Everybody loves dogs. They're sweet, slobbering, furry bundles of fun. You want the best for your pet—but dog care can get expensive. As a broke veterinary student with a pack of my own, I'm here to share with you ways to save money on dog ownership without sacrificing your dog's quality of care—from my own personal experience and my knowledge of the veterinary field.

1. Doggie dining—to splurge or to save?

There are tons of dog foods out there, with a huge range of prices. As a dog owner and a veterinarian in training, I'm here to tell you that with dog food, you get exactly what you pay for.

  • High quality, vet-recommended brands are best for your dog. Some of the highest quality brands, like Hill's Science Diet, may be out of your price range, but other brands like Purina make good-quality foods at more reasonable prices. Talk with your veterinarian to explore the best, most economical option for your pet.
  • Avoid the cheap grocery store brands—the quality is inferior, meaning more poop and more upset tummies.
  • To get the most out of your high-quality food, make sure that you are feeding your dog the proper amount; many pets are fed too much and are obese as a result. If your dog is at their ideal weight, you should be able to feel their ribs easily without seeing them, and they should have a "tucked in" waist, or hourglass figure.
  • Reserve your money for good-quality food by using grocery staples as cheap treats—apple chunks, baby carrots, peanut butter, cheese, or boiled chicken.

2. The dreaded vaccines

There are some things you can skimp on, but, unfortunately, vaccinations are not among them!

  • Vaccinations keep your dog safe from dangerous and deadly diseases.
  • Puppies require vaccinations more frequently in order to build their immunity to these diseases. But as your dog gets older, he or she may require some vaccinations less frequently—every three years as opposed to every year—as long as they have been vaccinated properly in the past!
  • Your dog should still be seen by your veterinarian once a year, so that they can make sure he or she is healthy.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about a proper vaccination schedule for your dog, and how it can lower the costs of your annual visits.

Related: Are You Overspending on Your Pet? How to Tell and What to Do

3. Heartworms, fleas, and ticks…oh my!

Heartworms are a life-threatening parasite carried by mosquitoes. All dogs—regardless of sex, age, or breed—are susceptible.

  • While heartworms are treatable, the treatment is risky and very expensive. It is much more cost effective to prevent heartworms than to treat them after the fact.
  • Depending on the mosquito population where you live, your dog may need to stay on heartworm prevention year round—where I live in the deep south, mosquitoes are inescapable, no matter what month! In colder areas, however, seasonal prevention can be considered.
  • Talk with your veterinarian to discuss the best heartworm prevention plan for your pet. Use a heartworm prevention that is recommended by your veterinarian—there are types to fit all budgets.
  • Fleas and ticks are not only uncomfortable but can carry dangerous diseases. Flea and tick prevention means a healthier and happier pet!
  • Resist the urge to purchase the less expensive store-brand preventions—they’re less effective than veterinarian-recommended brands. If you're going to spend money, spend it on a product that will work!
  • Depending on where you live, prevention can be reserved for the months when fleas and ticks are the most problematic – which means a lighter wallet and a happier you!

4. The joys of toys

Dog toys can be astronomically expensive, as anyone who has visited the pet store can tell you!

  • Keep your toys simple—dogs love the basics, like tennis balls to chase, and thick, hardy ropes to tug on!
  • There are plenty of ways to entertain your pet without paying a dime. Dog parks, long walks, swimming, and running around in the backyard are more gratifying for your furry friend than any stuffed animal! Quality time with your four-legged companion doesn't have to come with a price.

5. In case of an emergency…

Let's be realistic—accidents happen, no matter how careful we are. There are many dangers in the world for our dogs, from speeding cars to swallowing the wrong toys.

  • Prepare yourself. Create an emergency fund for your pet, and set aside some money for it every month.
  • Pet insurance is another option. It’s becoming more widely available and can help offset the cost of an emergency surgery or other situation. Talk with your veterinarian about pet insurance options in your area.

A dog is a marvelous companion. I hope that these tips will help you to keep your furry friend happy and healthy, while reducing unnecessary costs!


This is a guest post by Melanie from Mississippi.

How to Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy on a Budget