Finding a good dog food can get really expensive. In our annual best dog foods list, our #1 dog food is nearly $3 per pound, which can cost you upwards of $100-150 per month to feed a medium-to-large dog! Of course, you are getting a very high quality, high protein and fat, and low filler content food that will give your dog high energy and great health benefits.
But none of that is necessary of course, and you can find pretty decent dog foods for under $1/pound if you do your due diligence. We did the research for you and found the best cheap dog foods of the year. For full details about how we found the best dog foods for a restricted budget, scroll down to the bottom of this page.
|Brand and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Diamond Naturals Dog Food|
|#2. Hills Science Diet Dog Food|
|#3. IAMS ProActive Health|
|#4. Purina ONE SmartBlend|
Here are the Best Inexpensive Dog Foods of 2021!
1. Diamond Naturals Dry Dog Food (Lamb, Beef, or Chicken). This is the best inexpensive dog food we found for under $1/pound, but you will need to buy a larger size (40 pound) bag online (like at Amazon) to get such a low price. This excellent dog food contains a very high 26 to 28% protein content, and a 16 to 17% fat content, which are both surprisingly high for such a low-priced option. The protein comes mostly from the primary meat (lamb, beef, or chicken), its meal (lamb meal, beef meal, or chicken meal), and also from peas, flaxseed, fish meal, and egg product. Having chicken, lamb, or beef as a first ingredient is great, though it is a bit misleading because it's mostly (like 80%) water when initially weighed, and then actually constitutes a small amount of the recipe once dried. But there is very good protein content here, so we're happy about that. There are also some Omega-6 and Omega-3's added by including chicken fat (Omega-6) and flaxseed (Omega-3), several vitamins and chelated minerals, and fiber. There is also some probiotic content, and some great natural fiber sources such as pumpkin, quinoa, carrots, and several other fruits and veggies. No artificial flavors or colors here, our dogs truly love the taste (especially the beef and lamb versions!), and the company is well known for producing high quality products right here in the USA. Overall, this is a truly excellent pick if you're looking for a high quality dog food on a budget. Not sure how long they'll be able to keep their prices so reasonable, but in the meantime we're loyal customers!
Ingredients (for the Lamb version): Lamb, lamb meal, ground white rice, cracked pearled barley, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried beet pulp, egg product, fish meal, natural flavor, flaxseed, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, l-carnitine, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, Yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, beta carotene, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.
2. Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food. Here is another great inexpensive option that comes in right at $1/pound if you buy a larger bag. For instance, at the time of this writing, it was $1.03/pound for a 38.8-pound bag (with free shipping at Amazon). This Advanced Fitness recipe contains 21% crude protein and 12.5% crude fat, which is in the moderate range. We usually like protein to be a bit higher proportion of the recipe, but that's a compromise you might need to make for this otherwise very high quality food. Hill's claims that Science Diet is the #1 choice of veterinarians when they are asked what food they use to feed their own pets. That's a great endorsement, and for some very good reasons. The protein in this recipe comes primarily from chicken (first ingredient), chicken meal, and flaxseed. Chicken as a first ingredient is great, though it is a bit misleading because it's mostly (like 80%) water when initially weighed, and then actually constitutes a small amount of the recipe once dried. The second ingredient is wheat, which we aren't happy about considering it carries pretty low nutritional value but is a relatively inexpensive filler. We also note that while it contains quite a few minerals, they are not chelated which lowers the rate of absorption. But outside of that, there are some great attributes to this food. In addition to its decent protein content, it also contains a great vitamin blend, amino acids, Omegas (from flaxseed and pork fat), and fiber. There are also some good fruits and veggies at the bottom of the list (contributing negligibly to the recipe), including apples, broccoli, carrots, cranberries, and green peas. We also want to note that our dogs seemed to really like the flavor, possibly because of the chicken liver flavor and other natural flavors included in the recipe. And no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and no by-product meal included. Overall, not the perfect dog food, but a great option for the budget-conscious, coming in right around $1 per pound.
Ingredients: Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Meal, Pork Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Soybean Oil, Lactic Acid, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Oat Fiber, Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.
3. IAMS Proactive Health Adult Dry Dog Food. This is another decent and inexpensive option that comes in just under $1 per pound, and they have a version for small breeds (with smaller morsels) and larger breeds. It contains 22.5% crude protein content, and 12.5% crude fats. The protein comes primarily from chicken (first ingredient), chicken by-product meal (read what we say above about by-product ingredients), flaxseed, and egg product. Chicken as a first ingredient is great, though it is a bit misleading because it's mostly (like 80%) water when initially weighed, and then actually constitutes a small amount of the recipe once dried. But there is some decent protein content here, so we're happy about that. There are also some Omega-6 and Omega-3's added by including chicken fat (Omega-6) and flaxseed (Omega-3), several vitamins and minerals, and a few amino acids. So there's some good stuff in there, and we're also happy there are no added colors or artificial preservatives. Overall, a great pick if you're looking for a good dog food on a budget. By no means perfect, but our dogs seem to like the taste, it has decent ingredients, and it's not going to break the bank.
Ingredients: Chicken, corn meal, ground whole grain sorghum, chicken by-product meal, dried beet pulp, chicken flavor, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), dried egg product, potassium chloride, salt, flax meal, calcium carbonate, choline chloride, fructooligosaccharides, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid, vitamin A acetate, calcium pantothenate, biotin, thiamine mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), vitamin B12 supplement, niacin, riboflavin supplement (source of vitamin B2), inositol, pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, potassium iodide), l-lysine monohydrochloride, brewers dried yeast, dl-methionine, l-carnitine, rosemary extract.
4. Purina ONE SmartBlend Dry Dog Food (Chicken & Rice or Lamb & Rice). This option usually comes in just under $1 per pound, and is a reasonable option if you're looking to save some cash while compromising a bit on quality. They have a Chicken & Rice version and a Lamb & Rice version, and our dogs tended to prefer the taste of the Chicken & Rice, though that will certainly vary by dog. Other than the Chicken versus Lamb, the ingredient lists are basically identical. It contains a decent 26% crude protein and 16% crude fat content. The protein comes primarily from raw chicken (or lamb), which after it's dried contributes only about 20% of its original weight to the recipe, and poultry by-product meal. By-product ingredients are from unknown sources, such as the slaughterhouse floor or waste bin, so it's one of our undesirable ingredients. Another unwanted is the inclusion of corn, animal digest, caramel color, animal fat, and garlic oil. Corn isn't particularly nutritious though it is an inexpensive filler. Animal digest is basically an unknown-source flavor coating. Caramel color is completely unnecessary, animal fats are also unknown origin (so you can let your imagination run wild here), and garlic-based ingredients are debated due to some possible negative health implications for dogs. So a lot of negatives here, though we will say that the protein and fat levels are quite good, the vitamins and minerals are decent (though minerals do not seem to be chelated, which will reduce absorption), and there's a tiny bit of Omega-6 fatty acid likely from the animal fat. Overall, a lot of negatives here, but for the price and high protein and fat content, it's worthy of considering toward the bottom of our list.
Ingredients: Chicken (Source of Glucosamine), Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Poultry By-Product Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Whole Grain Wheat, Soybean Meal, Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Animal Digest, Glycerin, Calcium Phosphate, Caramel Color, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Sulfur, Manganese Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Garlic Oil, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Biotin, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Sodium Selenite.
How we Picked the Best Cheap Dog Foods
Here at ScuttlePaws, we're pretty neurotic about what we feed our dogs. We check for not only the right ingredients list, but also the right manufacturing, storage, and shipping practices to make sure they're not just starting with the right stuff, but also doing the right thing. Dog foods have come a long way over the years, and it's important to keep on top of the changes and additions that have become commonplace in dog foods: some for the better, and some for the worse. Like an increasing use of additives and deceptive ingredient labeling. When looking for the perfect dog food, we consider all of the below attributes. For this list, however, we need to make some compromises because we're only interest in finding you cheap dog foods with good quality bang-for-the-buck. Some compromises are OK, whereas some others are not. Here are some details:
- More protein & fat, less carbs. Just like humans, you want your dog to have a positive ratio of protein to carbohydrates. That is, more protein and less carbs. The best way to get protein into your dog's diet is to make sure their dog food has a high protein first ingredient, like chicken, turkey, beef or salmon. It is perfectly OK if it is "chicken meal" or "turkey meal," in fact the meal version has more protein pound-for-pound because the water has been removed. Even for a cheap dog food, you suggest looking for a meat-based protein as the first ingredient. In an ideal world, you don't want to see a carbohydrate like corn or wheat until the 3rd or so ingredient. But for cheaper dog foods, you will likely find corn, rice or wheat as a second ingredient; that's a compromise you must be willing to make for a cheaper dog food, even though those ingredients basically have zero nutritional value.
- Real meat, not by-products. Some cheaper dog foods use ingredients like "meat by-products" or "meat meal" or "blood meal." If it uses any term other than a specific meat (like "chicken" or "chicken meal"), or uses the term "by-products" then you know you're getting an the left-over meats. And we really mean left-over. They can be dead zoo animals, skunks, raccoons, dead cattle, slaughterhouse waste, etc. Gross, and unregulated. That's one of the biggest downfalls of cheaper dog foods, is that you will likely need to tolerate at least one "by-product" ingredient that is of an unknown source. For the below ratings, only toward the bottom of the list do we include foods with by-product ingredients.
- No artificial preservatives. Just like human foods, you want to use natural preservatives, such as vitamin E or C. Same goes for colors and flavors, and especially colors (dogs don't care what color their food is, as long as it smells and tastes good!).
- Brand and recall history. Did you know that most recalls of dog foods are issued by small companies that are relatively new to the industry? That's because smaller companies can't afford all of the product development, testing, expertise, and safety and quality control that the larger companies can. Over 90% of all dog food is produced by just three companies: Mars, Purina, and Big Heart. They have generally great brand history, and great recall history. That's not to say there are no small companies making great dog food, there are, you just need to be careful about their history and current practices.
- Dog acceptance! We want your dogs to be happy, so we've put a lot of time into testing dozens of dog foods with our dogs, testing how well they accept it at both first bite and over the long haul. All of the foods on our list have passed the initial and long-term acceptance test, which for some dogs is not an issue, but for picky eaters it can be a big problem.