While you can't put a price on a pet's loyalty, unwavering love, and therapeutic value; there is certainly a hefty cost associated with pet ownership. The average pet owner spends $1,000 the first year and over $500 each additional year to care for the pet. If your pet is accident-prone, gets sick or is partial to filet mignon dinners, these costs can easily skyrocket. In today's tough economy, financing your furry friend can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many things pet owners can do to reduce the cost of pet ownership.

1. Vaccinate Wisely

You may be surprised to learn that you are over-vaccinating your pet. Some vaccines do not need to be given every year, but rather every three years. Check out the American Animal Hospitals Association's vaccine recommendations and consult with your vet to develop a custom vaccination schedule. Make sure to research low-cost vaccination clinics in your area. For example, Luv My Pet is the nation's largest provider of affordable vaccinations in more than 650 neighborhood pet stores in 20 states.

2. Spay and Neuter

Spaying and neutering you pet will save you money in the long run. The procedure is a one-time fixed cost that is much less than caring for a litter of puppies. There is also evidence to suggest that the procedure may keep your pet healthier. If you can't afford the procedure, contact SPAY/USA for a referral to a low-cost or free provider. If you want to experience all the cuteness that comes along with caring for a litter of pups or kittens, contact your neighborhood rescue group or shelter to see about fostering a mother and her young.

3. Keep Lassie Lean

There are too many fat cats and chunky canines out there—80 million to be exact. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 44% of all dogs and 57% of all cats in the US are overweight or obese. While you may love to slip your Pekingese some pulled pork, you need to stop overfeeding your pets. It is knocking years off their life and will send your vet bills soaring. After all, pudgy pets are more likely to develop costly medical conditions such as arthritis, cancer and diabetes.

4. Avoid Cheap Food

Imagine what would happen to your health if you ate the cheapest food you could find for every meal. I don't think you'd be feeling too good if you ate ramen noodles three times a day for years. Similarly, buying cheap pet food is not always cost-effective. Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common reasons pets visit the vet. Cheap food is commonly a culprit for these ailments. So, pony up for the premium brand and you may be able to cut down on vet visits!

5. Keep Your Chew Toy Receipts

I am the proud owner of a English Bulldog/Pit Bull with a legendary ability to instantly destroy dog toys, especially those toys that claim to be unbreakable or the world's strongest. Last week, my precious pup destroyed a $12 toy and a $9.95 bone in minutes. As such, I always keep my receipts for dog toys, so when they are inevitably destroyed, I can return the toy's mutilated carcass to the pet store. I’ve done this multiple times at both Petco and Pet Supermarket and have always received a refund or store credit.

6. Research Pet Insurance

Whether the benefit of pet insurance outweighs its costs depends on the type of pet, where you live, and the lifestyle of your pet. After all, an outdoor dog is more prone to injuries than a lap dog that sits in a condo all day. If your pet is generally healthy over the course of its life, and doesn’t like to swallow wayward screws and jump out of moving cars, then pet insurance is rarely worth the cost. Even if your pet has one major surgery that costs $4,000 during its lifetime, you'll most likely still be breaking even. Make sure you do your research and go through all policy agreements, riders and excluded conditions with a fine tooth comb.

This is a guest post by Lisa from Miami, FL
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