What is the most cost effective way to feed your dog a nutritious diet?
A trip to the pet store, the grocery store, or the internet rabbit hole can make your head spin with all the choices: dry kibble, canned food, raw food, freeze-dried food, and recipes for home-cooked meals. And all the companies marketing pet food want you to believe their product is the best for your pet.
Wet or dry food: What are the experts saying about what to feed your dog?
What’s fascinating is that the most affordable foods — mass-market dry food and premium dry food — are, by most accounts, just fine for healthy dogs.
Here are the food categories, ranked from least expensive to most expensive.
Dry food (kibble)
Wet food (canned dog food)
Raw (freeze-dried or frozen) - most veterinarians do not recommend feeding a raw diet because of the health risks associated with nasty germs that can live in raw, freeze-dried, or frozen meats for you or your dog
What’s more, another study found that dry food is an equally good choice for dogs with digestive problems.
Hooray for Kibbles
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released a statement earlier this year saying that dry commercially produced diets (kibbles) are the least expensive way to feed dogs that have chronic gastrointestinal issues. Next in line are home-cooked meals (but you need to know how to balance them) and after that, canned food. All three options have similar health benefits.
Members of the association expressed concern that more people were trying to make homemade pet food, thinking it was the most affordable option. “Several studies have shown that most home-cooked diet recipes for pets do not provide complete and balanced nutrition, which can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and lead to further health complications,” the release states.
Still, some people really want to know how to do it right.
How To Cook for Your Dog
If you are determined to make your dog’s food, do some research first to make sure you are feeding them a complete and balanced diet.
The website Balance It is run by a board‑certified veterinary nutritionist. They help you customize recipes that include
Protein-rich food like beef, lamb, chicken, or fish
A dense carbohydrate like barley, beans, bread, garbanzos, or oats
Oils and fats that are okay for animals like peanut, canola, almond, or soybean
Vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and peas
Fruits such as apples, bananas, blueberries, and cantaloupe
When cooking for your pet, it’s always critical to keep in mind that some foods and other household items are toxic to cats and dogs. Dogs should not eat anything that contains the artificial sweetener Xylitol, grapes, chocolate, onions, fatty and fried foods, macadamia nuts, or avocados.
Don’t worry if this all seems like too much. Many of us love our animals but don’t have time to cook meals for them.
A Complete and Balanced Diet
Part of a veterinarian’s job is to help steer you to healthy pet food you can afford. They can suggest a complete and balanced diet that meets your budget.
To do that, your vet will look at your dog’s age, life stage, lifestyle, body weight (or body condition score), health status, and activity level.
Commercial pet food companies that work with veterinary nutritionists make high-quality pet food. Sometimes these companies sell more affordable pet food brands because they manufacture their own pet food.
Good News for Pet Parents
In a world filled with difficult news, this is good news for dog owners. Living with a dog has been scientifically proven to improve mental, physical, and emotional health. Caring for a dog can be expensive, but it’s good to know you don’t need to spend $7,000 a year to feed your dog a nutritious diet.