Can college students afford a pet dog?

Between tuition and textbooks, college students generally don’t have a lot of wiggle room in their budgets. While they may have to give up things like gourmet dining and expensive entertainment, they may not have to give up the joy of owning a dog.

The first step, of course, is to make sure your living quarters allow pets. Because the benefits of pets are becoming more widely known, certain colleges are allowing dogs in residential facilities on campus.

Once you have the green light from your school, your next step is to ensure you have the greenbacks to properly pay for a dog’s care. You can keep your costs on the lower end of the scale with the following tips.

Check the shelters for your new pal

Purchasing a dog at a pet shop or a breeder may be tempting, but either one will give typically give you a high cost from the get-go. You can help an animal in need and save money from the start by checking out adoption options from local shelters or rescue organizations. Not only will you be saving a life, but the shelter may offer free or low-cost spay or neutering and vaccinations to get you started with your new buddy.

Learn where to shop for the basics

Quality dog food doesn’t come cheap, but you can often snag discounts if you shop online and set up recurring monthly orders. Online shopping can also save you money on flea and tick prevention, heartworm and other medications and even toys and other accessories.

Instead of hiring a costly pet sitter or dog walker when obligations come up, talk your classmates or other student pet owners. Offer to help them out when they’re in a pinch if they’ll do the same for you.

Consider pet health insurance

Even if you have all the other costs covered, you may not have it in your budget to pay for an unexpected health issue or medical emergency. Vet costs can be extraordinarily high, especially if your dog ends up with a serious ailment, a chronic condition that needs ongoing treatment or is severely hurt or injured. Pet health insurance is designed to cover the high cost of unexpected treatments, along with other medical issues and ailments.

Practice preventative care

Keeping your dog healthy can go a long way toward reducing his cost of care, with or without pet insurance. A high-quality dog food is a must, as is regular exercise, stimulating entertainment, annual vet visits and vaccinations. Grooming your dog is another important maintenance step, with regular brushing and combing as needed.

Pet dental issues are common and can lead to more serious health problems down the line, making it imperative to keep your pooch’s teeth clean.

While owning a dog is an investment, it’s one college students can afford with savvy strategies and proper planning. Like a college education, it’s also an investment that can pay off handsomely.

Photograph by Clare Bell

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