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How to ace pet parenthood and keep a healthy headspace amid the pandemic

Bringing home a furry new friend can do wonders for your health – but without proper planning, it can also lead to worrying over financial strain that sometimes comes with a new family member. Here’s how to keep your pet healthy and your stress at bay.

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The pandemic and resulting shift to remote working for many across the U.S. has spurred a national uptick in pet adoptions. In fact, an influx of adoption requests saw many animal shelters being being emptied as early as mid-April.

It’s clear that pet-ownership comes with a ton of pros, including helping support pet parents’ mental wellness and overall health. In fact, pets can help reduce anxiety, stave off loneliness, and have even been shown to help lower blood pressure.

However, as pet parents know and have likely experienced first-hand, along with being cute and cuddly, pets can often be expensive. In fact, 1 in 5 (22 percent) of all Americans say the expense of caring for a pet’s healthcare expenses would prevent them from getting a pet in the next 12 months, according to an August 2020 survey conducted by MetLife and CivicScience.

Not feeling financially prepared for pet parenthood can lead to a lot of sleepless nights. So, if you recently adopted a pet or are considering bringing home a new pup or cat, here are a few tips to keep your new-pet-stress down, and your favorite family member healthy:

1. Get proactive about establishing a healthy lifestyle: Just like humans, pets need to live a healthy lifestyle – and since exercise can yield stress-busting endorphins, that means making it a regular part of your routine is important, too. From a fitness perspective, your new dog needs between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every day, depending on their age and breed. Pet parents can help their pups get their heart rates up by taking daily walks, heading to the dog park or playing with toys. Cats also benefit from a daily exercise regimen. Indoor games can be a great way to keep your feline’s heart pumping. The more seamlessly pet exercise fits into your lifestyle, the better!

2. Consider all the non-vet costs – and create a budget: Taking care of your pet’s health and keeping them safe and happy goes beyond vet visits. To help get a better sense of how much your pet’s full care will cost per month, it can be helpful to collect cost estimates and create a budget plan. For example, if you work during the day or are otherwise unable to walk your dog frequently, consider budgeting for a dogwalker, which can cost between $10 and $60 per walk. Need help with training? Dog training classes average $50 an hour. Does your pup need regular haircuts and nail trims? Grooming costs run from $30 to $90. Of course, many of these costs may be one-off or infrequent expenses, but it’s helpful to plan ahead to avoid stressful surprise expenses and ensure that your furry friend is well taken care of.

3. Check with your employer – they may offer support: Employers are becoming more and more aware that their employees need pet-support in the form of new benefits, including pet insurance. Just like their human parents, pets can get health insurance plans that reimburse their parents for routine veterinary costs as well as help offset pricey procedures like surgery and overnight vet stays. This can be a huge financial relief to pet parents, 92 percent of whom say they pay for vet expenses out-of-pocket with cash or with a credit card, according to the same August 2020 survey from MetLife and CivicScience. And just like most human-health insurance plans, most pet insurance plans include monthly premiums and deductibles – so they can be easily factored into a monthly pet budget. It’s a good idea to check with your employer before adopting a new pet, as some employers even offer pet adoption fee reimbursement and “pawternity leave.”

At the end of the day, adopting a pet is a big decision that comes with financial considerations. But as all pet-lovers know, you can’t put a price on love and companionship. What you can do is make a plan for keeping your beloved pet as healthy and happy as possible, which can also help to curb needless stress for you in the process.

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