One of the biggest costs associated with owning a dog is food. Some expenses are negotiable. Your dog will likely sleep just as comfortably on an old, folded duvet as on that expensive memory foam dog bed, but good food is a must.
To keep dogs happy and healthy, owners must provide foods made from high-quality ingredients that meet the individual pet’s lifestyle requirements (eg, puppies need puppy food and overweight pets need must follow calorie-restricted diets). There is a “you get what you pay for” element with dog food, so higher quality foods tend to be more expensive. But, with just a little effort, owners can save a lot of money without compromising the health of their pets. That is how.
Choose your dog’s food wisely
Dogs do better when they are on a consistent diet. People like variety in their meals, but constantly changing the type of food you feed your dog has no benefit. This can also increase the risk of a dog becoming a fussy eater, always looking forward to the next tasty morsel that will come with the next day’s meal.
Most dogs thrive when eating high-quality dog food, but not necessarily super-premium. If you don’t eat organic, does your dog need to? And some manufacturers spend a lot of money marketing niche products, for example, foods that are supposedly designed for particular breeds. You pay a premium for these formulations, but in all honesty, they are overkill for most people within the breed.
So look for a dog food that is moderately priced but still contains ingredients that sound like real food. Two brands that fall into this category are Iams and Purina One. These products also have the advantage of being widely available.
Comparison shopping and coupons
Once you’ve found a food that works well for your dog, shop around. Prices can vary widely between retailers. Consider becoming a member of a wholesale operation like Costco or Sam’s Club. These companies will usually let you enter their premises as a guest so that you can check out what they offer. Walmart, Target, and Kmart also tend to have good prices on pet food, as do big-box pet retailers like Petsmart and Petco. In general, you’ll pay more for food at smaller pet boutiques, but they tend to offer a wider selection of premium or specialty pet foods. Don’t forget to sign up for reward programs offered by stores.
Watch for ads posted by your local retailers; Dog food often goes on sale. And keep your eyes open for coupons. Online sites like retailmenot.com or couponcabin.com are a good way to keep up with current sales. Simply Googling the name of the dog food with the word “coupon” is another easy way to see what’s available. The manufacturer’s website is another excellent resource. Many offer coupons to encourage people to try their products.
If you’ve found a great price on your dog food, stock up if you have the storage space. Most pet foods have a shelf life of about a year. Check the expiration date on the bag and buy as much as you think your pet will eat in that time. As a general rule, larger bags of food are much less expensive in weight and volume compared to smaller bags, and dry food is always cheaper than canned food.
Don’t forget the internet
While many of us use the internet for shopping, online pet food shopping is in its infancy. However, this can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get many of your pet supplies, including food.
Big comparison shopping sites like nextag.com and shopping.yahoo.com are a great way to find the lowest prices on groceries. Just type in the exact product you’re looking for and voila, all the information you need appears. However, be sure to compare apples to apples. Note that all prices are for the same size bag of groceries, and don’t forget to add shipping costs for those sites that don’t offer free shipping and tax, if applicable.
Amazon.com offers a wide selection of pet food, as do major pet retailers petco.com and petsmart.com. Other options to consider include petfooddirect.com, petflow.com, 1800petmeds.com, and nationalpetpharmacy.com. If you’re having trouble finding a website where you can order your dog food, go to the manufacturer’s website. Many have links to retailers that offer their food.
Be careful, however, with flying websites. Only buy from reputable retailers to ensure you receive high-quality products, not imitations. Websites should have a prominent customer service phone number. Call and ask a few questions. You just want to get an idea of their legitimacy and customer service. You can also view customer ratings on sites like Yelp.com or search for a business on the Better Business Bureau’s bbb.org website.
Some dogs require very specific diets to manage medical problems, and these products tend to be more expensive than typical dog foods. If your pet is on a prescription diet, you can still shop around. You don’t have to buy the food directly from your vet; he or she must provide you with a written prescription if he or she requests one. Many of the websites mentioned above (eg, petfooddirect.com and nationalpetpharmacy.com) sell both over-the-counter and prescription diets.
If you feed your dog a homemade diet, use the same cost-cutting techniques you use when buying your own food. When meat goes on sale, buy a lot and freeze it. Frozen vegetables can be used in place of fresh and can be stored for much longer periods of time. But don’t be tempted to buy low-quality ingredients or make unapproved substitutions for what would otherwise be a nutritionally balanced recipe. These types of changes can save money in the short term, but they often lead to health problems and expensive treatments in the long run.
Bottom line, you never want to skimp on your dog’s food, but there’s nothing wrong with spending your money wisely.