Dog Mom Life

Budget-Friendly Dog Mom Essentials when Life Gets Busy

Disclaimers: I’m not a veterinarian or any type of trained veterinary or other medical professional. If there’s anything you’re interested in adding to your pet’s life be sure to check with your vet first. Your vet knows you and your pet the best, especially when it comes to diet, enrichment, routine medications, and safety. 

The links in this post are affiliate links to products that I have found helpful in my dog mom life–this means that I will get a percentage of sales when you purchase something using these links. This is not a sponsored post or a gifted post, all thoughts and opinions are my own! 🙂Thank you for helping to make The Wise Willow possible! 

This is my first official dog mom post on my blog and I couldn’t be more excited to share all of the budget-friendly essentials I’ve picked up in the five months since adopting Oliver! My life has been incredibly hectic since graduating from college in May (moving, surgery, really long commutes) and so many of the essentials I’ve discovered have made my life as a dog mom so much easier.

Oliver’s Adoption Story

This is the first post in my dog mom series so I thought I would share how I came to be a dog mom in the first place! When I graduated from college I knew I wanted to have a dog in the near future, but I definitely thought it would be at least a year until that became a reality.

I was in the midst of a stressful adjustment and had a week before starting my new job, and kept checking my local animal shelter website as I had been doing for months (“just looking” as I told myself but I knew that definitely wasn’t the truth haha). For a few weeks I had been seeing Oliver’s picture and profile on there and kept going back to how funny his bio and photos were. My mom visited the shelter one day to drop off donations and decided to take a look at him, and said I had to visit him ASAP. 

The next day I was in my car driving to the shelter with no intention of actually adopting because of how new I was to postgrad adult life. I remember the feeling I had gotten from each dog I had growing up that they were “the one” and I didn’t know what to expect when meeting Oliver. 

The day I met Oliver at the animal shelter

I walked in and asked to see him, and he happened to be spending time in an office to get a break from the kennel space. I rounded the corner and was immediately taken aback by how adorable he was! As I stepped over the gate in the office door and sat in one of the chairs he came over to me, sniffed for a second, then jumped up and started licking my face. I knew right then that he was the dog I had been wanting and spent the next hour getting all the info I needed about him and taking him for a stroll outside. 

I picked him up the next day and he settled in much faster than I thought he would! It was the perfect match and since then I’ve been learning through trial and error how to get him everything he needs on a budget and with a busy schedule. 🙂 

The Search for the Right Food

One of the hardest parts of the initial adjustment with a dog is finding the right food. I learned that Oliver has a sensitive digestive system with certain ingredients, and over the past few months have given different proteins and food forms a try. I finally found the *magical* combo about three months ago and have been sticking to that ever since! 

You might be thinking, isn’t it expensive to keep trying to find the perfect food? What happens when the bag or cans of food you bought is something they don’t like or that they can’t eat? I had this exact same thought before I knew of a few resources! 

There happens to be a local pet food store where I live (a small local business that has been absolutely incredible with helping me find the right food for him!), and I started with them on my journey to find food that would stop the loud stomach noises and discomfort Oliver was going through with the foods I had been trying. This store has a 100% satisfaction guarantee that lets you bring back any food that doesn’t work for your pet for a refund or in exchange for another type of food. This was incredibly budget-friendly for me as I was just starting out working and had already been faced with the upfront adoption fee and his first few vet visits. 

At this point the article about the FDA’s investigation into grain-free food and its potential link to heart disease was released with an update in June 2019 and I took this information into account when looking for the right food choice. 

If you don’t have access to a local pet store with a similar guarantee, there is another great resource you can use! offers an easy to use website to find great products, and they even offer replacements/refunds for products that don’t work well for your pets. I made an order through them and Oliver was not a fan of the fish protein dry food I had thought to try, and they refunded me while encouraging me to donate the unused food to a local animal shelter. The folks at Chewy truly care about how your pet is doing with the products you order, and they’re always available to talk through any issues or questions you might have! The process for requesting to try a different food was very easy and I was able to use an online chat window while getting ready for another work day. 

You can use the website to search for dry food, wet food, treats, and much more! 

Oliver loves his food so much he goes looking in the cabinet for more!

I get Oliver’s food through my local pet store, but in a pinch I can order more through Chewy if I won’t be all the way up in the city for some time. He’s currently eating the American Natural Premium Original Recipe dry food and the dance that he does at breakfast/dinner time is one of the best parts of my day! He LOVES the “crunchy squares” as I call them! He’s also eating the Triumph Chicken wet food and when I first broke out those cans he jumped up and tried to eat it right out of the can as I was scooping it into his bowl lol! 

Bowls and Toys

Dog plush toy
Oliver having no idea what was so exciting about the plush dragon I got him–chew toys were so much better

Speaking of bowls, one of the things I noticed when I first adopted Oliver was that he would eat so. unbelievably. fast. I would put the food in his bowl and he was swallowing it whole! Definitely didn’t help with the stomach upset so I set off on a quest to find a bowl that would make it harder for him to eat big bites of food at once. Along came the puzzle bowl! And it has been a lifesaver for both of us–he loves the challenge and it gives me peace of mind that he’s eating at a much more reasonable pace. There are so many different kinds, ranging from very curly patterns to more of a circular maze. You can pick different sizes as well, and they’re very durable! And surprisingly easy to clean. They’re less than $10 each too making them the perfect budget-friendly option!

Dog chew toy
Oliver with his favorite BamBone–I love that it has grips on it he can hold on to it’s pretty adorable

Finding the right toys for Oliver took a bit of time as well–I quickly discovered he is much more of a chewer than a plush toy dog. I got him three different chew toys, and the best part about them is that they’re safe for him to chew on and help with his teeth! I was nervous about giving him dentastix or a similar teeth cleaning treat because of his tendency to eat quickly and not thoroughly chew, and these treats give me peace of mind. His absolute favorite is the BamBone by Spot–it has grips on the bottom for his paws and has lasted for a few months so far. His second favorite is the Nylabone DuraChew toy, followed by the most challenging but fun one which is the Nylabone Dinosaur. Make sure to get chew toys that are big enough for your dog to chew safely, and to replace them as soon as pieces start to fall off to prevent your dog from eating the material. They’re incredibly budget friendly too! 

Jackets for Winter Weather

This is admittedly the first time I’ve had a dog with short fur, and I was a bit lost for awhile about what to do when he got cold (I’d never had a dog that could get cold easily!). Luckily I was able to shop around for jackets, and that took a lot of trial and error. Yesterday I finally found the perfect ones after getting him a few that didn’t fit very well. 

Dog jacket
Oliver very unamused by the first jacket I got him…photo credit to his daycare!

I got him two types of jackets, one for winter and one for road/hiking safety. It took me awhile to figure out the best type of jacket for him (didn’t even know there were types!) and found that ones that have the across the neck and below the belly straps are the best in terms of easy to put on and take off. The first one I got him had sleeves and it was definitely a struggle to get that jacket on and off quickly! It was also too big for him and he made it known how he felt about wearing it LOL. In terms of sizing I went by weight suggestions as each brand is different in terms of what they consider a M/L/XL. Chewy has a great selection of jackets to choose from with weight and sizing guides, and you can also try finding a local pet store to try jackets on in person. 

Dog safety jacket
The safety jacket fits much better!

I also got him a safety jacket now that we have entered the glorious time of winter up here in the Northern hemisphere where the sun sets way too early (daylight savings just happened too so even earlier!). This jacket is reflective for when I’m walking him around in the evening or early morning, and is also great for hiking safety during hunting season in certain states. 

Flea/Tick and Heartworm Preventives

The last part of this post will be about veterinarian prescribed preventives and how to get them delivered easily to your door if you can’t make the trip to the vet. Fleas and ticks are incredibly prominent here in Vermont, and are starting to be here all year. Oliver had a tick on him in October, even when the weather started turning! Luckily he was on his flea and tick preventive so the tick didn’t even bite. With my busy schedule it can be hard to remember to stock up on these essentials and the worst moment is finding out that I forgot to order them in time. Luckily that never happens with Autoship, and Chewy checks with your veterinarian to make sure the prescription is correct before shipping. It’s a very easy process and has saved me time and money! The same applies to heartworm preventives, which Oliver takes year round as well. Make sure to talk to a vet about what preventives are right for your situation. 

The Busy Schedule Dog Mom Life

Dog mom
Selfie time!

My local pet food store,, and my vet have all made my life easier when it comes to trouble shooting things that come up in a way that works with my schedule and budget. I’m excited to post more about what I’ve learned in the past few months as a dog mom, and to share about our holiday season adventures! I’m not sure Oliver has ever seen snow so that’ll be exciting! (As for me I’m not sure I’m ready for the snow yet…). 

If you haven’t seen yet, Oliver has his very own Instagram account that you can follow! You can also see more of his adventures on my blog account too! 

Have Dog Tips You’d Like to Share?

Is there anything you’ve learned as a pet parent? Leave a comment below or comment on any of my dog mom social media posts because I’d love to hear! I would also LOVE to see photos of your fur babies so leave those in comments too! 😀 

Until next time! 

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