****For those of you who are new here, I write a regular column on frugality for my local newspaper. This was my article for the week. It stemmed from the many reader questions I get on the topic of maintaining the health of a pet when on a strict budget. I hope it's helpful to you as well.
Nobody ever told me that being a mother meant I would also end up being a pet owner. But it wasn’t too far into my parenting career before one of my kids looked up at me with their big blue eyes brimming with hope and asked, “Mommy, can I have a pet?” And from that day on I was not only the mother and primary caregiver of four children but a succession of pets that included half a dozen fish, 4 lizards, 4 hamsters, one dog, 2 snakes a frog, and numerous insects in mason jars.
And if you think caring for kids can cut into your budget, wait until you see the vet bill when your dog or cat needs some TLC. But as with every other area of our spending, even pet ownership has some areas where we can creatively cut costs and still keep our furry friends in good health.
I set about doing some research and found out that many dog and cat owners save money on shots by administering them at home. So I called Dells Feed and Farm Supply in Longview and sure enough, you can purchase the syringe, the whole set of shots for your pet, and get a mini lesson on how to administer it, all for $10. That will not only save you the cost of an office visit but in many cases it’s a huge decrease in what you’ll be charged for the vaccine directly from the vet.
If you’re a cat owner then you probably make a regular purchase of litter for your cat’s box. Did you know that there are some no-cost alternatives that are thought to be even healthier for your cat than the chemicals you’ll find in packaged litter? HERE I found a recipe that uses a combination of old shredded newspapers or junk mail and baking soda. The baking soda absorbs moisture and odors and is also harmless to your cat. Others have used sawdust or dried sand from a beach and just scooped out the clumps as needed.
Did you know that baking soda can be used to shampoo your dog? Just sprinkle some on your dogs coat, rub it in with your hands and then give them a good brushing. It’s leaves their coat shiny, clean and odor free. The baking soda acts to neutralize any odors while the gritty texture grabs and removes any stuck on dirt and oils. Not only is it perfume free and extremely inexpensive but there are no harsh chemicals to irritate the skin and it naturally kills fleas.
Which brings us to those pesky blood suckers that can plague our pets and our homes. To keep fleas away from your dog you can slip a clove of garlic into their diet every other day. The garlic odor is excreted through their skin and repels fleas. A brewers yeast tablet can be used in the same way.
I spoke with Lisa Durling, a local herbalist, owner of Gypsy Trader Imports, and my sister, and she said that she has used herbal remedies to keep fleas away from her cats and dogs for years. She recommends a recipe for an herbal flea dip made from rosemary which can also keep ticks away. She also suggests a spray made from a mixture of water and steeped lavender leaves or another spray that includes a small amount of tea tree oil and water.
There are many ways to cut costs when it comes to keeping our pets healthy. A good diet and plenty of exercise can go a long way in avoiding many health issues. And of course when a problem does arise that is beyond your comfort level to deal with, a good vet is worth every penny. But if you choose to use a few of these tips you’ll see a nice decrease in your yearly pet budget.
Herbal Flea Dip from doggienews.com
Steep two cups of fresh rosemary in two pints of boiling water for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, discard the leaves and make it up to one gallon ( 8 pints) with warm water. Pour this mixture over the dog until it's saturated. Do not rinse off and allow the dog to dry naturally. Perfect for a warm sunny day.
Herbal Flea Spray #1 from Lisa at gypsytraderimports.com
Fill a spray bottle with water and add 3-5 drops of tea treat oil. Spray on your dog or cat coat and allow to dry. Tea tree oil is an antiseptic and not only repels fleas but also has the added benefit of helping in the treatment of insect bites.
Herbal Flea Spray #2 from Lisa at gypsytraderimports.com
Boil a handful of lavender leaves in water. Cool, strain and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on your dog or cat coat and allow to dry. Lavender is an antiseptic as well as an anti-inflammatory and can help heal any wounds left from flea bites.