Comparing dog food prices is a challenging task. Every company sells different quantities, suggested portions are vague, and the question of “Which dog food is a better price?” ignores the far more important question, “Which dog food is a better value?”.
After years of researching my own pet food, and now working around many people with an in-depth understanding of how to shop for a dog, these are the most important tips I feel like you need to know to make an accurate comparison (and, ultimately, end up with the best value).
How to compare dog food prices
Tip #1: Figure out your dog’s recommended meal size
(The real numbers)
Because most dog food brands don’t know your dog and their specific needs, they’ll give you a range of portions. However, being told to feed “1/2 cup to 1 cup” isn’t very helpful. That’s like saying, feed two cups a day, or four, doesn’t matter. It certainly does, because that’s a big difference in the amount of food. Doubling up (or cutting in half) a dog’s portions will most certainly lead to an impact on your pup and their weight.
Every type of dog food has a different calorie density anyway, so using a “one cup” type of measurement doesn’t translate from one food to another. For this reason, we recommend investigating what would be your dog’s ideal serving size in calories. Once you know the needed calories, you can figure out how much that would be of whichever foods you’re comparing, and get a true understanding of cost. You can ask your vet for this information, or use calculators like this that are available online (this one will tell you recommended calories per meal, with the assumption that you are feeding twice per day; multiple by 2 for daily caloric recommendations).
Tip #2: Simply calculate how much each dog food costs per meal
Now that you have a number in mind of how much your dog eats, determine how many meals your dog gets out of whichever food you decide to buy.
If you’re considering use a service where meals are pre-portioned for your dog, obviously there’s no calculation needed– it will tell you how much you’re being charged for each meal of x calories and you have your answer to compare to others.
If you’ll be buying a bag of dog food, or any wet food or fresh food that you have to portion out yourself, then you need to do these calculations. Here’s an example.
My dog is 35 pounds, and gets an average amount of exercise. He needs 306 calories per meal, for a total of 612 calories per day.
Let’s look at Blue Buffalo’s Fish and Brown Rice recipe. It contains 379 kcal/cup, or 3,625 kcal/kg. I’ll consider the standard 15 lb bag. However it makes the most sense to you, you need to determine how many of these your dog’s meals are in the bag.
(My math: So, if the bag 15 pounds, the bag is 6.8 kg. Times that by the 3,625 calories per kg. That means there is a total of 24,650 calories in the bag. My dog Teddy needs 306 per meal, so there are 80 meals in the bag.)
The bag costs $30 with tax, and about $7 in shipping. I’ll be paying 46 cents a meal, or about $1 per day. (Always make sure to include the cost of shipping if purchasing it online, or the cost of trekking to the pet store if you’ll be buying in person: these are all part of the cost! If the food should be topped with any additional supplements, make sure to calculate those into the cost as well).
Tip#3: Look for the best value
My last tip? Not all dog foods are created equal. Cost is often the first and foremost consideration when buying anything you use every day, so we can’t ignore it. But as with any item you’ll be consuming yourself, you should determine what else you value in addition to cost, and make sure to factor that in.
Dog food, like human food, comes in all variations of quality. Some are fresh, some are not, some include premium ingredients, some keep it simple. Some splurge on taste, some are utilitarian.
To me, the value that I consider with price is quality; I want my dog eating “real” food, especially since that’s how I eat. Rather than go for the cheapest dog food, I read labels and eliminate anything with ingredients that I’ve learned to be less than ideal for my dog: artificial preservatives, organ meats, ground bone. I also care about supplements such as fish oil. Again, those are just my priorities, but that means I must factor the value of serving my dog a food that meets those requirements when I look at how much any dog food costs.
If you, like me, believe that eating healthy in the short run saves you from (costly) health issues in the long run, this makes the price comparison a little less definitive as to which dog food is the best price. So, I choose the best price of foods that meet those requirements, and feel good every time I feed Teddy.
What are your tips for comparing the price and value of different dog foods?