How to save money on pet care as the cost of living rises | Consumer affairs

OOwning a pet can be an expensive proposition. From food to veterinary care, there are a number of mandatory expenses, and with the rising cost of living, many owners worry about shouldering the cost of caring for their pets.

According to a survey of 4,000 people conducted for the RSPCA, 78% of pet owners believe the cost-of-living crisis will have a negative impact on their animals, while 68% said they were concerned that grooming costs are already rising and 19% said , they worried about how they could afford to feed their pets.

Consider the cost upfront

If you’re considering getting a pet, it’s important to first consider the financial implications. “Before adopting a pet, we strongly advise potential owners to do thorough research on how to cater for their needs, including the costs involved,” says Lynne James, a veterinarian with the charity PDSA.

“The costs of groceries, health care, supplies and insurance add up quickly. That’s without the cost of unexpected vet bills if your pet gets sick or is involved in an accident.”

Of course, costs vary widely by species and breed, but James says: “For example, a large breed dog can cost £30,000 over its lifetime and cat owners could spend up to £24,000. These costs can be significantly higher depending on many factors including health, exercise and care needs.”

Find cheaper food

The RSPCA suggests finding a cheaper pet food that still meets your pet’s needs, or perhaps mixing a cheaper food with the usual product you buy so it lasts longer.

For dogs and cats, while big bags of dry food are usually more expensive up front than wet food, the overall cost is lower. The most important thing, the charity advises, is that you should give your pet a well-balanced diet that suits their species, age and specific health issues — but check with your vet before making any big changes to your pet’s diet.

Dog eats food from a bowl
You could mix your usual brand of pet food with a cheaper product. Photo: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

Day care for dogs

Some animals do better than others when you go to work. While cats can usually be left to their own devices, dogs need more attention. “We would ideally suggest that dogs should only be left alone half a day at work, so it’s a good idea to ask someone to stop by and let them out or walk them at some point during the day,” says Rebecca Verne, who runs Rehomeing and Welfare Manager at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, says. “If not, all that time alone is quite a long time to stay in and unfortunately you could start to create issues with separation anxiety.”

Dog stands on two legs and looks away at the window, looking for or waiting for his owner.
Some pets do better than others when their owners go to work. Photo: Eva Blanco/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dog boarding can be expensive: last year Admiral Pet Insurance put the average cost at £3,456 a year.

The RSPCA is proposing scrapping expensive pet-sitting services to ask friends and family for help, or setting up a local community group to help neighbors care for pets – but urges owners to remember to gradually introduce their pets to new people and making sure everyone feels comfortable before leaving them in charge.

If neighbors aren’t an option, the online service BorrowMyDoggy offers another option. The service connects dog owners with local dog lovers who will take care of (well, rent) their dog. No money moves between owners and borrowers – it’s all done for the love of dogs – but BorrowMyDoggy charges an annual fee of £44.99 for owners, which covers messaging, insurance and a 24-hour vet helpline. (It costs £12.99 for borrowers to sign up and offer their services.)

Invest in pet insurance

Unexpected vet bills can be a source of stress and wreak havoc on household finances. A check-up at a veterinarian often costs between £40 and £60, but treating an injury or illness can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds. “We would highly recommend insurance,” says Verne. “It’s not easy putting that much money aside for potential vet bills. Use cost comparison websites and get advice on what costs companies cover, what type of medical costs are included and so on.”

According to, average premiums for a dog cost £24.94 a month for a 12 month policy and cat insurance costs £17.54 a month. (The figures cover all races and ages, and all types of policies, and do not include those that provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.)

There are four main types of covers. lifespan Policies cover most vet bills related to injury or illness up to an annual limit that resets at the end of the year. Accident-only policies, as the name suggests, only cover veterinary bills related to treating injuries resulting from an accident. Maximum benefit policies cover most veterinary bills related to injury or illness – within an agreed limit for each illness or condition. Once the limit is reached, vet bills to treat this condition will no longer be covered. Finally, time-limited policies cover most vet bills for injury and illness, but there are limits to the amount that can be claimed for each condition, as well as the length of time you can claim for each condition. If this period (usually 12 months) has expired or you have reached the limit amount, you can no longer make a claim.

A cat
According to, an average cat cover costs £17.54 a month. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“Pet insurance doesn’t come in one size fits all, and costs depend on things like breed, age and medical conditions, so it’s important to compare policies to find the right coverage at the best price,” says Dave Merrick, Pet Insurance Expert at MoneySuperMarket, says.

“When you compare policies, check the additional benefits that are included, e.g. E.g. free video vet consultation, dental insurance or pet travel insurance to see what could add the most value to your pet.”

He adds, always check the policy deductible — in other words, the amount you’ll have to pay for a vet bill when you make a claim: “The higher the deductible, the lower the cost the policy could afford.”

Ask your vet about payment plans

Some – although not all – veterinarians offer a payment plan that allows pet owners to spread the cost of treatment.

You will often pay a small amount each week or month to cover necessary expenses such as vaccinations and other treatments.

Stick to precaution

“Preventive health care like vaccinations and spaying can avoid future vet bills,” says James of the PDSA. “While preventive measures come with an upfront cost, they save money in the long run and are essential to keeping pets fit and healthy. Monitoring your pet’s weight and contacting your veterinarian if there are concerns can also help avoid costly bills from weight-related health conditions like arthritis and diabetes that require lifelong medication. Aside from being healthier for your pet, avoiding overfeeding also has a positive impact on your grocery bill.”

A PDSA vet treats a cat.
The PDSA has 48 veterinary clinics in the UK. Photo: PDSA/PA

Find out if you can get help with the costs

“We recognize that not all eventualities are predictable and anyone’s circumstances can change without warning,” says James. “The rising cost of fuel and household bills are putting pressure on households across the UK. People who are struggling to afford veterinary care for their pet can contact the PDSA.”

There are 48 PDSA animal hospitals in the UK and the charity has supported more than 370,000 pets and their owners in 2021, says James.

“We anticipate that demand for our services will increase as financial tightness increases. We encourage anyone who is struggling to cover the cost of veterinary treatment to find out if they are eligible to access our services.”

To verify your eligibility, visit the PDSA website.

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