Our four-legged friends are family, so it’s natural we want to treat them as such. However, owning and caring for a dog is not cheap! According to the American Kennel Club, owning a dog can cost upwards of $3,239 for the first year alone, with approximately 13 percent of that going towards food. In fact, excluding medical exams, food is the highest expense you’ll pay for your dog, so why not learn how to save a little on this recurring expense?
Keep in mind, cutting costs for dog food shouldn’t include cutting quality. Providing your dog with quality nutrition is essential to keeping them healthy and happy. When buying or preparing food for you dog, consider foods that are high in protein and do not contain fillers like corn and wheat gluten, meat by-products or rendered fat. As with our own food, you also want to avoid foods containing lots of chemicals, preservatives and colored dyes. Dogs are omnivores, so finding a food that includes veggies, healthy grains and fruits is also important.
When you spend a little more for good canine nutrition, you’ll save money in the long run on veterinary bills. Since quality food comes with a cost, consider these tips to save money on dog food without sacrificing your dog’s health!
1. Make your own. According to an article from The Bark, the average cost per day for dry and wet dog food can reach as much as $5, while homemade dog food can be as inexpensive as $2.25 per day. You likely have or already buy ingredients for yourself that are also good for your dog. Making your own dog food is not only financially beneficial, but it can help them get the nutrition they need and the variety they crave. However, it’s not as simple as giving your dog leftovers; homemade dog food needs to have the right balance of fat, protein, nutrients and vitamins. It also takes considerably more time to prepare food than measuring kibble into a bowl, and depending on your canine’s unique nutritional requirements, some ingredients can be expensive. Consult with your veterinarian before starting a homemade diet to ensure you know what to include and in what proportions. For guidance on getting started with homemade dog food, consult WebMD’s article on the subject.
2. Use coupons. This is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to search for dog food coupons! A site like Coupon Sherpa features printable coupons for top dog food brands including Iams and Purina, as well as coupon codes for such specialty retailers as Only Natural Pet Store. You can also check your grocery store’s savings app for digital coupons or subscribe to your favorite brand’s website or social media pages for access to the latest deals. More expensive brands like Hill’s Science Diet will occasionally offer discounts as well, and you can always ask your vet’s office for free coupons. Be sure to also check the food packaging for manufacturer’s coupons in the form of “peelies,” or savings affixed directly to the bag, which you can then apply at checkout.
3. Find free samples. Many dog food brands offer free samples of their latest food lines, and veterinary offices provide free samples as well. Do some scavenging and see if you can stock up on freebies; this is also a good way to let your dog try different foods and see what works best for her individual diet. You can also find buy-one-get-one-free offers, or free-samples-with-purchase coupons from various sources. Also check your favorite brands’ websites for sign-up or mail-in offers that reward you with freebies.
4. Sign up for auto-delivery. A recurring delivery of pet food is not only convenient, it could save you money every month! Sites like Jet.com and Amazon have low rates on dog food, and PetSmart offers discounts when you sign up for automatic delivery. PetSmart even offers a coupon for 20-percent off to new subscribers, plus free shipping and 5-percent off every delivery after that. While these offers can be competitive, it’s important to shop around and compare prices before you commit to automatic delivery. Before you sign up, determine what it takes to cancel the subscription if you find a better deal elsewhere.
5. Buy in bulk. The high cost of a bulk bag of dog food might seem like a huge expense initially. However, buying in bulk will often save you more in the long run. Check for deals at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, or even online at Amazon or pet supply retailers. Buying in bulk means you need to properly store the food to avoid spoilage, so consider how and where to accomplish this in your home. Canned dog food will keep for years unopened, and dry dog food will keep for weeks when properly stored. If you make homemade dog food, you can freeze it for up to one year and thaw the amount you need each week.
6. Measure. Filling your dog’s bowl to the max is bad for both your dog and your wallet. Instead, identify the optimal amount of food based on your dog’s size, breed, and advice from your veterinarian. Even the biggest breed of dog only requires up to four cups per day of food, and the smallest can get by on just one cup per day. Again, your vet can help recommend a daily amount and frequency that fits your breed. Develop feeding times for your dog and be consistent with this schedule. This method may take training if your dog is used to always having a full bowl, but in the end it will be healthier for him and more affordable for you. For an idea of average feeding guidelines, see this chart from PetMD.
7. Shop local. Most people assume their local pet stores have higher prices compared to popular chains, but that’s not always the case. In fact, local stores may offer better prices on food and other essentials to get customers through their doors. Some locations might even price match or offer coupons, so check with your local store for savings! Local coupon mailers are also known to feature coupons, and like national chains, local stores may offer exclusive savings to social media followers. Be sure to take advantage of any loyalty programs that reward you with freebies or discounts when you’ve purchased a certain amount. Don’t forget to ask your local stores for free samples, too!