Taking care of animals is expensive, taking care of a senior dog with health issues is extremely expensive.
From making your own dog toys and pet proofing your home, to feeding a balanced diet and exercising your dog, these are just a few ways to keep down the cost of caring for your senior pup.
I just finished writing an article called “20 Ways to Save Money on Vet Bills” which you’ll find very helpful. Now we’re going to look at other more general ways to reduce some of the costs of sharing your life with an older dog.
Groom Your Dog at Home
This first recommendation is definitely not for everyone! It’s not something I would ever try, but a lot has to do with the temperament of your dog. Let’s just say Jack tolerates a shower now and again by my husband, but that’s about it.
If you do want to give it a try, I suggest watching some Youtube videos or ask your current groomer to give you pointers.
It’s not an “all or nothing” situation. Maybe you’re comfortable giving your dog a bath, but prefer a professional to do the rest. You may be okay doing everything except trimming the fur around the face and nails.
It’s worth asking your groomer the prices before you go this route. You may find you’ll only be saving a few dollars and adding a lot of stress to your life.
Pet Proof Your Home
A trip to the emergency hospital can set you back quite a bit, but when it’s necessary it’s what we do. However, there are lots of things we can do within our control to reduce the likelihood. Here are some examples:
♦ If your dog is showing a lot of interest in something under the bush in the park, go over and have a look. It could be anything from chicken bones to a dead animal.
♦ Keep all household cleaners in a hard to open cupboard
♦ Medications and supplements should be out of reach
♦ Check if any of your household plants are poisonous to dogs and if they are, get rid of them or make sure there’s no way they can be reached
♦ Don’t leave food like chocolate or raisins lying around
♦ If your dog is blind, don’t leave things on the floor he can trip over and injure himself
♦ If your dog is a chewer, be mindful of toys easily shredded or those with squeakers that can be swallowed
♦ Just like you do when child proofing your home, cover outlets with plastic covers. It’s not likely anything will happen, but it’s no big deal to take that extra precaution
♦ Make sure your dog cannot get into the hot tub (especially crawling under the cover) or swimming pool. Dogs may be able to swim but unlikely for long periods of time. If they’re stuck in a pool with no way to get out, that story will have a very sad ending.
Make Your Own Dog Toys and Games
You may not be able to realistically make everything, but there are tons of ideas for easy to make toys and games. The best place to find them is Pinterest.
Don’t Buy Dog Food with “Added” Supplements
More and more pet food manufacturers are jumping on the “health and wellness” bandwagon, appealing to consumer interest in grain free, organic, whole foods, omega 3s, glucosamine and the like.
Adding supplements, for example, may have given them an excuse to raise the price, when in fact there is no added benefit at all. My research suggests there’s no way to know the quality or actual amount of the supplement added, and whatever has been added is destroyed by the manufacturing process anyway.
Your dog will benefit a lot more from the actual supplements.
Ask Trusted Friends and Family to Dog Sit
It’s not fair to leave a dog alone all day, so dog walkers and doggie day care facilities are important services. While most of us probably couldn’t do without this kind of help permanently, there may be occasions where a friend, neighbour or family member could help out.
Consider Using a Pet Food Bank
If, like most, you’re struggling with bills right now, a local pet food bank can be a huge help. The easiest way to find one is to do a Google search for animal food bank and your city name.
Make Clothes for Your Dog
I’ve always found very reasonably priced sweaters for small dogs in Walmart. If what you’re finding is expensive, and some coats and sweaters are crazy expensive, what about making your own? I’m not crafty at all, yet I crochet coats for my dogs. They look cute because they’re small, but if I had a big dog I don’t think they could rock my homemade look.
The video for the super easy coat I make is above, and I double up the wool to make it even thicker. I chose this style because Jack didn’t have a lot of patience while we fumbled with regular coats, and would get really annoyed. This is perfect because it takes a second and there’s no fiddling. I do buy their raincoats though!
If you’re not loving this style, YT as an unlimited number of gorgeous patterns to choose from.
Take a Pet First Aid Course
Some things can be easily treated without a trip to the vet, but how do we know what those things are? What about taking a pet first aid course and having a chat with your vet to learn more about what you can do.
Sounds like a good idea to use supplements as a way to keep your pet healthy, support his immune system, reduce the need for costly medication for joint pain (for example) and of course reduce vet visits.
The thing is, which supplements are the right ones? Is it bone broth? Turmeric? Fish oil? Glucosamine? These are all popular, highly recommended supplements with lots of positive results reported by pet parents. Is there one I can recommend to you? I’m afraid I can’t because I don’t know your situation and I’m not a vet.
I say research and do more research.
Feed a High Quality Nutritionally Balanced Diet
A good quality balanced diet is key to your dog’s good health. The question is, what does this look like?
There are vets, and of course us as senior dog parents who…
♦ Promote a specific brand of dry dog food and swear by it
♦ Believe dry food is nutritionally dead
♦ Prescribe condition specific food as the only diet your dog should eat if he suffers from heart or kidney disease for example
♦ Believe prescription diets are filled with unhealthy, unhelpful and unnatural ingredients
♦ Recommend a raw diet as nature intended
♦ Believe in a whole foods homemade diet, tailor made to your pet’s needs
And on and on.
Who do you listen to and how do you decide what’s right for your old dog? I always recommend research. Read about the various types of dog food (dry, canned, dehydrated, raw…), what people love about them and what they don’t. Consult with your vet, and perhaps a holistic vet if you’re interested in what a more natural approach has to offer. Be prepared to read and hear tons of conflicting information, and at the end of the day choose a path that makes sense for you.
Join Pet Store Loyalty Clubs
Whether you shop in person, online or both, find out if they have a loyalty program. Be sure to open the emails they send so you don’t miss out on any sales, discounts or offers.
Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
Obesity is responsible for many serious health issues, and can make painful conditions such as arthritis even more painful. Give your dog plenty of exercise, find out what his or her ideal weight should be and work with your vet to help you get the weight off. He will feel better and be healthier too.
Make Your Own Dog Beds/Furniture
Have you ever considered going the DIY route and making your dog’s bed? I’ve seen some amazing creations made out of things like pallets, old tables and cribs.
Check out Pinterest for beautiful homemade examples, and watch the video above to see how to make this gorgeous creation. Depending on how many of the bits and pieces you have at home it can cost nothing.
Pet Insurance or Putting Money Aside?
Is buying pet insurance a better way to save money on dog care than putting money aside each day? I think you’ll get lots of positive votes for both!
There’s no question, pet insurance can save you a ton of money, just not in every case. Have you had insurance all along? Are you only considering getting it now your dog is older? Have you recently adopted an old dog? Monthly fees to cover an old dog can be very high.
Do your research, read the fine print, ask other dog owners what company they use, and speak to staff at your vet clinic to find out who they recommend. They process a lot of claims and often have a good idea of which companies are better at paying out than others.
I’ve spoken to many senior dog parents who prefer to either take a certain denomination of money out of their wallets every night for vet bills, or put aside the same amount they would be paying for insurance. They feel it’s better than paying a fortune monthly, only to find out a lot of conditions, especially if they’re pre-existing won’t be covered anyway.
Make Your Own Dog Treats
Most treats are little more than junk food for dogs, not to mention how expensive they can get.
How about a healthier and cheaper option such as carrot slices or green beans? If your dog isn’t impressed, turn to Pinterest for a load of easy to make and inexpensive treats. You may even be able to use some of the leftovers from your meals.
I’m a dog trainer specialising in working with senior dogs. Whether you have health & wellness concerns, or you’ve just rescued an older dog and need training tips, I can help! Sessions are conducted via Zoom and I offer a FREE 15 minute no obligation chat. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website.