Groom midweek. Friday through Monday is the busiest time at pet salons. Many charge 20 percent less for midweek appointments, says Charlotte Biggs, president of the Pet Care Services Association, an industry trade group.
Pay attention to changes in routine. Pets are creatures of habit, so take any changes seriously. Excessive panting can indicate a heart condition; increased water consumption could be a sign of kidney disease. The early fix is usually a change in diet. Later the condition might require hospitalization and result in a big bill.
Don’t skimp on food. Cheaper brands have possibly harmful preservatives, such as BHT, and fillers, like corn, which may cause allergies, says Biggs. These can cause skin reactions and may require a vet visit and a prescription diet. The first two ingredients on the label should be animal proteins, not by-products, grains, or vegetables. The cost can run to $1 a pound, versus 50 cents a pound for lesser-quality food, but you’ll save in the end.
Adopt. Instead of buying from a breeder for $1,000 or more, donate $100 or so to a shelter and you’ll get a pet that has been vaccinated and spayed or neutered (procedures that can cost from $150 to $300 each). Find a local shelter at Animalshelter.org.
Consider pet insurance. Starting at $15 a month for a cat and $22 for a dog, policies at sites like Petinsurance.com will cover annual checkups, vaccinations, accidental injuries, and some illnesses. This can translate into major savings, since some ailments cost thousands of dollars to treat, says Karen Halligan, a veterinarian and the author of What Every Pet Owner Should Know (Collins, $16, amazon.com).