Black labrador looking at camera, off-lead on a walk

Dog care on a budget

When times get hard, you may look for ways to cut costs. This often means that you need to look at what you spend on your dog and find ways to save money. Don’t worry, there are things you can do to keep your pet healthy and happy on a budget.

Cheap dog food

Feeding your dog the right food can seem like a minefield. With so many options to chose from, and everyone having an opinion on what’s best for your dog, it can leave any pet owner feeling confused.

Dogs need a balanced diet that is specially made for their species. This includes a mix of:

  • proteins
  • carbohydrates
  • fats
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • water

You can find all the essentials needed in your dog’s food by looking for pet food labelled as ‘complete’ and that’s approved by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This means it will meet all your dog’s nutritional needs. Be sure to leave a fresh bowl of water down every day too.

Remember, your dog doesn’t have an opinion as to which diet will suit them best. As natural scavengers, they are just happy to have their belly full. A high price tag also doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best food for your pup. As long as it’s ‘complete’, your pet will have everything they need in their food.

Many dogs enjoy treats, but they aren’t necessary, so can be cut out when you’re on a budget.

Top money-saving tip: Buy in bulk. Though it may cost you more money upfront, buying in bulk is a lot cheaper than buying as and when you need it – and don’t forget to check the sales and reduced section too.

Help with vet bills for dog owners

In an emergency, and where you have no insurance in place, it’s worth speaking with your vet to see if they can offer a payment plan to help you pay off your vet bill.

Blue Cross highly recommends taking out a pet insurance policy from the day you pick your puppy or dog up so that you’re covered in the event of them needing medical treatment.

For ongoing preventative care, such as vaccinations and annual check-ups, most vets offer pet clubs to dog owners. Pet clubs work by charging a small monthly fee that will cover your dog for annual vaccinations, health checks, flea and worm treatment and discounts for things like neutering, pet food and dental treatment. It’s worth checking with your local vet to see if they offer this service, as charges can vary.

If you find yourself without pet insurance and with no means of paying for your dog’s treatment in the event of them needing a trip to the vet, our free vet care is available to pets whose owners are on certain means-tested benefits. If you fall into this category, you will need to check to see if you are in the catchment area for one of our hospitals or clinics. 

TIP: As a precaution, it’s handy to know some basics when caring for your sick dog.

Why are vaccinations important for my dog?

Keeping your dog up to date on their vaccinations and annual health checks is the best thing you can do to protect them from certain common diseases. Treating your dog if they get a disease will be much more expensive. If your dog gets very sick you may have to take time off work to care for them.

If you have a puppy, don’t underestimate the importance of initial vaccinations. It’s the best head start you can give your dog’s immune system to fight off disease throughout their life.

It can pay to do some research when looking into a vet. Puppy vaccinations can vary from £39 to £81, with boosters costing from £24 to £65. You can save yourself a lot of money by shopping around for more affordable vet fees. 

Why will neutering my dog help me save money?

The cost of neutering your dog will be less than the cost of having an accidental litter. Dogs can be expensive – not only because of the set-up cost and staples, like food, but they can also cause damage to the home, meaning bills can soon add up. So, imagine having an accidental litter when you aren’t prepared for it. 

Neutering your dog is the best way of preventing any unwanted litters of puppies. It also lowers the risk of certain diseases like pyometra in female dogs and prostate disease in male dogs. If your dog gets one of these diseases, the cost of treating them would be a lot more than the cost of neutering.

The cost of castration or spaying a dog can vary a lot depending on the type of dog you have, so it’s best to check with your vet. Prices vary around the country, but spays range from around £130 to £365 and castrations from around £110 to £300.

Black greyhound playing with tennis ball in grassy garden

How to keep your dog healthy at home

There are things you can do at home to lower the risk of your dog needing a trip to the vet.

Watch your dog’s weight

Obesity can lead to more visits to the vet and bigger vet bills. Overweight dogs also struggle with daily routine tasks, like walks and play. 

Obese dogs are more likely to get:

  • diabetes
  • lung and breathing problems
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • arthritis

Treatment for these diseases and illnesses increase your vet bills and can have an ongoing cost if they then need medication for life.

Prevent your dog getting fat by feeding the recommended amount of feed for your pet’s size, along with good quality, regular exercise. Information on how much you need to feed your dog can usually be found on the back of the pet food you buy. 

Pet owners love giving their dogs titbits and treats, but remember, treats are to be used when training your dog and aren’t necessary to their diet. This means you can cut treats out when money gets tight. You’ll also need to reduce your dog’s normal food intake for the day to allow for treats.

If you’re concerned about your pet’s weight, speak to your vet, who will be able to advise you best on how to help them lose weight. Some vets have free weight clinics, so it’s also worth checking with your local clinic to see if this is something they offer. Be sure to check out our dog dieting tips too.

Flea and worm treatment

Regular flea and worm treatment given monthly will keep your dog free from parasites that can pose serious health risks, as well as make your dog very uncomfortable. 

It’s worth speaking to your vet about flea treatment that works to keep ticks at bay too. The more protection you have, the less likely you’ll need an emergency trip to the vet.

The best flea and worm treatment options will be prescribed by your vet. However, a safe, cheaper alternative is to buy one of the following, which will be available without a prescription in your local pet store:

  • Advantage (or any other treatment containing imidacloprid)
  • Frontline (containing fipronil, preferably combined with (S)-methoprene)
  • Prazitel or Drontal (containing febantel, praziquantel, pyrantel embonate)

Unfortunately, these brands don’t cover lungworm, so be sure to ask your vet for advice on treatment. 

Brushing your dog’s teeth

Poor oral hygiene can lead to inflammation of your dog’s gums and can be sore for them. If left untreated, this can cause gingivitis and gum disease, with a scale and polish being a costly operation.

As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure. To reduce the risk of a costly trip to the vet, you can brush your dog’s teeth daily to help keep them in the best condition possible.

Daily checks

Spotting anything unusual or different on your dog will give you an instant advantage in catching anything early. So, it’s worth giving your dog a daily full body check by:

  • running your hand over their coat and under their fur to feel for any lumps and bumps
  • checking paws for any cuts or scrapes
  • looking for loss of fur
  • lifting your dog’s ears to make sure they’re clear of discharge and odour
  • checking their gums and teeth for build up of plaque and inflammation

Exercise

Exercising your dog is so important for their physical and mental health and ultimately leads to them living a longer, healthier life.

Depending on your dog’s size and breed, they’ll have different levels of energy. It’s important that your dog gets to go out every day, with an outlet for their curious minds too.

Mind games that use your dog’s sense of smell, like ‘find it!’, are great for keeping your dog happy, and costs nothing! There are also fun things you can make just out of items lying around your house, like destruction boxes that will keep your dog entertained and is both a mental and physical work out.

Remember: If you have a growing puppy, don’t exercise them too much. While puppies are growing, their bones are more vulnerable to long-term damage. Starting your puppy off on the right paw and slowly, month by month, increasing the amount of time they spend exercising, could save you money on vet bills later in life.

— Page last updated 02/10/2019