Best Cheap Dog Food

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CHOW TIME

There's no controlling a dog's food preferences, but what owners can do is choose a brand that appeals to the pet and contains high-quality ingredients. That means proteins from named sources like chicken, lamb, beef, eggs, and organ meats; carbohydrates from sources like potatoes, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and minimal fillers or unspecified meal or by-products. The best dog food need not gnaw holes in the household budget, either. Cheapism.com nosed through expert recommendations and user reviews to find the best wet and dry dog food for dog lovers who don't love exorbitant prices. We dug up six relatively inexpensive brands that keep dogs happy and well fed and meet veterinarians' standards. We also tracked down two affordable options that might appeal to those who want to treat their pooch to a little extra pampering.

Some of our picks highlight a brand's specific formula or product line and others encompass the full lineup of dry or wet options; prices quoted are broadly representative but reflect just one variety for each label. Prices per ounce for dry food are based on largest bag size available; smaller sizes will increase base cost.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

NATURAL BALANCE LIMITED INGREDIENT DIETS

Good Cheap Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
Price: $23.59 (15 cents/ounce; 12 13-ounce cans) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • Good for all life stages.
  • Grain-free, high-quality carbohydrates and protein.
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • No artificial colors, flavors, preservatives
Cons:
  • Some blends are more expensive.
  • Not visually appealing to humans, some reviews say.
  • Relatively high carb content.

Takeaway: Reviewers say that pets with allergies and skin problems improve after eating Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets, a wet dog food with a minimal number of inputs; potatoes, particularly the sweet variety, are prominent. Dogs seem to relish it.

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HILL'S SCIENCE DIET

Good Cheap "Vet-Recommended" Dry Dog Food
Price: $46.73 (9 cents/ounce; 33-pound bag) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • Enormous variety of formulas and blends.
  • Most varieties list a primary-source protein or identified meal as the first ingredient.
  • Often recommended by veterinarians.
Cons:
  • Several varieties contain tomato pomace, which some experts disdain for minimal nutritional value.
  • Carbohydrates often among top five ingredients.

Takeaway: Less costly than the brand's Prescription line, Hill's Science Diet offers special formulations for all life stages (including middle age), and for health issues such as weight control, oral care, and skin sensitivity. Reviewers say the kibble helps clear up problems. Equally important, dogs like it.

Photo credit: Courtesy of chewy.com

TASTE OF THE WILD

Best Cheap Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
Price: $27.48 (17 cents/ounce; 12 13.2-ounce cans) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • Good for all life stages.
  • Primary source proteins.
  • Grain free.
  • Flaxseed and sunflower oil for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, respectively.
Cons:
  • Some dogs develop gas or other gastrointestinal issues, say some reviews.

Takeaway: Taste of the Wild earns an enthusiastic recommendation from experts for significant protein content from identified sources, the absence of by-products, and a taste that appeals to dogs (some cats, as well, it seems). Pet owners take pleasure in feeding their pets this healthy wet grub.

Photo credit: Courtesy of chewy.com

MERRICK

Best Cheap Low-Glycemic Canned Dog Food
Price: $30.63 (19 cents/ounce; 12 13.2-ounce cans) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • Good for all life stages.
  • Most varieties are grain free.
  • Carbs often from sweet potato and fruits; oils like canola and olive.
  • Low glycemic, so good for dogs with blood sugar problems
Cons:
  • Some varieties contain carrageenan, which some pet owners find objectionable.

Takeaway: With a named protein source as the first ingredient, Merrick canned dog food is an excellent choice for the price. Most recipes spurn fillers such as wheat, soy, or corn, and some are 96 percent real meat. Dogs, particularly large ones, like the large chunks, and owners say it keeps their pets young and active.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

FROMM GOLD

Best Cheap Dry Dog Food with Probiotics
Price: $46.66 (9 cents/ounce; 33-pound bag) | Buy it from Fromm

Pros:
  • Good for all breeds.
  • Heavy on named proteins.
  • Contains probiotics for digestion and salmon oil for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Food is dense, so dogs don't eat as much.
  • No artificial preservatives, flavor, or color.
Cons:
  • Some dogs develop stomach problems, owners report.
  • Contains barley, brown rice, and oatmeal, which are all healthy, but have a high carb content.
  • Available only at pet-food specialty stores or online.

Takeaway: Reviewers say they always come back to Fromm Gold after trying other kibble because their dogs love it. The product line includes formulas for puppies, adults, and seniors; large breeds; and weight management. The small family company has been around for more than 100 years.

Photo credit: Courtesy of chewy.com

BLUE BUFFALO WILDERNESS

Best Cheap Grain-Free "Natural" Dry Dog Food
Price: $48.99 (13 cents/ounce; 24-pound bag) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • High-quality proteins atop ingredients list.
  • Grain free.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and flaxseed improve skin and coats, owners say.
  • Good fiber from seeds and legumes.
  • Kibble bits contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Cons:
  • Some dogs developed gastrointestinal problems, reviewers report.
  • Several recent voluntary recalls.

Takeaway: With no wheat, soy, corn, or by-product meals, grain-free Blue Buffalo Wilderness rates highly with experts for above-average protein content. This dry dog food line includes multiple recipes and different formulations for large and small breeds, puppy, adult, and weight maintenance. The chow is a win-win for dogs and their owners.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

ACANA REGIONALS

Also Recommended: Fresh-Ingredients Dry Dog Food
Price: $65.99 (16 cents/ounce; 25-pound bag) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • Contains locally-sourced, human-grade animal protein.
  • Rich in carbohydrates from fruits, legumes, and vegetables.
  • Grain-free.
  • No fillers or additives except zinc and copper.
Cons:
  • Bags are small for large dogs, who scarf it down quickly.
  • Available only through authorized dealers in-store and online.

Takeaway: There are four varieties in the Acana Regionals line of dry dog food, and reviews say they all are palate-pleasing. Owners laud the high-quality ingredients and some report that skin problems disappeared after switching to this brand.

Photo credit: Courtesy of chewy.com

REDBARN NATURALS DOG FOOD ROLLS

Also Recommended: Semi-Moist Dog Food that Doubles as Training Treats
Price: $9.40 (15 cents/ounce; 4-pound roll) | Buy it at Chewy.com

Pros:
  • First three ingredients are identified, primary-source animal protein.
  • No need for refrigeration.
  • Some grain-free options.
  • Free of fillers, soy, and corn.
Cons:
  • Wheat in some recipes is controversial.
  • Some reviews say crumbly texture hard to serve.

Takeaways: Pet owners use Redbarn Naturals Dog Food Rolls as a training treat, a meal, a disguise for pills, or an addition to kibble. Versatility is one of its charms. The rolls are something of a cross between dry food and wet. The prominence of meat makes this product particularly appetizing, owners say.