You’ve been thinking about it for a while, browsed (adorable) photos of pets on Instagram… and now you’re ready to finally take the plunge and bring home a dog or cat. It’s an exciting milestone — and one that’s worthy of celebration! — but it also requires preparation. To give your new furry bestie the best life, you need to adopt five habits that keep them — and your wallet — thriving.
One of the best things you can do is to prepare for the inevitable with pet insurance, but you can also take additional measures to keep them healthy. Here’s a look at our guide to best practices.
Budget for Food and Pet Care
How can you prepare to own a pet without knowing exactly how much they will cost you? Before adopting or buying a dog or cat, create a financial checklist of ongoing monthly and yearly expenses. These costs vary by each family and lifestyle, but generally, you should expect the following:
- Food and treats
- Heartworm medication
- Flea/tick medication
- Toys, beds, leashes/collars
- Veterinarian visits and vaccinations
- Walking, pet sitters or daycare
These budget items will vary depending on where you live and the health and size of your pet, as well as your lifestyle. If organic or specialty dog food is important to you, then work that into your budget. And if your family takes two vacations a year where you can’t travel with your cat, factor in the cost for a sitter who will keep them calm and well taken care of. By taking these steps and routinely looking at your overall financial picture, you’re well on your way to being a savvy pet owner, says Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner and the director of financial advice at Stash.
“Seventy dollars for a bag of dry food can feel like a burdensome expense if you have to buy it at the last minute when you run out, but if you include your pet’s expenses in your monthly spending budget, it won’t feel quite so painful,” she continues. “Anticipation is key.”
Be Diligent with Regular Preventative Care
When you visit your doctor for an annual physical, they give your body a tune-up, checking for any changes or abnormalities. The same is true for your dog or cat. While they may see a vet more often in the first year of their life, actively prioritizing preventive care could save your pet’s life — and your wallet, says veterinarian Carrie Ealy, an area medical director for IndeVets.
Regular visits and giving your pet preventive care medication can reduce major medical expenses. “Many severe illnesses can be totally prevented by adhering to recommended vaccination guidelines. Heartworm disease can be very costly but is easily prevented with properly administered preventatives. Fleas and ticks can carry and transmit many, sometimes life-threatening diseases,” she continues. “By using proper prevention, you dramatically reduce this risk of your pet contracting one of these diseases.”
Plan in Advance for Surprises at the Vet
Even with preventive care, however, surprises do happen. And though your dog or cat might not be living their days in the wilderness, they’re still animals — and they aren’t always predictable. That’s why veterinarian Brittany Kleszynski, DVM says it’s a good idea to have savings set aside for unexpected financial burdens. “This will help you avoid the stress of surprise costs and give you peace of mind knowing your pet will get the care that is needed in the event of an emergency, such as a broken bone or accidental ingestion of a foreign object,” she says.
Socialize — and Train — Your Pets
Though it might not seem that important that your dog has friends, it can actually make a world of difference, according to Dr. Ealy. As she explains, introducing your puppy to various situations and people early on can reduce stress and fear as they grow into adulthood.
“By teaching them to be confident in situations that could be frightening, you reduce the risk of aggressive behaviors, anxiety, and the need for veterinary intervention with behavior consultations or medications to address these issues,” she explains.
And believe it or not, while cats often have a reputation of being loners, they crave company, too. Dr. Ealy says felines need a variety of environmental stimulants to keep them healthy and thriving. “There are several illnesses that occur in our feline friends that are largely due to lack of environmental stimulation, including aggressive behaviors, inappropriate urination/defecation, and obesity, to name a few,” she adds.
Purchase Pet Insurance
Last — but definitely not least! — go ahead and invest in pet insurance for your animal. Much like the health insurance your family relies on to stay healthy, pet insurance does the exact same thing. It helps you prepare for emergencies, and allows you to care for your dog or cat with less anxiety about what “might happen.” Just make sure you read the fine print so you can understand what’s covered and what’s not.
“Having an insurance plan in place reduces the financial burden associated with unexpected veterinary costs by providing partial to full reimbursement,” Dr. Ealy says. “This allows you as the pet owner to make treatment choices more easily for your pet without the added stress of finances.”
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