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The Ruff Report: Simple ways to put a leash on rising pet costs

Are you feeling a little financially overwhelmed by the never-ending rise in costs associated with owning a pet? Well, you have good reason to feel that way. According to a 2013 survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, a dog owner shelled out $1,559 to feed and care for their pal and a cat owner paid $1,271.


And the APPA estimates that those costs will go up in 2014. Overall, owners are expected to spend $58.5 million on their pets in 2014, up from $55.7 million in 2013. Most of that money will be spent on food, followed by veterinary care and grooming.

But pet parents can save a bundle of cash by making their own dog and cat toys, learning how to groom your pet yourself and buying food in bulk, animal welfare advocates say.

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Beth Cochran, an official with the Phoenix Area Animal Care Coalition, says careful shopping can lead to huge savings on food. She advises checking the weekly store ads, clipping coupons, and searching for discounts and coupons online.

"I recently found the food I buy was half price, so I stocked up on it," Ms. Cochran told MySetterSam.com. "I also found a great deal on treats and was able to use coupons, so I saved nearly $10 on three bags of treats."

Brenda Barnette, chief executive officer of the Seattle Humane Society, offers another trick to save on food. "You can also call the company who produces the pet food you buy and ask for coupons. They will often send a generous supply."

Ms. Barnette advises buying food in in bulk, because "you may pay up to 40 percent less per pound." The key is to use a large airtight container to store the food and preserve its freshness, she said.

She also advises "investing" in quality food to avoid costly health care costs that can later occur by feeding a pet inferior quality products.

Grooming is another area where pet parents can save a lot, Ms. Barnette said. "Learn to groom your pet yourself. Your local library or the Internet will have information on how to properly groom your pet. Although certain pets need special grooming care, most pets you can groom yourself and save the expense of paying a professional."

Pet parents also can save money by buying second-hand toys, Ms. Barnette said. "Shop for pet toys and equipment at garage sales or flea markets and get them at a fraction of the price of new items."

Making homemade toys is one of the simplest ways to save money and keep a playful pet happy, according to Brandi Hand, an official with the Ashville Humane Society in North Carolina.

Toys can be made from household items that are bound for the trash, Ms. Hand said. Her tips include:
  • Using empty plastic water bottles to toss around for the dog. "Dogs love empty plastic water bottles." 
  • Stuffing an old pillowcase with dead leaves and tying the end. "Cats love the sound the leaves make as they pounce and wrestle on the pillowcases." 
  • Using old socks to play tug-of-war. 
  • Stuffing the cardboard tubes from paper towel with treats to offer a challenge for a playful pet. 
  • Recycling stuffed animals made for children (remove the plastic eyes and nose).
But health care is the one area that pet parents should avoid skimping, Ms. Cochran, the Phoenix Area Animal Care Coalition official, advises.

More reports about dogs and surveys:



"Never forgo vaccinations or getting your pet spayed or neutered," Ms. Cochran said. "There are plenty of clinics that offer this at a discounted rate and some will even do it for free depending on the breed. Besides, it will be much more costly in the long run to care for a litter of puppies or the serious medical issues that could arise from not getting the proper vaccinations." 

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The Ruff Report is a column that appears on MySetterSam.com, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on Createspace.com and Amazon.com.

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