The Expense of Raising Pets

There are places to trim costs & do just fine. But cut quality on the wrong priorities & your pets will pay more later.



Should I give vitamins to my pets? I have a whole menagerie. I have 2 guinea pigs, 3 cats, 2 dogs, and some fish. I try to feed good food but it can get expensive. So is it good to feed food that’s just O.K. and add vitamins? Which vitamins are good?


Dr. Nichol:

I think I understand where you’re coming from. A lot of us animal lovers surround ourselves with a whole family of pets. It’s great to never be alone-and your pets are never alone either. I feel the same way. The down side, of course, is that good care for that many animals can get costly. What’s important is to know where you can economize and where it’s actually cheaper in the long term to spend the extra cash.


First let’s look at places to shave expenses. Cat litter is one. Since providing unused fresh litter is good prevention for urinary disease in cats, there is no point in a gold plated latrine. So get the cheapest litter you can find, use very small amounts, and throw it away after every use. Canned pets food is another needless cost. 75% of it is water and you pay about .20 just for the can. As for grooming, you can lose the shampoo in almost all cases and brush your pets instead. They like it, it’s a great way to bond with them, and it’s much healthier for their skin than bathing anyway. In fact a lot of folks clip their own dog’s hair to save expense too-although they might look like Gomer Pyle if you do. (Remember him?) And the guinea pigs: They don’t really need cedar shavings for bedding. It’s real nice but you can shred newspapers and they’ll do fine as long as you replace it daily.


Now, here is where your pet care dollars are best spent. Good food. I’ve said this before: When it comes to pet food you will not get what you don’t pay for. Compare ingredients and analysis if you must but better diets have better digestibility. This means that your critters will absorb the nutrients they need much better and stay much healthier on better food. Will these diets work even better if you add vitamins? Not really. The real beauty of high quality food (yes good food is beautiful) is that it already has every important vitamin and mineral in the proper amount.  If you add to a truly complete, balanced diet you will throw it out of balance and actually diminish the nutritional plane of that pet.


So what if you feed a mediocre diet? Will adding vitamins help? Sure. But you better also add everything else these diets lack or you still won’t make a real difference. So use good food in the first place and have piece of mind.


Now the exceptions: Guinea pigs must have vitamin C every day. Use the liquid supplement and add it to the drinking water. Follow the label instructions. Pets recovering from surgery or illness, pets who are stressed due to a move to a new home, travel, or boarding are also good candidates for good quality supplemental vitamins. And lastly working dogs, especially those who don’t work hard consistently but only now and then. This includes hunting dogs, field trial dogs, and dogs who play professional sports like hockey and basketball. Treat these guys like stars. Feed the best food and give a good chewable multivitamin every day. Ask your veterinarian for a recommended brand.