Nedra Rhone / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

There are approximately 70 million pet dogs and 74.1 million pet cats in the U.S., according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. Six out of 10 pet owners consider their pet a member of the family, but between 2006 and 2011 the percentage of households that did not take their pet to the veterinarian increased by 8 percent for dog owners and 24 percent for cat owners.

With the average annual veterinary household expense hovering at $375, not to mention other costs of pet ownership, it’s not surprising that some pet owners are looking for ways to save. But experts caution them to do it in ways that will not endanger their pet’s health. Here, a range of experts suggest ways to keep money in your pocket while keeping your pet healthy.

Veterinary care/preventive care: “I think having access to affordable vet care is becoming more and more important,” says Nancy Longacre, executive director of PAWS Atlanta. “We are seeing more people use our services, because people are a lot more sensitive to their finances. From our perspective, it is good because we want people to take care of their pets.” PAWS Atlanta offers low cost pet vaccine clinics twice per month to get animals current on shots along with other preventative care and services for pets including nail trimming, micro-chipping, spaying and neutering, and dental care.

Check the Humane Society of the United States for other organizations offering similar services.

Medications: Compare the cost of drugstores or an online prescription service to the price of getting medications at the vet, Lal says. Longacre suggests trying 1-800-petmeds for over-the-counter meds as a less expensive alternative to retail.

Nutrition: “People think, ‘I am going to the grocery store and buy the cheapest food,’ but that is like giving your animal a Happy Meal every day,” Longacre says. “They can become obese. If you spend a little and buy better food, your pet will be healthy.” Bilthouse suggests checking for ratings of almost every brand of dog food out there.