The cost of living crisis is affecting all areas of household finances – including higher pet food and insurance costs for millions of pet owners across the UK.
To help combat rising costs, Which? has found ways to cut the cost of owning pets.
1. Switch to supermarket own-brand food
Switching to the best-rated supermarket own-brand dog food could help save money. When Which? asked members to rate various dog foods, including popular brands, several supermarket own-brands scored well. Which? previously compared prices for a 3kg bag of complete dry dog food from a supermarket’s own-brand, it was just 76p per kg, compared to nearer £5 per kg for the top brand overall. This means you could potentially save around £130 a year, based on a 10kg dog eating 150g per day, if you switched from the top-scoring brand to the best-performing supermarket’s own brand.
Pet treats and snacks can be costly, but you could save money by making your own. For example, Battersea Dogs and Cats home has recipes on its website for dog treats using store cupboard ingredients that you might already have in your home such as peanut butter, oats and honey.
2. Buy pet food in bulk or stock up when you can
If you buy the same pet food regularly, it is often more cost-effective to buy pet food in bulk from wholesalers such as Costco. As with other foods, pet food prices can vary week to week. If you spot a good deal at the supermarket, or find the pet food you usually buy is discounted, it could be worth stocking up.
3. If you’re struggling financially, check if you can get help from charities
If you can’t afford to insure your pet there are several organisations, including The Blue Cross, PDSA and RSPCA, that offer free treatments. Help with the cost of veterinary care from these charities is usually means-tested and mainly helps people who are on a low income, retired or receive certain state benefits.
4. Insuring can save money in the long run
When searching for pet insurance, pay attention to each policy’s vet fees limit. This is the amount the insurer will contribute for vet costs above the excess. Generally, the higher this limit, the more expensive the cover. Limits range from as little as £1,000, to £15,000. The amount you’ll need will depend on the type and breed of your pet, and your capacity to pick up additional costs if your vet bills run higher than the benefit. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the average claim paid in 2021 was £848 – but bear in mind some complicated claims can easily run into the thousands, and you may need to claim more than once a year.
Good pet insurance can be pretty expensive – and for some people, self-insuring is the only financially viable way of looking after their pet. Self-insurance is where you put aside savings each month – instead of paying an insurance policy – that you can then dip into if your pet needs treatment. However, you can’t predict precisely how much you’ll need to save to cover your pet’s medical costs throughout its life – and you could face a situation where your fund is insufficient.
5. Be aware of your pet’s needs and breed when shopping for insurance
Finding out the needs of your pet’s breed can help you find the right level of cover. Certain breeds are prone to particular medical conditions or injuries, and are more expensive to insure. For example, Labrador retrievers can be prone to cruciate ligament problems, and dachshunds to back problems, both of which can cost thousands of pounds for treatment.
In general, cats tend to be in better health than dogs, so it’s reasonable to consider a lower level of cover for them. It’s also worth speaking to your vet about common conditions or hereditary problems.
6. Shop around and haggle for the best pet insurance prices
As with other kinds of insurance, it is always worth shopping around and comparing policies on price comparison websites to help you understand the costs associated with different types of policies. It’s worth also getting a quote from insurers that don’t feature on some or all comparison sites, such as Direct Line and Petplan.
At the point of renewal, it’s worth haggling with your current insurer to see if they can offer you a more competitive deal.
7. Don’t be tempted to turn down the heat on exotic pets
There are additional costs involved with keeping reptiles and fish, as heat lights and fish tanks can be expensive to run. Don’t be tempted to lower the temperature to save money, as this could be harmful to the pet. If you have multiple pets the RSPCA advises that, where appropriate, you could keep them in the same room so that heat sources don’t need to heat extra space. If you’re having difficulties paying your energy bill you can speak to your energy supplier to see if they can provide support or switch you to a cheaper tariff.
Reena Sewraz, Which? Money Expert, said:
“Looking after pets isn’t cheap, and as the cost of living crisis is adding pressure to household budgets, many people will be looking for ways to cut down the cost of owning a pet.
“One of the easiest ways to save money is by opting for a cheaper brand of pet food – supermarket own-brands are often the least expensive options.
“Use price comparison websites to compare the best insurance deals and do some research about the types of medical conditions your breed is susceptible to, and the likely cost of treatment, so you get the right cover.”
Notes to editors
- Over the coming months, Which? is highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis.
- If you’re struggling to pay to look after your pet – there are a number of charitable organisations that might be able to help, including: The Blue Cross, The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) and The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA).
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