The saying goes, “The best things in life are free.” Arguably, that’s a mostly true statement. Though we can probably all agree that pets are one of the best parts of life, they certainly are not free.
When I was seven, my grandpa surprised me with three pet rabbits. We had an acre of land with an old chicken coop near the back of the property, and that’s where I stashed them, unbeknownst to my mom. In my seven-year-old mind, I thought if my mom found out about them after they were all settled in their home, the odds of me being able to keep them were higher. So that was the ultimate plan.
Much to my surprise, she found them shortly after, and when I saw ‘the look’ come over her face, I knew it was time to deliver my rehearsed response…yes, I had one. “But, Mom! They’re FREE. Grandpa gave them to me, and since this coop was already here, they’re FREE.” Her reply burst my bubble into a gobzillion pieces. “Food isn’t free. Vet visits aren’t free. Bedding for their cage isn’t free. Heat lamps aren’t free. You’re giving them back to grandpa.” I was crushed, of course. But it’s a lesson I wouldn’t soon forget.
Whether or not you’re new to the role of pet parent, there are always more ways to learn and prepare for avoiding financial strain. Pets become a part of our family. We love them, and they love us, and no one wants to feel burdened by the costs they incur. We’ve compiled a list of the most common costly mistakes pet owners make and some tips on avoiding them.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
A fundamental but great question. Overfeeding is one of the most common mistakes of pet ownership. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 58% of cats and 54% of cats are overweight. Not only could you be spending too much on the food itself, but obesity and weight issues can lead to higher vet bills in the long run. Make sure you talk to your Veterinarian and understand how much food you should be giving fluffy and what type of food is best for your pet’s breed and age.
Another very common faux-paw (see what I did there?) is not caring for your pet’s chompers. By age 3, about 85% of pets have dental disease, which is very costly to treat. It’s much more affordable to stay on top of teeth brushing, either with a baby toothbrush, a specialized dog toothbrush or with dental treats, than to end up with a costly dental bill. Ask your Vet what kind of toothbrush is best for your pet and how often you should be brushing! It’s not too late to add this one to your New Year’s Resolutions: brush your pet’s teeth and save yourself money! You can find more pet resolution ideas here if you’re looking for inspo!
We were due to meet some friends at the park a couple of weeks ago when she texted me: Sorry, running late. I had to take Buddy to the Vet because he ate my earring and hasn’t poo…well you know where I am going with this! Their spaniel puppy had snagged it off the dresser when she wasn’t looking, and after days of treasure hunting, she still hadn’t found it. When they finally made it to the park, she shared the good news that the x-ray was clear. He must have passed it during a walk, or she’d missed it during her hunting and needs to brush up on her Indiana Jones movies. The not-so-good news was the three-figure vet bill she had to pay. And, now she needs a new pair of earrings. What a headache!
As you can see, Not pet-proofing the house can be costly on many levels. Animals explore with their mouths, and nothing is off-limits. My friend lucked out, and Buddy was okay, but some pets aren’t so lucky. Sharp items could puncture internal organs or need surgical removal. Costs for this get into the four-figure range! If you want to get ahead of the game on this one, you could train your pet to “drop it” or “leave it” on your command. This way, if he does happen to get something he shouldn’t have, you can (hopefully) get him to give it up before he ingests it. Obviously, you can’t have a completely sterile home with zero risks, and you can’t be around at all times to command your dog to “drop it.” So be sure to have a plan for when you’re away – perhaps crate training or a particular room that’s completely pet-proofed where he can stay while you’re gone.
A surgical vet visit can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. First, make sure the door closes all of the way when coming and going. The only door dashers any of us want to dish out money for comes with fries and a coke. Also, make it a habit to frequently check outdoor spaces for escape hatches newly installed by your floofy boi! You never know when that Grade-A Squirrel will saunter along the fence line, taunting Fido. I don’t care what kind of resolve he has; chances are that walking filet will trump his training! His number one goal then becomes “get through the fence” to get the new fun squeaky toy.
When visiting my aunt with our toddler, he dropped some raisins on the floor during snack time. My aunt is usually a pretty chill lady, but she bolted over and picked them up faster than The Flash himself. The shocked look on my face prompted her to explain: raisins are poisonous to dogs. I had no idea. I knew chocolate was a no-no, but I didn’t think many foods were out-of-bounds for dogs apart from that. It turns out there are quite a few foods that are toxic to our furry friends and making sure he can’t access these foods is essential to avoid not only a sick pup but pricy emergency vet visits.
While it may seem like you can buck the system or fly under the radar by keeping your furry friend a secret, chances are it could come back to bite you. Make sure you always disclose your pet when you’re renting a home, staying in hotels or Air BnB’s, or traveling via rental car or plane. Many pet deposits are refundable, providing your pet leaves the place in ship-shape. And the cost of fines for not disclosing your furry companion could be far higher than the original fee. If you own a legitimate Emotional Support Animal, you have a legal right to have your pet with you in the home, even if there is a “no pet” policy.
As tempting as it may be to hop on Dr. Google when you need help with your pet problems, it’s best to let the professionals help you with your questions. I was once informed to give my cat hydrogen peroxide in a syringe to help her with hairballs and later told by my Veterinarian, “NEVER to do that!” It turns out she had a much more serious condition that I would have never known about had I not gone to the Vet.
Home remedies, old wives ‘ tales, and advice from well-intended friends could not only hurt your animal, but it could lead to higher vet bills than if you would have just gone in for a check-up in the first place. Not to mention the unnecessary pain and discomfort your pet might experience as a result of a misdiagnosis. The internet should never be your go-to for veterinary care, questions, or treatment – unless, of course, it’s a virtual visit with your pet’s doc!
Cats are pros at grooming themselves, but it’s a good idea to maintain their nails regularly. Next time you are at the Vet, ask them to show you where to clip so that you can do it yourself at home.
Dogs, on the other hand, can be a different story. They can be a bit harder to handle when bathing, nail trimming, and hair cutting. But just because it’s intimidating does not mean it should go unchecked. Some dogs may need constant grooming (we’re looking at you, Mr. Poodle), but all need regular maintaining.
Poodles and poodle mixes are well-loved by many. They are hypo-allergenic and non-shedding because they have hair and not fur. In addition to daily combing/brushing, the best practice for owning a dog with hair is to get them groomed about every 4-6 weeks. This will likely include a haircut, nail trim, shampoo, and brush. They will also look at the inner ears for cleaning and the bum for general maintenance. (I will spare you the details on that one. If you know, you know.)
Not grooming a dog with hair can result in matting, leading to incredible discomfort and more severe medical issues. So, be sure to factor in this service when budgeting recurring pet expenses. If you don’t like your first groomer, find another one that works. Your pup will let you know.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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