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One of the most important factors to consider in your dog’s overall care is what they eat. As a pet owner, you’ve undoubtedly looked at different food options for your dog more than once. It can get a little overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you should be looking for. There can be such a wide range in dog food prices that you might feel obligated to spring for the more expensive brands.
But are those expensive bags of food really worth it, or will your dog get similar nutritional value from their cheaper counterparts?
You should be feeding your dog food that fuels them and keeps them healthy, rather than just empty calories. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of cheap and expensive dog food to determine if you should be spending more on your dog’s daily diet.
Is Expensive Food Really Worth It?
The average bag of dry kibble will cost a dog owner anywhere from $100 to $250 per year. The same amount of food that is labeled as ‘premium’ will cost anywhere from $200 to $400 per year. For some, that might not seem like much, but if you’re on a budget, it can make a difference. Plus, some premium brands are even more expensive.
But are they really worth the cost?
In order to determine if the extra money you’re spending is worth it, flip the bag over and look at the ingredients. The most important ingredients a dog food should contain are:
- Meat meal
- Grains (carbohydrates)
- Vitamins and minerals
Meat should always be the number one ingredient in your dog’s food, especially if you’re paying a premium price. If you’re choosing food with all-natural ingredients, you will also likely end up paying more money. But, natural foods often contain more whole ingredients and they aren’t filled with preservatives or additives that can cause your dog to gain weight or even lead to health issues.
Additionally, paying a bit extra for your dog’s food can be worth it if they have a pre-existing condition or digestive issues. Some dogs don’t tolerate certain ingredients very well, including grain. That’s why their owners are encouraged to choose grain-free food options.
If your dog doesn’t tolerate grain very well, switching to a grain-free option can help to boost their energy and change their mood. Grain-free foods are often more expensive, but if your dog has a special dietary need that will keep them happy and healthy, it’s worth it to most owners. Plus, it’s much cheaper than having to pay costly vet bills!
What are the “cons” of expensive dog food? Again, it comes down to the ingredients. If a food is expensive because of something like fancy packaging or the fact that it is “enhanced” with something, don’t be fooled. But, if it contains real, natural ingredients and vitamins your dog needs, it is likely worth the price.
Is Cheap Food Bad for Dogs?
Inexpensive dog food, like bagged kibble, isn’t necessarily bad for dogs. But, the ingredients matter here, too! Some cheaper dog foods still list meat as the top ingredient. These are the foods you should be picking up off the shelf if you’re on a budget.
But, don’t assume that just because a dog food contains meat that it’s okay for your furry companion. There are some common pet food ingredients that you should avoid at all costs, including:
- Corn and wheat gluten
- Meat byproducts
- Food dyes
- Rendered fat
If you see any of those on your dog food ingredient list, it’s time to change brands or spring for something more expensive.
Some people think that canned dog food, even though it’s usually cheap, is better for dogs because it contains “real” ingredients. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, either. Just because something looks like actual meat doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
Inexpensive canned dog food can be prone to contamination, and dogs who regularly eat it may be at a greater risk of dental problems. Once in a while, choosing a canned dog food with high-quality ingredients can be a real treat for your canine companion. But, stick with kibble when you’re able.
If you can find cheap dog food with real ingredients, there is no reason not to feel comfortable feeding it to your dog. But, you may have to do some serious searching.
What Should You Be Feeding Your Four-Legged Friend?
We can’t say it enough; the best thing you could do to make sure your dog is getting adequate nutrition is to check the ingredients.
For some people, constantly reading labels and bags becomes a bit of a chore. So, they opt to make their own dog food. This is a great option if you have the time, patience, and knowledge about what your dog should and shouldn’t eat.
For example, you might think that all fruits and vegetables would be good for your dog since they’re healthy for humans. But, some are extremely harmful, like grapes, onions, and garlic. Other fruits and vegetables, like bananas and sweet potatoes, can give your dog the same beneficial nutrients that humans get. However, bananas should be given sparingly, as they are very sugary and will end up filling your dog up with a lot of empty calories.
Other ingredients, including milk, bread, and chocolate, should never be a part of your dog’s diet, either.
A good rule of thumb for making your own dog food is to use whole, natural ingredients. After educating yourself on what your dog should and shouldn’t eat, cook the way you might cook for yourself, but leave out common seasonings like salt and pepper. Your dog will be thrilled with a dish of brown rice, lean chicken, and green beans. Plus, you can feel good knowing every single ingredient they are ingesting.
Cooking meals for your dog takes time, even if you meal prep and get their food ready for the week in one day. So, whether it’s easier for you to buy a bag of food or make your own, we hope that reading this has given you a greater understanding of the importance of ingredients. They really make all the difference in the world when it comes to the cost of food. You don’t necessarily need to blow your budget to feed your dog, as long as you make sure what you’re giving them is as close to “whole food” as possible.