Pets are costly and while the most frugal option is not to have a critter at all, Frugal Hound (a rescued retired racing greyhound) brings so much joy to our lives and is well worth the expense. Though we love her dearly, we see no reason to spend serious dough; we care for her in a frugal, compassionate way. We believe in preventative healthcare and no spending on pet frivolities… yet, she still costs almost a thousand bucks a year! Here’s how we keep pet costs down.

Hey Girl
Hey Girl. Want to cuddle?

Select a dog breed with frugality in mind. We chose a greyhound because:

  • They’re lazy and happy to snooze all day while you’re at work. They don’t require a lot of exercise and aren’t likely to tear your house apart while you’re away.
  • Greyhounds are easily, easily entertained. She exhausts quickly and doesn’t require complex toys.
  • Greyhounds have minimal grooming needs–they don’t shed much, rarely need baths, and don’t require haircuts. We trim her nails monthly (using a dremel and sanding drum), clean her ears and brush her fangs weekly, and bathe her every few months.
  • Greyhounds have a sweet disposition and they don’t bark (I’m not making this up), which makes for happy neighbors! Frugal Hound makes a low “roo” noise when she’s excited, but she doesn’t yelp or emote loudly. It’s just not in her nature.
  • Retired racing hounds need loving homes and aren’t expensive to adopt from rescue organizations.

Here’s the breakdown of Frugal Hound’s annual $930.35:

  • Food: $50/month (aka $600/year).
    • Frugal Hound gets grain-free kibble, which is more expensive but supposedly better for her. Most importantly, it doesn’t give her gas (and greyhounds can have some GAS, let me tell you).
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush: $10/year.
    • Train your pup to allow you to brush their teeth. It’s one the most cost-effective things you can do for your animal. If you don’t brush the fangsies, you’ll likely need to pay for professional dental cleanings and extractions later on.
    • Here’s how we brush Frugal Hound’s teeth:
      • Tools: two humans, doggie toothbrush and toothpaste, nitrile gloves, headlamp, lots of patience and love.
      • Mr. Frugalwoods holds Frugal Hound’s mouth open while I, wearing headlamp and gloves, brush every fang. It’s equal parts hilarious, tragic, and difficult.
      • For us, it’s easiest to do this while she’s laying down on her doggie bed. We usually put her head in my lap so she’s calm and relaxed (relatively).
      • Whatever you do, do not get the “chicken flavor” dog toothpaste. It smells horrific. The “mint flavor” is vastly preferable.
  • Doggie Shampoo: $15/year:
    • Turns out, human shampoo doesn’t work well on dogs–poor Frugal Hound got some righteous dandruff.
    • After that mistake, we purchased Earthbath All Natural Dog Shampoo
  • Toys: $10/year.
    • This is definitely an area to save. Dogs don’t need tons of expensive, fancy toys.
    • Frugal Hound has a few toys, but she’s also happy playing with an old hand towel–she doesn’t know the difference between that and a $20 custom crafted critter. She carries the towel around in her mouth like she’s found a real prize! More often than not, she steps on it while trying to carry it and plays tug-of-war between her feet and mouth…Like I said, greyhounds are easily entertained.
  • Treats: $10/year.
    • She likes Trader Joe’s “chicken sticks for dogs,” which are super cheap and can be broken into tiny pieces.
  • Vet checkup: $55/year.
    • This falls under the preventative maintenance category. Who knows if this is worth it, but we try to be good hound parents and it’s a chance to ask the vet our yearly list of questions.
  • Vaccinations: $77/year.
  • City Dog License: $8/year.
  • Frontline Plus Flea and Tick prevention medicine: $65/year.
    •  Preventative measure that’s worth it. We don’t give it to her in the winter,which reduces the cost.
  • Heartworm prevention medication: $80.35/year.
    • Another preventative step. We’re big on avoiding major future costs.
    • It’s not about being as cheap as possible in the moment, it’s about spending wisely to avoid mega pitfalls down the road.
Frugal Hound with her paraphernalia
Frugal Hound with her paraphernalia

Here’s what we DON’T spend money on:

  • A dog walker or doggie daycare:
    • We picked a breed that has no problem staying home during the day while we’re at work. When we first adopted her, we set up a webcam to see how she does during the day and, I am not kidding you, she sleeps the entire 8 hours. I actually made Mr. Frugalwoods bike home from work in the middle of the day once to ensure she was OK–she was sleeping so soundly that she hadn’t moved in hours! She rolled over when he walked through the door.
  • Boarding at a kennel:
    • We swap dog-sitting with friends and other greyhound rescue folks. Finding a good community with your pet is important for this. We’re happy to watch our friends’ hounds and, in addition to it being free, we vastly prefer for Frugal Hound to stay at someone’s home than in a kennel where diseases can spread.
  • Grooming:
    • See above for details on our in-home doggie spa techniques.
  • Doggie outfits:
    • Let’s just say her grandparents keep her well outfitted without us even asking… 🙂

She’s a luxury, but she’s darned hilarious.

This is how she sleeps. No t a staged shot.
This is how she sleeps. I can’t make this stuff up.

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  1. It looks like you already may shop at Costco for dog stuff. Are you buying the Nature’s Domain dog food? It’s only $35 or so around here.

    1. You know, I’ve heard of that brand but our local Costco doesn’t carry it! We do Taste of the Wild, which we order from amazon. It’s not cheap, but it is easy on frugalhound’s tummy… which is a quality of life issue 🙂

      I should inquire with my Costco’s manager about getting that up here. I wonder if it’s a regional thing?

      I assume that’s $35 for a pretty large bag? We’re paying about $45 for 30lbs, which lasts a little over a month. It would be nice to get similar quality for less. It adds up fast!

  2. Yeah, I believe Nature’s Domain is re branded Taste of the Wild. It’s a 35 lb bag. And $28. Pretty awesome cheap. The Kirkland brand is about $27 for 40 lb bag. One of our dogs do well with Kirkland but the other one gets ear infections so we switched to ND and she’s all better now.

    1. Thanks for the tip on Nature’s Domain–sure enough, our Costco now carries it. You’ve saved us $10 a month in hound feed–THANK YOU!!!

  3. The picture of your “grey” on MMM prompted me to visit your site. My husband and I are also am the proud owner of an ex-racer. She is wonderful girl. We’ve had her for 3 years and we wouldn’t trade her for the world. I agree that they are low maintenance, tend to be in good health and are an all-round fantastic dog, even in small homes, given they sleep so much. Thanks for sharing info on these GreyT dogs.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I love hearing from other greyhound aficionados–they really are the best dogs and are in need of loving homes. Frugal Hound turned 5 on Monday and celebrated by eating a sardine! All our best to you and your grey.

  4. Same thing. I just started reading your blog because of your MMM greyhound icon! We have a 7 year old girl who is fawn just like yours. The past two years we’ve brought her to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. It was traumatic for her, and also insanely expensive. This year, I’m trying to keep her teeth brushed myself, but it is not easy!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! I love the greyhound FI community we’ve got going on here! Yes, the teeth brushing is a challenge, but Frugal Hound has become more accustomed to it and it takes us less than 5 mins. Of course then she sulks around and pouts for hours afterwards… but her fangs are clean!

  5. Maybe we should start a greyhound-owners thread on MMM! I have 2 of these beasts, and am always happy to share doggie tips and tricks.

    1. That’s a greyt idea! They really are a perfect frugal dog and we seem to have a nice little contingent of hound-lovers here. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  6. We have a dog and unfortunately use both doggie daycare and a dogwalker. We leave the house at about 7:45am (and walk her before leaving) and come home at 6:15pm at the earliest. I am afraid it’s just too long for her to wait to pee. I wish I could find a cheaper system, as we pay a ton for this daily care!

    1. That’s tough. But, kudos to you for doing what’s best for your dog. I wonder if there’s anyone in your neighborhood you could swap dog walking with? Maybe someone who needs dog walking in the evenings or on weekends? Just a thought.

  7. Folks – please do not save money by buying cheap pet food. Never buy any pet food that’s sold at your grocery store (like a Safeway or CVS). That’s “food” for a cat or dog in the way that Fruit Loops is “food” for a human. It’s filled with saw dust (really), corn, soy, ground up animal hair, tumors, etc. Buy a high-quality, grain-free food from a boutique pet store or a reputable online source. Your pet will be healthier and happier.

    Your pets rely on their humans for all of their needs. Never compromise their well-being to save money. (To be clear, I don’t think the Frugalwoods are doing this. Their dog seems happy, healthy and well-loved.)

    1. We definitely feed Frugal Hound high-quality, grain-free food. Her health is very important to us so we make sure she’s eating well 🙂

  8. Just a thought from my personal pet keeping experiences: have you tried raw food? Raw chicken/beef/lamb etc with bones in. I had 2 cats and a dog who ate nothing but raw meat, bones and organs whole and never had a single health problem, or dental problem even (no doggie breath.) My dog was on kibble before we switched him over and the difference was incredible. Its also super, super cheap, cheaper I think than what you pay for supermarket food even, in my area. Once they learn to chew the bones and rip the meat they’re good to go.

    1. Yum! We actually don’t even eat meat ourselves as it’s too expensive, so, we’ve stuck with high-quality, grain-free kibble for Frugal Hound. But I do know some dogs who love their raw food diets!

  9. I brush my Boston’s teeth 3-4 times a week. She’s so regimented, she actually starts looking at me when it’s time.

    And to save on a toothbrush, I just use an ex gf’s…

    1. That’s impressive! We probably should brush Frugal Hound’s fangs that frequently, but, we usually just do it once a week. You’re smart to have your pup trained to expect it. Nice job on the toothbrush repurposing too :).

  10. Do you feel that the flea/tick can’t survive during the winter, hence why you don’t give it during those months? Just curious

    1. Great questions! Yes indeed. It freezes for so many months here in Boston every winter that there are no fleas/ticks to be had. And, we’re usually covered in snow for a good portion of the winter as well.

  11. I have been using the Kirkland brand for my two old guys (13 and 17) and its been great. Unfortunately I googled it for some reason in aoril 2015 nd found hundreds of people complaining about their dogs getting sick from the food that was purchased around march or april. I’ve stopped temporarily. Thanks for the other dog food suggestions. Love your site

    1. That’s too bad about the Kirkland brand. We’ve had great luck with the Nature’s Domain brand of kibble from Costco, which is definitely cheaper than the food we used to get her from Amazon. We get the “grain-free salmon and sweet potato” flavor, which she likes a lot. Thanks so much for reading :)!

  12. We too are dog owners, wife’s alergies means we’re limited to certian breeds. Our dog got sick with Adisons and the pills are huge lyexpsenive 90€ for a 2.5 month supply. The meds are a 1/10 the cost in Spain (we live in Germany) and first trip we managed to get a years supply (which basicly paid for the trip) the second year the rules got tighten so no luck.

    One trick I found out Frontline flea spray is hugely expensive found out you can buy a spray container (several years supply) for less than the cost of a single treatment of Frontline.

    We too switched over to good quality feed. Our dog is super picky to I have to rotate between various brands or he won’t eat.

  13. Some things you could look into that may cut a few more costs:
    1. Grain-free as of yet is a huge marketing fad in the dog food industry. When you put things on labels such as no corn, soy or grains people will start to think “Are they bad?”
    There may be studies in the future that prove or disprove this so if grain-free falls in line with your ethos it is not likely to be harmful.

    2. Another very cost effective alternative to Frontline is a Seresto collar. This last for 8 months if you don’t bathe more than monthly it ends up costing ~$5-10/month. It’s safer than other collars in that the medication is built into the collar vs being on the outside. Depending on the climate and concern for fleas this can be effect if started around March each year.

    3. Brief note on brushing. Ideally brushing is done twice daily just as with people due to the fact that plaque starts building up on teeth within hours after brushing (just like with people!) That being said about 1% of people are able to do that. If you can it makes a huge difference and some is probably better than none. Using products (treats or water additives) are usually easier so using as a resource for veterinary dentist approved products (they did studies to see if the products actually proved to be effective in slowing tartar build up) can be helpful. Doesn’t mean other dental products aren’t effective just haven’t gone through the approval process. In general what ever you can do consistently is going to be the most effective

    Hope some of this is helpful for some people. It’s great seeing The Hound in all the costumes! She is super cute!

    1. Great suggestions, especially re: the Grain Free. My vet actually mentioned that some grain in their diets may be beneficial. As far as the collars, be forewarned that Greyhounds are very sensitive to these types of collars and it is often recommended not to use them. They do not have an undercoat and also have extremely thin skin. Just thought I would let you know.

  14. Thanks for the great insight. I would like to add a few tips that have helped me save money without sacrificing my dog’s health. First, there is a site called Dogfood Advisor. They rate dog food and tell you why the food is receiving its rating. I feel that feeding quality food even if it costs a little more, saves money in vet bills down the road. My dog costs me about $45 a month to feed–that includes a daily dental stick treat and a wet dog food that is rated five stars out of five. Also, the Dogs Naturally website has saved me thousands of dollars during my dog’s life by educating me on a lot of treatments and remedies (I am in no way connected with this site though I used to be an affiliate. I take my dog for basic vet care but refuse to give her booster shots each year. After reading updated protocol and articles on these shots, I stopped giving my dog booster shots when she was three years old. She is now a healthy and vibrant 9 year old with no ill effects. I only take her for a three year rabies shot and yearly heartworm exam. I no longer give her heartworm prevention all year long as I had been brainwashed to do. I now follow a more sensible protocol and dispense according to the seasonal temperature in my region. Read the fine print on Frontline Plus. The flea treatment effects last for three months–not one month. The tick treatment effects only last for one month which is why they say to give it month, but if your dog isn’t likely to get ticks why give it monthly? I no longer give my dog chemical flea prevention treatments. I use Vet’s Best during the summer or another natural product I discovered on a vet’s website. I only use Frontline Plus once a summer–only if I see a lot of fleas. This summer-not at all since I didn’t see any.
    I’ve been saving money and avoiding bombarding my dog with tons of toxic commercial pesticide chemicals, vaccines, and products that are pushed on pet owners for commercial gain. These tips might not be for everyone and it’s always best to ask a trusted vet about these issues, but they have been working for me. I agree with mm about not buying food from a supermarket. Plus, don’t think that more expensive equals quality all of the time because that is not always the case. It’s best to check a pet food’s recall record, the countries where they source their food (that’s not the same as where it is produced) and other factors that you can learn about on The Truth About Pet Food site.

  15. Trying to find a decent toothpaste is my latest mission. In my brand new dog mum state the vet suggest I bit the chicken liger flavour they had in store. Pooch was fine letting me look at her fangs but literally gagged when I gave her a taste of the paste haha. Need to find a solution – her breath is lethal!

  16. You might want to read “Pukka’s Promise” (from the library of course 😉 for the section on heartworm prevention — you can stretch that medication out to at least a few years in most places in the U.S.

    You should also look into varying the kibble that you offer. (This is also covered in the book.) Dogs who eat the same food for years are more likely to develop health problems than those who have a more varied diet.

    1. I have a few friends who got pet health insurance. Once just got reimbursed for over $10,000 in expenses. I don’t think that it the norm. We don’t have a separate account for Penny greyhound; we just consider any emergencies for her to be akin to emergencies for us.

  17. Consider extending the swap idea – toys, collars, coats. Penny greyhound quickly tires of toys, so we pass them on to other families. As for her collars, I buy the material on sale and have someone make them. That saves $10 to $15 per collar. That adds up when the fashionista has at least one collar per month. Anytime she gets a new collar, we give away an ‘old’ one. {I admit she does not need that many collars but I like her to look festive.}
    We recently started using a not-for-profit online pharmacy. Prices are better and profits go to rescue groups/animal shelters (You pick from a list; a new group/shelter can register in a matter of minutes).

  18. I’d recommend reading the book, “How to Afford Veterinary Care without Mortgaging the kids” by Dr James Busby. I learned a lot about necessary and unnecessary preventative care costs and have now saved LOTS of money over the years with our pack of 5 dogs!

  19. I believe that doggie daycare is not good for dogs anyway. Not only could they get sick, as you pointed out, but they can become stressed because you suddenly left them alone with a bunch of unfamiliar dogs and humans. And any one of those dogs may not get along with yours.

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