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Pet care tips on a budget

Our pets provide us with so much love, companionship, and support that it can be easy to overlook the fact that pet ownership is a responsibility that comes with costs and obligations. First-year expenses for a new dog (adoption fees, medical exam, vaccinations, and spay/neuter) are estimated at $1000. Factor in the one-time costs—like a collar, leash, crate, food bowls, and toys—and you can expect to add another $200 to that first-year total. After adding ongoing expenses of care (food, grooming, and treats), it can seem like dog ownership is beyond your means.

Don’t panic! There are lots of ways you can keep your pet care budget under control without skimping on your dog’s basic needs. Let’s take a look at a few:

1. Exercise with your pet.

Getting outdoors with your dog is one low-cost way to exercise both you and your pet. Hiking trails, walking paths, and parks offer an abundance of free opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while letting your dog chase a stick or just shake out the sillies. If you have a dog that enjoys the water, a dip in a local creek or lake can provide some important exercise and a welcome cool-down on a hot day. And when you just want to rest while your pup plays, there are community dog parks that let your pet build important socialization skills while you catch up on a good book.

2. Skip the high-priced treats.

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of price variation among dog foods and treats; however, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean more nutritious. Your pet can enjoy healthy treats that won’t break your budget. If you’re already feeding your dog a kibble high in protein and low in carb fillers, that’s half the battle. You can ask your vet to recommend a low-cost brand of nutritious treat, or you can even make dog treats at home.

Editor’s Note: Scarf’d simple pet recipes: easy-to-make and dog approved. Crafted in our office test kitchen with the help (and appetites) of our beloved Figo dogs. So, go ahead and share these tasty treats with your pup.

3. Perform basic grooming at home.

Hiring a pet salon to bathe and groom your dog can get expensive quickly. But with just a few tools, you can provide basic grooming for your dog at home. With a gentle shampoo, towel, brush, and flea comb, you can fulfill all the basic grooming your dog needs to maintain a healthy coat and skin. Regular brushing (a couple of times a week) and a bath once every 2–3 months is sufficient for most short- to medium-length fur. And a careful weekly combing for parasites during flea and tick season can go a long way toward preventing parasite-borne conditions like Lyme disease.

4. Seek financial assistance.

If even the first-year expenses of dog ownership seem daunting, don’t give up. There are many organizations that believe financial limitations shouldn’t prevent you from providing a loving home for a dog. A range of foundations and nonprofits offer different forms of assistance for pet owners in financial distress. A recent article in The Dogington Post provides a comprehensive, state-by-state listing of organizations offering financial assistance for all types of pet care, including feeding, grooming, medical, and spay/neuter procedures. They also list national organizations—such as The Brown Dog Foundation, Friends of Animals, and The Pet Fund that can help you make pet care more affordable when in need.

5. Invest in pet insurance.

If your pet experiences a sudden illness or injury, the vet bills can send even the most carefully planned budget into chaos. For example, if your dog or cats eats something they’re not supposed to, treatment for the foreign object ingestion can cost $5,000. Fortunately, pet insurance policies like Figo’s can offset up to 100% of your veterinary bill if you’re covered. We offer a range of plans for every budget, so if adversity does strike, you won’t be unprepared. And for a small monthly premium, pet parents are empowered to make care-based rather than cost-based health care decisions.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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