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7 times when quality pet care is worth every penny

Our pets are our children and it's worth spending top dollar for their care

We cuddle them, dress them in fancy outfits, show pictures of them to any (and all) of our friends and devote our free time catering to their every need. No, I’m not talking about children here, folks. I’m talking about our pets. You know, the furry friend that is there for you every time you’re upset? The cuddle buddy that doubles as a cure-all after a particularly grueling day at work? We owe a large portion of our general happiness to our adorable little spirit lifters, so it only makes sense that we give them the best pet care possible.

Trust me, I'm a fan of budgeting just as much as the next gal (who doesn't like to save a buck?). But when it comes to our pets, there are seven areas of pet care that totally warrant spending a little extra cash.

1. Pet food

A healthy pet starts with the food you feed it, so there's no question you shouldn't cut corners when it comes to your pet's food. The FDA regulates dog and cat food, and it posts pet food recalls on its website. Some of the recent ones are pretty scary — certain foods have been found to contain bacteria, mold and chemicals. I want to be sure I'm buying a nutritious food that's going to keep my dog healthy, not put him at risk. Natural Balance is a great option, because they use high-quality ingredients sourced from around the world, including fruit, vegetables and premium animal proteins.They also ensure their food is tested for safety by doing nine safety tests on every single batch of food. You can see the test results of your own bag on their website — so you always know your food has been tested for safety.

2. Regular vet visits

Listen, I get it — when your pup acts totally healthy, it's hard to want to shell out top dollar for a routine visit, but I can't stress enough how important regular checkups are for pets. I have a little Maltese named Stitch, and I never skip his routine visits, because unlike humans, Stitch can't tell me he is feeling a little under the weather until the symptoms are at their worst. Prevention is key here, people. Catching a health issue early on will save your pet (and your wallet) a lot of unnecessary suffering down the road.

More: Dreaded emergency vet visits — here's how much they really cost

3. Meds

Monthly preventative meds can sometimes seem like a pointless expense. However, paying for quality preventive medicines can keep pets healthy and prevent higher costs later. For example, your vet can prescribe a monthly pill that protects your dog from heartworm, but if you let the prescription run out and your dog is bitten by a heartworm-infected mosquito, you'll pay the price — literally.

4. Grooming

Even if you're not picky about your pet's appearance, chances are you're going to spend time dealing with pet hair. My dog doesn't shed much, but he does need haircuts every few months. Naturally I don't want just anyone approaching him with sharp clippers. I choose groomers who are highly rated online or come recommended by a close friend. Do your research, and don't try to cut financial corners by going to a low-cost groomer.

More: 16 things only people covered in pet hair can understand

5. Car safety

I love bringing my dog in the car, so I bought a special safety seat that attaches to his harness. I didn't get it because it was cute (even though it is). I bought it because, in a car accident, a loose pet can be dangerous for everyone in the car. If Stitch and I are ever in a car crash, I want both of us to come out of it alive, so I always keep him buckled in. If you drive with a pet in the car, even just on trips to the vet, it's worth picking up a car harness or safety seat.

More: Here's how much it really costs to travel with your pet

6. Pet sitters and walkers

I try to take Stitch with me when I travel, but if I do have to be away from him, I do my best to leave him in good hands. This is one of those times when I'm especially grateful that the internet exists. Instead of calling a stranger whose flier I saw on a telephone pole, I can open an app on my phone and make arrangements with a dog walker who's passed a background check and screening process. Online review sites make it easy to compare ratings (and prices) on everything from a basic kennel to a luxury pet hotel and spa, so you can be sure your money is going to a place where your furry friend will be comfortable. I'm happiest when my dog is happy, and many places offer photos or video streams to let me keep an eye on him during his stay.

7. Dental care

I'll admit it sometimes feels weird to buy toothpaste for my dog, and I live in fear that I will someday squeeze it onto my own toothbrush by accident. (It would be worse if I did the opposite, though. Human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs and cats.) Last year my dog had to have oral surgery to remove several bad teeth. To avoid ever going through that again, I now pay close attention to his choppers. I brush them daily and give him jerky treats that require lots of chewing. I also make sure he gets regular dental checkups and my vet lets me know when it's time for a professional cleaning.

Like most pet owners, I think of my pet as a member of my family. I'll do whatever it takes to make sure he gets the high-quality care he deserves.

This post was sponsored by Natural Balance.

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