Dog Ownership for Poor People

I’m sure this article was well intended. It was perhaps written to remind potential dog owners that nothing in life is free – even a free dog – and that there are financial responsibilities that come along with dog ownership. That said, I must offer my low/no cost alternatives to some of the expenses listed in the article:

Basic supplies: Food bowls, a leash and toys can cost $35 to $50 even if you restrain yourself. Crates can cost an additional $50 to $150, depending on the size.

Food and water bowls can be picked up from the Dollar Store (they don’t have to say DOG on them yo) or you can use something from your own cupboard. Washing bowls regularly is more important than paying for ones with fancy designs. A slip leash (the kind I prefer) can be purchased very inexpensively. Your Vet might even be willing to sell you one if they have adequate supply. Toys depend very much on the individual dog (you don’t want the dog ingesting the toy) but a few ideas: empty plastic milk jugs (can be tied together), raw beef bones, knotted up socks or other old clothing bits, empty water bottles. If you need a crate, try checking your local paper or one of the many online resources (like freecycle or craigslist) where folks pass on used household items at no/low cost. Crates are easily cleaned so as long as the condition is good, there is no need to buy a new one.

Food: What you can expect to pay to feed your new pet will depend on the size of your dog and the quality of the food. A 15-pound bag of dry food from a well-known national brand should cost about $17 at a grocery store, and will last two to four weeks, depending on the size of your dog (an average of $225 to $450 per year). Canned, or wet, food tends to be more expensive.

Healthy table scraps help me save on food costs because I share much of what I eat with the dogs and therefore, almost nothing goes to waste. For example, I may not finish the entire carton of eggs before the “sell by” date, but when I see it’s getting close, I can hardboil the rest for the dogs.

Health care: Expect to pay $200 to $300 a year for nonemergency vet bills, including an annual exam and preventive care for common problems such as heartworm, fleas and ticks.

Heartworm meds can be purchased at a far more reasonable cost than what the major brands go for, without a prescription, at your local feed store or online. HUGE savings right there, provided your vet agrees that this is a safe alternative for your dog.

Grooming: Professional grooming services are a necessity for certain breeds.

Two thoughts:

If interested, you can learn to do at least a passable dog haircut yourself from books at the library or by searching for “how to” pages online. I used to groom a Toy Poodle that showed up in our yard one day. He wouldn’t have won any beauty contests with my grooming but it kept him from turning into the Shaggy Dog.

Alternately, if you don’t have the desire to give regular haircuts at home (I feel ya), you can get a dog that doesn’t need them.

Related Reading: Straight Talk on How You Can Keep Your Dog During the Economic Crisis

Straight Talk on How You Can Keep Your Dog During the Economic Crisis

If you are one of the many people facing hard times financially these days and considering giving up your dog due to the cost of maintaining a pet, this is for you. Here are some ways to save money in the short term until you get back on your feet financially – cos I do believe a change is gonna come.

1. Food – Many places already have pet food pantries which will supply food for your pet at no cost and more are springing up as we speak. Check with your local animal shelters to see if they have or know of a pantry in your area. Alternately, your dog can eat leftovers from your plate, provided you eat a relatively healthful diet. Cooked meats (trimmed of fat and bones), canned meats/fish, organ meats, rice, vegetables, oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, etc – make use of your healthy leftovers and table scraps to feed your dog. Yes, it’s perfectly safe. Really. I’ve been doing it for years and so was every other dog owner prior to the introduction of widely available pet food to the market. For treats, raw carrots are great for chewing exercise – they will harmlessly pass through undigested as dogs can’t digest whole, raw veggies. You can also use any leftover bits from the cupboard as treats: crackers that have gone stale, that bit of cereal left in the bottom of the bag, the crust of bread no one is going to eat…

2. Heartworm Meds – Heartworm preventive labeled for cattle is available at feed stores and online without a prescription. It has long been used “off label” as a canine heartworm preventive and the cost is dramatically cheaper than buying canine heartworm meds. Check with your Veterinarian to see if this is a recommended alternative for your dog if you are unable to afford the expensive meds right now.

3. Annual vaccines – Good news: they aren’t needed for most dogs! Find out what your state’s requirement is for Rabies revaccination and check with your Vet to see what, if any, other vaccines are recommended. Times have changed and it is now known that the immunity provided by many dog vaccines lasts longer than one year. So if your dog was previously vaccinated, he may not be due for revaccination this year and if you’re in the midst of a financial crisis, certainly a “wellness exam” can be postponed until it’s something that can be worked into the budget.

4. Spay-NeuterCheck with your area shelters to see if they operate or know of a low cost spay-neuter clinic. There are different kinds of clinics – some you have to demonstrate that you fall within certain income guidelines in order to qualify for the reduced fee services, others are open to anyone and everyone. Some require proof of recent vaccination for your pet, others do not so you’ll need to ask these questions before making an appointment.

5. Dog Shampoo – If your dog is one that needs regular bathing, you are probably shocked at the price of dog shampoos – and rightfully so. What I use is the same as what I’ve used for years – even when I showed Champion titled dogs in dog shows – blue dishwashing liquid, original formula. I dilute it with at least 5 parts water to one part dishsoap and it works great. As with any shampoo, be sure to rinse every last bit out. If a conditioner is needed, anything that’s on sale in the human shampoo aisle works fine. The cheaper, the better.