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5 Ways to Cut the Costs of Military Pet Ownership

Service dog lying on the grass.

If you've ever had a pet, you know that it requires a lot more than just love to be a good pet owner. Between food, vaccinations, routine check-ups, spay or neuter, and other essentials like leashes, cat litter, toys, and cages, sharing your home with a pet is a huge financial commitment. 

According to the ASPCA, the annual costs of owning a dog range from $1,314 to $1,843, and that doesn’t include emergency visits, boarding costs, and pet-sitting services. Military pet owners face even more financial challenges thanks to PCS moves, deployments, and frequent travel.

Fortunately, you can find military discounts for all sorts of pet-related services. Always remember that it never hurts to ask for a military discount everywhere you go, whether it's a local pet supply store, boarding facilities, or your favorite veterinarian. 

Here are 5 more ways that servicemembers and their families can cut some of those costs of owning a pet:

1. Veterinary Services On Base -- Many military installations offer veterinary services, often at prices that are much lower than civilian vets off base. However, military vet clinics on base are hit or miss as far as services and products provided, as well as appointment availability. 

For example, some vet clinics on base are full-service facilities that provide routine exams, visits for minor problems like ear infections, surgeries like spay/neuter, and occasional emergency cases, as well as products like particular brands of flea/tick prevention and heartworm medication.

But not all bases provide these services, and even if they do, wait times can get long because of limited manpower and because military working dogs have priority over family pets. Other base clinics don't see family pets for appointments, but you can purchase flea/tick and heartworm meds there. They also don't usually perform major surgeries so even if you love your base vet, you should always have a civilian vet lined up as well.

Your best bet is to contact your local installation to ask about services and pricing.

2. PCS'ing Pets -- When my family PCS'ed to Japan, we briefly considered leaving our dog behind with family until we returned. But pets are part of the family, and we knew we couldn’t live without him. Unfortunately, the cost of getting that furry family member overseas wasn't cheap.

SPCA International wants to keep pets with their families in situations like this. Through their program Operation Military Pets, they offer financial assistance to help offset the expenses associated with relocating pets so military families don't have to leave their pets behind. Click here to learn more and apply for assistance.

Have orders abroad? Pet Air Carrier ships pets around the world, and they offer a $125 military discount for one pet and a $25 discount for each additional pet for military families traveling on orders abroad. That discount increases to $150 for the first pet and $50 for each additional pet if all travel health documents are already completed.

3. Pet Insurance -- Purchasing health insurance for your pets can help manage the cost of vet bills associated with accidents and injuries, illnesses, surgeries, x-rays, and routine visits. The ASPCA estimates that health insurance can set you back around $225 for a dog and $175 for a cat annually, depending on the type of coverage you sign up for.

Some pet insurance companies offer military discounts, but they don't always advertise it. So when you're shopping around and getting quotes for your pet, make sure one of the questions on your list is whether or not they offer a military discount.

4. Pet Sitters -- Does your pet need some extra tender loving care? Does your dog need to be walked while you're at work? No problem.

Sittercity.com can help you find pet sitters and dog walkers. Thanks to the Department of Defense, military families can sign up for free Sittercity memberships.

5. Pet Adoption and Fostering -- Have you always wanted to adopt a pet? Are you a servicemember looking for a foster family to give your pet a home while you're deployed?

Pets for Patriots connects veterans and servicemembers with adult shelter pets who need a home. They also help with the costs of pet ownership by partnering with veterinarians to deliver a 10% discount on the pet’s care. 

Dogs on Deployment provides an online database for servicemembers seeking a home for their pets during a deployment. Veterans and spouses who meet certain criteria can also take advantage of Dogs on Deployment. Not deploying but want to help someone who is? Visit their website to learn more about becoming a boarder. 

Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet also helps to match up deploying servicemembers with volunteers who want to provide good homes for their pets while they're gone. Wounded warriors, veterans, families of deployed servicemembers, PCS'ing families, and those impacted by the loss of a loved one (KIA or suicide related) can all qualify under certain conditions as well.

How do you save on pet-related costs?

-- Heather Sweeney can be reached at Heather.Sweeney@monster.com.

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