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The price of dog food is insane: Pet parents’ best tips to handle shortages

10 ways you can navigate the high price of dog food

It’s a tough time to be a shopper right now, with everything from baby formula to new cars experiencing shortages, and price hikes on… well, just about everything. And this, unfortunately, includes pet food. If you’re a pet parent, you’ve probably noticed that the price of dog food has gone up plenty (and cat food, too, for that matter) — and that’s if you’re lucky enough to find your pup’s preferred brand.

Pet food inflation in the U.S. rose to 9.1% in May 2022, compared to May 2021, which exceeds the Consumer Price Index’s total increase (8.6%).  One pet food bank saw a 700% increase in requests for dry dog food in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the year before, and Trader Joe’s discontinued several pet food products altogether due to the challenges companies are facing meeting demand.

The pet food shortage is real and it’s affecting not only the price of dog food, but the health and wellness of our beloved pets as well. So what’s a pet parent to do? Hop on Reddit and crowdsource some solutions, of course. Read on for the best solutions Reddit has to offer.

Pet food shortage: The issues at play

Recently, Redditor No_Department_902 took to Reddit to express their frustration at the price of dog food — and other users were quick to agree.

The price of dog food has increased

No_Department_902 noted that they have two dogs that both eat Purina Pro Plan, and they’re currently finding that it costs almost $20 for just six pounds, which will only last about a week. “I couldn’t afford the big bag right now,” they said. Other Redditors were quick to commiserate and offer up other issues they’re facing.

Dog food bags are getting smaller

Have you noticed that your pet’s food bag doesn’t seem quite as large as it used to be? Redditor Tribblehappy noted, “The shrinking bags [are] awful. I used to stock shelves and the bags went from 30 to 25 and now 22lbs. And the prices have gone up.”

You can’t always find your pet food locally

Of course, high prices and shrinking bags are only issues when you can find the right pet food. User AnUnrulyLlama shared that their partner drove 90 miles to pick up their pet’s food. “It was literally the only bag in that radius, which covered at least 20 big box stores,” they said, noting that they were lucky the money wasn’t an issue for them, but the time certainly was.

How to save money on the price of dog food amid pet food shortages

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Reddit sourced ten ways to help other pet parents out.

1. Check discounts at local stores

 While your first instinct might be to go to bigger box stores, local stores can be a good bet, too. Redditor BeanieBlitz noted, “Some offer discounts in the form of punch cards, rewards, or coupons. For example, every 9 bags of dog food will lead to 1 free bag for me. It doesn’t sound like much but when I’m spending $60/bag, that free bag adds up to over a week of groceries for me.”

2. But don’t discount the bigger retailers either

You might have to shop around a little bit — some Redditors noted that they had better luck at Petco or PetSmart — it all depends on your region and the type of food you need. But all of these stores offer incentives to be a loyal customer.

SparhawkJC reported that they take advantage of Petco’s rewards program, which offers the eighth bag free on qualifying bags of dry dog or cat food, as well as “a 10% discount if you order online for in-store pickup.”

Redditor Cursethewind added that they shop with the Petsmart app coupon.

3. Shop around online

Redditor Bookworm1421 swears by Chewy. “Their bags are often cheaper and, if you’re able to set up autoship, you get a discount on every bag,” they said.

With the pet food shortages, you’ll likely have to shop around until you find a source that works for you. While Chewy had what Bookworm1421 needed, user Frictus said they switched to Petco from Chewy because of availability issues with their dog’s food — and that Petco has a similar autoship deal. Even if you’ve been a loyal customer to one retailer, you might just find you have better luck somewhere else — so maybe it’s time to switch that loyalty (at least for now).

Most retailers offer free shipping on large orders, which can be a lot more cost-effective than driving out of the way to pick up a bag of pet food (not to mention more convenient).

4. Try Costco — even if you’re not a member

There’s a reason bulk shoppers love Costco — but what if you don’t have a membership there (and can’t really afford the added expense)? Redditor Gotagoodkidney offered this solution: “Just buy a Costco gift card and that will get you in the door and you can buy the food. Plus, if it’s not working for you, they have the best return policy I’ve ever seen.”

5. Make your own dog food

This one is time-consuming and can get expensive — but if your issue is the pet food shortage and not necessarily the high price of dog food, making your own dog food can be an option for you.

“My wife and I supplement our two dogs’ food with a meat and vegetable medley (carrots, peas, sweet potatoes) that we make ourselves. Stick to lean meats (ground turkey is my preferred choice) as fatty meats like bacon aren’t great in large quantities,” Redditor ehardt3 said. “ You will find more discounts for regular food at supermarkets [than] you will ever find on dog food.”

TheseAreRandomKeys added that they buy their ingredients from the local raw dog food co-op, which “is about 30% cheaper than meat from the store.”

Before choosing this option, you should consult your vet. As hikehikebaby pointed out, “You would really… need to talk to a vet nutritionist to make sure that you’re feeding your dog a complete diet… My dog has a lot of allergies so I have considered this option and after discussing it with my vet, we decided to go with an Rx diet.”

Not every dog has the same needs or allergies though, so a consultation with your vet might just get you the go-ahead.

6.  It’s really OK to switch (if your vet says it’s OK)

We all want to feed our dogs the best, but if their preferred food isn’t in your budget anymore — or you can’t find it — you don’t have to feel guilty about exploring other options.

Sage—Fox noted, “I just switched to Purina One for the first time. I know it’s not as good as Pro Plan but Pro Plan has gone through the roof.”

Redditor tortellini added, “If it helps, my vet said there is no major difference between the two.” Several others chimed in to say the same.

Consult your vet about your dog’s dietary needs and they’ll be able to help you find a dog food replacement suitable for your pet.

7. Buy in bulk

Given the high price of dog food, this may not be an option — but whenever possible, you really do want to get the large bag. Redditor MyAnxiousDog said, “It’s cheaper, in the long run, to buy the large bags of food in bulk if you can. Look for sales for the food or contact the manufacturer to see if they have any promotions or coupons. You can also check your area for any pet food banks.”

8. Buy whenever you can (even if you don’t need more just yet)

Redditor GottaBlast7940 noted their local store was out and driving to another location meant spending more gas money “so any savings on the food is taken by the cost of gas to get there.”

Instead, they turned to Amazon. “[Amazon] had the food for 10% off this past month [I] bought a bag before I needed it just for the savings,” they said.

9. Invest in storage

If you’re going to buy in bulk and you’re going to buy before you need to, then you’re going to need to rethink your storage. (After all, what’s the point of buying more food when there’s a pet food shortage if it’s just going to spoil or become a source of temptation for your dog?)

Redditor Hindence suggested air-tight storage. “It will solve at least two problems, smell and your pet getting into the larger bags,” they said.

10. Check the brands

Retailers aren’t the only ones with incentives. Pet food brands can be a source of expense relief, too. Redditor Crustynubs feeds their dog Hill’s Science, and they’ve found coupons on the company’s website. “All I had to do was make an account,” they said.

Similarly, check their social media. “I just won a free bag recently,” they shared.

With any and all of these solutions, you should find some relief during the pet food shortage. Shop around at different stores, check out brands, invest in solutions for bulk buying, and consult your vet about any changes you can make. And remember: Don’t feel guilty if you have to switch to a lower-cost dog food. Times are tough, there are plenty of quality dog foods out there that aren’t premium brands, and with the help of your vet, you can find one that caters to your individual dog’s needs.

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