Fitting everything into a tight budget can be a trial, and many families are having to make the very difficult decision of either giving up a member of the family -- that is, the family pet -- or switching to a low quality food. When considering the cost of feeding your dog along with all of your other expenses, it can be difficult to find that balance between what is best for your dog and what is best for your budget. But, finding the best quality food that is available, at a reasonable price, is possible if you follow some basic parameters.
Price is Only One Objective
Grabbing a bag of the cheapest food on the shelf is often not a good plan for the long term since it can lead to unintended consequences, such as vitamin or mineral deficiencies, or weight gain. These health consequences alone can lead to clinical health problems requiring medical care, and now is not a good time to be taking chances with your dog's health. Before deciding on the most economically viable food brand, do your research to make sure you are choosing the best formula at the best price.
Hunt Down the Best Prices Before Buying
Discount stores are a great place to begin comparison shopping. Before you decide on a brand or store, make notes of the prices offered at the big discount/super-stores as well as at the bulk and warehouse stores. In many cases, the prices are comparable, or one choice may be more convenient in terms of travel and location.
There is also the web to take into consideration as you hunt down the best food at the best price. Some web-based companies will offer loyalty discounts, discounted or free shipping, and even coupons for free products. It may be worth it to invest the time in searching for the best deals.
Reducing costs does not only mean looking for the cheapest price, though. You might find that something as simple as switching from wet food to a dry food can save quite a bit of money, since wet food costs considerably more due to the type of packaging. Some dogs will not miss getting the wet food, while others have to be patiently weaned from wet food to dry, and others have to be fed a mix of the two.
Read the Labels
The ingredients listed on the label can differ significantly. Generally speaking, your dog needs a food with high levels of protein as well as some fat, fiber, and carbohydrates. The first ingredient listed on the bag should be an animal protein source, such as chicken, beef, lamb, or fish. Fat sources include oils, tallow, and lard.
A carbohydrate source, such as corn meal, sorghum or barley, provides energy, while fiber sources such as rice hulls, beet pulp, bran, and chicory help to promote intestinal health. While your dog can not only subsist, but thrive on a food that is made with carbohydrates and grains, a formula that is too heavy on carbohydrates can lead to excess weight gain. Ideally, you should feed your dog a food that has been certified "complete and balanced" by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Talk to Your Doctor
Changing a dog's diet is not for everyone, and it may not be the solution for your family. If your dog is on a prescription diet or is being treated for a long-term medical condition, ask your veterinarian for advice on whether another brand can be substituted to reduce your household costs. It is possible that there is no other food that can be fed to your dog because of an underlying health condition, but in most cases, a way can be found so that the dog can remain in its home with the family.
Do not be shy about asking your veterinarian what you can do in your situation. You are not alone, and veterinarians encourage families to stay together, especially during the rough times. Your vet may know who you can contact for dog food assistance, if needed.
Finally, while table scraps and leftovers of your family's food is a treat for your dog, they should not take the place of animal food that has been formulated with the added minerals and fats your dog specifically needs.
Image source: homard.net / via Flickr