Dog Food Nutrition

The 5 Best Affordable & Budget Friendly Dog Foods

October 1, 2021

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The 5 Best Affordable & Budget Friendly Dog Foods

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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.

At A Glance: Best Healthy And Affordable Dog Food To Buy:

We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

Compare Best Healthy And Affordable Dog Food

OVERALL BEST
Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Food

1. Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Food

BEST GRAIN-FREE
Nature's Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food

2. Nature's Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food

BEST FOR PUPPIES
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

3. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

BEST FOR SENIORS
Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

4. Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

BEST FOR ALLERGIES
Rachael Ray Nutrish Limited Ingredient Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

5. Rachael Ray Nutrish Limited Ingredient Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Protein
25% Min
Protein
27% Min
Protein
27% Min
Protein
24% Min
Protein
20% Min
Fat
14% Min
Fat
12% Min
Fat
16% Min
Fat
12% Min
Fat
13% Min
Fiber
4.5% Max
Fiber
4% Max
Fiber
5% Max
Fiber
4% Max
Fiber
4% Max
Calories
3,518 kcal/kg
Calories
337 kcal/cup
Calories
398 kcal/cup
Calories
3569 kcal/kg, 319 kcal/cup
Calories
430 kcal/cup

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 Reviewed

OVERALL BEST
1.

Whole Earth Farms Adult Recipe Dry Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 25% Min
  • Fat: 14% Min
  • Fiber: 4.5% Max
  • Calories: 3,518 kcal/kg
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)
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.
BEST GRAIN-FREE
2.

Nature's Recipe Grain-Free Salmon, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Recipe Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 27% Min
  • Fat: 12% Min
  • Fiber: 4% Max
  • Calories: 337 kcal/cup
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
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.
BEST FOR PUPPIES
3.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 27% Min
  • Fat: 16% Min
  • Fiber: 5% Max
  • Calories: 398 kcal/cup
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
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.
BEST FOR SENIORS
4.

Nutro Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 24% Min
  • Fat: 12% Min
  • Fiber: 4% Max
  • Calories: 3569 kcal/kg, 319 kcal/cup
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
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 Natural Choice Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food 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.
BEST FOR ALLERGIES
5.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Limited Ingredient Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Product Info

  • Protein: 20% Min
  • Fat: 13% Min
  • Fiber: 4% Max
  • Calories: 430 kcal/cup
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
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.

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 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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