How To Pick The Right Dog Food For Your Budget

2 March 2014

How to pick the best food for your dog2

I recently wrote an article about saving money on your new animal, and one of the items I wrote about was to consider the type of food you are feeding your dog.  We received lots of commentary about that article.  Bargainmoosers are passionate about their animals, awesome!   We all love our dogs, and we want to provide them with the best possible life.  Food is a huge contributor to that.  It just makes sense that the better you feed your dog, the healthier they *should* be.  Of course there are factors that we can’t control, like some breed-specific physical issues like hip dysplasia in some giant breeds of dogs.   But food is one area we have complete control over.

We have been very fortunate with our dog. He is nearly 10, and he is still very active and healthy.   I have always regularly run with him.   He trained for my half marathon with me last year, and he actually ran 21 kilometres!  Rocky is an amazing dog, and we want him to live a long, long time.  What things should we consider when picking the dog food for our precious pup?


I found an amazing website called Dog food advisor, which has comprehensive ratings of each type of dog food available in Canada.  Foods are listed by type:  hypoallergenic, raw, high carb, low carb, etc.  Talk to your veterinarian to figure out which food is best for your dog, given his/her breed, health, and activity level.  Then you need to consider the cost of each type of food.


I learned through researching this article, that Canada does not regulate pet food that is manufactured in Canada and sold domestically.  What this means to us, the consumer, is we need to do our own research.  Bargainmooser CeeCee told us that there is an organization called Association of American Feed Control Officials, or aafco, which is a voluntary organization designed to regulate the sale of animal food in the U.S.  The good news for us is that there are some foods in Canada which carry the AAFCO label.  Keep your eyes open for this in the pet store, or when you’re conducting online research on the food you are feeding your pup.

What fits with your lifestyle?

Although I’d love to consider feeding my dog a raw diet, I think it would be difficult to fit that into our lifestyle.   I know that lots of people do it successfully; I feel that for my family it isn’t a realistic option given that it requires time in the procurement,  the preparation and storage of the food.  Check out this article from Dog Food Advisor about the benefits and risks of the raw food diet.  I have a co-worker who feeds her dogs the raw food diet, and unfortunately, one of her dogs (a beautiful great dane) passed away because he choked on a bone fragment that got lodged in his trachea.  My friend was beyond sad about the loss of her dog, but she still believes in the benefits of a raw food diet.  She now feeds her 2 dogs a raw food diet, and says that she spends about $200 per month for her food.  Additionally, she has to drive to a nearby city to pick up the food, which is an hour drive, both ways.   If you live in a larger city centre, there is greater certainty that there will be a local raw food supplier.  The costs of raw food will depend on the size of your dog and the growth stage in which s/he is at. For example, my friend feeds both her dogs about a pound and a half of raw food a day: a mix of chicken carcass and veggies and fruits.  Her great dane will continually eat that volume of food, but her puppy’s food amount will decrease as she gets older.  My friend’s costs will then therefore decrease.  There are different forms in which to purchase the raw food.  Some suppliers put the food into “pucks” which are frozen, and you de-thaw and feed your dog the appropriate number of pucks per day.   Maybe it’s easier than I initially thought!


As much as we would each love to feed our dog the best food possible, we also have to be cognizant of our budgets.  Check out as many ratings as possible about the food you are considering, and choose the highest quality food that your budget will allow.  Don’t skimp on food, the better-quality food your dog gets now, the more likely s/he will grow to be healthy and fit in their older age, hopefully reducing your veterinary bills.

Dog food is one of the most expensive parts of owning a dog.  It is an essential part of your dog’s life, and we all want to provide the best of the best for our fur babies.  Do your research, examine your budget, and ensure you choose the best possible food that you can afford.  Don’t forget to ask your friends for referrals of dog food providers, and remember that many pet stores will offer coupons and frequent customer discounts if you ask.

Photo credit: David Yu

TOPICS:   Pets


  • Veterinary T.
    Hi, Ahhhh, I have loved your website, but cringe at this article. So much mis-information is out there on the web, and Dog food Advisor is one example. we cannot always trust what is read on the internet. Having been in Veterinary medicine for over 20 years, I have seen the evolution of pet foods and our pets becoming our family members. As mentioned above, this industry does not have much regulation and so people can say whatever they want without having to back it up. The credentials of the person who writes this website are not a veterinary nutritionist who understands the individual needs of species, but someone who has "researched on the internet for 10 years" so that makes them an expert. I am not suggesting that everything said is false, but I am suggesting the he leads you to a direction that is misleading because there is no talk about, does this diet prevent urinary tract disease and bladder stones, spinach might be a great ingredient, but is it bioavailable to cats? A diet may say it has 70 % protein, but what if only 60% is digestible? How does that affect the kidneys long term?? My only request is to look for advice by the people who have years and years of continuing education - your veterinary staff who only sell products that are made by board certified veterinary nutritionists. Most of the foods are similar cost per day than these "marketing" diets in the pet store. Our pets mean more to us than ever before and everyone wants to profit off that, even if they say they don't. Usually a pet store will promote a product because of a special or because they get the largest profit margin. They certainly get a much larger profit margin than veterinarians do. So vets, don't sell food because they want to make money, they sell it because they want your pet to live the longest, healthiest life possible, and just like with humans, nutrition is a big factor. If you trust your pet to your vet when they are sick, why wouldn't you trust their educated advice on pet food?? My world is helping pets, vet tech
    • Eva W.
      While I think you have many valid comments, I'm going to say that vets are also out there to make money off our pets. The food available as a "prescription diet" at the vet's office is usually very expensive, and the vets definitely make money from it. I've been prescribed various pet foods for various ailments for my pets, including that my puppy gained 3 pounds in a month so they wanted her to go on a weight control diet. She wasn't even one yet! And this was from a very trusted vet. I think that doing your research, no matter where you buy your food is the #1 way to get the best diet for your pet at the best cost. The funny thing is that I think people research their pet's food more than their own food!
      • CeeCee
        Maybe some vets are out there to "make money", but the vast majority will recommend a prescription diet based off of your pets needs. Veterinarians are the lowest paid professionals for the amount of education they have gone through, if they wanted to make money they would be in an entirely different profession. The prescription diets veterinary clinics carry typically have research backing them up, especially when they are recommended for a certain disease (e.g. kidney diets, urinary diets, etc.). I encourage you to research your pet's food by all means, but consider the source. Veterinarians have gone through minimum 7 years of post-secondary to make qualified recommendations; in many cases prescription diet companies have board-certified nutritionists as part of their team who have additional education on top of that. Hence why I would take their recommendations over a 17-year old high school student who works at the local pet store or a breeder who writes about 'holistic diets' on their online blog. I'm not saying every pet should be on a prescription diet, but if it is recommended it is likely for good reason. If you have concerns about cost, you can bring it up with your veterinarian to recommend an appropriate non-prescription diet to suit your needs.
    • Margarita D.
      I would have to disagree with you there. Eva's article isn't cringe-worthy at all, she is merely suggesting that research be done before listening to vets. Based on my own experiences with vets, I would have to agree with her that most typically, vets are indeed out there to primarily make money. It's no coincidence that every time I have had to bring my pets to the vet, I was also bombarded with nutritional "advice" but -coincidentally-, all this advice was only based on foods sold at that vet's location. It's no secret that food bought at the vet is much pricier, and so why is that they don't offer alternatives that could be bought elsewhere for those on a budget? It seems to me that the answer to that question is fairly simple and one that you pointed out as well, Veterinary Technician: because our pets mean so much to us. It's hard for us to gauge what is truly best for our pets when something goes wrong because they can't tell us how they feel and on the other hand, we are made to feel so intensely guilty by the vet for not buying the priciest foods and medicine sold at their locaiton, when fact of the matter is that, just like with our own foods and everything else we need, there are alternatives. We can equate the same scenario to someone who walks into an electronics store with the intention of buying a computer but having zero knowledge about these. They're far more likely to walk out with the most expensive one in the store but do they truly need it? No, of course not. Same with the food we feed our pets. Bottom line is that vets don't always know everything and just like with any other professional, they can be wrong and easily influenced - they're human after all! And though the Dog Food Advisor may not be written by a vet, the information presented on it is concise and quite informative. By Eva's article, it seems to me that she was only using it as an example to point out that there are tools online to determine the best foods. Of course, there are many others available as well and I would have to suggest that all of these be used together to determine the best course of action!
      • CeeCee
        Did you bring up these financial concerns with your veterinarian? Communication with your vet is extremely important; they're not mind readers and can't guess your budget. Most veterinarians are on a salary and do not get any extra profit from prescribing a diet that is sold at the clinic. Where is your data coming from that vets are "out to make money"? I challenge you to find any research backing that up, rather than just proclaiming your biased, slanderous and false perception. A dental diet may be marginally more expensive than a grocery store, but may save you thousands of dollars of dental work down the line. A kidney or diabetic diet may be more expensive, but they are specially formulated for those diseases to ensure length and quality of life. There are reasons prescription diets exist and are recommended. In fact, by feeding the right prescription diet you may save money down the line from various procedures or medical bills that you may have incurred. Again, I'm not saying every animal should be on a veterinary or prescription diet, but if they are recommended it is with good reason. Vets may not know everything, but in the field of animal nutrition and welfare their opinion is the most well-informed and should hold the most weight. If you have underlying concerns regarding cost, etc., I would encourage you to voice them with your vet in person.
  • Veterinary T.
    Please know that feeding raw may be fine for your pet, but also has the potential for life threatening salmonella poisoning for your family. Children and elderly are most at risk. Would you let them play with raw chicken? are they playing with their beloved pets, face to face?? Please be careful, I have seen the ramifications of dogs dying due to raw food and salmonella poisoning.
  • Avigayil M.
    I think the key to this whole conversation is communication. As pet owners and pet professionals we should not be talking over each-other (see above conversation) or accusing each-other in a he-said/she-said sandbox fight. We should each listen to each others concerns and work with one another for the best outcome. I do not have a dog but I do own a cat. He is overweight and his coat was in very poor condition. I was feeding him diet cat food to manage his weight but that was causing his coat problems because the food was low in fat. I talked to my vet about all of these concerns and she listened. Her first concern is for his health: his weight is a huge health risk. However, she listened to my concerns and realized the compounding factors associated with diet food. So instead of the diet food she was going to suggest, she instead suggested a food that is good for his coat but on a restricted intake. She also informed me that the serving size on most dog and cat food bags is far too generous: dogs and cats do not need to eat that amount of food. So if you buy regular cat and dog food you should not be feeding them the full serving amount. While I understand the idea that 'vets are out to make money' they are also out to ensure the health of your pet. In the long run my vet prescribed a slightly more expensive food but less per serving (one cup a day down to 2/3 a cup of the new food) so the cost difference is non-existent. If finances are a concern make sure to talk to your vet about that. Tell them you want what is best for your pet and that includes the longtime financial health of their owner. Ask for advice on the best foods for your pet, specific to their breed, that fit within your budget.
  • Heather R.
    Great conversation, everyone. The more discourse we have on the subject, the more educated people will become on various options for pet food.

What do you think?

Your comment