December 9, 2010

Saving Money on Pets, Part 1

The following is part one of a two part guest post. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, Jen!

Hello fellow GB Savers! My name is Jen and I am the proud owner of 2 dogs, a Great Dane and a Shih Tzu. Up until a year ago I was working full time as a Certified Veterinary Technician, but I'm taking a brief hiatus to raise my son. Now that we're down to one income and I'm not getting my sweet discount, pet care has taken on a whole new look. I'm a firm believer in providing for our pets and giving them the life that they deserve, the Bible even talks about our responsibility in taking care of the animals God has given to us. So how do we do what's best and not break the bank? I'm hoping to help answer that question.

Did you know that there are no regulations on pet food? Companies can literally put whatever they want into a bag and sell it as pet food. Even if you buy the same brand of food each time for your pet, each bag isn't required to contain the same ingredients as the last. For example, if chicken is cheap this week, Company X will put more chicken in their food. If beef is cheaper next week, they'll put more beef. Kind of scary. Which is why this is one area that I refuse to compromise. My dogs are always fed a high-quality diet from a company I know I can trust. How do you find these companies? Not on the bottom shelf at your grocery store or Fleet Farm! I recommend visiting Family Pet Food Center on Military Avenue. They only carry high-quality brands of food and are very reasonably priced.

By feeding your pets a high-quality diet you will avoid many health problems down the road. If you give your pets a bargain brand of food, it's no different than giving your kids nothing but cupcakes and jelly beans every day. Those low-quality foods don't provide the nutrients they need to have a healthy immune system, or even give them enough energy to make it through the day.

Many high-quality pet foods have a loyalty program, such as "Buy 12, Get 1 Free". Also, always ask the store if they have samples of the food since the samples generally have a coupon on the back. Lately has had several high-value coupons for quality pet foods.

Switching foods can sometimes cause problems with your pet's digestive system. My Great Dane can't handle change (have you ever seen 160 pound dog with diarrhea? It's not pretty!), so he gets the same food every time I buy it. But my shih-tzu can handle change if I take a few days to mix the old food with the new, so I buy whatever I can get the best deal on for her. And don't overfeed! You could be wasting money by going through food too quickly. A general rule of thumb is 1/4 cup for every 10 pounds of body weight. An overweight pet is prone to a lot more health problems too, so keep them nice and trim!

That yearly trip to the vet for preventative vaccinations can really hit your pocket book hard. After you pay for an exam and vaccines, you're looking at close to $200, and that's if they don't find any other problems. You don't want to skip vaccines, they're an important part of keeping your pet healthy, but there are ways to keep it cheap. I recommend going to the Bay Area Humane Society for their monthly low-cost vaccination clinics. You can find their schedule and cost of vaccines here. Make sure you keep a record of what vaccinations your pet was given in case they have a reaction and need to be seen by another vet.

What vaccines are important? Let's go over them:
  • Rabies-no brainer here!
  • Distemper-another very important, required vaccine
  • Bordetella-your dog needs this if they will be with other dogs, like being groomed or boarded
  • Lyme-your dog needs this if they have contact with ticks
  • Lepto- this is an important vaccine that protects against a life-threatening illness spread by rodents- I highly recommend it.
  • FVRCP-this is distemper for cats and required
  • FeLV- this protects cats against Feline Leukemia but is not necessary if your cat never has contact with unknown cats
Watch for Part 2 tomorrow!

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