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Feeding Your Dog Without Breaking the Bank

One of the biggest expenses associated with dog ownership is food. Some costs are negotiable. Your dog will probably sleep just as comfortably on an old, folded quilt as on that pricey memory foam dog bed, but good food is a necessity.

To keep dogs happy and healthy, owners should provide them with food made from high quality ingredients that meet the lifestyle requirements of the individual pet (eg puppies need puppy food and overweight pets need diets restricted calories). There is an element of “you get what you pay for” with dog food, so higher quality foods tend to be more expensive. But with a little effort, owners can save a lot of money without putting their pets’ health at risk. Here’s how.

Choose your dog’s food wisely

Dogs do best on a consistent diet. People like variety in their meals, but there is no benefit to constantly changing the type of food you feed your dog. This can also increase the risk of a dog becoming skittish, always waiting for the next tasty treat that will come with tomorrow’s meal.

Most dogs thrive on high-quality, but not necessarily super-premium, dog foods. If you don’t eat organic, should your dog? And some manufacturers spend a lot of money marketing specialty products, for example foods that are supposed to be designed for specific breeds. You pay a premium for these potions, but in all honesty, they’re overkill for most clansmen.

So look for a dog food that is moderately priced but still contains ingredients that sound like real food. Two brands that fall into this category are Iams and Purina One. These products also have the advantage of being widely available.

Compare shopping and coupons

Once you find a food that works well for your dog, comparison shop. Prices can vary greatly between retailers. Consider joining a wholesale business like Costco or Sam’s Club. These companies usually let you enter their premises as a guest so you can see what they have to offer. Walmart, Target, and Kmart also tend to have good prices on pet food, as do major pet retailers like Petsmart and Petco. In general, you’ll pay more for food at the smaller pet boutiques, but they tend to offer a wider variety of premium or specialty pet foods. Don’t forget to sign up for rewards programs offered by stores.

Watch for ads from your local retailers. Dog food is often marketed. And keep your eyes open for coupons. Online sites like retailmenot.com or couponcabin.com are a good way to keep track of current deals. Simply Googling the name of your dog food with the word “coupon” is another simple way to see what’s available. The manufacturer’s website is another great resource. Many offer coupons to encourage people to try their products.

I save

If you’ve found a great price on your dog’s food, stock up if you have the storage space. Most pet foods have a shelf life of about a year. Check the expiration date on the bag and buy as much as you think your pet will eat by that time. As a general rule of thumb, larger bags of food are much less expensive by weight and volume than smaller bags, and dry food is always cheaper than canned food.

Don’t forget the Internet

While many of us use the Internet to shop, buying pet food online is in its infancy. However, this can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get many of your pet supplies, including food.

Big comparison shopping sites like nextag.com and shopping.yahoo.com are a great way to find the lowest prices on food. Just type in the exact product you are looking for and voila, it will display all the information you need. Be sure to compare apples to apples though. See that all prices are for the same size bag of food and don’t forget to add shipping costs for sites that don’t offer free shipping and tax if applicable.

Amazon.com offers a wide variety of pet food, as do major pet retailers petco.com and petsmart.com. Other options to consider include petfooddirect.com, petflow.com, 1800petmeds.com and nationalpetpharmacy.com. If you are having trouble finding a website where you can order your dog food, go to the manufacturer’s website. Many have links to retailers that offer their food.

Beware, however, of websites that turn up at night. Buy only from reputable retailers to ensure you are getting high quality products and not losses. Websites should have a prominent customer service phone number. Call and ask some questions. You just want to get a feel for their legitimacy and customer service. You can also check customer reviews on sites like Yelp.com or search for a company on the Better Business Bureau’s website, bbb.org.

Special Situations

Some dogs require very specific diets to manage medical issues, and these products tend to be more expensive than standard dog foods. If your pet is on a prescription diet, you can still shop. You don’t have to buy the food directly from your vet. he or she must provide you with a written prescription if you ask for one. Many of the sites listed above (eg, petfooddirect.com and nationalpetpharmacy.com) sell over-the-counter and prescription diets.

If you feed your dog a homemade diet, use the same cost-cutting techniques you use when shopping for your own groceries. When the meat is on sale, buy a lot and freeze it. Frozen vegetables can be used in place of fresh and stored for much longer periods of time. But don’t be tempted to buy low-quality ingredients or make unauthorized substitutions in what would otherwise be a nutritionally balanced recipe. These types of changes may save money in the short term, but often lead to health problems and expensive treatments in the long term.

Bottom line, you never want to skimp on your dog’s food, but it doesn’t hurt to spend your money wisely.

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