Good quality foods cost quite a bit more than the stuff that you buy at your local supermarket. Premium foods are sometimes twice as much as lower quality options. Are these specialty foods worth it? Absolutely. They are free of common allergens (corn, wheat, soy, dairy), they are not laden with high carbohydrate fillers and they are generally made with ingredients that are suitable for human consumption.
Would you feed your kids low quality foods because they cost less? Of course not! Then why would you feed your pets low quality foods? Pets are family, and most people want to treat their pets with the same care they would for a family member. That said, there are ways to reduce your costs while providing a high quality diet.
The easiest (and healthiest) way is to convert your dog to a raw food diet. You can use very inexpensive cuts of meat, and freeze large portions for later use. Raw food is by far the most economical way to go. I recognize that many people are resistant to raw food diets–if you’re skeptical, please see my page on raw food diets for dogs.
Another way to save money is to buy your food online. Very high quality specialty dog foods are not carried at most of the national chains. In many areas, you need to go to a boutique pet stores or your vet’s office to get your hands on some, and you will usually pay a premium. If you live in a more rural area, that may not even be an option.
Fortunately, you can find specialty foods at many online sites. The price with shipping is usually less than what you’d pay by buying it locally. If you sign up for an auto-ship option where food is delivered automatically ever few weeks or months, you can usually save an additional 10-15%. Furthermore, you can often avoid shipping costs if you place a large enough order. So, if you order larger quantities on an auto-ship program that ships once every 3 months, you can often save more than 30% over what you would pay at a local pet store.
Which online sites have the cheapest pricing? That’s a complicated question. Between sales tax (some sites that also have brick and mortar stores must charge it), variable shipping costs, temporary promotions and fluctuating prices, it’s hard to figure.
I took all of my recommended brands of dog food, and I compared “delivered” pricing across the 12 different sites where I could find those foods. I included shipping, but I excluded any sales tax and auto-ship discounts, since not all sites offer these. I did include promotions, since most sites offer coupon codes or instant promos.
The winner? Pet Food Direct was cheapest for all brands but one. Second place was Only Natural Pets. I live in the western United States, so your results may be different.
A third way to save is through buying groups. If you’re able to find a local pet food buying group or co-op, this can be a great way to go. Groups can purchase specialty foods in bulk and save a great deal of money. Your best bet for finding a local group is talking to local breeders and trainers, or looking on Yahoo Groups and possibly Craigslist.
No matter what, you’re going to pay a bit more if you feed your dog premium food. However, your dog will generally need less food if you provide a high quality option, so you won’t go through as much. A premium diet can also make a world of difference in your dog’s health, so you are likely to save on vet bills as well.
If you have any tips on how to save money on premium dog foods, please drop me a line!