Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pooches: What are Your Non-Negotiable Dog Expenses?

We all know pet-ownership can be expensive. And it was especially hard for us this summer when we had several unexpected expenses and no paychecks.
See, we never thought we were going to move until May when we saw how condos were finally selling high and we could actually buy our very own house at an affordable rate. Though a new home also comes with a lot of things we didn't expect that could be surprisingly pricy (Blinds! A secure front door! A security system! A city mailbox!). which might not be so bad, but since we're both teachers in the city we don't get paid during the summer.
With elevated expenses, we realized we only had a month left in the school year to save up our paychecks and add to the savings we set aside for summer money.
Which really made us look hard at what we were spending our money on, and where we could save.
We found a lot of ways to save money overall (I think that could be its own post!), but we really struggled finding ways to cut back for the dogs. And these tended to be our biggest expenses.
These are the things we considered to be non-negotiable dog expenses:

High-Quality Dog Food
As we went over our finances again and again, we realized one of our biggest expenses is the pups' food. We spend as much on the dogs' food as we do for our own groceries every month. We rationalize that spending the money on a high-quality diet can actually save us money because we don't need to visit the vet as often. During one vet visit, Mr. B was diagnosed with early stage kidney disease but once we changed his diet it has never been an issue. I also think it's a combination of eating well and daily walks that has kept them youthful; people never believe that they are really 10 and 11 years old. Since they are older it has been worth it for us.
We know all dogs are different, and they might react to food differently, but we feed our dogs a combination of raw food, limited-ingredient canned food, a dehydrated mix, goats milk, fish stock, fish oil and joint supplements. We highly recommend going to Liz's Pet Shop  (on Chicago and Western) where Liz can recommend food specific to your pup. She has spent her life learning the specifics of dog nutrition and she really knows a lot.
We know many dogs that have lived long, healthy lives eating table scraps and standard dog food, but  we rationalize if there is any way to keep them healthier and elongate their lives it's worth taking that chance and just making other financial sacrifices.

Pet Insurance
Miss M has a lot to say about pet insurance!
We know a lot of people have different thoughts about pet insurance, but I'm a worrier and it really has saved us. With unexpected things coming up, plus a couple of tumors removed, we've gotten thousands of dollars back. We also know several friends where a single accident has cost $5,000+. Sure we could save up the annual payments in a savings account where we might come out even in the end, but if that $5,000 accident happens only 3 years into pet ownership, you would still need to find that extra money. So we play it safe and we have our insurance.
We did a lot of research and we really like Trupanion because it covers breed-specific ailments many pet insurance companies don't cover, and they don't have the same yearly increases once your pet becomes a senior (we had tried Embrace before, and I think they had about a 40% annual increase once your pup turned 7). We also recommend that people who are thinking of getting pet insurance to get it immediately because it will not cover any pre-existing conditions that your dog has already been treated for at the vet.

Daily Dog Walks with the Dogwalker
Mr. B tries to take his stuffy every time!
When our dogs were younger, I was more comfortable leaving them home all day. I knew that they wouldn't have to use the bathroom, and I just spent extra time in the morning and after work to make sure they were adequately exercised. Now that they're older, I think it's more important that they are able to get bathroom breaks mid-day. I also feel more comfortable knowing that there is some one there to check on them during the day.

These are some things that are important us, especially since our dogs are older and we are very aware that our time together might be limited.
We're also curious about other people's experiences, what are some dog-related expenses where you won't cut back?

Remember this gruesomely-comical accident?
Because food is this important to them.
And our dogwalker is this important to us.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.


Life With Hazel said...

Thank you on the insurance feedback. I am researching companies now and it's overwhelming with all of the fine print. I am paranoid about her having an accident, so want to get signed up asap. I'm worried about the medical history on her, because I don't have much since she was adopted. I only have her spay certificate. I wonder if they would accept just a wellness check from our vet??
We have a newly adopted pittie and food is #1 non-negotiable. I am still learning about home cooked meals, (I personally cannot handle raw, though I hear great things!!) She eats home cooked meats/veggies/quinoa blend and gets raw bones. (gross!)
I have to mention..I was searching winter wear for dogs yesterday, and kept seeing images of Miss M and Mr B! <3

Lindsay said...

Similar things for us over here! High-quality dog food, coconut oil (I'm very particular about brand here), heartworm preventative, and Malaseb doggie shampoo.

I wish I had known about pet insurance when we first got our babies. Our male pittie had to have TWO surgeries last summer. Gulp.

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

Spot on the first two points! A daily dog walker is something that we have been going back and forth on. Now that we work further from home, we can't come home during lunch, and we both have been working really long hours lately. We feel bad having the dogs cooped up for 10+ hours and would love to have someone come and hang with them for a bit during the day.

The Daily Pip said...

High quality food and meds are top priorities. Ruby needs daily meds for seizures. We don't have pet insurance so we try to always have a little extra for unexpected vet expenses.

Anonymous said...

We absolutely can not compromise on our high quality dog food, glucosamine and fish oil supplements. And, of course we "have" to keep treats on hand for our walks and play time!

AJ said...

It is cool to see that quite a few of us are right in line in the way of thinking when it comes to quality of food and access to meds with our pets. Food was the number one priority with our dog Roadie. We haven't gone raw but when he developed an allergy to one type of high end dog food we had to make a switch, and went with Taste of The Wild. Pet Food Express is a California, primarily Bay Area, company that offers a buy three get one free policy to food, treats and toys. Totally helps with keeping food costs down. As far as insurance, we went with PetPlan and have been pretty happy though as our pup ages I'll be keeping an eye on our premiums. Our other non negotiable cost is daycare/boarding. We felt it to be so important that our dog has a place that he can go to socialize with his buds as well as be safe and cared for when we travel. Thankfully we work close enough to come home during lunch so having to rely on daycare is not as often as one may think.

Tabitha T said...

Our 14 year young pup eats raw, too! It's rare to find a 14 year old English bulldog, and I contribute a lot of that to his excellent diet. Raw dehydrated food, raw chicken, lots of fish oil and joint supplements. Love to hear I'm not the only crazy one who spends that much on her fur child's food.

Britta G said...

I work at Trupanion and have a pit. I have to say it's been a blessing having Trupanion's coverage and they really do cover those congenital/hereditary conditions pits are likely to have. To A Different Pit of View, for circumstances like yours, our claims department looks into the past 18 months of health history. Whatever you can provide will help them but don't worry about simply not having the info. We understand it's hard to trace back with rescued animals and would never punish you because of that with extra fees or expenses! A vet exam will be just fine!

jet said...

My pets are my third biggest expense category. Thankfully we have a local manufacturer of high quality kibble which is also cheap so that's not so much of a problem. Flea and heartworm preventatives for everyone can be expensive, we do skip out on the flea preventatives for about 2 or 3 months of the year when it's too cold but they are a must for the rest of the time. The plus side of keeping up the dogs' flea preventatives is that we rarely have to treat the cats - one cat in particular is sensitive to the flea preventatives so I avoid treating her if possible.

Insurance for me for the dogs is also a non-negotiable, and since our dogs have to stay in kennels sometimes so are annual vaccinations (or titre tests which cost about the same!) I could delay the vaccination/titres if I had to.

Recently the law changed here and we had to register both cats with the city council. We lifetime registered them both at a cool $100 each.

Totally optional costs are: mouse's daycare once a week, and giving expensive dental treats at bed time.

Beth said...

Similar things for me , but I am the dogwalker for my four. Wish I had thought of insurance sooner....have spent +10,000 on two sick dogs the last year and found out one was terminal.....

Two Pitties in the City said...

From Facebook: Sandy DiSalvo I am now making home made grain free treats for my boys, not only is it less expensive but it's better for them too, their favorites are pumpkin and applesauce treats!
15 hours ago · Like · 2

Karen Cipriani Cottrell I don't skimp on quality, USA-sourced food & chew toys, regular vet well-visits, and homemade treats. And kisses on the head - lots of those daily.
15 hours ago · Like · 5

Kelly Ross Well, I'm guilty, I don't cut back on anything...I spend so much on my dogs it's embarrassing:). I work to support my dogs:).
15 hours ago · Like · 7

Elizabeth Rendeiro McCarthy Food, skin care/bath items, and training!!!
15 hours ago · Like · 1

Jessica Roubitchek Same exact list - subbing weekly daycare for the dog walker. My two are lucky to have someone home most of the day... Spoiled!
14 hours ago · Like · 1

Deena Awad Freeze dried grain free food and PET INSURANCE!
14 hours ago · Like · 1

Two Pitties in the City said...

Shannon Graham Mugsy gets the best of everything, we just can't say no to that face. What brand of coconut oil do you guys use?
Shannon Graham's photo.
13 hours ago · Like · 3

Megan McCauley I am guilty too....I work hard so my dogs can have a very spoiled life! I would never cut back on quality of food however...never!
12 hours ago · Like · 1

Karl Sagan quality poop bags. I just can't use grocery store bags... i can't!
12 hours ago · Like · 2

Brittanie Pivinski My dog has it way better than me! I will make sacrifices financially in my life so that I know my boy is healthy, happy, and safe. It is totally worth it to me. I agree especially with the higher quality dog food, it's expensive but my dog has severe allergies and has to have a limited ingredient diet... that is one expense I wouldn't change at all.
10 hours ago · Like

Jen DeSalvo I actually drove 60 miles each way to Purdue to keep my pitties instead of living in a dog-free apartment near campus. I didn't miss anything. Got my degree, have an awesome job, and didn't give up on my babies.

Two Pitties in the City said...

Helen Rashad Definitely food. Bill's on a raw diet and the price went up a lot recently (ouch) but it's just not worth it to switch him back to kibble - it upsets his stomach big time.
10 hours ago · Like

Michael Wickler Food is the main thing.

Primal Pet Foods: Wholesome Raw Food for Dogs and Cats
Primal Pet Foods is a San Francisco, CA based...
10 hours ago · Like · 1 · Remove Preview

KwiecieĊ„ LeMieux These are my non-negotiable for my bestie: grassfed/grass finished meats(including organ), grassfed gelatin, organic unrefined coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, bone broths, filtered water and dog insurance. We try to do the best for our four legged children. In the long run it's not really expensive, preventive is very important to us.
9 hours ago · Like

Dawn Chen i really like your blog today! I cook greens and squash with hommade beef/chicken broth for our dog, mix with high protein dog food. Maya(our dog) really likes it. I also get the raw bison knuckles boil it and give it to her as a special treat for her teeth. And fish oil everyday in her diet. I think that helps to keep her coat nice and shining.
8 hours ago · Like

Dawn Chen also thanks for tips about pet insurance!

Two Pitties in the City said...

Kara Tierney High quality food
8 hours ago · Like

Connie Mangan I have a cat but I agree where the proper food is absolutely necessary and in the long run it has saved me many hundreds of dollars in vet bills!
7 hours ago · Like

Brenda DeFeo I love your posts and blogs and reading the comments. There is so much good information to be learned.
5 hours ago · Like

Life With Hazel said...

Thank you for the feedback again re: insurance..I think I am just going to have to call. Yesterday I was scared away from insurance all together, because I was reading terrible Yelp reviews on even the highest rated companies. So many said that the price of policies increase without your knowledge, and nearly every single "bad" review was because they were always looking for an angle or loop hole not to cover something. This concerns me a great deal! It's good to hear from people who have first hand experience.

My Dog Barry said...

We get laughed at sometimes when I tell people how much we spend on Barry's food. We have had him just under a year and it took us 6 months to find a good food. We did two different kinds of high quality kibble and he still would get sick. Then we tried a human grade freeze dried food and like magic he was good. Then we looked for another high quality kibble to save some dough. He got sick again. We went back to the expensive stuff and haven't looked back. He's gained weight, looks gorgeous, has tons of energy. and haven't had a vet visit since.

It is very important to us that he's healthy and stays healthy. It's also important for us to get a full nights rest. When he's sick he wakes us up in the middle of the night because he needs to go out! It's good for everyone...

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