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All it takes is a trip to the grocery store or gas pump to feel the sting of inflation. Inflation impacts every aspect of our lives, and dog care costs are no exception. Meeting your dog’s physical, mental, and emotional needs are key elements of responsible dog ownership, and some elements become more costly as prices of dog toys, dog food, vet visits, and grooming rise. There are smart (and downright creative) strategies dog owners can use to help inflation-proof their dog’s care.
The Cost of Inflation
Generally, it’s expensive to own a dog. There is far more involved than the initial output of purchasing a pet. There are regular expenses like food, treats, and annual vet check-ups to budget for. Plus, you can expect periodic expenses like a new dog bed or training classes. And finally, you need to have an emergency fund to be prepared for unexpected expenses like emergency vet care or a pet sitter.
According to a 2020 Lendedu survey on how much Americans spend on their pets, the annual cost of owning a dog is around $1,900 a year. Recently, though, that number has increased. A 2022 survey by the American Pet Product Association showed that 60 percent of respondents believe the current economy has significantly impacted their household financially.
“Although the joy of pet ownership is priceless, the cost of ownership has been rising along with inflation,” says David Rae, a certified financial planner. And the statistics say the same. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of pet food increased by 13.1 percent between August 2021 and August 2022, but these numbers can also be impacted by pandemic stockpiling spending. The cost of pet supplies and accessories isn’t far behind with a 7.3 percent increase. Pet services have gone up by 5.7 percent, and veterinary services are up by 10 percent.
On average, “petflation” increased to 11 percent in September, which is significantly higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
How to Cope With Rising Costs
Rising costs don’t mean you have to sacrifice your dog’s health or happiness as prices rise. There are plenty of creative solutions that can actually make your life easier outside of cost alone.
Dog food is one of the most basic ways to save money with inflation. It might be tempting to switch dog foods to benefit your budget, but right now the best dog food for your dog is the best one you can afford. To cut the cost per unit consider buying in bulk, so long as you can keep it fresh. As a dog owner, Rae uses that strategy himself. “I have two senior Chihuahuas, who eat food specifically for their age and breed,” he says. “Buying the larger food bag and having it delivered to us on a regular basis gives us a big discount.”
Subscription services can be a sneaky way to save a little and save you the headache of running out the door before dinner when you realize you’re out of kibble. For example, Chewy offers 5% savings on auto-ship orders and Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program offers 10% off on repeat deliveries. Both of these discounts can especially add up for large bags or pricer brands.
It’s important at this time to not skimp on medications or supplements and keep those included in your budget. Again, here subscription services will be your friend. Chewy’s 5% auto-ship discount also applies here, and you can get 20% off your first prescription order with the code RX20.
For dog prescriptions that are also medications that humans can take, services like GoodRx can assist you in finding coupons at your local pharmacy.
Dog Toys and Bedding
You can always put a temporary hold on not purchasing the things your dog needs but doesn’t need right away, such as toys, novelty dog beds, and other incidental supplies. So take an audit of what you currently have. “It is easy to accumulate tons of dog toys or expensive pet beds,” he says.
If you do want to add more enrichment to your dog’s life, there are plenty of DIY options that cut costs. You can make your own dog toys from common household items or go to your local thrift store to purchase cheap T-shirts to create a snuffle mat. You can also bake your own dog treats using low-cost ingredients you likely already have.
Boarding Your Dog
Other creative ways to cut back include relying on friends and family for pet sitting if possible. “For those of you who need to travel often, see if you can trade watching your friends’ dogs for them watching yours cut back on fees for boarding,” Rae says.
However, having someone stay with or keep a dog at their home isn’t always feasible both financially and time-wise. Instead, you can hire a trusted dog walker once or twice a day to play and take your dog out, which can be less costly than boarding, or you can ask a nearby friend to do something similar.
If training classes aren’t currently in your budget, you still don’t have to sacrifice improving your dog’s behavior, learning new tricks, or participating in dog sports. There are basic obedience skills that you can work on with your dog at home—just set aside some time each day. You can also work to earn your Virtual Home Manners titles, which offer general training videos you can follow and train for to get this achievement.
When it comes to participating in AKC sports, there are plenty of virtual titles you can train for and earn at home, including AKC Rally, Obedience, and Agility. While you can’t earn all the titles, you can earn beginner ones, making it a more affordable way to get started compared to in-person training classes.
How to Prepare for the Unexpected
It’s important to plan ahead for veterinary care during these trying times, as well. “There is a shortage of workers in many veterinary clinics, making routine care harder for your pet in high-cost-of-living areas,” Rae says. “Many of my financial planning clients have told me they have to book appointments for routine care well in advance.”
According to the American Pet Product Association survey, 75 percent of people are worried the economy is headed toward a recession. With that fear on the horizon, it’s prudent to prepare for possible job loss. “First off, you need to ensure that you will be okay if you lose your job,” Rae says. “Keeping your family [including your pets] fed and with a roof over their heads is job one. If a job loss is pending, look for things you can cut back on to save money.”
In addition, Rae suggests everyone, particularly pet owners, have an emergency fund. The more pets you have, the more likely one of them will have some type of emergency, like illness or injury, that will cost you money. Plus, an emergency fund will help see you through job loss. Consider having enough money saved for at least three months of expenses, including pet costs, although six months is a safer goal as we look to uncertainty.
Should You Get a Dog Right Now?
Despite the economic climate, you might still want to add a dog to your family right now. After all, dogs add joy to our lives and can help ease our stress. Like anytime you consider getting a dog, you need to make sure you can do so financially. Rae still urges people to consider when they can afford a dog based on their personal finances and lifestyle. He says to ask yourself if you can afford a pet and whether you have the time to care for them. And if so, now is still a great time to add a new pet to your home.
Be sure to do the research beforehand when deciding what kind of dog you want. Make sure you choose the right-sized dog or breed to fit your living situation and family makeup because you don’t want a dog you can’t properly care for.