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Dog Food Nutrition

The Best Affordable (Budget) Dog Food

November 17, 2018

The Best Affordable (Budget) Dog Food

When you walk into a pet store, it is easy to be overwhelmed by how many options there are for dog food. What you need to realize is that not all dog foods are created equal, and you shouldn’t shop by price alone. The best thing you can do is buy the highest quality dog food you can consistently afford.

Keep reading to learn more about you’re the basic nutritional needs of dogs and to receive some tips for picking the best dog food to meet those needs without emptying your wallet. You’ll also receive our top 5 picks for the best affordable dog food.

Quick Look at Our Top Picks:

ImageProductFeatures

Best Affordable

Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Food
  • Several sources of quality animal protein
  • Digestible whole-grain carbohydrates
  • Beneficial supplements like probiotics and chelated minerals
CHECK PRICE

Best Grain-Free

Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Real meat (salmon) as the first ingredient
  • Digestible grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato and pumpkin
  • Formulated for all breeds and life stages
CHECK PRICE

Best for Puppies

Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy FoodBlue
  • Rich in animal-based protein from chicken and chicken meal
  • Digestible whole grain carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal
  • Beneficial supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics
CHECK PRICE

Best for Seniors

Nutro Max Senior Recipe Dry Food
  • Made with wholesome and high-quality ingredients for balanced nutrition
  • Supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support
  • Designed to meet the nutritional needs of senior dogs
CHECK PRICE

Best Afor Allergies

Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe
  • Made with a limited number of main ingredients
  • Protein-rich lamb meal as the first ingredient
  • Supplemented with chelated minerals
CHECK PRICE

Basic Nutritional Needs of Dogs

Your dog requires a healthy and balanced diet that contains protein for muscle mass, fat for energy and skin/coat support, and carbohydrates for fiber. It also needs certain vitamins and minerals in its diet to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.

Here are some things to look for in an affordable dog food:

  • Animal Protein. Protein is the most important nutrient for dogs, so any dog food you buy should start with a protein as the first ingredient. Just because a dog food is cheap doesn’t mean it has to be low-quality – make sure the food you pick has meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredient.
  • No Fillers. Avoid any dog food that lists corn or wheat as an ingredient – especially if it appears near the top of the list. Fillers are low-quality ingredients manufacturers use to add bulk to their products without increasing the production cost.
  • No Artificial Additives. Many low-quality dog foods contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives but there are decent and affordable dog foods out there that don’t.
  • Digestibility. The quality of your dog’s food doesn’t matter if he can’t digest it, so look for quality animal sources of protein and fat with whole grains, vegetables, or legumes for carbs.

Keeping all of these things in mind, you’re now ready to learn how to choose the best affordable dog food. Here’s what you need to know:

How to Choose the Best Affordable Dog Food

Though it may be tempting to pick out the cheapest dog food on the shelf, you won’t be doing your dog any favors if you do. In fact, feeding your dog a low-quality diet could end up costing you more money in the long run when he develops health problems. Instead, try to buy the highest quality food you can consistently afford, whatever it may be.

There are many affordable dog food brands out there, but you need to know how to pick out the ones that offer decent quality. Look for an affordable dog food that lists an animal protein as the first ingredient with digestible carbohydrates and healthy fats for support. Your dog needs at least 18% crude protein in its diet and 5% crude fat with a maximum of 5% protein.

In addition to making sure that most of the ingredients in an affordable dog food come from animal sources, you should look out for low-quality additives. Corn, wheat, and soy ingredients offer little nutritional value to dogs, and they are hard to digest.

You should also avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives as well as by-products and unnamed ingredients (like poultry meal versus chicken meal). Consider it a bonus if the affordable dog food you’re looking at contains beneficial supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics.

Keep reading to see our top 5 recommendations for the best affordable dog food.

The Top 5 Best Affordable Dog Foods

You don’t necessarily need to empty your wallet to buy a decent dog food. There are plenty of affordable dog food brands out there, and many of them offer good quality. Here are our top 5 picks for the best affordable dog food that you should consider:

Best Affordable Dog Food Overall: Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 26% Min
  • Fat – 13% Min
  • Fiber – 3.5% Min
  • Moisture– 11% Max

Caloric Content: 348 kcal/cup

The Whole Earth Farms brand of dog food is actually created by Merrick, which is one of the top pet food manufacturers out there. This means that you can rest easy knowing this dog food is both affordable and high-quality. This recipe features chicken meal and turkey meal as the primary proteins with digestible whole-grain carbohydrates like oatmeal, barley, and brown rice. It is also supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics.

Click here to see full list of Ingredients
Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Oatmeal, Pearled Barley, Brown Rice, Whole Barley, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Chicken, Natural Chicken Flavor, White Fish, Yeast Culture, Organic Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Salmon Oil, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Pyroxidine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Thiamin Mononitrate), Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Dried Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product.

Pros:

  • Several sources of quality animal protein
  • Digestible whole-grain carbohydrates
  • Beneficial supplements like probiotics and chelated minerals

Cons:

  • Some dogs are sensitive to chicken ingredients
  • Not a grain-free recipe (though the brand does make grain-free dog food)

Best Affordable Grain-Free Dog Food: Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 27% Min
  • Fat – 12% Min
  • Fiber – 4% Min
  • Moisture– 10% Max

Caloric Content: 337 kcal/cup

Nature’s Recipe is a very popular brand of dog food and one of the more affordable brands as well. Not only do they use real meat as the first ingredient, but they offer a variety of grain-free recipes like this one. Featuring real salmon, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin, this recipe is rich in protein as well as essential nutrients. Plus, it is formulated for all breeds and life stages.

Click here to see full list of Ingredients
Salmon, Garbanzo Beans, Peas, Pea Protein, Salmon Meal, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Pumpkin, Natural Flavor, Dried Tomato Pomace, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source Of Vitamin C), Inositol, Niacin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Beta-Carotene, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Lactic Acid, Citric Acid (Used As A Preservative), Yucca Schidigera Extract, Rosemary Extract.

Pros:

  • Real meat (salmon) as the first ingredient
  • Digestible grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato and pumpkin
  • Formulated for all breeds and life stages

Cons:

  • Contains an unnamed source of fat (poultry fat)
  • Doesn’t contain probiotics

Best Affordable Dog Food for Puppies: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 27% Min
  • Fat – 16% Min
  • Fiber – 5% Min
  • Moisture– 10% Max

Caloric Content: 398 kcal/cup

If you’re looking for a high-quality puppy food that is also surprisingly affordable, the Blue Buffalo brand has several options including this Life Protection Formula recipe made with real chicken and brown rice. Packed with 26% protein from several animal sources and 15% crude fat from menhaden fish meal, chicken fat, and salmon oil, this recipe will more than just meet your puppy’s nutritional needs – it will exceed them, all without emptying your wallet.

Click here to see full list of Ingredients
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Menhaden Fish Meal (Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed (Source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Dried Tomato Pomace, Dried Egg Product, Pea Protein, Fish Oil (Source of Ara-Arachidonic Acid And Dha-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Dl-Methionine, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin E Supplement, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Garlic, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice For Color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Carnitine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.

Pros:

  • Rich in animal-based protein from chicken and chicken meal
  • Digestible whole grain carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal
  • Beneficial supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics

Cons:

  • Contains some plant protein (pea protein), but not likely a significant amount
  • Not a grain-free recipe, some puppies may have trouble digesting it

Best Affordable Dog Food for Seniors: Nutro Max Senior Recipe Dry Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 24.5% Min
  • Fat – 14% Min
  • Fiber – 4% Min
  • Moisture– 10% Max

Caloric Content: 354 kcal/cup

When it comes to senior dog food, you need a recipe that offers plenty of protein to support your dog’s lean muscle mass and essential nutrients for overall health. This Nutro Max recipe is uniquely designed to meet your senior dog’s nutritional needs through wholesome and high-quality ingredients like farm-raised chicken, whole grain sorghum, and chicken fat. It is also supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin to support your dog’s bones and joints.

Click here to see full list of Ingredients
Chicken Meal (Source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Grain Sorghum, Brewers Rice, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Chicken, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Pea Protein, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Whole Brown Rice, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Dl-Methionine, Salt, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract, Decaffeinated Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.

Pros:

  • Made with wholesome and high-quality ingredients for balanced nutrition
  • Supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support
  • Designed to meet the nutritional needs of senior dogs

Cons:

  • Contains several plant proteins (pea protein, alfalfa meal, and peas)
  • Not a grain-free recipe, some senior dogs may be sensitive to grains

Best Affordable Dog Food for Allergies: Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 20% Min
  • Fat – 13% Min
  • Fiber – 4% Min
  • Moisture– 10% Max

Caloric Content: 321 kcal/cup

If your dog suffers from food allergies or sensitivities, you need to limit the ingredients in its dog food. Unfortunately, many limited ingredient diets are extremely expensive but this Rachael Ray Nutrish Just 6 formula offers decent quality at an affordable price. It is made with just 6 main ingredients including lamb, brown rice, beets, ground rice, chicken fat, and natural pork flavor.

Click here to see full list of Ingredients
Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Ground Rice, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Pork Flavor, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Choline Chloride, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Biotin, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Source of Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Pros:

  • Made with a limited number of main ingredients
  • Protein-rich lamb meal as the first ingredient
  • Supplemented with chelated minerals

Cons:

  • Not a grain-free recipe, some dogs might be sensitive to rich
  • No probiotics to support healthy digestion

How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?

The amount you feed your dog depends on several factors including its age, weight, and breed size. Large-breed dogs require a higher volume of food than smaller dogs, but small breeds actually need a more calorie-dense diet to support their fast metabolism. The best way to ensure that your dog gets the right amount of food is to start with a small-breed or large-breed dog food, according to its size.

Once you have chosen your dog’s food, take a look at the feeding recommendations on the package – it will tell you how much to feed your dog based on its age and body weight.

Remember that this amount is for the whole day, so you’ll need to divide it into two meals for medium- and large-breed dogs, or three meals for toy and small breeds. Your dog may also need extra food while it is a puppy, so keep that in mind as well.

What About Food Allergies and Sensitivities?

Any dog can develop food allergies or sensitivities over the course of its life, though some breeds are more prone than others. Some of the most common signs of food allergies in dogs include recurrent ear infections, skin problems, and digestive upset.

If you suspect that something in your dog’s food is bothering it, try switching to a diet made with a limited number of ingredients or with novel sources of protein and carbohydrate (this simply means ingredients your dog hasn’t had before).

If you stick to the new diet for at least 12 weeks, your dog’s symptoms should disappear. If they don’t, talk to your veterinarian to see if something else might be going on under the surface.

Final Remarks

In the end, you should buy the highest quality dog food you can afford on a regular basis. The quality of your dog’s diet directly impacts its long-term health and wellness, so you’ll be doing yourself and your dog a favor by choosing a quality product. If you’re not sure where to look for affordable dog food, check out our top five picks for the best affordable dog food above.

Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.
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