Skip to main content

What you need to know to make a good monthly budget for dog food

No matter how you look at it, pet ownership is expensive. From vet visits to recurring purchases like food and toys, you’ll always need to buy something else for your fur baby. It helps to shop smart and compare prices, but finding something like the best dog food for the best price is more complex than you might think.

A good monthly budget for dog food will help you control one of the largest, most expensive pieces of the equation, but what should you expect to set aside? You might think that buying homemade ingredients might be more expensive — and let’s not forget about subscription boxes to bring you your pet’s food on a schedule — but we’ll compare all the options to see if you’re right. You might be surprised!

Related Videos
a white and brown english bulldog sits in front of a purple food bowl in front of a yellow background
New Africa/Shutterstock

Don’t just buy whatever is cheapest

There are times when it’s appropriate to buy the cheapest item you find, but when it comes to your four-legged BFF, you should prioritize quality over price. That’s not to say that cheaper dog foods are unhealthy for your pet, but they are more likely to contain additives, mystery “meat,” and other second-grade ingredients.

Veterinary nutritionist Allison Wara told Oklahoma TV station KJRH that although cheaper dog foods tend not to be as protein-rich as their pricey counterparts, price is not the only indicator of quality. In fact, she notes, the wording on the packaging and ingredients list should be your number one concern.

Not only should you look for specifically named protein sources and the names of chemicals you don’t know (you don’t want those), but you also should keep an eye out for promising language such as “complete” and “balanced.” According to Wara, when a food is “complete,” it contains all necessary nutrients for canines. When it’s “balanced,” those nutrients are present in the recommended ratios for dogs.

a brown black and white dog naps on a wooden floor next to a full food bowl

Different options for purchasing dog food — is one cheaper?

Bags of kibble aren’t the only way to feed your pet; you can find many trusted brands of canned dog food as well. Homemade, whole-food diets for canines are becoming increasingly popular as concerns grow around low-quality dog food ingredients, but making your dog’s food can be expensive. Is it worth it?


When comparing the prices of kibble, you’ll find a vastly wide variety. On alone, you can find bags of dry dog food for as little as $5 and for as much as $125 — that’s a huge difference!

Of course, veterinary diets and other health-conscious kibbles tend to run on the more expensive side, but you’re paying for scientifically formulated ingredients that will have a direct effect on your pup’s health, in this case. After extensive research, The Spruce Pets reports that veterinary diets can cost upward of $100 a month, versus the regular $20 to $60 a month that a pet parent can expect to spend on food and treats.

Dry versus wet food

Another overlooked factor in considering your budget for dog food is whether you feed them kibble or canned wet food — and this alone can make a huge difference. Doctor of veterinary medicine Jennifer Coates broke down the price comparisons for PetMD to the last cent: For a 60-pound dog eating 3.8 cans of wet food per day, their owner would be spending about $7.57 daily. If that same dog ate kibble instead, their human would be paying only about $1.05 a day.

Of course, there are benefits to feeding your dog canned food, including its protein and fat-rich properties. On the other hand, Kibble is higher in carbohydrates and sometimes in preservatives as well, which is why canned food is recommended more frequently for dogs with food sensitivities.


Generally speaking, homemade dog food is more pricey than many store-bought dry kibbles but cheaper than veterinary diets and canned food. Of course, it depends mostly on where and when you gather your ingredients. You may also need to purchase a supplement drop to include in your dog’s food to ensure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, so don’t forget to add that into your budget.


Helpful suppliers like Amazon and Chewy have created subscription programs that will help save you money on dog food while making your life that much easier. By purchasing a subscription for your favorite product, you can get monthly delivery for as long as you like, all while paying less than you would in-store.

For example, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program lets you select your product, how much of it you would like delivered, and how frequently you’d like the delivery, all during your one initial purchase. Many dog food brands also are eligible for a subscriber’s discount — a win-win!

Whether you’re planning ahead or looking to create a more cohesive budget for your dog’s current food, it won’t take much to get started. Once you know the price of your pup’s meals and how often to refill, there’s just a little bit of math to do before you’re set! Just set aside your budget and mark your calendar for refill day. You’ve got plenty of options for pickup or delivery — many of which save you money, too, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to get shopping!

Editors' Recommendations

Urinary tract infections in dogs are so painful – here are ways you can help your pet through one
What is the best dog food for urinary health? The answer may surprise you
A sad white bulldog

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a common but pesky issue for humans. Though cats can get UTIs, it’s rare in the feline population. How common are urinary tract infections in dogs?

Unfortunately, it’s pretty common for vets to diagnose UTIs in dogs. We don’t like it when our pets are unwell, so this news may not be the best to hear. A UTI is a painful condition that happens when the dog’s urinary tract gets infected. It’s usually a bacterial infection.

Read more
Video: Husky wants a dog treat (and just won’t be deterred)
Watch this husky throw a tantrum after he can't get a treat from the closed pet store
A team of huskies stand in the snow while the leader makes a fuss

At some point in our lives, we've all thrown a tantrum after not getting our favorite snack. While in humans this becomes unflattering once we reach a certain age, in dogs it never ceases to be a little funny, no matter how frustrated we might feel in the moment. In fact, we can't help but laugh out loud when a pup increasingly gets himself into a fit, over a seemingly small matter. Enter Archer the Husky. While we might sometimes think that little dogs should be more inclined to pout when they don't get their way, huskies are known for being big drama queens, and these two could win the best acting award in this funny husky video shared by u/trashpix.

Read more
Mental health service dogs 101: What you need to know about alert dogs, emotional support animals, and others
Find out about the different types of mental health service dogs
A therapy dog wearing their harness sits and looks to the side

For many pet owners and animal lovers, simply having a four-legged friend around can make the worst days a little better. They can single-handedly coax you out of bed in the morning, and they're the perfect outlet to talk or cry to when things are too much to take on alone. That's the power of unconditional love!
Of course, animals like dogs can do so much more for their owners' mental health. That's why some pups make the perfect candidates as mental health services dogs, such as emotional support animals (ESAs), psychiatric service dogs (PSDs), or even therapy dogs. Before you get lost in all the fancy terms, though, let's run through what these service animals do, and how they differ from one another. The details might surprise you!
Here's everything you need to know about the different kinds of service dogs for mental health.

Emotional support animals aren't trained for specific tasks, but they provide lots of love and comfort
Despite being wonderfully helpful to those who need them, emotional support animals can also be controversial because of the lack of regulation in the industry. There are countless online organizations that claim to offer ESA certification (for a large amount of money, too), but the only true way to have your pet licensed is to get a "prescription" from your psychologist or psychiatrist.

Read more