Reader Q&A: How to Save on Pet Supplies

Reader Q&AToday’s reader question comes from Dan in Milwaukee. He’s wondering how to save on pet supplies.

I know you  mentioned a while back on Facebook that you recently got a dog. I’m wondering how much you think I should budget for pet supplies every month. Also, do you have any great sources for deals on food, medications and boarding. We are on a level pay plan with our vet, but the food and medications get really costly. Plus, I travel once or twice a month and boarding my dog is so expensive.

Yes, it’s true. Back in August we adopted a two-ish year old lab/chow mix, whom we named Haviv. We also have an extremely anti-social cat named Casey.

(Why – thank you. I’d love to show you a picture of my dog!)

Just like the rest of my family, our pets need to fit into our “on a budget” lifestyle, so here are some of things I have done to keep our costs down.

Pet Medications

Haviv gets heartworm meds once a month (Interceptor, the most expensive one – of course… but he came to us with whip worms, so that’s what our vet recommended), plus his flea meds.

I shopped around pretty extensively and found that PetCareRx had far and away the best prices on our OTC and prescription meds. You get free shipping on orders over $49 (and sometimes as low as $29 with a coupon code), which I always hit when ordering a 6-month supply of meds. And when you sign up thru a friend’s referral link (ehem), you get a $10 credit + free shipping to use toward your first purchase of $35+.

When we had to get meds to treat Haviv’s whip worms, our vet compounded them and sold them to us for a nice discount. It’s always worth asking if that’s an option.

Pet Food & Treats

Some animals have very sensitive digestive tracts, so you have to feed them the same food all the time. But if your four-legged friend is more flexible, there are always good sales on various brands… and tons of pet food coupons to boot!

Just like I do with our own food, I keep a price book. and stock up when pet food hits my “buy now” price.

If all else fails, and you’re a member of Costco, the Kirkland brand is a pretty highly regarded blend and it’s a good price without having to fuss with coupons and sales.

As for treats, I never pay more than $1 a bag – and usually much less. Shop the sales!

The same applies to toys. Plus, we go with the less is more philosophy. Haviv has one rope toy and a KONG (ohmygosh, that thing rocks!). Casey has, um, nothing.

Pet Boarding and Grooming

We bathe Haviv ourselves, so fortunately we haven’t had to pay for any grooming. I know some breeds require more maintenance than others, but if you can go longer between appointments (just like with your own hair), you’ll save a bundle.

And don’t forget to shop around: Don’t just got to PetSmart just because it’s convenient if you’re paying twice as much!

For boarding, again, we haven’t had to deal with this yet, but I would ask a friend first. If you travel a lot like Dan, you probably don’t want to bug a friend every time, so a boarder seems like a good choice.

  • You might be able to negotiate a “frequent flyer” discount with your boarder (eg., stay 6 nights, get the 7th night free) – it doesn’t hurt to ask!
  • Check into “out of town” vets. Here in Kansas City, for example, many of the large animal vets out in the ‘country’ also offer dog boarding at a fraction of the cost of in-town boarding.
  • Look for deals thru local deal-a-day sites. I am constantly seeing boarding specials come across my inbox from Groupon and Living Social. Sign up for those sites, if you’re not already.

Veterinary Care

  • Check out the cost of pet insurance. I know a lot of readers recommended this when we first adopted Haviv. We haven’t gone that route yet, but I suggest that you do your due diligence before deciding for or against it.
  • Find a vet you like and trust – and who will work with you, if need be. When a pet gets sick, it’s easy to throw your credit card at the problem and ask your vet to do “everything possible”. I’m not in the position to offer any advice on how to care for your pet’s medical problems, but I will say that if you don’t have the cash in hand to pay for it, then that needs to be a major factor in your decision-making process.

Pet Budget

As for how much to budget for your pet, there are so many factors that go into that, I can’t give a one-size-fits-all amount. Start by looking back at your spending over the last six months – your average monthly amount is a good place to start.

For our pets, we set up a “rolling” budget of $35/month to cover vet visits and medications. Obviously we don’t spend the full $35 each month, so it sits in an ING sink fund until we need it. Food and treats come out of our groceries budget.

Thinking about adopting a pet? Before taking on the responsibility of an animal, please crunch the numbers first. As Dan alluded to, it can get very expensive to own a cat or dog – let alone a more “exotic” pet.

I’m far from an expert on pets, especially since we’ve only had Haviv for five months, so I’d love for my more experienced readers to chime in, too! I know you have lots of suggestions for saving on pet supplies!


  1. Most of your recommendations are very good. We use PetCareRx for our dog’s prescription and it saves a lot over the cost at the vet. My dog eats food only available at Pet Supplies Plus. They carry a small bag of it, but I special order via phone from them a larger bag. It is cheaper per pound to do this. You may want to see if your pet store can do something similar.

    We recently saved on boarding by buying a package through The place we usually use donated to a charity hosting an auction on it and it saved us a lot of money plus the money we did spend went to charity. I would not do it for a boarding place sight unseen though. I knew what I was bidding for before I bid.

    We did get insurance on our pet. Learned the hard way with our previous dog and several very expensive illnesses late in her life. Insurance on our new rescue dog paid for itself quickly when he contracted leptospirosis within two weeks of it being activated. No, I don’t enjoy the chunk of money that goes out each month for insurance, but after spending about 5K on vet bill’s over 2-3 years, it isn’t something I want to go without again.

  2. I recommend looking at other options than boarding. First of all, you won’t need to worry about Kennel Cough and other “boarding illnesses”. Second, it can be MUCH cheaper. We generally get a housesitter (until recently, we had 2 cats and 2 dogs and I don’t even want to guess how much that would add up to for boarding!), and usually pay about $20 a night. Through our synagogue we usually know a few young adults who are either living at home, living with roommates, or in tiny studio apartments who love the opportunity to have an entire house to themselves (not to mention access to the Xbox, Wii, Dvd’s, etc) and the $20/day is always appreciated — for what almost feels like a vacation for them.

    In addition, we have a 12yo a couple blocks away who LOVES animals, and would probably come let our dogs out and play with them for 30 minutes for free, but I figure even at $5 a time, it’s well worth it (and I help support a young person).

    Finally, look for a young person who loves dogs but whose family can’t take the responsibility of a long-term commitment, (or even those without kids — a single friend once came and “borrowed” our dog for the afternoon) and see if they would be willing to “board” your dog. I know there have been times for our family, where even $10/day would have made a huge difference to my budget and who’d really notice another animal here anyway? This hasn’t worked as well for us (the cats were never willing to consider the “go to someone else’s house for the weekend”), but we’ve done it when we had a puppy and our housesitter couldn’t be here enough during the day. So the housesitter took care of the older dog and 2 cats, and the puppy went and had a blast at another family who got to spend the weekend playing with a puppy, but with no long-term commitment!


    • Great ideas about boarding, Rachel! Thanks for chiming in! Our shul has a list serve – which would be a great resource for finding a young person interested in taking care of your animal and earning some extra money.

      • Even better than a list serve, is watching out for those young adults and regularly inviting them for Shabbat dinner! Someday, I’ll be hoping for someone to do the same for my kids.

  3. I agree that all your comments hit the mark. We do vaccinations at Petco. An area veterinarian schedules one Sunday afternoon each month to go. We usually have to wait about twenty-thirty minutes with both our dogs, but the savings are huge–at least 50% off what the vet charges. We then take our vaccination certificate to the vet so that he has a list of our pets’ current vaccinations. I’d try calling your local pet stores to see if they offer similar vaccination clinics.

    • That’s a great idea about Petco. I also forgot to mention that sometimes counties will offer discount vaccinations, as well as free neutering/spaying clinics.

  4. Lauren Rosen Gerofsky says

    As a parent who cannot adopt an animal into our lives right now, my son loved “sharing” the doggie down the street. Odin was Miss Gretchen’s dog, but my son got to “have him” when she worked late or traveled overnight. Sometimes my son went to Gretchen’s house to feed, water, etc. Odin and sometimes Odin came to our yard or house to play and snuggle. It was a great experience for my son, and saved Gretchen any expenses except for a souvenir from wherever she had visited. A great suggestion in my opinion!

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