper chews will also provide for better dental health). Whatever you do, do not give your dog old shoes to chew. They will not know that the old ones ok, and the ones you wore yesterday are not.
2. A well-exercised pet will reduce landscaping costs. Make sure your pet gets at least an hour a day of some sort of exercise, whether you take a walk with them or just let them run the backyard. Some dogs really do better as part of a pack, so if you have a one-doggy household, make a play date or arrange for doggy daycare a couple times a week. If you don’t want your dog to be a digger, don’t leave them in the yard unattended. I can vouch that pvc pipes, chicken wire and even bricks are not deterrent enough for the most determined excavator pooches.
3. Quality pet food that is lower in fat will fill your pet up more than the cheaper, generic brands, thus reducing the number of bags you have to buy. Register on the manufacturer’s website for coupons, or make friends with your local pet specialty supply shop as they will often email you for sales and discounts.
4. Groom your pet yourself. I admit, this is where I splurge as my oldest dog is a Husky mix, but if I am feeling up to spending about an hour negotiating with him to keep standing up instead of trying to sit in my lap, I can brush enough fur for about 20 or so Chinese Crested (hairless) pooches. Brushing your pet daily will keep you from expending electricity vacuuming loose fur from around the house and will provide a nice workout for your arms. However, if you have a young child, make a game of it and give them a small dust buster to “attack” the furballs (my young son is in training for this right now).
5. Keep up with your pet’s vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm preventative. There is a saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cost of a six-month supply of heartworm preventative could be $40 to $70 depending upon the size of your dog, but a heartworm treatment starts at around $600 and can cost upward of $1,200 if your dog needs more than one, as most of the ones in our rescue need. Additionally, if your state mandates a yearly rabies vaccine, failure to get the vaccine on time can cost you fines and even impound fees. If you don’t keep up with your pet’s other shots, you could spend more in treating your pet for the viruses and diseases caught than if you just did the shots in the first place. Many areas now offer low-costs vaccine clinics to make it more affordable for yearly shots, but they cannot take the place of a good exam from your vet. Make sure you are getting a heartworm test and fecal test done at some point to ensure your pet is not suffering from any parasites.
6. Make use of crates and pet beds. Animals, especially canines, crave their own den space. If they are not given their own space, their only choice is to take yours. If you are single, you might be fine with sharing your full size bed with an 86 pound ball of fur, but even the 6 pound Chihuahua I fostered six years ago believed she deserved my entire queen size bed and would nip at me if I tried to take more than the 10 inches she had allotted me. I finally learned to set the rules as the alpha of the household and each dog has their own space for their bed, toys, bowls, etc. Even today, they know the difference between their toys and my son’s, though they have made rulings that being on furniture is allowed if no one is around to see (the blond fur on a brown couch was the giveaway). It’s much easier to ask them to go to their bed or crate when guests are over than to ask guests to sit on the floor when pets refuse to move.
7. Get your pets spayed or neutered. As an animal rescuer, I have to harp on this. Having the surgery performed will decrease territorial behavior issues, reduce the amount of clean up from a female in heat, and has been shown to help reduce and even eliminate certain cancer risks from reproductive organs. Unaltered pets are more likely to wander, leaving you with fines for violating animal-at-large issues and even impoundment fees. Then of course there’s the costs of raising unexpected and, usually, unwanted litters. Many clinics and programs exist to provide for low-cost spay options, so there is no reason not to have it done. When millions of animals are put to sleep each year because there are no homes available, it just does not make sense to bring more into the world. (If you are having difficulties finding a program, email me, and I will personally help you find one.)
Pets should be a welcome addition to your family. Planning ahead to budget for routine care, feeding and attention will keep the whole family out of the doghouse.
The models: DaVinci is a 6-year-old Rottweiler/Husky mix I got as an eight-week-old puppy. Ian is now 10 1/2 months old and loves using Vinnie as a jungle gym and splashing in his water dish.