Tame your pet costs

Six smart ways to curb expenses and still provide the best of care

Last reviewed: August 2011

How much is that doggie in the window? Figure about $9,400 to $14,000 over a 15-year life span, based on estimates from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And you can easily spend much more.

In fact, even during the recent recession, spending on pets grew like a Great Dane puppy, up 6 percent annually since 2008, to $48 billion last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. That jibes with survey findings by our Consumer Reports National Research Center. During the darkest days of the recession in 2009 and 2010, when self-denial became common, only 16 percent of our survey respondents told us that they had cut back on the amount they spent on their pets.

The prices of pet-related products and services are also on the rise. Since 2008, pet food, veterinary care, and other services have risen at an annual rate of about 4 percent on average, considerably faster than the rate of overall inflation. No wonder that many of the biggest names in retailing have been drawn to the pet industry, including Burberry, Martha Stewart, Omaha Steaks, and Paul Mitchell hair products.

But it's still possible to save hundreds of dollars a year on pet care without shortchanging your furry, finned, or feathered friends. We went inside the pet industry to interview manufacturers, nutritionists, veterinarians, and even an urban flea expert. We also went shopping for common pet goods (see "Sniffing out the bargains") to see where you'll get the best prices. Most of the advice that follows refers to dogs and cats, but much of it also applies to other members of the animal kingdom.


All of the dogs and cats pictured in this article, including Cosmo at right, were up for adoption at North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y., www.animalleague.org.