I reads the emails

Our sweet Frugal Hound, who is now eight years old, had her annual veterinary visit last month–her first as a “senior canine”–which reminded me of all the ways in which we care for our girl frugally. It is, without a doubt, more expensive to have a pet than to not have a pet (same goes for children… ) but it doesn’t have to cost anywhere near the astronomical sums I hear thrown around. Like every other aspect of our lives, Frugal Hound’s care is, well, frugalized. Side note: I love writing about my beloved Frugal Hound, so if you’re looking for even more on this furry topic, please enjoy:

Pet Frugality Starts Before You Ever Even Get A Pet

The whole Frugalwoods fam

In many ways, the journey to frugal pet ownership starts before you ever even get a pet. There are a number of factors to consider in advance that helped Mr. Frugalwoods and me determine when to get a pet and what type of pet to get.

Jumping blindly into pet adoption and getting a breed “because they’re cute” is usually not an effective route to keeping your pet-related spending in check.

Bringing a pet into your family is a longterm decision and the financial ramifications are pretty profound over the lifetime of an animal. Given this, Mr. FW and I spent a number of years researching dogs and dog breeds before making the decision to adopt Frugal Hound, a retired racing greyhound, five years ago.

Here are the factors we explored before adopting our Hound:

1) Living Arrangements

Frugal Hound is Fancy on a Budget
Also consider the dress-up possibilities 😉

One of the main reasons we waited so long (four years to be exact) before adopting Frugal Hound is that we were renters. In many cities, it is extremely difficult to find rentals that allow pets. Furthermore, if pets are allowed, often a pet deposit or other additional fee is required. The sheer lack of apartments that allow dogs quickly made us realize we’d be better off waiting to get a dog until we were homeowners.

If you’re considering a pet and you’re a renter, look into the possibility of adding a pet to your lease and do a scan of available apartments in your area to see if they generally seem to allow pets. Knowing the landscape of pet/rental relationships before adopting an animal is an easy way to avoid a potentially challenging, or untenable, housing situation.

2) Lifestyle

Mr. FW and I were way too busy to get a dog for many, many years. When we were both working long hours away from home every day and then going to work events/yoga classes/etc in the evenings, we weren’t home enough to care for a dog. We decided to wait until our schedules slowed down and we were able to reliably get home after work and enjoy a leisurely walk with Frugal Hound.

There are plenty of services you can pay or hire to care for a dog during the day–dog walking and doggie daycare primarily–but these are major expenses that should be factored into a decision to get a dog in the first place. If you’re never home to spend time with an animal, is it fair to that animal to live mostly alone? And are you financially prepared to outsource their daily care?

3) Travel Schedule

Mr. FW and Frugal Hound on the trail

Relatedly, how often you travel–for work or pleasure–has a significant impact on the cost and logistics of pet ownership. For a period of time, Mr. FW and I were both traveling for work (often at the same time). Then, I was in grad school full-time while working full-time. Plus, we traveled abroad for fun! All of this travel would’ve quickly made dog ownership a very expensive proposition. While it’s obviously possible to have a pet and travel every week or so, it’s tough on both your budget and your pet. Think through how often you’re away and what arrangements you’ll be able to work out for your pet’s care while you’re gone.

I have to say, in the interest of full disclosure, that we likely would travel even more if we didn’t have Frugal Hound. It’s one element of pet ownership that I didn’t fully appreciate before we adopted her. Anytime we leave home, Frugal Hound must be cared for. And this isn’t just for overnight trips. Mr. FW and I love to hike and, before we lived in the woods with hiking right outside our front door, we did not anticipate the challenges related to owning a pet and hiking all day long on the weekends.

Fortunately, we were often able to have friends or neighbors come over to take Frugal Hound out to enable our hiking day trips, but it added another element of planning for our day trips. To this day, I think traveling is one of the biggest challenges we encounter with pet ownership (more below on how Frugal Hound is cared for when we’re away). It’s also true that some pets can travel with you (and some will hike long distances too, though not Frugal Hound!), but for those who can’t, sourcing their care is a serious consideration.

4) Hobbies and family dynamics

Frugal Hound: amenable to a baby barnacle and/or too lazy to move

What do you enjoy doing? How do you spend your free time? Different types of animals and different breeds have dramatically different personalities. Some dogs need to romp and run in a yard every day while others (ahem, Frugal Hound) are happier snoozing by the woodstove.

Additionally, some pets are more amenable to children than others. If you have kids, or if you plan on having kids, finding an animal that’s well adjusted to children is a wise investment in the future. Babywoods 1 adores Frugal Hound, who patiently tolerates all of her toddler snuggling and enthusiasm for all things dog.

5) Urban vs. Rural: What Kind of pet suits your environment?

We did really well on this one right out of the gate and then aren’t doing quite as well now… Mr. FW and I adopted Frugal Hound back when we lived in ultra-urban Cambridge, MA and she was THE PERFECT city dog. Seriously, if you live in a city, you should get a greyhound. Why? Let me tell you. Greyhounds are quiet, snoozy animals who lounge around the house dozing for roughly 23.4 hours per day. They don’t bark, howl, run around clacking their nails, or destroy the house, which makes them perfectly suited to apartment/townhouse living.

Frugal Hound sniffs the air on a walk around the homestead

They are basically giant house cats. Greyhounds also must be leashed for walks as their prey drive is insanely strong (that’s what hundreds of years of breeding will do) and they’re liable to bolt after a squirrel, rabbit, or passing paper bag. Hence, a leash is necessary to ensure they don’t bolt into traffic or run away (by the way, greyhounds can top out at 43 miles per hour, so you’re not going to catch them). Walking with a leash is divine in the city–and we went on many wonderful strolls together.

However, we now live in the rural wilds and I must say that, for all her wonderful attributes, poor Frugal Hound is not a country dog. She doesn’t like walking on uneven terrain, she’s not a fan of the woods, she’s afraid of the noises that come from the woods (generated by the squirrels, deer, and turkeys of the world), and she can’t be trusted off leash. Although we do just fine out here with our hound, it’s a wonderful illustration to us of how important it is to match a pet to your lifestyle. Different animals have different needs and capabilities and it’s unfair to expect, for example, a very hyper, active breed that requires a lot of exercise to acclimate to sedate apartment life.

Non-traditional Pet Considerations

Over the course of our years-long wait for our lifestyle to come into alignment with our ability to adopt a dog, Mr. FW and I branched out from the traditional set of pet criteria and started to consider a few less frequently considered elements of dog breeds. I’m talking mostly about doggies here since that’s my experience, but I think you can apply much of this to just about any pet out there.

Frugal Hound getting toweled off after a bath. She’s so embarrassed that I posted this.

1) Grooming considerations

Some dogs (and cats too!) require extensive grooming regimens, which means you need to be prepared to either: 1) learn how to groom them yourself; or 2) shell out the cash to pay a groomer on a regular basis. Complicated hair cutting/grooming needs shouldn’t put you off a dog breed, but merely be a factor in your selection process. One of the reasons we were drawn to greyhounds is their remarkably minimal grooming requirements. They’re short hair dogs, so no need to brush, comb, or trim them. Additionally, they’re not stinky dogs, so they don’t require frequent baths.

Our main grooming tasks with Frugal Hound are:

  • Clipping her nails: we’ve used both a Dremel (the cheapest one sold by Harbor Freight) as well as these clippers over the years, and our preference is for the clippers since the process is faster, it makes less of a mess, and is easier overall. I think you need to clip pretty much every dog and cat’s claws, so be prepared to learn this task or, again, pay a professional.
  • Brushing her teeth: using a human toothbrush (we once bought a dog toothbrush that I didn’t think worked very well), doggie toothpaste, and latex gloves. We both wear these gloves to avoid getting dog spit and toothpaste all over our hands, and Mr. FW holds her mouth open while I brush. It’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise!
  • Bathing her occassionally: I like this doggie shampoo after learning the hard way not to use human shampoo… it gave her terrible dandruff!
  • Vet wrap: for the occasional scrape or small cut, our vet told us to clean the wound thoroughly, put a cotton ball over it, and wrap some of this vet wrap around the affected area. Vet wrap is magical as it sticks to the dog without sticking to their fur and saves a trip to the doctor for what amounts to a doggie skinned knee. I highly recommend having a small stash on hand!

2) Consider an adult dog

Another factor in our decision to adopt a greyhound is the fact that they’re adult dogs. We knew that with our work schedules and other commitments we didn’t have the time to devote to training a puppy, which, from what I gather, is an epic undertaking. We wanted a dog who was already house-trained, not hyper, and not likely to rip our couch apart. Puppies are–without a doubt–absolutely adorable, but they are a prodigious amount of work. It’s also true that we needed a dog who’d be content to hang out at home alone during the day while we were at work and an adult dog is much more likely to adapt to this routine than a wee pup. Here again, it’s entirely possible to outsource the behavioral training required for a puppy, but it’s another expense that should be carefully calculated.

3) Consider a shelter dog

Partners in snuggling and food absconding

There are many pets living in animal shelters/rescue organizations in desperate need of homes. Adopting from a shelter is equal parts humanitarian and frugal. It’s massively cheaper to adopt from a shelter versus paying a breeder, which means it’s a way to start your pet journey out on a financially smart paw.

Greyhounds are rescue animals from the racetrack and we adopted Frugal Hound through a greyhound adoption group that takes dogs off the track and rehabilitates them. There are many other breeds with similar breed-specific rescue organizations as well as your local humane society or animal shelter.

Ongoing Pet Care

After the initial start-up costs of adopting a pet, which include paying the shelter/breeder, spaying or neutering, and a vet check-up, there are ongoing, routine expenses related to having a pet as part of your family. While it’s possible to frugalize many elements of pet care, there’s some stuff you just have to pay for and should be prepared to expend money on year after year.

That’s one way to take care of leftovers…

Food: Obviously, they’ve gotta eat. This is another thing to research before adopting a pet as some breeds have more specific/complex food requirements. Frugal Hound does best with a grain-free diet and the cheapest option we’ve found–by a long shot–is the Costco generic “Nature’s Domain” salmon and sweet potato grain-free kibble. It has the same ingredients as the pricier “Taste Of The Wild” brand and a Frugalwoods reader tipped me off to Costco’s knock-off version several years ago. We’ve searched for a corollary of this food in literally every single store in our area and everywhere online and the best deal we’ve found is at Costco.

Vet visits: All pets, even healthy ones, typically need to visit the vet annually, which is likely to run you anywhere from $60-$200 or more if additional tests or treatments are needed. Frugal Hound’s most recent senior canine visit, with blood work, was $184.

Frugal Hound looking epic in the snow. Our friend took this photo at her house.

Prescription Medications: Dogs need medicine too! Frugal Hound takes two preventative medications: one to prevent fleas and ticks and the other to prevent heartworm. This costs us in the neighborhood of $125 annually. I’ve filled her prescriptions at different venues over the years and the cheapest option I’ve found is the online pet pharmacy, Allivet. Costco also fills dog prescriptions, which was a lot cheaper than the vet’s office, but online seems to be the least expensive. My vet actually doesn’t carry her medications and recommended I fill them online.

Vaccinations: Just like people, pets need vaccinations in order to keep them healthy. Rabies, distemper, and a whole bunch of other things that I can’t remember the names of are all required and all have a price tag.

Registrations: Most municipalities require that you register your dog annually, which in my experience of doing this in two different towns, entails providing a proof of their rabies vaccine, paying a small fee, and attaching the tag to their collar.

Tags: Identification tags are a must for pets who go outside. We bought Frugal Hound’s from this super duper cheap website.

Don’t forget the costumes!

Doggie Paraphernalia: Dogs do need a few material possessions to call their own, although they certainly don’t need a pricey Bark Box of toys and treats delivered to them every month. Frugal Hound has two beds, two blankets, a few toys, a collar and leash, a rain coat, a fleecey coat, and this ultra-warm coat for hounds who live in the tundra (aka Vermont). Given our aforementioned residence in a tundra, Frugal Hound also has this fabulous pet heating pad in her bed, which keeps her old bones cozy and warm. I like this heating pad because it’s weight activated, so it only heats up when she’s laying on it.

Pet Sitter/Boarding Kennel: If you ever travel, or go on a long day trip, you’ll need someone to watch your critter while you’re away. Paying for boarding or kennel facilities can tack an extra several hundred–or even thousand–bucks onto your trips, so be sure you’re accounting for this expense anytime you plan a vacation. We’ve actually never paid to board Frugal Hound as we’re part of what I like to call the “informal pet swapping club.” Available in both urban and rural areas, you too can start your own “informal pet swapping club.”

Greyhound babysitting party!

Back when we lived in Cambridge, our “club” comprised a bunch of other greyhound owners–whom I met through our adoption group’s Facebook page–as well as all of our friends who owned dogs. When we needed to go out of town, I’d ask one of these friends to keep Frugal Hound at their home and then they’d request the same of us when they traveled. Now that we live rurally, I don’t know any other greyhound owners, but I do know a lot of pet owners!

We’ve been tremendously fortunate to work out a similar swap system with our neighbors, who have chickens and cats, and are delighted to keep Frugal Hound at their home while we travel. In turn, we pop over to their place to tend the chickens and cats when they’re out of town. It’s a wonderful community system and I highly recommend it! No money changes hands, we don’t keep track of who owes whom, the animals are happy and comfortable, and it gives us a chance to connect with our neighbors and build relationships.

In addition to the monetary and community-building advantages, this type of arrangement is almost a requirement for Frugal Hound. Before she was rescued, she lived in a cage on the racetrack and we fear that being boarded in a kennel would traumatize her as she gets very nervous in noisy, bright, loud situations. She’s much happier snoozing in someone’s living room and our minds are at ease knowing she’s well looked after by friends while we travel.

The Unforeseen: Health Problems

A girl and her hound

While there are a plethora of pet-related expenses you can judiciously plan for, frugalize, and otherwise save up in anticipation of, it’s also true that pets are living creatures and, as such, there’s always the potential for serious health problems. And there’s the possibility that these health problems will be remarkably expensive.

While we can’t always prevent or avoid health crises (either in our pets or ourselves), this is where frugality is, once again, a useful bulwark. Through frugality, you can ensure that you have plenty of money saved up to manage any health issues that befall your pet. With sufficient funds on hand, you’ll be able to pay for them without going into debt or feeling forced to make a very difficult decision. For everything in life we can’t control, a robust savings account can help us navigate challenging situations without worry over money.

Tail-end Thoughts

I think my final take away on frugal pet care is that adopting an animal is a major undertaking. It’s a massive financial consideration and it’s also a relationship likely to last many years, and possibly even decades. Pets add joy and fulfillment to our lives, but they also represent a profound responsibility–both financial and lifestyle-related–that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That being said, I wouldn’t want to be without my Frugal Hound!

P.S. As I shared last week, I WROTE A BOOK! I’m a little bit excited, can you tell?!? My book is now available to be pre-ordered, for which I will mail you a signed bookplate. Check out this post for all the details.

How do you care for your pets frugally? What factors did you consider before adopting a pet?

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  1. My wife and I love dogs but we also know the season of life that we are in. Unfortunately this is not the best time to own pets do to our constant changing schedules. However, when my sister in law was in school we took care of her dog for four years. We loved it and when things slow down again we’d love to have another dog 🙂

  2. This is a timely post! We just welcomed two indoor house rabbits to our family. I grew up owning rabbits and understood the expectations and commitment.

    The rabbits (adorable holland lops!) have been great additions to our family! They are litter trained, curious and playful, but also happy to be without attention for extended periods of time since they have each other to hang out with. Mr. Adventure Rich build a pen for them in our house so they are indoors and “part of the family”. With a toddler running around and our current jobs, the rabbits are a good fit with our lifestyle.

    Travel is quite easy when we have rabbits… typically all that is required is a check in once every 2-3 days to refresh water and food, so we can hire a local middle schooler to come over for the task.

    The rabbits love nibbling on our extra veggies and their favorite playtoys are cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls. The biggest cost so far has been the spay/neuter bill, but beyond that, our rabbits are quite the frugal duo!

    1. I love rabbits so I had to follow the link to your blog in hopes of bunny pictures–I was not disappointed! (They are adorable!) I am pleased to see that you made a point of having them fixed and including those costs. Intact male rabbits are at risk for behavioral problems and intact females for uterine cancer, so despite the cost of spaying and neutering, it’s definitely the frugal option. Sigh… someday I’ll have a bunny again.

  3. I’m going to admit to the pricey Bark Box subscription. It’s one of my few non-frugal habits, but so “necessary” for our dog. Our first dog could keep a toy or rope for years, actually some of her stuffies have lasted more than a decade. The new dog is a destroyer- a rope is digested in minutes (no more ropes in our house!), a grocery store stuffed toy ripped at the seam in seconds. Even toys that cost $20 each and are billed as “indestructible” were no match. Bark Box is $20 a month and the toys are strong enough quality to last a few days, sometimes a week or more- and can almost always be sewn back together to stretch the life even further. I’m on the “toy only” subscription, so I get 4 a month. You cannot find sturdy dog toys for $5 each, they cost easily double or triple that. It’s an incredible deal.

    I still braid t-shirt ropes for him when he is in-between toys; but I consider the $20 a month a great investment to saving my woodwork, furniture, and deck from the chewing that happened before we got him a healthy outlet for it. We tried the sturdy rubber toys and he wasn’t interested- he prefered the deck or bannister. So the heavy duty Bark Box stuffed toys are the way to go!

    1. I’ll second the BarkBox subscription for pets who like to destroy! It was so much cheaper to get sturdy toys that my (large) dog liked and that I didn’t have to try and stop him destroying. We also passed along the toys and treats he didn’t take a liking to to my parents’ dogs, so nothing wasted (and they’re still my go-to sitters, so worth it!)

      It is def worth reevaluating every so often though – I’ve only recently decided to cancel our subscription as my dog has gotten old enough to stop destroying. Once the toys started to overflow the toy basket I knew it was time. 🙂

    2. We also get the BarkBox! My golden retriever Jameson destroys her toys on the regular. When the BarkBox comes, it’s honestly really fun for both of us. Every time our box comes, I bring it to the kitchen counter and she gets so excited and starts jumping and circling and then I pull the toy out and it’s like “OH MY GOSH MOMMY PLEASE PLEASE.” I tell her to lay down and wait, and the second the toy goes down she’s up and bounding around with it. I love watching her and playing with her. I consider it $200 a year VERY well spent for how much joy it brings the household. It’s so funny when it’s an Amazon box that comes for me – such a let down!! 🙂

    3. Have you tried out used baby toys from yard sales? They are surprisingly similar to dog toys, but I’ve found they last longer for our two high energy pups. (Well, now that they are 6 and 7 the energy is decreasing.) We stock up in the summer at yard sales and bust them out throughout the winter.

      1. I wouldn’t do that. Some dogs ingest their toys and the interior materials of baby toys could be toxic to dogs. A bark box subscription is cheaper than a dog with bloat or who needs surgery. My dog literally digested her toys when she was younger so it was only toys specifically made for that purpose for her.

      2. With a baby in the house, we are trying to make sure the dog knows the difference between his toys and her toys!

        That said, I don’t think any of the stuffed baby toys would last, and he doesn’t seem to care for rubber toys. I need toys he wants to chew so he doesn’t resort to chewing the house!

        (The shelter told us he was 4 or 5, but the vet was pretty clear he was barely 1; and his change in behavior in just one year makes me think the vet was right. We didn’t mean to get a puppy!)

        1. Kongs are great. You can feed a dog all her food from a kong and keep them content for hours. There are low cal recipes (check the ASPCA) if you have a very active dog and black kongs for the T-Rex style chewers. You can hide them all over the house. Baby toys are not safe for dogs. Some have button eyes, chain stitching that can be swallowed like Christmas tree tinsel and tear up intestines. Stick with good quality pet toys.C

  4. I had a rescued dog and a cat growing up. Would love to own a pet again but we are very busy currently.

    Hope to eventually slow down just like you guys once we FI/RE and be able to get one. And by then Baby99to1percent might old enough to help take care of it 😊.

  5. Frugalhound is absolutely adorable! I like that she has a lot of beautiful outfits and always looks great in photos. She’s such a great addition to your family!

    My family used to keep dogs. But we ended up giving them away for various reasons. I wasn’t too happy to part with my friends, but it wasn’t really up to me to decide. I grew up in Vietnam, and the cost of keeping pets there is not as high as in the US. Over the years, I have thought about having a cat, a dog, and a bunny. But I couldn’t because of my living arrangement and budget.

    Pets can be such wonderful family friends. And I’m glad Baby Woods has a friend right at home!

  6. The travel thing is what keeps us from getting another pet. We’ve been without a pet for 6 years now, and the difference in our ability to travel is night and day. Someday though…

    One thing I’d add to this list is insurance. There are some breeds that (at least where I live) will cause you to be uninsurable or to have very high premiums for homeowners insurance. This should definitely factor into the cost breakdown if you are considering a dog that would fall under the category of “dangerous breed” with an insurance company.

  7. We have cats for that reason. I also do fostering to get my “kitten fix” without all of the expenses. My rescue pays for vetting, litter, food, etc for foster parents so it is a great way to have a frugal pet. We have many long term fosters for older cats and while the goal is to say goodbye, it is a free way to have a pet – all it needs is love and we provide the rest!

    Unfortunately, via fostering, we got a foster failure aka adopted the least frugal cat – a Persian cat who needs more haircuts than us. She is a sweetheart but the groomer is worth the money we spend because she is a wiggly one!

    1. Fostering is a great idea for people who want a pet but can’t make a long term commitment. Our daughter fostered cats (one at a time!) for her local Humane Society while in college and living in an efficiency apartment. A couple stayed for several months. If she had to be gone more than a couple days, they could return to the shelter until she got home. And if life got too busy she could take a break between fosters.
      Our cat died at the age of 19 1/2 last year. Pets can definitely be a long term member of the family.

  8. My husband and I had a Bernese mountain dog who required two extremely expensive surgeries to remove various objects our dog had eaten. We fell into the cute puppy trap as Bernese puppies are as cute as they come but have a list of well documented and costly health and behaviour challenges. Luckily- a colleague who had a home that was more suited to our dog wanted to take our big guy in and it turned out to be a better situation for us all. Were we to get another dog (unlikely), I would likely go the rescue route and get a mixed breed as it tends to minimize health $$ and cancel out any behavioural traits (eg. Eating foreign objects). That said, as you mention, enough people require assistance with pets during travel that anytime we/the kids are itching to get a pet I will just offer to watch a family or friend’s pet for a week to get our furry fix!

  9. I really wanted a dog, but after we had to put my step-cat down my husband really wanted another cat. (Spoiler: we ended up with a cat.) I have found that travel is much easier as a cat family. We make sure she has plenty of food and water and we’re good for a quick weekend trip. For longer trips, we have friends or family check on her every few days. Since I love to travel, this has worked out well. Also, it turns out I’m a crazy cat lady and just didn’t know it.

  10. Great job creating a pretty comprehensive list. Our dog definitely has ended up being more expensive than I initially anticipated, but I think it’s also true that just like with other life expenses there is a continuum from super spendy to nicely frugal that you can exist on. Over time, we’ve found ways to optimize our pet expenses along with our other expenses.

    One big thing for us was moving to a house with a yard. We used to be on the 14th floor of a downtown apartment building and not only was it a huge hassle to deal with, but she wasn’t getting the exercise she needed. We were using a dog walker every day during lunch, just so that she wouldn’t be a huge stress ball of energy when we got home from work. Now that we have a yard, we dropped the dog walker (for a big savings) and she gets a lot more play time and exercise outside.

    Also, definitely agree that the travel considerations are probably a bigger deal than you realize before having pets. We’ve become much bigger homebodies since we got our dog, in part because it’s just a headache to leave her behind. On the other hand, hanging out at home with her is the best and it fits well with our personalities anyway. Plus, it may have ultimately helped us be more frugal to be cooking meals at home and going for walks with our dog, rather than going out on the town all the time for brunches and happy hours.

    Overall, having a pet should be thought of like having a child: it’s not something that’s for everyone and you need to make a conscious choice on if it’s what you want in life. I’ll never judge anyone for choosing not to have a dog, but for us, I’m glad we did.

  11. DH and I waited about 10 years to get a cat, and only one, since it just might end up being a 20 year commitment. She is totally worth it because all four of us are cat people and the kids adore her.

    We made sure to get a young adult so that we could know her personality and she is very mild and tolerant. Still, you can’t plan for everything, and when we adopted her we were told she has a tooth wasting disease and will probably eventually need to get them all pulled for about $2000 someday if she starts to experience pain. However, even knowing that, I’m glad we got her!

    I’m also glad we waited until we made sure we had the home we truly wanted first so if we do ever have to spend 2000 on her it won’t defer that particular goal. It also makes me glad I only got one because that’s a lot of money. 🙂 With one cat, I budget between 50 to 100 for her expenses a month (we live in MD) and recently used it to buy a 6 month supply of wet cat food on sale.

  12. Good article. We have two dogs and can’t imagine life without our hounds. A good friend of mine is a vet and we discussed health care costs before we brought our dogs home. For our elder dog (11 years) we purchased health insurance when she was a pup, particularly since her breed is known to have significant joint problems. The insurance isn’t cheap at $60/mo, and over the years we have probably paid about $7000 in insurance fees. However, sure enough, our dog required two joint replacements when she was about 7 years old – each at a whopping cost of about $11,000 PER REPLACEMENT – covered by our insurance plan. What I most appreciated about having the insurance is that I didn’t need to work through any sort of cost-benefit analysis regarding the life and health of my beloved dog. I just considered the quality of life issues and consented to the surgery. For me, this was one of those situations where I felt the monthly insurance instalment was money well spent.

    1. I totally agree about the pet insurance! We have an adult rescue pit and last year we purchased a Brittany puppy (our rescue dog isn’t well socialized and wouldn’t have done well with the introductions shelters require to adopt a second dog). We immediately got her on pet insurance which was a good thing because she has had multiple ear and skin infections requiring near monthly vet visits in her 10 months of life so far as well as having intestinal parasites as a young puppy. Between the two dogs the premium is $60 per month total. Pet insurance is helping us pay for allergy shots from a dermatology vet and eventually will pay for allergy testing once she gets old enough. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay for the expensive hypoallergenic food ($4.16/lb) that she is on until we discover what she’s allergic to. I never want to make the choice between my pet’s life and health to save money so for me, pet insurance is totally worth it. Also I wonder how the Frugalwoods get by so cheap on the flea, tick, and heartworm. I checked prices on the website she listed (Allivet) and yearly preventive meds for my 2 dogs run $518 a year. Another comment I had is that the dog sitting arrangement she has would never work for dogs like mine. My dogs are very high-maintenance and as I’ve said the rescue pit doesn’t always get along with others. My family lives nearby and they won’t even watch my dogs for me.

  13. Pets can be so worth it for what they add to one’s life. Our mistake was adopting a second dog because our first lovable hound was aging and we were facing the loss. Now we realize that we will still grieve our first hound’s passing. Although with a pal she has a new lease on life and that is wonderful, we are for the present paying twice as much for food and vet care etc. A far more frugal approach is to face the shorter life span of a pet, enjoy them while you can, grieve their passing and then rethink where you are in life and what you have to give before adopting.

  14. I think every base has been covered in this excellent post, and I think the facts are absolutely correct. Pets don’t have to cost as much as it seems, but yes, they do have a cost. We’ve always had a pet or pets, and they are always an expense, but we feel the companionship is worth it. It is clearly not worth it to some people, and I completely appreciate that. We have adopted most of our pets, but a few came our way by being dumped on us. For those who never heard of this practice, it’s when callous, horrible people take their family pet out into the country side and dump it by the side of the road, drive off and leave it because they are tired of it. Since we live in the country but on a road that many use as a cut-through to busier roads, we get dumped on at times. This is NOT how to re-home an animal, people. Anyway, we currently have two very small rescued dogs that we’ve had about six years, but our just previous rescue, a border collie mix, lived with us for 16 years and was adored by us all. I’ve got a friend who owned a cat for 18 years. As pointed out in this post, pets may be with you longer than expected, and no fair turning them in to the shelter when they get to be old and somewhat of a time or financial burden. That’s part of owning a pet, too, taking care of them in their final years.
    Thanks for posting this!

  15. You raise great points, Mrs. Frugalwoods! I live downtown in a big city and see a lot of people with dogs not suited to downtown living. Not fair to the dog, not fun for the owner (or the neighbours). You raise a good point about some dogs requiring special food, vet care, etc. Bulldogs are notorious for that.

    I groom my dog myself and also make her dog food in my Instant Pot. Cheap!

    1. I would love to have the recipe for homemade dog food. I have three smaller dogs and think it might be a more economical and healthier option for them.

  16. I very much appreciated your thoughtful approach to pet ownership. We’ve rescued 4 pets in our married life, 2 dogs are still with us and we love them like any member of our family. Our oldest has had two surgeries to remove malignant tumors from her abdomen. The last surgery involved a difficult recovery and we agreed we would not put her through that again (she’s 14).

    Our local city recently ran a story about all of the animals euthanized last year due to abandonment and lack of adoptions. It was a good reminder that being a pet owner comes with responsibility. They should not be discarded simply because one decides on a whim that pets interfere with their busy lives.

  17. I will begin my comment with a disclaimer. We have three dogs and a cat and also foster bottle baby kittens on a regular basis (the babies’ expenses are all paid by a local rescue group as someone mentioned above). I am the person everyone calls when they have animal questions or a stray shows up on their porch. We are an animal family. My husband loves what he does and has no desire to retire early; one of the reasons I am frugal is so that we can responsibly care for our animals without it being a financial burden – they bring us so much more joy than lattes or new cars would!
    I second Liz’ food recommendation. My vet said he did quite a bit of research on that exact food when his sister wanted to feed it to her dogs and it is a premium food at a non-premium price.
    Liz did a great job outlining pre adoption considerations but I would add two bits of advice to her post. The first is to get your animal chipped. Most shelters do this when you adopt but if you use a breeder or adopt a stray that shows up on your porch or that you scoop up on the highway (this happens to us all the time – I think there is a “they will help you” sign on our front porch and on our car that is visible only to animals), you should spend the money on the chip. If your pet is ever lost, collars and tags can be lost and the chip will save you a tremendous amount of heartache. I have been able to reunite several animals with their owners thanks to the chip.
    The other addition I would make to the post is to research the likely health issues of breeds. Bulldogs and bulldog mixes, for example, might appeal to you and work well for your situation but be prepared for the likelihood of hefty vet bills. Generally, any breed or mix with very exaggerated features tends to be susceptible to health problems but your vet, the internet, and local rescue groups (particularly breed specific ones) should be able to tell you about likely problems down the road. There are no guarantees with pets, as with children, but you can improve your odds for long term health when you choose your pet. If nothing else, you will be prepared for hefty vet bills if you deliberately choose to adopt a more expensive dog, rather than finding out about likely problems down the road.

    1. Good point – a bit of research on potential health issues in advance may help if you’re choosing one breed/mix over another at a rescue group. Our pets were dumped or just made their way to our home, so over the years we took them in without any research done, and while it’s been fine, without knowing their history you’re open to surprises. As it was our dog was drinking from puddles before we found her and had sand in her bladder, which then turned into stones, requiring surgery. Since then, it’s been a few years of the higher-priced urinary tract food to hopefully avoid another recurrence and the pain for her. Like others, our pets aren’t helping our goal for a more frugal lifestyle, but they sure do add to our lives!

  18. Love this article–so many good points. I adopted a rescue dog who was 3 years old at the time I adopted her. I was screened carefully and filled out a two-page application stating likes and dislikes and preferences. My dog, now 10 years old is an ideal match for my lifestyle and personality. I didn’t walk through the shelter trying to pick the cutest in the bunch. I researched breeds and picked the closest match for my needs. Here are some tips that might prove helpful:

    1. Buy quality food. I look for minimum additives and the first ingredient must be meat. I feed sardines or supermarket meat about twice a week and am thinking of putting my next dog on a raw diet. Quality dog food isn’t cheap but it’s a great investment in health.

    2. After much experimentation, I found a tooth spray that really works. All, I do is spray her teeth with it three times a week and it has helped prevent tarter. That, plus giving her a daily “Naked” chew treat. She has never had her teeth cleaned so far and a few months ago the vet said her back teeth looked good and the other teeth only had moderate tarter. I wish I had started using the spray when I first adopted her because it would probably have prevented even the moderate tarter.

    I started out buying her health insurance but it was expensive and I never used it. I personally think it is better to open a bank account for vet bills and put the amount of the health insurance payment in the bank account each month so you have a nest egg when you need it.

    Shop around for pet supplies. I bought a wonderful pet bed after conducting Internet searches for the brand. There was as much as a $35 difference in price for the same bed, so be sure to shop around.

    I don’t travel as much because of my dog but she enhances my life each day so it’s worth it.
    Do be mindful of pet fees for apartments. If you are a renter, because they go as high as $300 for security and might also be monthly.
    it might be best to adopt a dog under 25 pounds and one that is not on
    the high-risk list that apartments often ban, as they will be easier to place in an apartment.

  19. Having pets is definitely not the frugal part of our budget, but I am always looking for ways to save while still providing good care. Fostering is a wonderful way to enjoy a pet but save money. I have fostered a number of dogs, but now have one, and soon to be two, foster failures. One senior girl spent 6 months with us, and now we can’t let her go:) We use Allivet and KV Supply, Costco dog and cat food, and working with my vet, I’ve been able to save money on vet care. We did have one wonderful dog a few years ago who developed a rare health condition and we were able to keep prescription costs down by using a compounding pet pharmacy – Pet Health Pharmacy. I did have emergency pet insurance for awhile but costs just got too high. It’s definitely something to consider though. As my dogs are big, and are toy destroyers, they have a couple of kongs and nylabones. We have a couple of acres so lots of room to run, and taking them for walks and runs is good exercise for me, too!

  20. My dog is not only my companion and a living presence in the house she’s my personal trainer.
    A daily walk is a given as well as a game of fling-a-toy in the back yard.
    She earns her biscuits by helping me to stay active.

  21. I also want to make a plug for tiny dogs as a frugal option! We buy fancy foods for our two dogs, which fits with our values (but is still $). However, with our 9lb dog, even the fanciest food is still pretty cheap. She’s can also burn off extra energy just running around our house and friends are more willing to watch a low maintenance dog (vs her wilder, 40lb sibling).

  22. We got our first dog mostly on a whim! Which was definitely not the frugal way! And we may have snuck him in and out of our apartment that didn’t allow pets for a few months (slightly stressful). But I’m so glad we have both of our rescue dogs. I think they helped balance us out and slow us down. I love to travel, and my husband prefers a few more weekends at home. Having the dogs helps us to take longer, less frequent trips. We trade dog-sitting with friends, so we’ve only had to board them once (for our wedding).
    And, I was wondering how Frugal Hound was doing on the homestead! That’s a big change for her!

  23. I tell ya what; adopting our cat from a shelter was uber-frugal! Zap came altered and up to date on his shots. The shelter also included free food, waived his adoption fee, and threw in toys, too. It was nearly free to take Zap home with us!

    We had wanted a cat for over a year, but we wanted to wait and make sure we were in a good place to be kitty parents. It’s a big responsibility, and I hate when people jump into pet ownership because they want a fluffy thing to love.

  24. I budget $100 every month for my puppy princess. Her expenses are grooming ($60 every 2 months), dog food ($30 every 6 weeks) and probiotics ($30 every 6 months). Any monies left over in her monthly budget, goes into a savings account for her vet bills, annual license renewal and any boarding required.

  25. It’s amazing how much thought people usually put into the idea of a human child and yet almost zero for a furry child. When an animal comes into our home, they are there for their whole life, period. I wouldn’t get an animal with anything less in mind.

    We’re very lucky on the travel bit – we have a roommate who takes care of our animals while we’re out of town (and in turn he lives in our house for very cheap).

  26. Very nicely stated. We are on dog number 3 of our marriage and have never regretted pet ownership. I completely agree about the adult dog issue. All the dogs we have had we got as puppies and our homes suffered for it. It was not so much a time issue as an expense issue. When our current pet moves into the great beyond (hopefully not for several years yet – she is also 7ish), we will definitely go in that direction.

    Pets bring a richness to our lives that we cannot get any other way. The unconditional love and devotion is truly a joy and a blessing.

  27. There’s nothing quite as sad as getting a dog for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time of your life, and having them be neglected and growing up into anxious, unsocial dogs. I’ve had a bit of experience with dogs, and the first one I got was a born and bred husky sled dog. We ended up gifting her to a farm where she could run to her hearts content. I walked her an average of 2-3 hours a day, but I was going further away for high school and it didn’t seem fair that she wouldn’t get the attention and outside time she’d need. Hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. But at least she grew up with the space and social interactions, unlike the doggo that belonged to a then-guy I dated. Poor little guy would just sit there licking my then-bf’s ankles and he wouldn’t even notice. But he was the sweetest dog and I loved him – he didn’t cost much to keep around until his spine started acting up, and thankfully then-bf could afford the thousands of dollars in surgery, rehab, and vet bills. And thankfully I was between contracts and could nurse him 24/7, but it really shows that dogs are huge time and life commitments!

    So excited to read your book!!

  28. Adoption is the best option! All the way!!

    I adopted my girl when she was 4 months old. She is now 14 years old! She was a relatively affordable pup, not having any major health issues or anything. She has one teeth cleaning and I vowed to brush her teeth every day so that I didn’t have to endure that hefty bill ever again hahaha!

    Now that my sweet old girl is 14 years old, THANKFULLY nothing is actually wrong with her like cancer, diabetes, or anything, but she certainly has general old dog stuff to care for. Just for 2017 alone, we have already spent $2339 at the vet (we do not board her, too old). She takes arthritis meds, powders, supplements all to keep her “spry.” We are probably at the vet every 4-5 weeks, like an old wart starts to bleed so I get it checked out. She is feeling mopey turns out she has a UTI. A growth started to grow on her eyelid. Stuff like that.

    I know it won’t last forever, but I am happy that we are in a position to give her the best care possible and not even think twice about a hefty vet bill. Plus she had just yearly check ups when she was younger. When we adopt again in the future, I will choose an older dog because we can afford it and who else would take that on.

  29. I’m curious what you use for heartworm and flea/tick prevention. My vet recommended Interceptor Plus and Bravecto, respectively, but it looks like I’m paying about twice as much as you are.

  30. I think the benefits of having a dog far outweigh the costs. But I also agree that you need to get a dog (or any other pet) for the right reasons and really think about your decision before you jump in and get a dog. I live in Phoenix, Arizona where dogs seem to be abandoned all the time. The shelters are so full they actually have to give them away with no adoption fee periodically throughout the year. A lot of the dogs were abandoned, given up by their owner for various reasons, or the result of people not spaying or neutering their pet.

    I adopted my best friend about 7 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. She helps keep me healthy and happy. Unfortunately she’s over 9 years old now and it’s difficult to see her getting older.

    BTW – I love FrugalHound and thought about getting an old racing greyhound after seeing her, but I need a dog with a lot of energy to go running with me every day. Thank you for sharing all the characteristics of a typical greyhound. There are lots of other shelter pets out there though!

  31. As an employee at a humane society, I second the notion that you adopt and not shop! However, I will also say that our pets have cost us an arm and a leg over the years, mostly because I tend to take home the runty, sickly ones that no one wants. We have one three legged dog who came to us with heart worm (those prescription meds are so worth it–treatment is $$$) and one four legged dog who tends to contract bizarre issues like a tick disease that made her gums gush blood despite being on monthly flea and tick medicine. Cats are much cheaper pets! I also second the idea that you adopt for your lifestyle–we love to backpack and hike, and both our dogs are large, active, and (even the three-legged one) hold their own no problemo over miles of trails. They also keep my healthcare costs low by forcing me to exercise every day, simply to prevent them from eating the house!

  32. I was terribly allergic to flea bites and learned that if I put 1-2 T. of apple cider vinegar into a quart my dog’s drinking water, the flea problem disappeared. She didn’t mind the taste and I did this every single time I gave her fresh water. Also, for a flea infestation, the solution is to sprinkle cotton balls saturated with eucalyptus oil around the house and vacumn like crazy. Lastly, the BARF diet (Bones and Raw food diet) is the real natural way for dogs to eat. It’s economical too. Dried food can be drying to their digestive tract. Raw meaty bones function as fiber in a dog’s system and so if a dog is fed the BARF diet, they shouldn’t require teeth cleaning.

  33. I was very thoughtful/methodical when adopting my older basset hound from a rescue—I am ridiculously crazy about her, she is the best dog ever. My shameful non-frugal habit is Frosty Paws. The cheapest I have found them is for $.75 each with a coupon, but damn, they make her so happy! I tried the homemade versions and she rejected them (she’s a treat diva). I decided that it really does bring me $.75 of happiness to take one out of the freezer, see her excitement, and then watch her consume it for about 10 minutes, so it fits with my frugal values, even though I acknowledge that it’s a frivolous expense.

  34. All important and worthy advice. The only thing I would add is that when you adopt a pet, you adopt that pet for life. Except in rare cases where a pet does become truly aggressive towards humans or dangerously aggressive towards other pets, it is completely wrong to give up on a pet. That is why, like you said, it is so important to plan and think about adopting a pet before doing so, so that you can make sure that even in tough times, you can be there for her.

    I’m also a big advocate for people to petsit for friends with pets for extended periods of time before getting one’s own. It’s a great way to figure out if petlife is for you!

  35. For some reason retired greyhounds here are hard to get and really expensive. We adopted a mutt from the shelter. I’d had dogs before, then kids, and now kids with dog, because husband and kids reeeeeally wanted dog. She’s not ‘high’ maintenance but she’s been more expensive than my previous mutts in the first 2 years of life. Finally calming down now. We doggie-sit a Shiba Inu and THAT dog… they don’t bark, they barely make any noise at all, and while they shed like crazy the only recommended coat maintenance is brushing, shampooing is discouraged. They even self-potty train. Wish my kids had done that! : )

  36. Mrs. FW,
    Frugal Hound reminds me so much of one of my past beloved greytdogs, Lance. I love her wardrobe!

    It’s important to consider finances, as well as family fit, when choosing a dog, or even deciding to get a pet in the first place. Many folks don’t like to consider this, but it is also important to think to the end . . . how much will you be comfortable spending to extend your beloved pet’s life, when he/she is in decline? What illnesses are you willing to fight with expensive medication? It’s best to have an idea of your general family plan in this regard, so you are not overwhelmed by emotion when the situation comes to you.

    Thank you for sharing so generously with us!

  37. Try california pet pharmacy. I just looked up the vetmedin that my dog takes and it is over a two dollar savings at California pet pharmacy. They are very reliable and free ship if order equals 100.00. We also look at our pup as a family member more than a dog. She gets medical and dental care as it should be. It is obvious that frugalhound is well cared for. Love your website. Thank you for all of your interesting posts.

  38. Great thoughts! We decided to get cats for many of the reasons you covered in this post. I’ve always considered myself more of a “dog person” I guess, but I really love all animals. When my girlfriend and I considered our lifestyle, travel plans, and schedules, a cat seemed like the perfect pet. We are often gone for long hours all day, and take frequent weekend trips – not conducive to dog ownership, really. We ended up getting two kittens which was not in the original plan, but has worked out really well because we don’t feel bad going out to work all day long. They are great friends and keep each other company. We swap pet care with my parents (our neighbors), keeping costs low when we travel. When they go out of town, we take care of their lovely Lab, and they’re happy to care for the kitties when we’re away. Even though having pets is more expensive than not, I think life is just so much better with animals in it.

  39. As a dog owner and lover– and as someone who does animal rescue–may I say THANK YOU for your observations here, FW. I think that people underestimate the cost (time and money) of a pet, which results in the pet’s neglect and the family’s frustration. I, too, did not have a dog for many years because I lived as a single person in an apartment in NYC. Very little time and space. Now, I have a partner and each of us work part-time from home, so our dogs are very rarely without their human companions. We also love activities that involve our dogs, including hiking, swimming and camping. Our dogs are happy and well-adjusted. Our poor furry neighbor friends stay in the backyard all by themselves all day and they are so sad 🙁

  40. My fiance and I are waiting for the time we can get a dog! We are renters in Somerville right now (hello!) and just have to put it off until the time is right. But I still want a dog now!

  41. Great article! Hubby and I waited until he no longer had to pay child support before adopting our first! dog, an English mastiff puppy. (We’d researched this breed and it was a perfect fit for us!)

    By that time, we were living out in the country in an old farmhouse and were able to enclose a big exercise pen for our big guy (now we have two big pens). When he was a few years old, we started with English mastiff rescue; my husband also started his retirement job as a vet assistant and we got deep, deep discounts on pet care. At one time, we had seven (!) giant breed dogs living with us, sleeping in our bedroom and getting underfoot in the kitchen. Hubby worked close to home and got two hours every day for lunch to go home and care for the pack.

    Yes, having dogs, particularly big dogs, is a huge investment of time and money. To us, it has been totally worth it. We don’t travel and we really enjoy our time with our canine contingent.

    We are both retired now and currently live with two pugs (also known as “Dutch mastiffs”), a bloodhound and an Irish wolfhound/Great Pyrenees cross. All are seniors and, when they have gone over “the Rainbow Bridge,” to start all over again with a mastiff puppy!

  42. We have been thinking about adopting a dog, so this post is so timely! We were really close to getting a puppy this fall, and then I started working with several more students, meaning I increased my teaching hours substantially, so we are waiting until the Spring. I’m mentally preparing for bringing home a puppy to be like bringing home a baby, and I want to be home and available to train it. Everyone we talk to cautions us as we talk about getting a dog, so we are mentally preparing for a LOT of work!

  43. We have 21, 17 and 13 year old cats. ( we recently lost our 19.5 and 17 year old cats). I love my cats enormously, they are our children. However, having older cats (or any senior animals) entail a number of costs. All are on renal prescription food, a couple are on thyroid meds, one on pain meds. Because of the meds, we need to periodically have blood tests. One of the kitties we recently lost needed an MRI, and the equipment used was the same type of machine used for humans, but no medical coverage like we humans have – so $$$$. Thankfully, we have the means to provide, but this is what needs to be taken into account when considering a pet. Even keeping things frugal, there are costs. The love I get from these little creatures makes any cost worthwhile, but those costs are very real.

  44. I find myself tearing up if I think about my older dog dying! We have two giant breed dogs and they come with higher costs. Food alone, they go through 150 pounds a month and are not overweight at all according to the vet, is a huge expense. We buy pet insurance every year, to the tune of $1100 total, and there has only been one year out of the last eight that the policies didn’t more than pay for themselves. We waited until we were older and completely settled and could both work from home before we acquired them; whenever someone sees them and swoons and says something on the order of, “I have always wanted an Irish wolfhound,” I rush to tell them how much they cost us so that people don’t buy one and then have to give them away for financial or lifestyle reasons. We, too, find ourselves travelling less because of the costs involved in bringing in a house/dog sitter. We used a boarding place once and came home to find all the hair gone off their haunches because as a punishment for tossing around out of boredom (an employee told us the staff of young, mostly small people could not control a 160 pound dog that comes from a lineage dedicated to hunting) the company had forced them to sleep on naked concrete for over a month. And this place was owned and run by a vet! But after all that, we’d give up a lot before we’d give up our boys. They enrich out lives immeasurably.

  45. We once did a pet first aid course, and strong advice given to keep pets healthier was:
    – Keep their teeth clean to prevent a whole pile of other diseases
    – Active, and
    – Mentally stimulated

    For us, vet insurance is an important financial bet. We’re only in the fourth year of our mortgage, and are nearly one year ahead on all expenses and the mortgage, but not yet. For us it isn’t a luxury, it is effectively extra protection against the house. If we had some extremely bad luck with both cats, their combined insurance limit is almost our annual mortgage. We’d have the insurance anyway, but it’s a nice way to view it when it’s feeling a bit expensive. My only advice is to insure them early in life to avoid having any preexisting conditions, which wouldn’t be covered.

    We have also had times when the local vets were out of their depth but did not say so, and we were having so many repeat appointments and getting nowhere. We discovered the university Companion Animal Health Centre and the specialist staff were straight onto it. Problems were solved in 1-2 appointments. Appointments didn’t cost a whole lot more than a single appointment at the local vet, we just needed a referral to get in.

    Preventative maintenance is important to us:
    – We buy the best quality food we can find, and try not to overfeed them. To keep their weight down, especially with so much food thievery, we play games with them to burn up some energy and brain power. They tend to be happy and relaxed after intense exercise.
    – Every day they have fish oil and evening primrose oil, to keep their brains and joints, as well as coats in good condition.
    – Our cats are mostly indoors, with cat secure fencing in the backyard. This protects them from roads, fights with other cats, sunburn, going missing, and also saves the local wildlife.
    – Windows have a UV protective film so the cats don’t get sunburnt in their window box (Australia!).
    – They regularly get half a lamb’s tongue or quarter of a lamb’s heart each to chew on to keep their teeth cleaner (dental specialist’s advice). Thanks for the reminder to also brush their teeth, unfortunately cats need to have anaesthetic to get their teeth properly cleaned at the vets. Time to try brushing again.

    Toys for us are free cardboard boxes expertly chosen at the supermarket, balls, and cable ties (yes, our cats are weird).

  46. Frugal hound is so adorable! I really enjoyed this post. We have a Shi Tzu and she has had health issues since day 1. We adopted her from a friend who fostered her. Although she has been a non frugal dog, she has been one of the best dogs we have ever had. She is 7.5 years old and sleepy as a cat like frugal hound. One of the ways we keep costs down is I groom her (except for her nails),I buy her toys at the end of season clearance, I bake her own treats, and I coupon or buy her flea medications on sale. The biggest expense for me was finding a good veterinarian . She now has an old farmer vet who gave me instructions with medications for the next time her ear infection comes back which helps keep the cost down from another checkup and buying the same medication again ( I have enough for next time). I will check out online to try to keep her heartworm medications down in cost. We did not prepare for her when we first got her as a 10 month old pup but she has been a trooper at every stage in our early marriage and life.

  47. Great article! There are lots of FB groups devoted to “canine enrichment” which are usually homemade toys and such … usually very frugal ways to keep doggie boredom at bay.

    I would also recommend getting library books and learning about how dogs/cats/animals learn (anything by Karen Pryor, Sophia Yin, Ian Dunbar, or Jean Donaldson, though there are many other excellent authors who understand animal learning theory), and investing in at least one positive-reinforcement training class for a dog. You can learn how to teach your dog that way and later can use the Internet and books to advance your dog’s training, teach tricks, etc. It’s fun and a great way to enjoy time with a dog.

  48. I really tell people to really think about the cost Vet bills and how they plan to handle that. Not just the run of the mill vet bills, but the ‘surprise’ ones. My dogs have always been healthy. Until suddenly these last three months, they weren’t. For one we chose not to do anything (i.e.- surgery with a poor prognosis for recovery) particularly aggressive, but end of life care was still expensive. My other dog has had a freak accident ($$) and then a tick bite related illness ($$$ even though she is on flea/tick prevention). Luckily we’ve always had a pet specific emergency fund set aside. This is the first time in 6 years I’ve used it since we’ve always cash flowed the other minor things, but it came in handy when my dogs decided they liked the Vet enough they wanted to single handedly pay off his student loans.

  49. Cats generally do not need their claws clipped. Which is good, because it would be very challenging to do so with most cats.

  50. A subject very much on my mind! Six months ago we adopted a rescue dog and after careful thought, we have decided not to take out pet insurance, despite the urgings of friends and the blanket advertising. We think self-insurance – paying down debt and building up savings – will be better value in the long run. I think this has helped us take very good care of our dog – I won’t say better care, because of course most responsible dog owners do their best. But we have a preventative approach – the best food we can afford, up-to-date vaccinations and heartworm tablets, lots of exercise and love and – most importantly – no unnecessary traffic risks! We are also very strict indeed on treats – no human food, no junk and I read the dog food labels as closely as I read those for humans, maybe moreso. By fluke our dog – a short-haired Kelpie-collie x – needs zero grooming. However on the advice of our excellent vets, we are investing some money in a trainer!

  51. Frugal hound is gorgeous, especially that picture in the snow!

    I am in the extremely fortunate position of having a cousin who is also a vet. She doesn’t charge us for check-ups, and if anything more serious is needed we pay the “vet rate.” For instance, one of our kitties needed dental surgery – typically $1200-1400 dollars. We paid $300 for the anesthesia and that was it! This was a big factor in our decision to get a second cat. We also have neighbors and friends who kindly watch our kitties for free when we’re out of town (we do the same for them), and the kitties do just fine on their own for up to two nights, so we can go out of town for a weekend without worrying about them. My husband and I would both love to have a dog, but we just travel too much for it to be feasible, and we’re renters in NYC, meaning small apartments and potential pet fees/restrictions, especially on dogs. One day!!

  52. What an awesome article! It should and does take a lot of forethought to have a pet. As for our “frugalwoods” approach to caring for our fur baby… we take our cat to the local Petco vaccine clinics for his yearly shots and it saves us a ton of money (instead of getting these vaccines at a vet’s office).

  53. When it comes to dogs, remember that size makes a difference and its not simply a question of big dog or small dog. I was originally looking for a dog around 45-50lbs and ended up adopting a 70lbs+ beastie. While I don’t regret him in the slightest, if the time comes to adopt another dog I’d stick under 50. A dog that size is still a “big” dog vs small. But you go down a size in so many ways that make a difference in price, from dogbeds to collars to flea medication and even the amount of food he eats daily. I think if I’d stuck to the original plan I likely would have saved around 15% over the years (dog walkers are equally expensive at any size or that percentage would be more).
    Not to mention, I am NOT looking forward to purchasing a giant flight safe crate and paying the inevitable large dog surcharges to move him to the UK…

  54. We have 6 kids who love animals, but a traditional pet isn’t in our budget. Our compromise is to foster kittens for the local animal shelter. They provide all the food, vet care and equipment and we provide the daily care and love until they are adopted. It’s hard to give them up, but comes with it’s own rewards.

  55. We just adopted a dog and based on that experience I’d like to share one money-saving tip: ask the shelter if they have certain days with reduced-cost adoptions. They might not align with the adoptability of your desired dog (good ones go fast!) but you might be able to overlap it with a free trial week. We got this deal by accident: we had our dog at home with us for a few days as part of the trial adoption process and just accidentally happened to go back and finalize adoption on a half-off day. Saved $50 on her adoption fee, which was a nice bonus!

  56. These are all such good points! I also think dogs are great training for having kids – especially puppies! Many people get a pet not taking into consideration the commitment and expenses of pet ownership.

    We have a miniature schnauzer who’s had a number of health issues in her 8.5 years of life and we have shelled out several thousand dollars to keep her healthy and happy. But she is such a good dog and does so well with our two kids. We never have to worry about her biting them or being rough with them.

    I loved this article!

  57. As the owner of two Humane Society pups, I think this post has a lot of useful info! I’d add a caveat about shelter pups: my sweet black lab rescue needed eight lessons with a $100-a-lesson trainer who specialized in reactive dogs. Not something I could insource, and a total requirement, since without it she couldn’t even walk around the block without panicking and lurching, which was stressful for us both and injured my hand at one point. That’s pretty common with rescues. I wouldn’t have done it any other way, but anyone thinking of adopting a rescue pup should know they might need a trainer.

  58. My favorite tip is to attend pet store events, like customer appreciations etc. Just today I went, saved on tax (Canada so that’s 13%) received countless freebies (treats, dog food samples, poo bags, travel water bowl ) a coupon for 15% off a future visit (which will definitely happen for dog food) and they had human treats, so I snagged some baked treats & a small carton of milk I’ll use for my morning tea. PLUS I use the dog food samples as dog treats. score!

  59. I would highly recommend taking out a health insurance policy on any pets. During the first year after I adopted my dog he had to have one, very expensive, emergency surgery, and many costly follow up visits, all amounting to many thousands of dollars. I finally wised up and purchased an insurance policy for him.

    I believe most policies are based on weight, age, and breed, and your location. In addition to the monthly $50 premium, my policy has a $250 annual deductible, after which the policy covers 80% of any services above and beyond general prevention and annual check ups. While this may not seem worth it to some people, and many may opt to put aside a dedicated emergency/vet fund, the math of having insurance worked out for me. If I saved $50 a month for a year that would only be $600. During the first year of owning my dog he incurred over $5,000 of veterinary bills, and while I did not have insurance then, I luckily had enough savings to cover these costs, but having insurance would have saved me several thousand dollars.
    Now, having the insurance just ensures that I won’t have to deplete my savings to provide the best care for my dog if he needs any long term health care as he grows older, or needs another emergency surgery. (Another factor to take into consideration is your location. My monthly costs may be higher than most considering I live in interior Alaska where most expenses, including veterinary care, are much higher than the rest of the country.)

  60. Consider pet insurance! I pay $19/month to cover Milli, my lab mix. Shes getting older now (exactly how old, who knows—I adopted her 3 years ago.) In the past year she has had several life threatening health issues—two hospital stays for seizures, and one for pancreatitis. All I can say is, thank goodness for insurance, which in her case pays 80%. I have paid about $1200 out of pocket—which means Ive saved about 4 grand. And having the insurance frankly made it possible to say yes to certain tests and procedures, that would have been otherwise cost prohibitive.

  61. We have 3 greyhounds and 2 chihuahuas. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. To offset some expenses, I work part time as a vet assistant. We get all care for free and any meds at cost. Best way to keep them frugally and I get to play with animals everyday! Win-win!

  62. I love all the pictures of Frugal Hound! As renters, my husband and I have two cats. In our first apartment, we paid an extra half month’s rent as a pet deposit. We did not need to pay an extra deposit in our second apartment, but in our third (and current) place, we have to pay an extra $50 a month in rent (ouch!). We are animal lovers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. When we move into our house we’re planning on getting a dog. It’s pricey, but so worth it!

    The cost is around $25 and is good for the life of the pet. If they are lost and picked up any animal control, shelter or vet can get access to their current owners information.
    Please check with your local animal control or shelter since they will generally have a list of low cost services. In our county last year over 1000 animals were returned due to micro chipping. In addition the lost pet fee at the shelter was waived as long as proof of current rabies was submitted when the lost animal was picked up.
    A benefit is that the pets registration is done online. You can put in their current medical status, update your contact information and list their current vaccination schedule. Most micro chipping companies will send periodic email reminders for vaccination reminders and owner contact updates.
    I pay $25 for the micro chipping. When you consider that most pets have an average life span of 12-15 years the fee is less that $2 per year. A great way to insure your fur friends security!!!!

  64. i bought a 50ft. lightweight lead for training one dog. it’s really like a long blue rope with a loop on one end and a clasp on the other and it does double duty to stuff into a backpack for hiking as it’s super strong/light nylon…all for about 16 bucks. i found it handy for a dog you couldn’t trust not to run off but to get a little run. you know what else was fun for the smidlap’s? training a dog and watching him develop obedience and confidence.

  65. My dog may cost me money, but she is totally worth it. That said, I adopted her for free, and I don’t spend a crazy amount on her. Plus I met my wife because of her, so that’s a plus! Also, the free emotional support I’ve gotten from her is probably well worth the mental health benefits.

  66. We adopted 2 brothers (kittens) when our beloved 17 year old cat died and we are enjoying them very much. We adopted them through Feral Cat Coalition of San Antonio, and have found them to be a wonderful organization. They provided monthly immunizations, weighing, and general over-all health check-ups, which we found to be very helpful. They also paid for the neutering and checked up on the kittens following the neutering. I highly recommend anyone to get involved with their community program for rescuing cats and dog.

  67. I seriously considered either a dog or a pet bird, but in the end, did not go ahead with either out of animal welfare concerns. I live in a 3rd floor, 650sqft apartment and work four days a week. I also live alone, so some unfortunate dog would have to spend a LOT of time alone!

    As regards the bird, I started feeding wild birds on my balcony (luckily my downstairs neighbours don’t complain about the droppings), and quickly realised how social and playful, also on an interspecies level, birds really are. And they are doing a lot of flying around just for fun. That made me realise how depressing life would have to be even for two birds, even in a large cage, and even with free flying time around the apartment every day.

    So I just keep enjoying the birds at the feeding place, observing them through my balcony windows. Even that costs money, though – I would estimate my cost for bird feed at around €60 ($70) per year, not counting the cost for car travel to the nearest garden centre with good wholesale prices. The bird metabolism speeds along at a phenomenal pace, and by the time you attract any size of a flock, the food goes down fast.

  68. My beautiful Chow-Pei-Spaniel, Sylvie, earned her keep as my partner in my dog training business. She was my unflappable “bomb-proof dog”. This past year, though, she lost much of her hearing and had little tumors on a couple of her nipples. I wish I’d had all 9 removed because after 3 surgeries, at $500/each, one metastisized. She had chemo, which was successful but I think she had a reaction to Tramadol, had TIAs and lost her sight. Once off Tramadol, she has regained her map of the house and some of her hearing but not all of her thinking or her sight. She is taking Canna-Pet Max CBD canabinoids and is content with her life. Unfortunately, I wracked up thousands of dollars in vet bills and the CBD is an ongoing expense. It’s amazingly effective as a pain killer and appetite stimulant and she declines quickly if she misses a few days, like when I tried a cheaper brand. I also found out she is likely older than I thought. I can’t believe she is still alive, but she is and seems to be thriving. It’s a slippery slope when a dog gets old and while I don’t regret a cent, I need to live very frugally now and start working again (I’m 67 and retired) at least for the rest of her life. Since I’ll start dog training again, another dog is in my future. Like dental care, no one tells you what happens when age creeps up and the costs explode.

  69. My two rescue pets are tiny but have big personalities–two fluffy guinea pigs! Shelters often have a plethora of small pets that need loving homes, and even grown ups can love guinea pigs! One thing I have to be mindful of with my pets is the temperature of the house. Unlike dogs and cats that are pretty solid at regulating their internal temperatures, guinea pigs (and other small pets) are extremely susceptible to heatstroke. I’ve lost a couple in the past to this, and it’s the worst. 🙁 Thus, one of my unexpected but important pet expenditures is on climate control in the summer. I try to keep them isolated in an area of the house that’s small and easy to cool, but it’s silly when the rodents have their own AC and their human doesn’t! Alas, what we do for our pets, right?

  70. I’m a rescuer. Always have been. I’m a little ashamed to admit that, for the most part, it’s all been by the seat of my pants and robbing Peter to pay Paul. My animals come first in my life (we have no human kids.) I’ve just made it work.

    When my grandmother died, I was able to open up a checking account just for pet care, and that lasted a year or two. It also allowed us to look into some chronic conditions in a couple of our cats and either get them resolved or find out as much as we could, even if they couldn’t be resolved. Sadly, a big chunk of that money went into caring for a cancer kitty, who did not make it in the end.

    Rescue is unpredictable. I DO have some savings, but it’s not much. I wouldn’t have things any other way, though. Saving lives is a joy.

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