39 Money Saving Hacks for Dog Parents

Updated on
Fluent Woof is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
money saving tips for dog owners
Ideally, I believe that if you want a canine companion and you’re able to take good care of the dog, you should have one. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
It’s an investment to add a pet to your household. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), the average amount that dog owners spend on their pups is $1500 a year. That adds up over your furry friend’s lifetime!
Face it, it takes money to properly care for a dog, and that can put a strain on the bank account. So, if you don’t already have a pup, I encourage you to double-check your budget and make sure you have the resources you need to add a four-footed member to the family. Remember to take into account not only regular expenses like food, annual vaccinations, and flea and tick prevention but also unexpected medical expenses.
There are so many benefits to owning a dog. But if you don’t have room in your budget, maybe you could live vicariously through visits with your friends’ furbabies. After all, that’s easier than making the decision to rehome a faithful companion.
For those of us with pups, it would be helpful to find ways to trim the budget without skimping on Fido’s health and well-being. That’s why we researched some money-saving tips for dog owners. Take a look:

Include Fido in Your Budget

include fido in your budget
Operating on a budget is wise, especially if money is already tight. A written plan that outlines expected income and allotted expenses can help you track spending and avoid going over your limits. If you include anticipated outlays for your pooch in the line items, it will be easier to know when you have extra for a special treat and when you should tuck some money away for upcoming needs.

Shop Wisely

shop wisely
If you know you’re bringing a furbaby home or that it’s time to update some gear, don’t grab the first bed, collar, or leash you see. Take some time to shop around and compare prices. Practice due diligence and cross-check pet stores and online. You’ll save money and may be able to find some products on sale if you take the time to look around.

Research Local Vets

research local vets
Unless you live in a small, isolated community, you probably have more than one veterinary clinic in your area. Even though it may be more convenient to pick the closest option, it may not be the best one for your pooch or your wallet. Do your research. Ask about fees for routine visits and procedures. Check their policies on payment and pet insurance. Of course, the most important consideration should be whether you trust the doctor to take excellent care of your furbaby. But after that, affordability is paramount. Remember, each clinic sets its own fees, and prices can vary even when vets are in the same neighborhood.
In the event that your special pal needs expensive surgery or treatment, your community may have a low-cost clinic. If you’re in New York, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s animals has a list of low-cost spay and neuter clinics and other helpful information. For other areas, try a Google search of your community to find low-cost veterinary care. Bear in mind, many of these locations have a waiting list for procedures. Plan ahead for your routine needs.

Another way you may be able to help your bottom line for pet care is by taking advantage of referral programs. Our clinic offers an account credit for each new client that a current patron refers. 

Schedule Routine Check-ups

schedule routine check-ups
When it comes to preventative veterinary care, it’s better to pay now than later. Yes, there are costs involved with annual wellness visits, heartworm prevention, and vaccinations. But these are planned expenses that you can include in your budget.
By investing in health screenings, you may be able to catch a problem or disease in the early stages, and that’s likely to mean lower treatment costs. An office visit and antibiotics for a mild infection are more affordable than hospitalization and treatment for pneumonia. Trupanion.com estimates the cost of treating this disease to be over $8,000!
Another way you may be able to help your bottom line for pet care is by taking advantage of referral programs. Our clinic offers an account credit for each new client that a current patron refers.
So, how often should Fido have an exam? Generally speaking, we recommend an annual visit for most dogs and more frequent check-ups for puppies and senior canines. Keeping on top of your pooch’s health care can help you save money down the road.

Know the Breed

know the breed

According to certified animal advisor Roberta Gleicher, “Many purebred dogs and cats are genetically prone to developing certain health problems.” That’s why it’s important to know the details about your pup’s breed. If you know which conditions Fido may be prone to develop, you can figure out if there’s anything you can do to reduce the risk of disease.

Buy Medication Online

buy medication online
The fact is that you’re likely to pay more for medications if you buy them from your clinic. Most vets will admit that buying online can save you money. There are times when you can’t wait for delivery and will have to buy locally. But for routine medications like flea and tick prevention, heartworm, or pain relievers you have time to shop around. You may be able to find some medicines at your pharmacy, but it’s likely cheaper online.
Shopping online can help you save money. However, a word of caution is in order. Some retailers are questionable. Do your research and make sure you’re buying from a reputable company. Popular sites like 1800PetMeds.com and Chewy.com often have good deals on common prescription and OTC items. If you have any questions about a retailer, check with your vet.

Use Flea and Tick Prevention

use flea and tick prevention
This is another “ounce of prevention” tip. Preventative treatments that keep fleas and ticks away don’t have to be expensive, and they can reduce the risk of some debilitating and costly diseases. For example, Lymes disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are two tick-borne diseases that affect dogs and humans. Either condition can cause serious disease and may require lengthy treatment.
Besides potential disease, there are flea infestations. The cost may not be as high for this, but you’ll have to buy shampoos or dips and household foggers. Not only that but in a heavy infestation, you may have to throw away Fido’s toys and bed and but new ones to eliminate the eggs.

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

spay or neuter your dog
In most cases, spaying or neutering your dog is advisable. However, this is a big decision that costs money. You should discuss it with your vet. They can advise you about the best age to have the surgery. We recommend doing it as soon as Fido’s doctor thinks it is wise. Older dogs are more prone to complications and may take longer to recover.
Some of the ways spaying and neutering can help you save money in the long run include:
These conditions can be costly and painful for your pooch.

Practice Oral Hygiene

practice oral hygiene
Dogs can suffer from cavities, tooth, abscesses, and other dental problems like we can, and they can be costly. Fortunately, practicing good hygiene and preventative care goes a long way toward preventing expensive problems.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

One way you can do to head off dental disease in your pooch is to brush his teeth every day. A doggie toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste are inexpensive investments. Start when your furbaby is young, and he’ll probably get used to it and not put up a fuss.
By brushing and checking your pup’s teeth daily, you’ll be able to clean away plaque and may prevent tartar buildup. This regular practice can cut down how frequently you’ll need to schedule a professional dental cleaning.

Schedule Regular Dental Cleanings

While this is a bit of an investment, it’s cheaper than the alternative. It’s standard practice to sedate dogs for teeth cleanings, so the procedure can cost $200-300 or more, depending on the clinic. But treating cavities or other dental problems have a much higher price tag.

Practice Paw Hygiene

practice paw hygiene
You can help protect your floors and furniture by wiping wet or muddy paws when your pooch comes inside. By keeping Fido’s feet clean, you may also be able to prevent yeast infections between his toes. Grooming wipes are another useful tool to remove allergens, dirt, and odor from your pup.

Learn How to Trim Your Pup’s Nails

learn how to trim your pups nails
Dog’s nails are like ours. They grow continually. While nail trimming appears to be merely a cosmetic act, it also has health implications. Overgrown nails can affect your furbaby’s gait and eventually impact his joints. While your veterinarian will probably trim Fido’s nails as part of his wellness exam, they really need to be done about once a month. Visits to the groomer or your local clinic may cost around $10. This adds up over time.
Trimming your pooch’s nails can save you a lot of money, but many dogs don’t like it. However, you can learn how to get the job done. It may be easier if you can start when Fido is a puppy so that he becomes accustomed to the procedure. Once you get started, make it a regular routine.
There are different types of nail grooming options available to you. If your pooch struggles too much with a conventional trimmer tool, try a nail grinder. These gadgets are rotary Dremel tools that gradually grind the nail down so that you don’t have to worry about cutting the nail too close.

Skip the Groomer - Bathe Fido at Home

skip the groomer - bathe fido at home
I get it. My dogs don’t like baths, and it can be tempting to let the groomer do it. But, there are some tricks that can make bathing your pup easier for both of you. If you want to use the bathtub, try smearing some dog-safe peanut butter on the inside of the tub. Your furry friend may associate the event with the tasty treat and learn to like bath time. For outside, there are useful tools and tubs that can make the process more enjoyable. A one-time investment in bath gear and occasional shampoo purchases will be a lot easier on the wallet than shelling out $40 or more dollars every time your pooch needs a good washing!
If your furbaby grows hair and requires periodic trimming, you can save money here too. Purchase a quality set of clippers and cut your own dog’s hair. There are useful tutorials online to help you get started.

Extend the Life of Your Shampoo

extend the life of your shampoo
Were you aware that most commercial shampoos and conditioners for dogs are meant to be diluted when you use them? They actually come in a more concentrated form than your pal needs. So, when you wash your pup, pump or squeeze a small amount into your a pitcher and add warm water. Then use this solution to lather up.

Exercise Your Dog

exercise your dog
The struggle is real. A common issue for our pups today is obesity and unwanted weight gain. Like their human masters, this condition can lead to a variety of health problems, and some require expensive treatments. For example, overweight dogs are more predisposed to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other conditions. The added weight can also be hard on your pal’s joints.

So, the best way to reduce the risk of a range of health problems, keep your pooch fit. Watch his weight by providing appropriate food and limited healthy snacks. Provide him with ample exercise. This will help him maintain a healthy weight and burn off extra energy. You may even find that your special pal is better behaved when he’s a little tired!

Don’t Overfeed Your Dog

dont overfeed your dog
One of the largest budget line items for your dog is his food. That’s why you don’t want to waste a single morsel. The best way to avoid squandering this precious commodity is by feeding your pal the right proportion for his needs and not another bite.
Face it, a majority of dogs are chowhounds. They’ll keep eating if they have access. However, this is likely to cause weight gain and take a bite out of your budget. To help you determine how much food you should give Fido, talk to your veterinarian about his caloric needs. Another option is to use a calorie calculator. Once you know your pal’s energy needs, you can check the dog food’s label to convert calories to the number of cups you need to feed in a day.
Of course, this information is a starting point. You’ll want to monitor your dog and adjust his portion sizes if needed. There are metabolic differences for different breeds and between individuals.

Let Your Dog Nibble Kibble

let your dog nibble kibble
Chances are, in a side-by-side taste test, your pooch would prefer canned food. And why not? It’s tasty, has plenty of built-in moisture, and usually is more protein-dense than your average kibble. The problem is that canned food is almost always more costly than the equivalent dry food.
That may not be a big deal if you have a Chihuahua or a Pomeranian. But what if you own a Great Pyrenees or a Great Dane? Kibble is probably the best option if you’re watching your budget. If your pooch is too finicky to munch dry nuggets, try moistening the food with warm water or using a small amount of canned food as an attractive topper. It’s still more affordable than going with an all wet diet.

Make Homemade Treats

make homemade treats
Even though your pup doesn’t really need treats, we love to give our furbabies something special on occasion. Tasty tidbits also make good training rewards.
Rather than laying out money for expensive commercial products, you can make your own at home. Doing this also lets you add Fido’s favorite foods or flavors. All you need to get started is some recipes and, of course, the ingredients.

Befriend Other Dog Parents

befriend other dog parents
Walks in the neighborhood and trips to the dog park aren’t just for your furbaby. When you start to socialize with other dog parents, you’re building a valuable network. You can share tips about your favorite vet or groomer. Other owners may also know about sales or specials that could benefit you. If you develop an expanded network of dog parents, you can even buy in bulk. Get a group together and purchase some items, like training clickers or squeaky balls, in larger quantities to get a better price per item and save on shipping costs. Furbaby owners that you know can also be a resource for second-hand supplies like crates or grooming tools.

Borrow Puppy Supplies

borrow puppy supplies
The puppy years go fast. Your pooch is bound to grow out of some gear like collars, harnesses, and crates. Check around with friends and relatives to see if you can borrow some of the supplies that you won’t need for much more than a few months.

Hold a Swap Meet

hold a swap meet
You can set up a swap meet or group for pet stuff to help you find items you need. In return, you offer unused or unwanted pet items that others may be able to use. You may have some food that your pup didn’t like or a puppy crate that he’s outgrown. Maybe someone else has a like-new toy or a good condition doggie bed that you’ve been looking for. Organizing a swap is a great way to meet other dog people and save some money.
There are also year-long swaps, like a local Buy Nothing Group or a FaceBook group. It doesn’t have to end with food and supplies. You can also use social networks to create a pet-sitting cohort. Take turns watching one another’s pets when you can’t be home. Not having to pay boarding fees could save you significant amounts of money.

Budget for Emergencies

budget for emergencies
I get it. Sometimes it’s hard enough just making ends meet. But we all know emergencies sometimes happen. And the fact is, they’re easier to manage if you already have some funds set aside.
When you have to turn to credit to pay for unexpected medical expenses, you wind up spending more because of interest charges. There are pet-specific companies like CareCredit that will finance veterinary costs if you need them. However, if you can put away a few dollars here and a few dollars there, you may be able to avoid credit payments. Try putting away some of the money you’re saving from using our hacks. You may want to open a separate “Fido” savings account at your bank. If you have a credit card that offers cash-back rewards, use it for your regular veterinary and pet supply costs. Then pay the full bill as soon as it comes. You can apply the rewards to your emergency fund.

Invest in Dog Insurance

invest in dog insurance
Health insurance for dogs? Even if the idea sounds crazy to you, it could save you money. Some companies have “catastrophic” policies that just cover unexpected emergencies. Other providers offer wellness plans with discounted rates for routine care.
Of course, you’ll have to pay a monthly premium. How much, you ask? According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), in 2019 the average annual premium was $585.40, or $48.78 a month, for an accident and illness policy. This kind of coverage does not include routine exams.
There are a few things you need to know about pet insurance. First, your dog’s policy is not likely to cover a pre-existing condition. You also can’t purchase the insurance the day that you need it. There’s a waiting period for coverage. That means you’ll have to plan ahead.
If you’re not sure you’ll get enough benefit out of your policy, there are a few other options. Check with your auto insurance provider to see if they offer accident coverage for pets. You can also open a savings account that gains interest and deposit your “premiums” there. That way, if you don’t need to use it, the money is still yours to use some other way.

Buy in Bulk and Use Auto-Ship

buy in bulk and use auto-ship
Most of the time, purchasing the same item in larger quantities costs less per item or ounce that a smaller amount.
For example, a pack of 50 puppy training pads costs about $31 (62 cents per pad) at my local pet store. However, I can buy 200 for $55 (28 cents per pad). That’s a savings of over 50%!
Let’s look at dog food: If I buy my pup’s kibble in 16-pound bags, it’s $1.76 per pound, but if I get the 30-pound size, the cost per pound goes down to $1.50. That adds up over time. And don’t forget the hidden costs of gas or shipping. You’ll be spending less there because you won’t be shopping as frequently.
A word of caution when it comes to food. You’re dealing with a perishable, so don’t go crazy buying for the whole year. Check expiration dates on the packaging, and get airtight storage containers to keep the kibble fresh.
Here’s another trick. Amazon and some pet stores offer discounts on auto-ship programs. For things that you need to buy on a regular basis, like food, you can take advantage of these deals.

Loyalty Has Its Benefits - Take Advantage

loyalty has Its benefits - take advantage
Our groomer offers a frequent customer program, and they’re not the only store that provides loyalty benefits. Be sure to take advantage of rewards programs like buy 10 bags, get one free for dog food or member coupons. Another way to collect benefits for frequent purchases is by downloading apps that reward points for cash you spend.

You can also search manufacturer websites for special discounts on products like an orthopedic bed or specialty food. Some sites allow you to sign up for special promotions. As long as you don’t mind the extra email, go for it. Bear in mind that Amazon will not redeem manufacturer coupons, but they do offer special discounts to their Prime members. It pays to do a quick database search before clicking the “buy now” button.

Be Fido’s Personal Trainer

be fidos personal trainer
All dogs need to learn some basic manners like how to sit, to drop an object on command, and to come when you call them. But, with today’s resources, you don’t have to pay big bucks for obedience school. Check your library, the local bookstore, or online retailers for dog training manuals. Another resource is the internet. There are how-to videos and websites [like this one :-0)] that have helpful training articles for basic obedience and more. You can also hire a virtual trainer or purchase a video series for less than a round of classes.
We do have a caution here. Like so many things on the world wide web, some sites are better than others. Use discernment when searching online for training tips. If something sounds hokey or strange, it probably is. If you have any doubt, check with your veterinarian or a reputable trainer.
One other point. Tricks and basic obedience are one thing. If your pup is showing behavioral problems like unwelcome aggression or fear biting, consult with a professional.

Invest in Durable, High-Quality Dog Toys

invest in durable high-quality dog toys
It may seem counterintuitive to tell you to spend more money on brands like Kong, Chuck-It, and West Paw’s Zogoflex line. But if you buy durable products like these, you’ll be less likely to replace them any time soon. High-quality brands tend to stand up to serious chewers, so they save money in the long run.

Use a Kiddie Pool to Keep Fido Cool

If your climate includes hot summer days, you’ll need to find ways to keep your pooch comfortable. While cooling vests and chilled sleeping mats aren’t that expensive, there’s another effective option that’s more affordable. Even if Fido isn’t a natural-born water dog, he might enjoy cooling his tootsies in a mini-pond when it’s blistering hot. We recommend the hard plastic variety. It may not be as easy to store as an inflatable pool, but it will hold up better to your pal’s nails.

Collect Coupons

Collect Coupons
You don’t have to wait for the weekend circulars to get your coupons anymore. Sign up for discount deal sites like Groupon and Coupons.com. There are also pet-specific sites where you can find redemption offers. Check out doggyloot.com and coupaw.com for discounted products and save as much as 75% off retail prices. The site Dog.com often runs promos for 20-30% off your purchase and regularly features doorbusters.

Review Products for Free Samples

review products for free samples
Did you know that there are websites out there that will provide free samples in exchange for an honest review? It’s true. At PINCHme.com, all you need to do is fill out a profile to tell them who you are, pick the products you want to try out, and give your honest opinion after they send you the stuff.
At snagshout.com you can score discounted or free items from Amazon provided that you leave a truthful review. One of the product categories is Pets. Sure, it takes a little time investment, but the rewards can be worth it.

Join email Lists

join email lists
Don’t overlook this hack. Stores and some manufacturers like to know that you’ll be a loyal customer. They often send valuable coupons like 20% off your purchase via email. That can add up on big shopping trips!

Consider Off-Label for Some Things

consider off-label for some things
You don’t always have to buy the name brand to get quality. The key is to know when to go with a generic product, and when you’re better off getting top of the line.
In the case of your furbaby’s food and treats, brand names may be better. It’s best not to skimp on good nutrition, especially if your special pal needs specialty food like hypoallergenic or sensitive stomach diets. Similarly, you want high-quality chew toys. Fido will be gnawing on these products, and you don’t want to risk them splintering or breaking into pieces that your pup could swallow.
Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes should also be top-of-the-line. You don’t want to risk your dog’s safety if this gear breaks or snaps.

So, what things can be generic? Items like fetching and tug toys. As long as you pull these items out for playtime and store them when you’re not using them, they can be inexpensive. Your four-footed friend will enjoy chasing a cheap tennis ball as much as a brand name orb. Food and water dishes can also be simple and inexpensive unless you need a special feeder like a slow-feed dog dish. Just make sure the materials are safe for your pal’s food and water.

Save on Poop Bags

save on poop bags
Rather than purchasing a roll or box of poop bags, use what you have at home. We use old plastic grocery bags or the bags that cover our weekend newspapers. They may not be the best collection tool, but they work just fine.

Chuck the Lint Brush - Use Tape and Rubber Gloves

chuck the lint brush - use tape and rubber gloves
If your pup sheds as our two do, you can get hair everywhere. But you don’t have to invest in lint brushes or expensive products to clean your clothing and furniture. Rubber gloves effectively pick loose hairs off most furniture fabrics. When it comes to your clothes, use a roll of packing tape. It’s the same idea as a lint roller, but it will last longer so you get more bang for your buck.

Dog-Proof Your Home

Dog-Proof Your Home
You can head off potential injury or medical bills by dog-proofing your home. Check everything with a critical eye to identify:

Don’t Make Your Dog a Diva

Photo Credit Yanina Vilenchik
If you purchase outfits for your pooch, focus on essential gear like booties for hiking or winter weather, life jackets for boating, and jackets to keep you pal warm in the cold. Your pooch doesn’t need designer styles or special costumes like bomber jackets, tiaras, or spiked collars. Sure, they can be fun and look cute. But some of them can be bothersome to your pooch. If you just have to have that fur-lined jacket for Fifi, buy a quality product that lasts.

Make a DIY Dog Bed

make dog diy bed
A comfortable, high-quality dog bed can benefit your pooch, especially if he sleeps on the floor. If your pooch is geriatric or has arthritis, hip dysplasia, or another orthopedic issue, you’ll want a top-line product. However, for healthy dogs, a comfortable spot that gets Fido off the floor will suffice.
Rather than dropping a hundred dollars or more on a name brand, why not make your own dog bed? Head to the local craft store and get some fabric and stuffing. You’ll find helpful information in our article on DIY dog projects. One thing: make sure your finished creation is puppy-proof.

Make DIY Dog Toys

make diy dog toys
Not only can you save money by making your own dog toys, but you can also customize your pal’s gear. There are lots of fun ideas on the internet and in this article. Another way that you can come up with fun dog toys is by repurposing other items, like an old rope or baby toys. Just make sure you take off any hazardous pieces such as eyes on stuffed animals.
Here’s the thing, whatever you make needs to be safe. You don’t want something that your pal could tear up and choke on the pieces. That’s why we recommend you use store-bought chew toys and make other playthings like fetch, interactive, or tug toys.

Avoid Cut-Rate Breeders

don't go for a low-cost breeder
If you have your heart set on a purebred but don’t want a high price tag, make sure you don’t go to a puppy mill.
You can still shop for an affordable breeder. But you may only save a few hundred dollars. What’s important is that you find someone who has a reputation for providing compassionate care and screens the puppies for common health issues like hip dysplasia. Just remember that when a breeder charges a fraction of other breeders, you may wind up paying more for unplanned expenses down the road.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

adopt don’t shop
Shelters and rescue organizations have lots of pups that need a forever home. If you’re looking for a four-footed family member, consider adopting from one of these places. Often their fees include some essential care like the first round of vaccines, microchipping, or a spay/neuter discount with a participating veterinarian.
You may also get hidden benefits. Shelter dogs frequently get some basic housebreaking and training from their caretakers. That could save you on wee-wee pads and obedience school.
And don’t be fooled. Not all shelter pups are mixed-breeds. One of my veterinary classmates found a purebred Australian Sheperd at the pound. As a matter of fact, about 25-30% of shelter dogs are purebreds.

I’m not saying that mixed-breeds aren’t just as adorable and loving as a purebred. As a matter of fact, our sweet rescue pup, Charis, is a mutt. Finding a good match for you is easier now than ever. There are sites like PetFinder.com that provide access to shelter and rescue databases across the country. You can search by breed, age, gender, and location. That’s how we got one of our furbabies.

What’s Your Hack?

Reality check: it’s expensive to take good care of your pooch. So, if you’re planning for your first furbaby, expect to spend money. That being said, there are ways to spend smarter and trim the budget safely. Try some of our tips and let us know in the comments below how they work for you.

What about you? What’s your favorite hack for saving money? If you have a trick that we missed, share it below so we can all benefit.
Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

Leave a Comment