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How to control pet-care costs: Five tips

Having a pet can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be expensive. Caring for a typical medium-sized dog will cost you about $1,580 the first year, according to the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, while a cat will run you about $1,035. Here are some ways to control pet-care costs:

1. Spay or neuter your pet. This not only protects you from the costs of caring for an unexpected litter of kittens or puppies, it also saves money by curbing serious health problems such as uterine, ovarian and testicular cancer, the ASPCA said. Many shelters provide low-cost spay and neuter surgeries.

2. Buy pet food at big-box retailers. Consumer Reports compared prices and found pet food at Target and WalMart “much cheaper” than at specialty stores or online. The magazine also said it’s not worth it to pay extra for “premium” pet food, a label that has no legally defined meaning.

3. Reduce the risk of injuries and disease by keeping cats indoors, and keeping dogs in a fenced yard when not out for a walk or play date. Also, prevent accidental poisonings by keeping household medications and cleaning chemicals in cupboards or other places where pets can’t reach them.

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4. Brush your pet’s teeth. Dental disease such as gingivitis, tartar or loose or infected teeth can lead to heart and kidney problems and expensive procedures, the ASPCA said. Dog and cat toothbrush and toothpaste sets cost less than $10. Another option is dental chews, which release enzymes to clean teeth.

5. Look for lower-cost medications. Veterinarians typically charge a markup of 100% to 160%, plus a $5 to $15 dispensing fee, Consumer Reports said. You may be able to get the same medicine cheaper from a supermarket pharmacy or large retailer, some of which allow you to enroll in discount medication programs.


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