Money runs the world, and the world of dog food is an industry where cost is becoming increasingly important. Consumers are desperate to get a good deal on the food they feed their pup as it is a constant repetitive expense. This leads to dog food manufacturers becoming desperate to keep their costs low and their profits high in order to retain their customers.
But what price may your canine friend pay for your money-saving antics? Where is the best place to buy cheap dog food? What situations may requirer cheaper dog food? Let’s answer all these questions and more.
The Need For Cheap Dog Food
Another reason could be related to what dog breed you own. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, including some that are very large. Large and Giant Breed dogs are becoming increasingly popular, and some examples of the most popular large or giant breed dogs include Great Danes, St Bernards, and Irish Wolfhounds. Sadly, one major downside of these large breed dogs, that is often ignored, is the sheer quantity of food they require to sustain themselves.
A fully grown Great Dane can consume more calories than a smaller woman or a child. As a consequence of this hunger, the constant cost of buying enough food to satisfy them starts to add up quickly. For this reason, finding an affordable dog food recipe to feed a large or giant breed dog is a necessity for many owners who otherwise might have to give up their best friends.
To compound the above, even those with smaller or medium breed dogs can be in a tough situation financially. With dogs living upwards of fifteen years, someone’s financial status can change significantly during that, and for some, they can no longer afford the premium foods they once could. While we wouldn’t suggest giving up your dog at the first signs of financial troubles, it is wise to adjust your budget for dog food if you are in financial distress or worry.
Lastly, and most important of all, we would recommend that everyone take a hard look at the cost of owning a dog before adopting or buying one. Dog’s should be a lifetime commitment, and if you are unwilling or unable to make that commitment, then owning a dog may not be for you.
The Dangers Of Cheap Dog Food
One of the scariest ingredients to read or see on a dog food’s ingredient list is Meat By-products or Meat Meal. These are the lowest of the low when it comes to meat ingredients and can often include roadkill and diseased animals, among other unsettling sources. Even when these disturbing sources are ruled out, the fact that the manufacturer is unwilling to disclose the exact meat ingredients that go into that product is all you need to know about its quality.
Instead, look for dog food recipes with named meats like Chicken or Beef. Named meat meal should not be feared and, in some circumstances, can be advantageous. It has named meat meal such as Chicken Meal which has had its moisture removed and is far denser in protein and fat than whole Chicken.
Another group of ingredients that we mention time and time again is vegetable by-products. Examples include Pea Protein, Pea Flour, Potato Protein, among others. We firmly believe that these are low-quality additions to any dog food. Sadly, small quantities of these ingredients are often unavoidable, and many of the recipes we will recommend later on contain small amounts of these ingredients, especially Pea Protein.
An even scarier scenario is when these ingredients are used in conjunction with other ingredients in a technique known as Ingredient Splitting. This sinister technique attempts to mislead consumers by splitting a single ingredient into a number of sub-ingredients in an attempt for it to appears further down on the ingredient list and appear to be less prevalent.
To find out more about Ingredient Splitting, read our article – Ingredient Splitting in Pet Food – Exposed.
To learn more about vegetable by-products, be sure to read the following two articles – Peas, Pea Protein, Pea Flour, and Pea Fiber in Dog Food and Potatoes, Potato Protein & Potato Starch in Dog Food.
One last point worth discussing is Recalls. Recalls are the dread of pet food brands and likely keep some of their staff and executives up late at night. While in recent times, recalls have decreased, they are still a severe problem in the industry and one you need to be ever vigilant of.
Lower-cost or cheap dog food manufacturers often have to cut corners or the quality of their products, and this can lead to an increased risk of recalls due to contamination or other hazards. Be sure to check out our brand-specific pages to see if a brand has had a history of recalls, especially in recent years.
Where Can I Buy Cheap Dog Food?
With the explosion of the internet and online shopping, the sheer quantity and availability of almost all products, including dog food, is enormous. While there are indeed some big players in the dog food world, there are also hundreds of smaller and specialty online retailers that can fill the demand of almost any niche. However, most of the specialty websites specialize in premium niches and so are unlikely to be viable or worthy of a visit for those of us on a tight budget.
The giants of the online pet food world stock products at all price ranges and are, therefore, the best bet on your hunt for lower-cost dog food. The big players in the pet food industry include Amazon, Chewy, PetSmart, PetCo, PetFlow, and Zooplus. When you know what formula you need or desire, then it is merely a case of good old fashioned price comparison. Don’t settle for one website just because that’s where you have always ordered from. Shop around and see if you can get yourself a better deal or a small discount.
Some websites offer notable advantages over others. For those of us with Amazon Prime subscriptions, you can make use of free or more cost-effective shipping on some products.
Besides this, Amazon has more recently launched a way to subscribe to purchase certain products regularly. This subscription service would enable dog food to be ordered automatically without manual intervention. In addition to the convenience that this offers, there are often discounts for activating such a service which can be between a five and ten percent discount.
Chewy is another big player worth discussing. Chewy offers similar services and products to Amazon, including free shipping over a certain price threshold. Chewy used to stock significantly more products, but recently many brands pulled their products from being sold on their website.
This withdrawal followed PetSmart’s acquisition of Chewy. Many brands do not wish to support massive retail behemoths like PetSmart, even if it will cost them profit. Examples include Orijen and Fromm. Find out more about this in our article Best Dog Food At PetSmart.
Best Cheap Dry Dog Food
Many of you may be unfamiliar with the Crave brand. It is a relative newcomer to the industry and was first launched in 2017 by Mars Petcare, who owns some recognizable pet food brands such as Pedigree and Whiskas. Crave is a perfect example of dog food manufacturers creating a new brand to appeal to knowledgeable consumers who will only settle for higher-quality ingredients and more appropriate nutrition for their dogs.
While Crave didn’t feature on the shelves of stores like Walmart and PetSmart immediately upon release, it has started to see prominence and is now a staple and likely will be for years to come.
Crave formulas contain a very satisfactory proportion of protein and fat and do not make use of excessive levels of carbohydrates. This type of nutrition could be easily compared to other brands that are far more costly. This price differential is one of the reasons that Crave is fast becoming popular. The majority of the protein and fat in Crave formulas is provided by high-quality meat ingredients such as Lamb, Chicken, and Venison.
Sadly, there is one downside to Crave’s dog food in that it contains vegetable by-products such as Potato Protein or Pea Protein. As we discussed earlier, ingredients such as these are used to increase the overall proportion of protein in dog foods without splashing out on more expensive meat ingredients. Despite this, there isn’t a significant quantity of these ingredients present, and overall the ingredient quality is still high.
Wag is another brand available online and is owned and sold by Amazon. Amazon’s venture into dog food is a relatively new one. While they have sold other brand’s products for many years, they only recently started producing their own dog food. This venture is seen by many as an attempt by Amazon to continue to increase the range of products and services they dominate.
However, for those of us who aren’t afraid of Amazon’s monumental growth and want a cheap dog food, Wag is a fantastic option as it is very affordably priced. There are four adult formulas in total, and all of these recipes provide very similar nutrition.
An example of one of their adult formulas could be their Lamb formula. Lamb is a less common meat ingredient in dog food and is often neglected in favor of cheaper alternatives like Chicken. Despite this, Lamb can offer fantastic nutrition, high in protein and fat.
The formula also makes use of a small range of legumes, including Peas and Lentils. As always, these are reliable sources of carbohydrates and are preferred by many to grains. Once again, we will note that this formula does contain Pea Protein and not just a small amount. This Pea Protein is almost certainly inflating the overall protein level of this formula. However, the protein level of this formula is already very high, so hopefully, this addition is not significant.
American Journey is a brand owned and sold by Chewy. Chewy is one of the largest online retailers of pet food and one which we discussed in detail earlier in this article. Chewy offers significant discounts on first-time purchases of their American Journey products as well as very competitive pricing and subscription discounts.
One of their best adult recipes from Chewy is Salmon & Sweet Potato. As the name might suggest, the formula’s primary ingredient is Salmon, but it also makes use of poultry ingredients like Chicken and Turkey.
This mix of poultry and fish provides a satisfactory proportion of protein and fat, in particular, the Omega 3 Fatty Acids. These fatty acids can provide a range of health benefits that should not be ignored.
Sweet Potatoes are not the only vegetable ingredient present as Peas and Chickpeas are also present.
Sadly, this formula, like many others in this article, makes use of Pea Protein. Pea Protein inflates the overall level of protein in a dog food formula and is inferior to animal or fish-based protein.
Diamond is a well-known brand and is a popular choice for those on with little cash to spare. One of the reasons for this is that Diamond formulas are sold in enormous quantities such as 35lb or 40lb bags. Buying in bulk is more cost-effective as long as your dog(s) will consume all of the food within a reasonable time frame so that it does not go bad or stale.
Diamond Naturals is the sub-brand of Diamond that we believe is the most appropriate for this article. The formulas within this range make use of named meat ingredients, which are then combined with Rice and other less abundant ingredients. While Rice is a grain, Brown Rice is one of the more favorable grain ingredients and shouldn’t be cast out. The inclusion of Rice is one of the reasons that Diamond’s formulas are very affordable.
The above Chicken & Rice formula makes use of the ever-reliable Chicken and Chicken Meal as its source of protein and fat. Along with Brown Rice, the formula also includes Peas and Barley. While Peas are not usually frowned upon, Barley usually is, and it is not considered a beneficial ingredient or high-quality ingredient in dog food. The formula is finished off with some Dried Beet Pulp, which adds soluble fiber to aid digestion. Find out more about Dried Beet Pulp here.
Pure Balance is a pet food brand owned by Walmart. Regular shoppers of the store will be familiar with Pure Balance and its growing range of products. Pure Balance is Walmart’s attempt at selling affordable dog food that has reasonable ingredient quality and nutrition. Pure Balance has many similar traits to Crave from Mars Petcare.
Pure Balance has a wide range of dog and cat food products, including both dry and wet food. The recipes within these ranges include a variety of conventional meat and fish ingredients that are combined with vegetables such as Peas or grains such as Brown Rice.
While we generally frown upon the use of grains, Pure Balance’s formulas are far from the worst offenders. Brown Rice alongside Oatmeal are considered some of the better grains and shouldn’t be cast out to dry. Sadly, the recipes from Pure Balance often contain Pea By-products like Pea Protein, which will be a common theme in this article, and the overall nutrition level is not up to our high standards as we believe it contains excessive carbohydrates.
Despite this, Pure Balance is a very reasonable option for those on a tight budget and is a big step up above the ultra-cheap brands sold at Walmart. We consider many of these to be pure junk and borderline dangerous.
Those of you who shop at Costco will be very familiar with the brand Kirkland. Kirkland produces a considerable range of products, from Alcohol to Tools, but many do not realize that they have a selection of dog food recipes at very affordable prices. Costco is renowned for keeping meager margins on its products; some say as low as 10%. These low margins allow Costco to sell products, like Kirkland dog food, at prices only slightly higher than the wholesale price, which is good news for consumers’ wallets.
Of the dog food ranges produced by Kirkland, we are a fan of Nature’s Domain. The above mentioned Nature’s Domain Beef Meal & Sweet Potato recipe is one such example. There is only one meat ingredient present, which is Beef Meal. While some may be put off by Meat Meal, they shouldn’t be. Meat Meal has had its moisture removed, which means its a much more dense source of protein and fat than whole meat. As long as the Meat Meal is named as it is in this case, you shouldn’t be put off.
The formula makes use of a broad range of vegetable and starch ingredients, including Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Chickpeas, and others. Unfortunately, the formula makes use of a number of vegetable by-products beyond the usual suspect of Pea Protein. Other by-products present include Pea Flour, which is a very dense source of carbohydrates, and Potato Protein, which is very similar to Pea Protein but derived from Potatoes.
Best Cheap Canned Dog Food
As we discussed previously in this article, Crave is a relative newcomer to the pet food market and is owned by Mars Petcare. We believe the Crave brand was launched to cater to the higher-quality pet food market, which has seen growth from smarter and more aware consumers. Crave is available at Walmart and other large retail pet stores.
While dry dog food was the first point of discussion on Crave, their Pate range is also worth discussing. Each formula within the Pate range contains both traditional meat cuts alongside organ meat. This organ meat differs by providing beneficial Vitamins and Minerals that standard meat cuts lack as well as being a very appealing and enjoyable addition.
This mix of meat ingredients offers satisfactory nutrition, high in protein and fat. Finally, none of Crave’s Pate recipes contain a significant volume of vegetable ingredients, let alone frowned upon by-products or grains. Wet or canned dog food is often unaffordable to many, but Crave’s lo price range may make it viable even if it’s only occasionally.
Pure Balance Chicken Dinner Review
Pure Balance’s wet dog food recipes are also worth mentioning in our discussion of cheap canned dog food. The canned recipes share many of the positive traits of their dry counterparts.
All of Pure Balance’s wet dog food formulas contain a relatively minimal proportion of vegetable ingredients, which correlates to a high proportion of fat and protein. There is a small variety of formulas available, and these use a selection of named meat and fish ingredients.
One of the most reliable and nutritious of these is the Adult Chicken Recipe. This particular recipe has a very high proportion of fat. This fat will make the formula very appealing and enjoyable to a dog and can provide them with a significant amount of energy. Therefore this could be suitable as a treat or before a dog is going to be taking part in a substantial amount of exercise.
The flip side of this high level of fat is that if the recipe is fed to a dog regularly and in an unmonitored fashion, it could cause weight gain. For this reason, it’s essential to portion and monitor your dog’s food intake correctly.
This high-fat proportion is derived from a small selection of Chicken ingredients, including Chicken and Chicken liver. The formula does not contain any other ingredients of note. Small quantities of gum like ingredients are present such as Guar Gum and Cassia Gum. However, these are used to create a consistent texture and do not provide significant nutrition.
Chewy’s brand of American Journey gets a deserved second mention in our cheap dog food article and for a good reason. Their canned dog food is very competitively priced, which can make it viable for those of us without buckets of spare cash. While canned dog food is undoubtedly more expensive than dry kibble, affordable recipes such as these can be used on occasion or as a treat.
The above mentioned Chicken & Turkey recipe is straightforward and only contains a few notable ingredients. The vast majority of the formula is made up of poultry ingredients such as Whole Chicken, Whole Turkey, and Chicken Liver. The Chicken and Turkey provide the bulk of the protein and fat while the Chicken Liver can provide a number of vitamins and minerals that traditional meat cuts lack.
The formula also includes a small portion of White Potatoes. While White Potatoes are not the best carbohydrate providing ingredient to be present in dog food, they are very acceptable, especially given the small portion size. They also offer a small number of other micronutrients and dietary fiber and should be considered a step up from low-quality fillers.
Rachel Ray Nutrish is a well-recognized brand on the shelves of many large retail and pet stores and has a massive selection of products. They recently featured in our article on the Best Dog Food From Walmart due to their nutrition and ingredient quality. Rachel Ray Nutrish’s wet dog food differs from others we recommend as it is not from a Can and contains whole ingredients that are easily visible and recognizable.
The above Chicken Paw Pie formula has a strong focus on Chicken and Eggs and makes use of Whole Chicken, Chicken Broth, Egg Product, and Egg Whites. These ingredients combine to provide a satisfactory proportion of protein and fat that is rich in the required amino acids for growth, repair, and maintenance. Egg, in particular, is very easily digested due to its high bioavailability.
The formula also makes use of some unique ingredients, including Green Beans, Tapioca, Pineapple, and Sweet Potatoes. While some of these ingredients may be staples of dog food, others certainly are not, and this will provide some variety to your canine friend’s diet.
Purina Beyond is one of the many brands associated with Purina that we will all be well equated with. While some of the Purina brands have been around for years, Purina Beyond is a more recent addition and appeals to more knowledgeable consumers in the same way Crave does. Lastly, Purina Beyond also featured in our Best Dog Food From Walmart, thanks to its ingredient quality, just as Rachel Ray Nutrish did.
The above formula caught our eye and is a fantastic option for those of us who want to spoil our dogs with wet dog food but do not want to break the bank. Chicken, Carrot, & Pea Recipe is extremely simple and contains a concise ingredient list.
Unsurprisingly, Chicken is the main ingredient and provides the bulk of the protein and fat. The three ingredients mentioned in the name are joined by Liver, which, as we discussed early, can provide minerals and vitamins that usual meat cuts can not.
While Peas may feature in nearly all dog food recipes, Carrots certainly do not, and that does make this formula unique. While Carrots are not going to provide anything revolutionary, they can be considered a beneficial addition.
Best Cheap Puppy Food
It will come as no surprise that Wag, which is owned and sold by Amazon, features for the second time. The fast shipping and cutthroat pricing offered by Amazon makes it a very tempting option for many of us, especially if you already have a Prime membership.
We discussed Wag’s four adult recipes earlier in the article, but they do produce one additional formula which is aimed at puppies. This formula is very similar to the adult recipes yet contains slightly superior nutrition. Nutrition is especially important for puppies as they are in the stage of their lives when they need the most protein to fuel their growth.
The formula has a relatively simple ingredient list with a strong focus on Chicken ingredients like Chicken and Chicken Meal. These provide the bulk of the protein and fat. In addition to this, the formula makes use of Lentils and Peas as the ever reliant providers of carbohydrates. Sadly, just like their adult recipes, Wag does use Pea Protein in its puppy formula. However, given that the puppy formula has a higher proportion of protein, then this Pea Protein is likely to have less of an effect.
Surely American Journey can not feature for the third time in this article? The power of American Journey low cost of shipping and their extensive range of formulas means they are back one last time. Providing appropriate nutrition to puppies is vitally essential, which is why you should strongly consider a puppy-specific formula.
American Journey produces two very similar puppy recipes: Turkey & Sweet Potato and Lamb & Sweet Potato. Both recipes can provide a very satisfactory proportion of protein, which will be used to enable a puppy’s rapid growth. This protein is from the generous portions of meat ingredients present, such as Turkey, Lamb, and Chicken. The formulas also contain Sweet Potatoes, Peas and Chickpeas, which are all considered high-quality carbohydrate providing ingredients.
Unfortunately, American Journey’s puppy recipes have a lower proportion of fat in comparison to their rivals. While a high portion of fat isn’t needed in a puppy’s diet, it is preferred to excessive levels of carbohydrates. However, this could be a benefit to some dogs who are vulnerable to weight gain or obesity.
Kirkland’s low prices, thanks to their low margins, have earnt them the second spot in this guide. In addition to its price, the puppy recipe mentioned above offers even better nutrition and ingredient quality than the adult formula previously mentioned. In addition, given the similarities between Kirkland adult and puppy food, it could be easy to transition a dog who had eaten a puppy recipe while they were younger to an adult recipe with minimal or no disruption.
The puppy formula contains Chicken and Chicken Meal as their core meat ingredients, which seem to be a prevalent theme throughout this article. This persistent use of Chicken is likely due to it’s low-cost and the nutrition it offers. The proportion of protein and fat in this formula is not as high as some of its competitors, but it is still satisfactory and suitable for the average puppy.
The formula makes use of an extensive range of vegetable and starch ingredients, much like the adult formula, including Sweet Potatoes, Fava Beans, Chickpeas, and others.
However, the formula does not make use of vegetable by-products such as Pea Protein or Pea Flour. This absence is a notable improvement on the adult formula and is not a feature that many of the formulas showcased in this article have.
We thought it worthwhile to include an affordable puppy recipe that is designed for large breed puppies. Large breed puppies require a different nutritional profile to smaller breed dogs to help prevent some serious health issues such as Dysplasia. The differences in nutrition can include being less calorie-dense and containing different levels of minerals like Calcium and Phosphorus.
The above mentioned Large Breed Puppy With Chicken & Brown Rice from Simply Nourish fills this niche and is specially designed for large breed puppies. The formulas core ingredients are Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, and Oatmeal. The Chicken Ingredients provide a satisfactory proportion of protein and fat that should be suitable for the average large breed puppy.
Brown Rice and Oatmeal provide a large portion of carbohydrates. While we usually dissuade users from choosing dog food recipes with grains, we believe that Brown Rice and Oatmeal are two of the best grains available. The portion of carbohydrates is often more abundant in formulas for large breed dogs as carbohydrates are less calorie dense than fat. This approach can help ensure dogs stay full and satisfied without overeating.
Best Cheap Senior Dog Food
Affordable Senior dog food is in short supply, and only a few brands could provide a formula worthy of discussion. However, another potential option is a formula from Victor.
The formula makes use of a variety of meat and fish ingredients such as Beef, Chicken, and Menhaden Fish Meal. These meat and fish ingredients provide a satisfactory proportion of protein, which is crucial to your senior dog’s health. However, the formula does make use of some whole-grain ingredients, which are looked upon less favorably by some.
However, the two whole-grain ingredients that this formula makes use of are Brown Rice and Millet, which are considered some of the superior grain ingredients and are a much more appropriate and nutritious than others such as Corn or Wheat. The formula also includes some of the other, more traditional, vegetable ingredients such as Peas.
As we have discussed with other formulas in this article, this formula could be suitable for those on a budget as you can purchase the formula in substantial quantities, such as a 40lb bag. Buying in bulk like this can have a significant impact on cost over the long term and is a wise approach.
Diamond is one of a select number of brands that offer an affordable dog food recipe for senior dogs. Some senior dogs need slightly different nutrition in comparison to adult dogs, which can make senior formulas an important niche. As we mentioned early, Diamond formulas can be very affordable as they are sold in enormous quantities such as 35lb or 40lb bags. While this does add additional cost upfront, it pays off in the long run.
Diamond’s Senior Formula provides a lower proportion of protein and fat than its adult counterpart. However, this may be appropriate as older dogs can be less active and could need a less calorie-dense diet to avoid weight gain. The large proportion of carbohydrates is from Brown Rice and Oatmeal, with Brown Rice being the first listed ingredient. Having a none meat ingredient listed first is usually a bad sign for most formulas but might not be for this one.
The pairing of Chicken and Chicken Meal is back one last time as the source of protein and fat alongside a small portion of Eggs. We are strong supporters of Eggs being in dog food and believe they are incredibly nutritious and inexpensive. The formula does include Peas but not Barley, like the adult recipe.