Skip to main content

Is DIY dog food really cheaper?

Whether you’ve decided to cook for Fido because he turns his nose up at every brand of dog food you bring home or you simply want to spoil your pup by creating fresh meals in your kitchen, you’re in good company. A recent study of more than 3,500 pet owners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. discovered that 66% of dogs were eating homemade meals.

Some pet owners are choosing to control the ingredients in their pet’s meals by cooking for them at home due to a growing distrust of quality standards in the pet food industry. Others have become committed to making healthy food choices for everyone in their household. Whatever the reason, with diligence and careful preparation, making your own dog food can be a healthy alternative — but is it the right decision for your pet? That depends.

Two dogs together kitchen prep
https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dezi

Is it cheaper to make your own dog food?

If you have a healthy pet and simply want to feed him meals made with fresh food, your ingredient list may not be as limited as a pet owner’s with a dog who has health issues, such as allergies, which dictate which ingredients are the most beneficial.

Your dog’s size, age, and activity level are also considerations. Larger dogs consume more calories than their smaller counterparts. Puppies need a special formula during their first year, and older dogs, who might be more sedentary, probably shouldn’t consume as many calories as they did when they were younger.

Here’s an example.

George is a relatively healthy 6-year-old Australian shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix who weighs 85 pounds. His owner decided to cook for him after he started having digestive issues with the kibble he’d been eating for the past five years. After his owner consulted with the veterinarian, George’s daily diet now contains between 1,200 and 1,400 calories. His owner uses dog food recipes located on BalanceIT, a website created by veterinarians who are board-certified nutritionists.

One of George’s favorite meals is ground turkey with rice and vegetables. Here is what it costs to feed him this meal for one month:

  • Ground turkey – $36
  • White rice – $2.00
  • Frozen peas – $2.99
  • Frozen carrots – $3.00
  • Canned cranberry – $3.00
  • Sweet potatoes – $3.50
  • Canola oil – $1.99
  • Total cost: $52.48

By comparison, George’s owner was paying approximately $60 for a bag of his kibble.

At first glance, that looks like a small savings; however, because homemade food doesn’t have the necessary vitamins and minerals canines need, George also receives the recommended dose of BalanceIT Canine, which varies depending on the recipe. One bottle contains 600 grams of powder, costs $67, and lasts approximately one month.

That means that George’s owner is actually paying more than twice as much to make his meals each month than she did when she was feeding him store-bought food. She also estimates spending an additional 45 minutes every other day to cook and prepare his meals.

fresh food healthy pet chopped
https://www.shutterstock.com/g/bolsher

Is homemade dog food better than commercial?

Even if the cost and time commitment don’t deter you, cooking for your dog is more complicated than setting a place at the table and feeding him whatever your family is eating for dinner.

Dogs have different nutritional needs than their human counterparts, and a recent study indicates that as many as 95% of all homemade dog diets lack crucial nutrients. This can cause cardiomyopathy, osteopenia, irritable bowel syndrome, malnutrition, and various other health conditions. And, although the industry has gotten a bad rap lately, most commercial dog food companies have conducted extensive research to formulate the right mix of nutrients for canines.

Plus, not all human food is fit for canine consumption. Toxic foods for dogs include (but are not limited to) avocados, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, and macadamia nuts.

Premade pet food services

Thankfully, those who want to offer their pets fresh food don’t have to figure it all out by themselves. Several fresh-food services have already done the research:

  • Fresh Pet is locally available in most grocery and pet food stores. A 5-pound bag can cost as much as $32.00
  • Just Food for Dogs is available at Petco and at various veterinary clinics and hospitals. One 18-ounce meal costs approximately $8.
  • Nom Nom is a subscription pet food service. Delivery prices begin at $27 per week.
  • The Farmer’s Dog is a subscription pet food service. Plans start at $2 per day and include free shipping.

It all begins with a conversation

If you’re considering switching from kibble to homemade meals, consult your veterinarian. She can advise your best course of action based on your dog’s health, age, and weight. And although cooking for your dog isn’t necessarily cheaper or easier, it definitely has its rewards. If you measure wealth in tail wags and nose nuzzles, the love and appreciation you’ll receive for your efforts are priceless.

If you’d like to learn more about your dog, check out our guide to find out what you need to do if your dog has smelly ears.

Editors' Recommendations

Debbie Clason
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Debbie Clason's work has appeared in Family Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Lutheran Witness, Massage Magazine…
Why does your dog lie on you? It’s (usually) a good thing
All the reasons why your dog considers you their favorite pillow
Dog lying on the leg of person with white sweatshirt

Snuggles and unconditional love were likely part of the reason you brought home your furry friend in the first place. You may have envisioned yourself scratching their ears and spending nights petting them after a long day at the office. You may not have expected that the bed you splurged on would be tossed aside in favor of your lap. You may wonder, "Why does my dog lay on me instead?"

Dog-human relationships are as sweet as they come, but a language barrier complicates them. Your pet can't answer this question for you, but we have some theories. The good news? Unlike other common dog behavioral questions, chances are, the reason your dog has chosen you as their favorite pillow is a positive (and sweet) one.
Why does my dog lie on me?

Read more
This is why your dog always wakes you up howling in the night
Plus, what you can do to fix nighttime vocalizing
Dog howls while standing near a flock of sheep in a pasture

You may enjoy watching wolves howl at the moon on TV, but you probably don't like it when it comes to life in your own home. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, your dog will wake up and channel their inner Canis lupus (wolf). Both of you need sleep, so you might want to try to tamp this down with a little retraining.

Of course, the first step to fixing your noise problem is to figure out the underlying cause, which involves paying a bit more attention to exactly what your pup is doing and when. So, if you wonder, "Why is my dog howling at night?" we suggest you note a few factors.
Why do dogs howl?

Read more
The most adorable toy dog breeds (that also make great pets)
You'll love the charming faces and spunky personalities of these toy breeds
A Yorkie wears a jacket on the street with his owner

When you think of a dog, we suspect you picture a statuesque German shepherd or possibly a sweet and droopy-eared golden retriever. But some of the best and most loyal buds don't have the size or the hunting instincts and yet are still unmistakably canines.

Toy dogs represent an entirely separate breed group, alongside others such as terrier and herding. While pups in the toy group aren't necessarily related genetically, they have a few characteristics that connect them together. Most obviously: Toy dogs are pawsitively adorable. If you want a teddy bear to come to life, consider one of the cutest toy dog breeds.
What makes a dog a toy breed?

Read more