Reply to Dave Ramsey: “4 practical ways to save on pet care”

A couple day ago, Dave Ramsey’s blog (not sure if it’s Ramsey himself) published an article called “Pricey Pets: 4 Practical Ways to Save on Pet Care“. I tried leaving a comment, but it’s still in limbo. Note to blog owners: don’t have a comment section if you’re going to leave comments in moderation limbo.

Anyway, let’s get into this.

1. Pet Food

Just buy a bulk bag of dry dog food and pour it into a bowl. Your dog or cat doesn’t need a fancy feast. They just need food.

While it’s not necessary to go with the most premium pet food available, there is still “junk food” for pets, and going a little premium can pay dividends with the long-term health of your pet. This is especially true when it comes to your pet’s teeth — some of the more premium foods are better at tartar prevention, which can save you from having dental work later or having to use a specialty (read: expensive) food for their teeth and gums. You don’t need to go all-out, but don’t get the cheapest food on the shelf either.

For example, I buy Purina One SmartBlend Indoor Advantage for my 9 1/2 year-old feline.

2. Supplies & Medicine

Dogs don’t require parkas in the winter and sunhats in the summer. God has equipped them with everything they need to enjoy the Great Outdoors au natural—unless of course we’re talking hairless cats.

Sorry, but no. And a cursory glance at the variety of breeds shows how wrong this statement is. For one, winters can be harsh, and if you have a breed that originated from a predominantly warmer climate, that can be problematic. One of my parents’ dogs, Angel, is a blue Australian Cattle dog, Basenji mix. The former came, obviously, from Australia, the latter from central Africa. Both are obviously warm climates. So she gets jacketed in the winter when the temperature or wind chill plummets to the single digits or lower, primarily because she doesn’t have a thick coat.

But that means she can better handle hot summers, unlike my parent’s oldest dog, Rolli. Not only does she have a thick coat, but it’s mostly black. She can handle lower temperatures without a jacket (to an extent). In the summer, though, she’s mostly in the shade.

And while it’s perfectly okay to buy pet toys, don’t get sucked into making your furry friend more comfortable with a memory foam mattress or a deluxe cat tree. That’s what your lap is for.

I’m guessing whoever wrote this doesn’t have cats. Like with food, you don’t need to go all-out, but you need to bear in mind that cats love to perch. So give them plenty of sturdy places to perch and they’ll be happy. I have two shelves in my apartment made purely so my cat has other places to perch up and out of the way, but still be close by. I built them myself, too, so if you do something like that, definitely go that route instead of buying something pre-fab, and buy scrap carpeting from your local home improvement store as well. They sell off the leftovers from the end of carpet rolls at steep discounts — only downside being you might end up with a lot more than you need.

3. Grooming

And when it comes to grooming, skip the overpriced Puppy Palace and shop around. While an occasional summer trim may be in order, there’s no need for specialty ‘dos and luxurious bath products. This is one category where mutts have it made.

Talk to your pet’s veterinarian. Many offer grooming specials, and there may be a discount on grooming if you bundle with your annual or semi-annual exam. Definitely price shop, but also be sure to ask around for recommendations and check reviews online.

4. Vet Care

When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s hard to separate your emotions from your wallet. We all want our animals to be active and healthy, but does that mean prolonging their lives until it bankrupts us? We say no.

If Fluffy has a tumor, get a second opinion and then ask some hard questions. Is surgery absolutely necessary? Will it really help your animal’s quality of life? Or will it just cause her more pain?

If she does require an expensive operation, ask for paid-in-cash discounts, save up for a few months first, or make the tough decision to enjoy the time you have left together. Even if it’s heartbreaking, you must put the well-being of your human family first.

One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that there are people lined up with deep pockets who are willing to fund expensive veterinary care — if it’s worth it in the end. Pet got hit by a car and has a broken leg? Chances are your vet, or a little research on Google, can find a charity or sponsor who can cover the cost in its entirety or on top of what you can reasonably afford.

Also pet insurance is becoming more widespread now, so definitely consider it, especially if you have an older pet. Your veterinarian will likely have details.