By Stephanie Stacey
Nov. 7, 2022
The economy is showing signs of a looming downturn. Inflation is still consistently high, and recent modeling from Bloomberg Economics found a 100% likelihood of a recession within the coming year.
In the face of this grim economic outlook, it's crucial to take action to protect your finances — and this includes thinking about your pets.
Thanks to inflation, caring for your fluffy friends is getting pricier. Pet-food prices rose by 14% between September 2021 and September 2022, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics. Vet bills have also jumped — swelling by 10% in the last year, per AP.
Research by veterinarians.org, published in July, suggests that owners are already feeling the pinch: 50% are shopping for cheaper alternatives to their standard pet food and 35% said they've had to reduce the frequency of their visits to grooming services.
More worryingly, 46% of pet owners said that they've decided to forego or delay veterinary treatments in the wake of inflation — including dental procedures and X-rays.
Insider spoke to five experts about the best ways to look after your pets without destroying your finances.
1. Focus on the essentials.
When faced with tough financial choices, pet owners should think about cutting back on non-essential items like treats and toys, but keep putting money into critical things like pet insurance and good-quality food.
Skimping on your pet's nourishment can be a false economy.
"By ensuring you are giving them all the exercise and nutrients they need to stay at a healthy weight, you can lower the risk of them developing chronic conditions like high blood pressure and arthritis which entail ongoing additional veterinary costs," Rob Young, the head of centre operations at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in the UK, said.
Providing appropriate medication is also crucial to preventing costly long-term health complications, Samantha Gaines, a representative of UK-based animal-welfare charity, the RSPCA, said.
She told Insider: "Google searches for 'Can I give my dog paracetamol?' have surged recently, as we fear people are seeking to self-medicate animals and avoid vet costs."
2. Shop around for food and medication.
Pet food often comes at a hefty cost, so it might be worth seeking out cheaper alternatives. Just make sure off-brand products still contain all the nutrients your pet needs, and check in with a vet or animal charity if you're unsure.
You could also try mixing your pet's favorite regular food with a cheaper brand to make it stretch further.
Medication is also a big expense, but it's often cheaper on the internet. There are plenty of online animal pharmacies to choose from, so make sure to compare costs and check out reviews.
3. Get the right pet insurance.
There are an estimated 160 million pets in the US, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Of these, just 2.48% have insurance.
According to the experts, you should think carefully about skipping insurance in a bid to cut costs, because this might turn out to be an expensive miscalculation if your pet gets sick.
Insurance might seem like a burdensome and unnecessary cost, but it can offer peace of mind and financial security in the face of unwanted surprises.
Kristen Lynch, the executive director at the NAPHIA, told Insider: "When money is tight and when costs are rising, it's even more important that you have the confidence and security of pet insurance to make the decisions you need to make for your pet's health and happiness."
But don't just dive in. Pet-insurance premiums are likely to rise further as inflation pushes vet bills up, per VetHelpDirect, so it's more important than ever to shop around.
You should also take a close look at what your insurance policy covers. Some of the cheaper policies exclude common medical treatments, so you'll have to budget for these extra costs down the line.
4. Prioritize preventative care.
It can be easy to let basic maintenance slip by the wayside, but simple measures like cleaning your pet's teeth, deworming them regularly, and keeping them flea-free are crucial to preventing costly health complications.
With vet prices reaching new highs, it's unsurprising that owners often hesitate to bring their animals in for treatment, but this can damage your pet's health and allow costs to spiral.
Lynch told Insider, "When a pet owner delays in providing care, that can mean a condition worsens while they 'wait it out' and then that same condition may become acute, and more prohibitively expensive and difficult to treat successfully."
5. Try some DIY.
Pets don't need anything fancy, the experts told Insider. Cheap homemade toys will delight them.
If you want to get your pet something new to play with without breaking the bank, try turning old t-shirts into dog tuggy toys, or testing out some DIY toilet-roll games.
You can also make treats using low-cost household ingredients. Lots of animal charities offer handy tips and DIY guides on their websites, including the ASPCA, Best Friends, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
6. Ask for help.
It's never a good idea to struggle alone.
In times of crisis, you can reach out to local charities for specific guidance and even financial help. Craig Cummings, the director of the Wyoming-based Casper Humane Society, told Insider, "Difficult economic times affect everyone, and animal shelters and other organizations are here to help."
The Humane Society has a database of organizations across the US which support people struggling to afford essential pet care. These include discounted vet practices, pet-food banks, and emergency animal shelters.
If you're pushed to make the "heartbreaking" decision to rehome a pet, you should always seek out support, Christa Chadwick, the vice president of shelter services at the ASPCA, said. "For owners who are either unable to care for a pet or who no longer wish to do so, we understand that rehoming or surrendering the pet may, at times, be the best outcome.
"We encourage any pet owner who has made the decision to rehome their pet to enlist the support of a family member, friend, or veterinarian. You may also wish to list your pet on Petfinder.com or visit Get Your Pet to connect with people near you who are looking to adopt a companion animal and meet potential adopters to find a good home for your pet."
In the most extreme situations, animal shelters can step in and make sure your pet is safe and looked after.
Young told Insider: "We would never judge anyone for making the difficult but responsible decision to bring their animal to a rescue if they can no longer care for them."
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