How to save hundreds of pounds a year looking after your puppy

Being a ‘pawrent’ undoubtedly costs money, but there are ways to keep those costs under control

Close-up portrait of a dog
(Image credit: Getty images)

Being a puppy owner is not cheap, but knowing what the costs are and how to keep them low can help.

According to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a dog could cost you more than £30,800 over its lifetime. 

You should bank on spending around £1,875 a year, looking after your dog, according to research site NimbleFins (opens in new tab).

When it comes to how the bills stack up, a big chunk of your money will go towards feeding your dog at around £300 a year, pet insurance costs £330, dental treatment at £230, plus worm and flea treatments at £120 and annual vaccinations at £85.

In general, the bigger the dog, the more it will cost you. Big dogs eat more and can incur bigger vet bills too. But whatever the size and breed of your puppy, there are numerous ways you can save on the costs of looking after it without compromising on care.

 BUY BULK PET FOOD

Buying dog food in bulk online works out cheaper than including it in the weekly shop. As well as cheaper prices, some online stores offer subscription services which can save you cash. 

For example, Pets At Home sells 24 tins of Step Up to Naturals dog food for £18.49, but if you set up an ‘easy-repeat delivery service’ subsequent orders will cost £16.64. 

Microchip your pup for free

Since 2016, puppies over eight-weeks-old need to be microchipped by law. A microchip is an electronic identification device which is implanted just under your dog's skin. The chip can only be implanted by vets or a veterinary nurse, and it normally costs about £20. However, some charities, such as the Dog’s Trust, will microchip your pup for free.

Failing to have your dog microchipped can result in a fine of up to £500.

PAY LESS FOR PUPPY TRAINING

Training classes can cost £45 a time (opens in new tab), which works out at £180 for a four week course.

Charities, like Dogs Trust, run cheaper ones, which means paying £65 for a four week course (opens in new tab); a saving of £115.

Take out pet insurance

There’s no NHS for animals so you’ll be responsible for the vet’s fees if your pup becomes ill or has an accident. Pet insurance can save you a packet as it will pay some, or all, of the vet’s costs. 

‘Lifetime’ cover is the most expensive type of pet insurance but also the most comprehensive, offering the best value over time. As long as you renew your policy each year, your puppy will be covered for any chronic conditions it later develops.

(MORE: Pet insurance for puppies)

SHOP AROUND ON VETS’ BILLS

Vet practices (opens in new tab) set their own fees, which can vary depending on the practice and location.  You can pay more for weekend or evening appointments, so if it’s not an emergency, it can be worth booking ‘cheaper’ appointment slots.

GET ADVICE FROM A VIDEO VET

If you just want some advice, rather than your puppy needing an examination, you can book a video call.  

Organisations like FirstVet (opens in new tab)offer this service, which costs £24 between 9am – 6pm on weekdays and £36 at weekends and evenings.  

This is obviously not for emergencies, and medication can’t be prescribed, but can be helpful and provide reassurance for new ‘pawrents’.

Get help from a charity

If you’re on a low income and can’t afford pet insurance, a charity may be able to help if your puppy needs medical treatment.

Blue Cross and the PDSA both offer free or discounted pet treatment to pet owners on Universal Credit or other benefits. 

Alternatively, the Animal Trust is a not-for-profit vets with much cheaper prices than private vets. It offers free consultations (opens in new tab), which saves between £40 - £60 and you only pay for any treatment needed.

Buy medication online for a puppy

If your pet needs medicine not covered by insurance, get a written prescription from the vet and buy the medication on the internet. You can upload your prescription to sites such as AnimedDirect (opens in new tab) or VioVet (opens in new tab) for prices well below those charged by the vet. 

SAVE ON GROOMING BILLS

Professional grooming can cost around £43 a time (opens in new tab), and according to voucher website Vouchers.co.uk (opens in new tab) the average dog needs four to six sessions a year, which all tots up to a whopping £258.

Regular brushing, and even a dip in the bath, can halve the number of grooming trips needed, saving £129.

Plus there’s plenty of YouTube videos online with advice on how to care for specific breeds.

Join Borrow My Doggy

If you’re out at work all day, a dog walker will set you back £10 to £15 an hour. Joining Borrow My Doggy will save you cash. 

The app and website connect local dog owners with trusted borrowers keen to spend time with dogs. The idea is that the ‘borrower’ builds up a relationship with the owner and dog and helps out with dog walking or sitting whenever it’s convenient – no money changes hands.

Get your puppy neutered

Getting your puppy castrated or spayed will cost £100 to £300 – but not neutering your dog can be false economy as an accidental litter will cost you much more.

Neutering also lowers the risk of some diseases in dogs, and can help control certain undesirable behaviours such as humping or male dogs pursuing females dogs.

Brush your dog’s teeth 

Poor oral hygiene can lead to inflammation of your dog’s gums and eventually cause gingivitis or gum disease. These can be painful for your dog and treating them can be expensive. Brushing your dog’s teeth can prevent problems incurring and save you money in the long run.

FIND A PET FOOD BANK

Many food banks don’t have pet food, according to the Blue Cross, but there are lots of small volunteer run pet food banks (opens in new tab) popping up. 

If you’re struggling to find the money to feed your pet, search online for local pet food banks which may be advertised on local Facebook sites.

Emma Lunn is an award-winning freelance financial journalist who specialises in money and consumer affairs. She has more than 17 years’ experience writing for national newspapers, trade and consumer magazines, and specialist websites. She has a particular interest in writing about property and mortgages, and enjoys explaining complex issues in an easy-to-understand way.

With contributions from