5 Tips to Save Money on Pet Care, Vet Bills & Food Supplies

by Kaelee Nelson
Pawlicy Advisor
Pet Care Blog
5 Tips to Save Money on Pet Care, Vet Bills & Food Supplies
Learn how a few simple choices can help you save hundreds of dollars annually on pet care expenses.

As loving pet parents, we would do anything to keep our four-legged companions healthy and happy. After all, they’re part of the family! But just like any other member of the family, our pets have needs that affect the family budget.

According to ASPCA, pet parents can expect to spend $1,391 each year on a dog, or $1,149 on a cat, for expenses such as food, veterinary care, toys, and treats.¹ That doesn’t account for the initial, one-time costs that can add several hundred more dollars to the total cost of pet ownership in the first year alone.

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to help reduce pet care costs without sacrificing the quality of care you provide. Here are 5 tips to save money as a pet parent.

Here are five tips to save money on pet care:

1. Make homemade pet treats

If you’re the type of pet parent who loves to spoil their best fur friend, keep in mind that those toys and treats can really add up. When 1,000+ U.S. survey respondents were asked what they spent the most money on for their pets, food and treats represented the biggest annual expenditure at $442 for dog owners and $329 for cat owners.2

One easy way to save money on pet supplies is to make your own treats at home. Single-ingredient treats are usually very safe and healthy for pets to snack on, but rather than spending $10 - $15 at the store, you can simply whip some up at home. For instance, dogs can eat sweet potatoes as an occasional treat once the skin has been fully removed and they’ve been thoroughly cooked — just dice and bake them for a couple of hours!

There are endless recipes you can look up online, but be sure to familiarize yourself with the list of foods dogs can’t eat and foods cats can’t eat before you start cooking in the kitchen. Remember that canines and felines require very specific diets that provide a source of complete, balanced nutrition, so be careful to avoid replacing pets’ meals in full (treats should comprise no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake). Always consult your vet before making any dietary changes and never cut corners on quality nutrition.

2. Groom your pet at home

Professional dog grooming can also be quite expensive, costing anywhere between $30 - $90 for service every four to eight weeks.3 Save money on regular nail trimmings by handling your pet’s paws or claws from a young age and reduce dog dental cleaning costs by upkeeping their oral care at home.

When it comes to their coat, grooming will vary by pet and owner. In some cases, a quick bath and facial trim may be more affordable (and more enjoyable) than a trip to the groomers. In others, the prospect could be daunting or downright dangerous. Proceed with caution when cleaning the dog’s ears, cutting their nails, clipping their coat, or trimming with shears. It might cost you a little more upfront, but consider purchasing high-quality tools to make your DIY dog grooming experience safer and easier.

cat claw care

3. Shop around for pet medication

Prescription drugs for pets can be just as expensive as they are for humans. In a recent survey of pet owners who had visited the vet in the past year, nearly 80% of dog owners and 60% of cat owners purchased medication. Of those that did, about 60% spent more than $100.4

Fortunately, it’s easy to save money on pet medications through discount pharmacies and suppliers. Ask your vet if there’s a generic option for the prescribed medication. If there isn’t, you can check different pharmacies for price quotes. Many medications, such as flea and tick preventatives, are available at a lower price when you order in bulk.

4. Prioritize preventive care

Although preventive care might seem like an unnecessary expense, it can save you a lot of money in the long run. Annual wellness exams can often reveal issues that, if left undiagnosed and untreated, might have substantial consequences later on.

Some common health issues in dogs and cats are treatable with early intervention, such as obesity and gum disease. Without treatment, however, those conditions could cost hundreds to manage and, worse, may even take years off your pet’s life.

In the meantime, keeping your four-legged friend in good shape is of the utmost importance. Be sure to provide enough exercise and avoid overfeeding. Obese and overweight animals are more prone to otherwise preventable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

dog sniffs tooth brush

5. Sign up for pet insurance

Enrolling in a pet insurance policy can help offset the cost of unexpected illnesses and accidental injuries, along with routine (preventative) care. While standard vet examinations, wellness visits, and pet vaccines can set you back between $160 and $225 annually, according to the ASPCA, it’s the emergency pet care costs you don’t account for that hurt budgets the most.

These vet costs are typically much more expensive, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. If you’re like 81% of Americans who say they couldn’t afford to cover a $5,000 vet bill, then you could be forced to make some very difficult decisions regarding your pet’s health versus your financial security.

One reason why pet insurance is so valuable is the peace of mind it provides by eliminating the need to make such an emotional choice. With pet insurance, you can stress less over the cost of care, knowing that you can get reimbursed for up to 100% of covered veterinary expenses that you pay for out-of-pocket.

Pet insurance also encourages you to visit the vet regularly, which gives your veterinarian the chance to help prevent and detect diseases that could be very costly to treat in later stages of development. Depending on your pet insurance plan, you may be able to seek reimbursement for annual exams, as well as the cost of prescription pet medications that are found necessary.

On average, the cost of pet insurance is about $50 a month for dogs and $29 a month for cats. However, many pet insurance companies offer flexible plans with different degrees of coverage, allowing you to save money on the pet protection that matters to you the most.

Be sure to compare pet insurance plans to find the right solution for your budget and preferences. In order to maximize savings, it’s wise to enroll your pet while they are young and healthy before any health issues arise because “pre-existing conditions” are excluded from coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Being a pet parent can cost over $1,000 per year, so it's important for budget-conscious pet owners to look for ways to save money on expenses.
  • Veterinary bills are often the most expensive part of pet ownership, which can make pet insurance incredibly valuable by reimbursing you for covered vet costs.
  • Some of the ways you can save as a pet parent include making your own pet food and treats and grooming your pet at home, to name a couple of examples.


  1. ASPCA, “Cutting Pet Care Costs” Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

  2. Statista, “Pet Industry Expenditures” Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

  3. Daily Paws, “Dog Grooming Costs & How Much to Tip Your Groomer” Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

  4. PackagedFacts, “Pet Medications” Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

About the author

Kaelee Nelson

Professional Dog Trainer & Animal Behavioralist - Pawlicy Advisor

Kaelee Nelson is a die-hard dog mom, part-time dog trainer, and ultimate pet enthusiast. She recently rescued a puppy named Zoey who went from the streets of Mexico to the big lights in L.A. after Kaelee helped her become officially studio-trained for production work, with the goal of strengthen her dog's confidence as well as the bond they share. Kaelee remains passionate about pets in her role as Content Marketing Manager by helping owners prepare for the financial burden that often comes with giving our furry BFFs the best care possible. Enrolling Zoey in a pet insurance policy was a no-brainer for Kaelee, as it enabled her to get reimbursed for vet costs like spaying, vaccinations, routine care, and more.

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