Cheap Dog Food: 5 Premium Brands That Are Still Affordable

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Every dog owner wants what is best for his dog, but we can’t all afford the top-shelf brand of dog food. Some of the best pet food brands out there cost upwards of $50 or even $75 for a 25-pound bag – that can be a difficult pill for some dog owners to swallow. Just because you can’t afford the best brand on the market, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t give your dog a healthy, high-quality product. There are plenty of affordable dog food brands that offer decent quality – keep reading to learn more.

Tips for Choosing an Affordable Dog Food

It is never a good idea to shop for dog food by price alone because price isn’t always correlated with quality. Some of the most expensive pet food brands on the market only offer 2-star or 3-star nutrition. If you want to find the ideal blend of quality and affordability, you’re going to have to do some footwork. Here are some tips for picking out an affordable dog food that will be good for your dog:

  • Look for the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy which confirms that the product meets the minimum nutrient requirements for dogs in the intended life stage.
  • Review the guaranteed analysis to make sure your dog’s minimum requirements are met – look for at least 18% protein, 5% fat, and no more than 5% crude fiber.
  • Check the label for the “made in the USA” claim – this will ensure that the product is made from mostly US-sourced ingredients.
  • Review the ingredients list to make sure that a quality source of animal protein is at the top of the list – don’t buy a product that starts with a plant-based ingredient.
  • Look for digestible carbohydrates like whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans and legumes – avoid corn, wheat, and soy ingredients.
  • Check to make sure there are no artificial additives or low-quality ingredients like colors, dyes, preservatives, by-products, and fillers.

Once you’ve taken the time to compare several different dog foods you should be able to make the right choice based on your analysis. Keep in mind that the quality of individual recipes might vary even within the same brand, so don’t assume that just because a product is made by a certain brand that you don’t have to take the time to evaluate its quality. When you make your choice, do your best to stick to the same dog food as long as you can afford it.

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What Are the Top Dog Food Brands for the Price?

To ensure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met, you should buy the highest quality dog food you can consistently afford. For some dog owners, this might mean choosing a 3-star or 4-star product over a 5-star product, simply due to affordability. No matter what the price of the product you choose, you need to evaluate the quality before making your choice to ensure that your dog’s needs will be met in the healthiest way possible. If you’re looking for an affordable brand of dog food that still offers decent quality, we recommend the following five brands:

Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Barley

Nature's Variety Prairie Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Nature’s Variety is one of the leading manufacturers of natural pet food products and they offer two distinct brands – Instinct and Prairie. The Instinct brand is their top-shelf brand, offering a variety of high-protein, grain-free, limited ingredient, and raw dog food products. The Prairie brand is an abbreviated line of holistic pet foods that are still made with whole grains and natural ingredients but are available at a more affordable price point. This brand is formulated around the idea that nature provides the best source of nutrition to ensure optimal nourishment for pets. Prairie recipes feature pure animal proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables in an assortment of nutritious and delicious flavors. There are four recipes for kibble – chicken, beef, lamb, and salmon – as well as seven canned food recipes and four flavors of grain-free dog biscuits. If you’re looking for a high-quality brand that won’t break the bank, consider Nature’s Variety Prairie dog food.

Under the Sun Grain-Free Adult Whitefish Recipe Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Whitefish Meal, Yellow Peas, Chickpeas, Green Peas, Canola Oil

Under the Sun Grain-Free Adult Whitefish Recipe Dry Dog Food

The Canidae pet food company offers an assortment of grain-free and life stages formulas for dogs ranging from puppy to senior. Though Canidae dog foods are fairly expensive, this company offers a separate brand that is much more affordable – it is called Under the Sun. The Under the Sun Brand includes seven dry food recipes and eight wet food recipes. This brand features premium proteins like chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, fish, and lamb as well as wholesome carbohydrates like oatmeal, millet, peas, and chickpeas. There are both original and grain-free options as well as recipes for puppies, adult dogs, small breeds, and large breeds. For wet food, there are four grain-free options that come in small cups and four recipes that come in 13-ounce cans. All Under the Sun recipes are made with farm-fresh ingredients and designed to nourish your dog’s body from the inside out without emptying your wallet.

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Pork, Beef & Lamb Recipe Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Pork Meal, Dried Potatoes, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Pork Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Pork, Beef & Lamb Recipe Dry Dog Food

In the same way that Canidae offers a more affordable line of pet foods, so does the Merrick Pet Care company offer Whole Earth Farms. This brand features a wholesome line of naturally nutritious pet foods that “offer all the goodness from the earth at a great value”. All of their products are made with premium-quality ingredients and cooked in the USA to ensure the safety and integrity of every recipe. Whole Earth Farms uses high-quality proteins and other natural ingredients to offer your dog the following benefits: improved digestion, less shedding, increased energy levels, shinier coat, stronger nails, and healthier skin. They don’t use any corn, wheat, or soy products and their recipes are all free from by-products, fillers, and artificial additives. Whole Earth Farms offers eleven different dry food formulas and fifteen wet food products plus three recipes for dog treats. Each formula features a premium-quality protein like chicken, turkey, lamb, salmon, and duck with plenty of options for original and grain-free formulas. There are also recipes for puppies, adult dogs, and small breeds, as well as a few recipes specifically for healthy weight control.

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

First 5 Ingredients : Salmon, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Salmon Meal, Peas

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

The Nature’s Recipe brand is owned by Big Heart Pet Brands and it offers an assortment of all-natural dog foods for dogs in all life stages and with different dietary requirements. This company has been in business for more than 35 years making thoughtfully-crafted recipes that give your dog the nutrients he needs to live each day to the fullest. Not only does Nature’s Recipe ensure the quality of their products – they also ensure their affordability so you don’t have to make compromises with your dog’s nutrition. Nature’s Recipe offers three different lines of dog food plus a dedicated line of wholesome dog treats. The Life Stages product line features a collection of recipes tailored to the nutritional needs of dogs in different life stages from puppy to senior. The Premium product line features protein-packed, grain-free dry foods and wet foods. The Special Needs product line includes specially designed recipes for healthy skin, healthy weight, joint health, high protein, breed specific, and easy digestion. All of this brand’s products are made with quality proteins like real poultry, salmon, venison, and lamb as well as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Chicken & Veggies Recipe Dry Dog Food

First 5 Ingredients : Chicken, Chicken Meal, Soybean Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Dried Peas

Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Chicken & Veggies Recipe Dry Dog Food

You are probably already familiar with Rachael Ray for her human food recipes but she also offers her own line of affordable, natural pet foods called Nutrish. The Nutrish brand of pet food is inspired by real recipes from Rachael’s kitchen and they are made with real meats and other natural ingredients. The company’s goal is to make sure that pets get the best that life has to offer, and that includes a healthy diet made from real foods. When it comes to their dog food products, Nutrish offers five distinct product lines. The original Nutrish lineup includes three meat-first recipes that feature real chicken, turkey, and beef with brown rice. The DISH line of products includes two natural recipes made with wholesome ingredients you can see. There is a single limited-ingredient recipe in the Just 6 line and three recipes in the grain-free Zero Grain lineup. The newest product line, Peak, features two nutrient-dense recipes with 35% high-quality protein. The Nutrish brand doesn’t use any by-product meals or artificial additives, just naturally good ingredients that are packed with flavor and nutrition your dog is sure to love.

Dog food that is cheap in price is usually cheap in quality as well, so be very careful when buying an inexpensive dog food for your dog. If you want what is best for your dog but you have a limited budget, consider buying one of the better 3-star or 4-star brands instead of the top-shelf brand. To help you get started in your search for an affordable dog food, consider one of our top-rated choices reviewed above

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    1. Andy Ross…You can go to and see all the ratings for almost every dog food on the market. They rate the foods 1-5 stars based on the quality of the ingredients as well as fat, protein, carb ratios and give explanation of each rating. You can also sign up for free alerts for any dog food recalls and see the history of any past recalls on their site. I rely on this site all the time. You can search by food brand, type (wet, dry, grain free, etc) or just click on list for all 5 star, all 4 star, etc. There is also a forum to ask questions and share with other pet owners. Best resource out there, in my opinion, and stars based on actual ingredients, not opinions. I then cross reference that with “popular” ratings from people who have tried the brands to get the best of both sides…good quality ingredients and food that pets and pet parents are happy with.

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