Caring for a senior pet can get expensive fast. In what seems like the blink of an eye, your pet transforms from a rambunctious puppy or kitten into a gray-faced pet struggling to get around. With your pet’s senior status comes new needs and health issues that can quickly add a hefty sum to the costs of pet ownership, as well as your household budget.

Many pet owners struggle to manage the higher costs of caring for a senior pet, a challenge that leads some families to surrender their senior pets to animal shelters. Unfortunately, most adopters prefer younger pets, and many seniors pets that end up in shelters never make it out.

Keeping a senior pet in the family is the best choice for your aging animal’s well-being. It doesn’t have to bankrupt you, either. If your pet’s age has you worrying about how you’ll afford their care, use these cost-saving tips to give your senior pet a great life on a small budget.

Focus on Preventive Care

Preventing health issues is always cheaper than treating them. That’s why you should bring your senior pet to the vet at least once a year — ideally twice — for a wellness visit. If your current vet’s prices are unaffordable, shop around. Driving a few miles out of town to a rural vet can result in big savings on basic veterinary services. However, if possible, try to avoid vet-hopping — seeing a different vet every time leads to unnecessary tests and costs.

Pet owners can also attend walk-in vaccine clinics like VETCO clinics for routine vaccinations and fill pet prescriptions at their regular pharmacy to avoid higher costs at the vet’s office.

Maintaining your pet’s weight is one of the most important things you can do to prevent health issues. It only takes a few pounds to take a dog or cat from a healthy weight to obese. Older pets are especially susceptible to weight gain, as they tend to become less active. Adjusting your pet’s diet and maintaining an exercise plan even as your pet ages will prevent the many health problems that are caused by excess weight.

Buy Little Things to Make Your Pet’s Life Easier

Arthritis and mobility problems are common in older pets. There are some medications that can help manage discomfort, but prescriptions are costly and sometimes lead to side effects that are more serious than the original problem.

For minor mobility issues, changes around the house are more affordable than veterinary interventions. An orthopedic bed adds comfort to your pet’s naps, or if your pet likes to sleep with you, pet stairs make the climb into bed easier. At dinner time, an elevated feeding station increases dining comfort, while soft food reduces pain from dental problems. Of course, these changes cost money. However, they’re an affordable first line of defense against pet mobility problems, and by shopping online at budget-friendly stores like Walmart and using a Walmart promo code, you can increase your pet’s comfort without derailing your budget.

These products are great for minor age-related issues, but if your dog is showing significant pain symptoms, a vet appointment is a must.

Consider Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is more expensive for senior pets but can still offer savings if your pet has a major veterinary health problem. Pet insurance policies cover up to 80-90 percent of your pet’s veterinary bills in exchange for monthly premium payments. Several pet insurance companies cover pets up to 14 years of age, and some have no upper age limit. However, many policies exclude pre-existing conditions, so try to purchase it before your pet gets sick.

Owners of senior pets also need to recognize when it’s time to say goodbye. As painful as it is, sometimes life-saving veterinary care is more for the human’s benefit than the pet’s. If a procedure will extend your pet’s life but their quality of life will be low, it may be kinder to provide comfort in your pet’s final days rather than adding to them. American Humane lists signs that it’s time for euthanasia and discusses what to expect when saying goodbye to a senior pet. For a more comprehensive guide, check out this article from Your Dog Advisor.

Getting old isn’t any more fun for our pets than it is for us. However, just like humans, a little extra help around the house and extra attention to preventive care go a long way to improving an aging pet’s quality of life. And when the time comes, you’ll know you did everything in your power to give your pet the best life possible. Image via Unsplash

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