Taking the Bite Out of Pet Care Costs

Spending on pets hit an all-time high last year, topping $53 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). The highest growth came in pet services—such as grooming, boarding, and pet sitting—and supplies and over-the-counter medications also saw a sharp rise. How can you take good care of your furry best friend without breaking the bank? The Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants (OSCPA) offers these tips.

Breakdown it down.
How much does individual pet ownership cost? According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the price of items for a dog including food, medical care, and licenses can range from about $600 to almost $900 per year, depending on the animal’s size. Cats will run nearly $700 a year. (Those figures include estimated yearly health insurance premiums of $225 for dogs and $175 for cats.) Even costs for small mammals and birds average $300 and $200, respectively. Before you get a new companion, it’s wise to know how much you can expect to spend and be sure you have the budget to do so.

Putt medical costs in perspective.
Veterinary care bills added up to nearly $14 billion last year according to the APPA, and if you’ve ever been faced with a pet’s serious illness you know the costs can add up quickly. Pet medical insurance has become increasingly popular, but many people question whether or not it is worth the price. One alternative may be to self-fund your insurance by setting aside money each month in a pet medical nest egg. Average annual vet bills generally range between $500 to $1,000, so your monthly savings could help pay off at least some of those expenses, as well as any unexpected surgeries or medications, if they are needed. If you do decide to buy insurance, read the policy carefully to determine precisely what it covers. What are the deductibles and co-payments? Are there limitations on payouts or lifetime limits? Are there any special service fees? Also, while it’s likely the policy will not cover a pre-existing condition, find out whether certain procedures—or illnesses common to some breeds—are also excluded. Some breeds are more likely to succumb to certain illnesses or injuries. For that reason, it’s a good idea to do some homework in advance to learn about the breed that interests you and talk to a vet about the medical costs you should expect. In addition, be aware that premiums may rise as your pet gets older or as vet care rates in your area or state go up. With all this in mind, add up your vet bills for the past year (or what you realistically can expect your annual pet bill to total if you don’t have a pet yet) and compare them to the insurance premiums you would have to pay. After comparing, then you should decide whether or not the insurance would be worth the cost.

Save money up front with a shelter pet.
Of course, the easy way to save money right off the bat is by adopting a pet from a reputable local shelter or rescue organization rather than buying a purebred from a breeder or pet shop. The cost of buying a purebred can range into the thousands of dollars, while shelter adoption fees, which usually include spaying or neutering and some initial vaccinations, typically add up to no more than a couple hundred dollars at most. By adopting a shelter pet, you can do some good and save money at the same time.

Keeping a rein on pet-related costs is one of the many steps you can take to hold down your household expenses. If you want advice on any of your family’s financial concerns, be sure to consult your local CPA. He or she can offer smart advice on spending or saving your money wisely. For more money tips, visit www.KnowWhatCounts.org, where you can sign up for a free e-newsletter, try out financial calculators or ask a CPA a question. Visit www.FindYourCPA.com for a free CPA referral and free 30-minute consultation.  
LAST UPDATED 8/28/2013

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