Pet ownership has increased in the UK in the last few years with 62% of UK households now owning a pet, according to Statista. Owning a pet can be expensive as there are a number of monthly costs associated with caring for your pet in addition to the initial purchase. Statista estimated that the average cost of owning a dog reached £1,875 a year as of January 2022 with pet insurance and boarding making up most of the costs.
In this article, we share ways that you can save money on looking after your pet while still ensuring you are meeting your pet's basic needs. The tips in this article largely focus on cats and dogs but most can also be applied to other pets. If you are struggling to afford to care for your pet, we also share what help is available to you.
You can jump to specific sections of this article using the following links:
- How to save money on pet care
- How to save money on pet food
- What to do if you're struggling to afford your pet
How to save money on pet care
Having a pet is expensive and it is important to understand the costs and care required before owning a pet. The pet charity PDSA has a handy tool that helps you to decide which pet may suit your lifestyle. If you already have a pet, however, and are looking to save money on its care, take a look at our money-saving tips below.
Buy items that you need for your pet via cashback sites such as TopCashback* or Quidco and receive money back on purchases that you were going to make anyway. Just search for the retailer on the website and follow the instructions to receive your cashback or rewards.
Buy second-hand items
If your pet needs a new bed, collar or pet bowl why don't you try to see if you can find a version that is being sold second-hand? Places like Facebook Marketplace or your local charity shop may be selling new or barely used items at a discounted price.
Get friends or family to pet sit
One of the most expensive costs of owning a pet is the boarding costs when you go away. Statista estimated that boarding costs for dogs increased to an average of £450 a year for 2 weeks of boarding in January 2022, although this can vary depending on where you live and how long you are away for. You could save money on boarding fees by asking friends or family to pet sit for you while you are away or alternatively, you could register with a site such as Trusted Housesitters where your pet can be house-sat for free minus the cost of the website's membership fee.
Shop around for pet insurance
Pet insurance is an essential part of owning a pet if you want to be covered against a large or unexpected vet bill. There are four main types of pet insurance and each varies in level of cover and cost. Do your research prior to buying pet insurance so you know exactly which type is right for you, find out more in our article 'What are the different types of pet insurance?'. Lifetime pet insurance is usually the most expensive as it is the most comprehensive. If you buy pet insurance when your pet is young, however, you are likely to save money and be covered against any illness it may develop at a later date.
One way to save money on pet insurance is by shopping around and comparing costs between providers. Using a comparison site such as Compare the Market* or MoneySuperMarket* allows you to easily compare policies and find the best deal for your pet. More money-saving pet insurance tips can be found in our article, 'How to save money on pet insurance'.
Keep on top of your pet's health
Looking after your pet's health with regular dental and health checkups can help identify any potential illness as early as possible and prevent an unexpected vet visit at a later date. Some pet insurance companies also insist that you schedule regular health visits and annual vaccinations as otherwise, they may refuse to pay out for a claim.
Use an online vet
If you want to query a minor problem that your pet has or want to ask for advice check your pet insurance policy to see if you have access to an online vet such as Joii or First Vet. A number of pet insurance providers now include free 24/7 access to an online vet in their pet insurance policy and it can save you time and money. The apps connect you to qualified veterinary professionals and can offer you help and advice before needing to take your pet to the vet.
Regularly walk your dog
Regularly walking your dog to keep them fit and healthy can save money as well as reduce boredom. Regular exercise will not only help to maintain the health of your pet but can also help to keep your pet's weight down. If your pet starts to gain weight it can lead to a multitude of problems including obesity and arthritis.
You can also save money when walking your dog by downloading the pet app Biscuit. Biscuit tracks your pet's walks and if you meet the recommended daily goal you earn 'Biscuits' which can be redeemed towards pet toys, care and food or on days out for you and your family. If you have an Animal Friends pet insurance policy you can also link to it when setting up the app.
Sign up for worming and flea subscriptions
Regularly treating your pet for fleas and worms will help maintain its health and prevent your pet from getting a flea or worm infestation. If you forget to regularly flea or worm your pet you can sign up for a subscription service with websites such as Pets at Home which will send the treatment to your home automatically when it is due. Signing up for a subscription can also mean you may benefit from a discounted price. Pet insurance provider ManyPets offers its pet insurance customers 3 months free access to its flea, tick and worm plan and the offer can be redeemed via the 'My Account section of its website.
Groom your pet
Pets, and particularly certain dog and cat breeds, require regular grooming in order to keep their coats clean and matt free but this can be an expensive cost as it needs to be done regularly. You could however save money by learning how to groom your pet at home. There are a number of tools for trimming nails and cleaning ears that are owner friendly and can be easily done from the comfort of your own home.
If you have a pet that requires its coat to be regularly trimmed you can invest in a good brush to help maintain the coat in between grooms from a professional groomer and setting up a budget can help to spread the cost over a series of weeks instead of having to pay it in one go. Before getting a pet it is a good idea to research the breed to identify the extra care and attention your pet may require, e.g additional grooming for a dog that has a high-maintenance coat.
If you are worried about cutting your pet's nails, you can use an online vet to ask for help, advice, or tips on pet maintenance. A lot of pet insurance companies now include access to online vets such as Joii and FirstVet with their pet insurance policies. Find out more about the best pet insurance providers in our article, 'Best pet insurance providers in the UK'.
Buy medication online
If your pet requires regular medication, or you have been prescribed expensive medication after a trip to the vet, consider buying the medication from a website instead. Websites such as pet drugs online and Pet Prescription can help you save on pet medication. Some of the medications can be bought online at a cheaper price without a prescription but in some cases, you will require a prescription from the vet. It is likely that you will have to pay for the pet's prescription and this can vary in cost but is usually between £15 - £25. You can however ask your vet to list a repeat order on the prescription so that you only need one or two prescriptions each year. Using these websites can save you a lot of money compared to the markup prices on medication when bought through the vet.
If you receive certain benefits you may be eligible for subsidised or free vet treatment at charities such as the PDSA, RSPCA and Cats Protection. Exactly what help and discount you will get will vary depending on the benefits that you receive and the charity. Examples of eligible benefits are Housing Benefit, Council Tax support and Universal credit with the housing element. More information on eligibility and how to apply can be found on the charities' websites.
How to save money on pet food
Pet food can be an expensive cost particularly if your pet has health issues and has to have a certain food for their health. In this section, we share some tips on how to save money on your pets' food. Ensure you speak to a vet if you have any queries about your pet's diet and don't feed your pet any food that can be harmful to their health.
Make your own treats
Making your own pet treats can be cheaper and healthier than shop-bought treats and fun to make. There are a number of pet-friendly recipes online that only require simple ingredients.
Sign up for regular food deliveries
If you buy your pet food online you may be able to set up regular deliveries and save. For example, Pets at home allows you to set up an easy repeat service where the food is automatically delivered to your home address once you run out and you could save as much as £10 on each delivery depending on the type of food you order.
Look for deals and cashback
When buying food online you can purchase it via cashback sites such as TopCashback* or Quidco to receive money back on your purchase. Some pet sites also have offers or voucher codes that can be used to get money off of your purchase.
Buying food in bulk, especially when on a discount or offer, can help to save you money in the long run. This works well particularly if you are buying tinned or long-life food and have plenty of storage.
Don’t overfeed your pet
Speak to your vet to find out the best weight and diet for your pet. Each pet food brand usually includes instructions on how to feed your pet based on its weight. It is important to not overfeed your pet as doing so can cause health problems such as diabetes and arthritis.
What to do if you cannot afford your pet
If you are struggling to pay for your pet and the things it needs you may be able to benefit from the following:
- Buy cheaper food - Do you currently purchase a more expensive food brand for your pet? Can you buy a cheaper brand to help save some money towards the cost of your pet's food?
- Subsidised veterinary treatment - Pet charities such as the Blue Cross, RSPCA, PDSA, Dogs Trust and Cats Protection can help towards the cost of vet treatment and pet care. You may also be eligible for help towards pet microchipping, neutering and vaccinations. You can contact the charities for more information on eligibility and how to get financial help.
- Pet food bank - If you're struggling to afford food for your pet, you may be able to visit a pet food bank. Blue Cross and the RSPCA have pet food bank tools that help you to locate your nearest pet food bank. You may also be able to ask around at local charities or on local Facebook groups to see if there is anywhere closer that has donations.
- Speak to charities - If you're struggling to care for your pet contact your local charity for help and advice. They may offer a temporary solution to help you care for your pet or may be able to take them off your hands if you are really struggling. It may also be worth speaking to friends or family to see if they can temporarily help look after your pet so it doesn't have to be rehomed.
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