Pitbull eating dog food.

How to Get Free Dog Food for Low-Income Families In Australia

Written By Olivia De Santos | Canine Coach, Professional Writer & Video Content Creator.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | Double B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 18th January 2024

Let’s be honest. Dog ownership is more expensive today than ever before. If you’ve had a hit to your finances recently, it can be challenging to provide the best care for our furry friends, including ensuring they have a nutritious diet. Having reviewed many dog food brands ourselves, we know that the best dog food doesn’t come cheap. But fear not! In this blog post, we're going to explore how to get free dog food for low-income families in Australia.

This guide will walk you through the best tips for immediate relief and how to budget for dog food in the future so that you feel at ease about caring for your pup financially.

Sound good? Let’s dive in.

7 Tips To Get Free Dog Food in Australia

If you live in Australia and times are hard, but that doesn’t mean our pups should miss out on their next meal - here is how you can get free dog food.

1. Reach Out to Local Animal Shelters and Rescue Organisations

Animal shelters and rescue organisations are often aware of the struggles faced by low-income pet owners and may have resources available to help.

In Australia, Second Chance Animal Rescue runs the Pet Food Pantry where you can get free dog food.

But even dog shelters and rescue organisations that don’t advertise that they give out dog food can often give you some assistance or point you in the right direction.

Give them a call or pay them a visit to enquire about any free dog food programs they offer.

These organisations may also have partnerships with dog food manufacturers or receive donations from generous individuals and businesses. So they may have a surplus to help out those in need.

2. Explore Pet Food Pantries and Food Banks

Just as there are food banks to help families in need, there are also pet food pantries that cater specifically to pet owners who require assistance.

The bad news is that Australia doesn’t have many ongoing pet food banks. But here are some that may be able to help you:

But if you don’t live near one of these pet food banks in Australia, don’t panic.

You’re likely to find occasional dog food drives at regular food banks.

During these special times, food banks will distribute free dog food to low-income families, ensuring that dogs in the local community don’t go hungry.

PRO TIP: Check with local food banks, community centres, or even veterinary clinics in your area to find out if they offer dog food assistance or can direct you to nearby resources.

3. Connect with Non-Profit Organisations

We’re fortunate to have plenty of animal non-profit organisations that can help low-income families help and provide for their dogs. 

Here’s a quick list:

PRO TIP: These organisations often have partnerships with dog food manufacturers and retailers to provide free dog food for families in need.

Though these pet welfare organisations may not advertise that they offer free dog food, they can often point you in the right direction or connect you to local contacts to help you.

Quick tip: RSPCA has multiple regional branches so contact your local branch for the best chance at success. Here’s the list:

4. Attend Community Events and Pet Fairs

The pet industry and community are extremely generous. Look out for events at local community centres for dog owners.

These events often feature pet-related organisations, businesses, and charities. Depending on the event, you may receive free dog food samples as an attendee. Or they may even have giveaways specifically aimed at assisting low-income families.

Pet fairs and community events for dog owners are well worth attending regardless of whether they give away free dog food.

Why? Because it’s a great opportunity to connect with fellow dog owners and learn about other resources available to you. Expanding your community of doggy friends is always helpful during difficult times.

5. Utilise Online Resources and Social Media

Want to find free dog food online? It’s easier than you think once you know how!

Look for online communities and social media groups dedicated to dog owners, particularly those focused on low-income families or pet assistance programs.

PRO TIP: Bonus if you can find local Facebook groups for pet owners or dog owners because you're more likely to get immediate help.

These groups often have members who willingly share information about free dog food resources or can guide you in the right direction. Don't be afraid to ask for help and support!

6. Contact Dog Food Manufacturers and Retailers

Dog food manufacturers often have free dog food samples that they send to potential new customers. This is a good tactic to get a couple of days to a week of supply of dog food if you’re in need.

PRO TIP: Reach out directly to dog food manufacturers, pet stores, and other pet industry retailers and ask about any assistance programs they offer for low-income families.

Some companies have initiatives in place to provide free or discounted dog food to those in need. They might have specific requirements or processes for enrolment, so make sure to ask about the qualifying details and see if you meet the criteria.

Dog food manufacturers in particular are often more open to helping than you might think. Especially if you have been a loyal customer of theirs for several months or years before your financial struggles. Write them a kind email explaining your situation for the best results.

7. Reach out to friends and family

Most of us hate asking for favours, and yet we underestimate how much our inner circle wants to help and support us.

If you know any fellow dog owners in your circle, and you feel comfortable enough explaining your situation, ask kindly if you could borrow a small supply of dog food.

You’d be surprised at the number of people who would be willing to help you with your situation and make sure your pup gets fed.

How to Budget For Dog Food

So now you know the multiple options you have out there for getting free dog food, here’s a short guide on how to create a budget for your dog. This will mitigate future issues if you hit financial troubles again.

How much does dog food cost?

The cost of dog food can vary depending on factors such as the brand, quality, size, and type of food (dry, wet, or raw).

“The average cost of dog food, is around $622 per year, which means that over the dog’s lifetime you’ll probably have to spend around  = $8708 just on food alone." -  Savings.com (1)

Though this is just an estimate. Some surveys claim that dog owners in Australia spend up to $800 per year on dog food. (2)

For dry dog food:

  • Budget-friendly dog food options can range from $1 to $2 per 100 g for dry dog food.
  • Mid-range options may fall between $2 to $3 per 100 g of dry dog food.
  • Premium or specialised diets can go up to $4 or more per 100 g.

Wet dog food typically costs more than dry dog food, with prices ranging from $1.50 to $4 per can or pouch.

Raw dog food diets can vary significantly in price depending on the brand and ingredients, typically ranging from $4 to $8 per 100 g or more.

It's important to find a balance between quality and affordability. We always recommend that you buy the highest quality dog food that you can afford. We talk more about this in this video:

Build a dog emergency fund

An emergency fund is simply a lump sum of money tucked away in case of true emergencies.

Building a pet emergency fund is a responsible and proactive step to ensure you can provide the necessary care for your furry friend during unexpected situations.

Here’s a quick guide on how to create your own in record time:

  1. To start, assess your financial situation and set a monthly budget that includes a specific amount dedicated to your pet emergency fund. 
  2. Determine your savings goal by considering potential costs associated with accidents, illnesses, or unexpected veterinary procedures. Aim to save enough to cover at least a few months' worth of potential expenses.
  3. Open a separate savings account specifically for your dog's emergency fund to keep the money separate from your regular savings or checking account, or other emergency funds. 
  4. Automate your savings by setting up automatic transfers from your regular account to your dog emergency fund.
  5. Consider minimising unnecessary expenses by cutting back on non-essential pet-related spending and redirecting those funds towards your emergency fund. For example, dog walkers, groomers, and doggy daycares. You don’t have to cut them out forever! Just until your emergency fund is fully stocked. 
  6. Explore extra income streams such as side jobs or freelancing to generate extra funds.
  7. Research pet insurance options that suit your pet's needs, as insurance can help alleviate financial burdens during unexpected situations.

By following these steps, you'll be better prepared to handle unexpected dog-related expenses and ensure your pup receives the care they need in times of emergency.

Make your dog’s food last longer

Another hack for saving money on dog care is to make your dog’s food last longer.

Not only can these practices help you save money, but they also contribute to keeping your pooch well fed and healthy.

  • Measure portions

    Overfeeding can lead to unnecessary food waste. Yes, it may be tricky to turn away from those puppy dog eyes asking for more. But as long as your dog is getting sufficient food, the extras are just a drain on your finances and a risk to their health.

    Follow the recommended portion sizes based on your dog's weight and activity level. Use a measuring cup or kitchen scale to accurately measure each meal. This will help prevent your dog from overeating and extend the lifespan of your dog’s food supply.
  • Store dog food properly

    Proper storage is crucial in preserving the freshness and quality of dog food. Keep it in its original packaging, if possible, as it is designed to maintain freshness. Seal the bag tightly after each use to prevent air exposure and potential spoilage.

    Store the bag in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to maintain optimal food quality for a longer period.

    If you like to buy in bulk, you can also purchase an airtight dog food bin that will seal in the freshness of dry dog food.
  • Consider bulk purchasing dog food

    Speaking of buying in bulk, you can save a lot of money if you choose to buy dog food in bulk. Yes, it’s a larger upfront cost, but it’s cheaper over the long term.

    Look for larger bag sizes or consider joining a wholesale or discount club. Some dog food manufacturers have a subscription scheme or bulk order options that are worth exploring.

    If you’re going to buy in bulk, don’t buy too much for your space. Ensure that you can store the food properly and that it won't exceed its expiration date. If you buy too much, you’ll end up wasting food.
  • Don't mix dry dog food with water in advance

    If you typically mix your dog's dry food with water or wet food, it's best to do it just before serving. Mixing it ahead of time can lead to food spoilage, especially in warmer weather. Keeping dry food and wet components separate until serving time helps maintain freshness and prevents wastage.
  • Regularly check for spoilage

    Periodically inspect your dog's food for signs of spoilage or expiration. Look for any changes in colour, texture, or odour. If you notice any abnormalities, discard the food immediately to avoid feeding your pet something that could make them sick.

By following these tips, you can make your dog food last longer while ensuring that your pup continues to receive the nutrition they need. If you’re in doubt about how to keep your dog’s food fresher for longer, read the label on the food packaging thoroughly or contact the manufacturer for guidance.

Ask for help when you need it

I know that it’s difficult to admit feeding your dog is a struggle.

But hard times happen to all of us. You're not alone in this journey.

Many organisations and individuals recognise the challenges faced by low-income families and are dedicated to ensuring that no dog goes hungry due to financial limitations.

By reaching out to those who might be able to help and fully embracing those resources, you're taking a proactive step towards providing your dog with the care they deserve.

It’s not begging. It’s responsible dog ownership!

My Final Thoughts

Feeding your dog should never be a source of stress or worry. There are numerous avenues available to help low-income families access free dog food. Whether through local animal shelters, pet food pantries, non-profit organisations, community events, online communities, or direct contact with pet food manufacturers and retailers, support is out there. You just need to reach out and ask.

We hope this article helped steer you in the right direction. Comment below if we’ve missed any charities or businesses that commonly provide free dog food to low-income families in Australia. 

Related: How To Choose The Right Dog Food?
Related: How Is Australia’s Dog Food Industry Regulated?
Related: What is AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials.
Related: What Is the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA)?
Related: AAFCO vs PFIAA: Dog Food Standards Comparison Australia.

Related: Understanding Guaranteed Analysis Levels in Dog Food.
Related: Real Meat vs Meat Meal.


How much food do dogs need to eat every day?

The amount of food a dog needs each day varies based on factors such as size, age, activity level, and overall health. Following the feeding guidelines provided by the dog food brand and monitoring their weight is crucial. Generally, adult dogs require one to two meals per day, while puppies may need three to five meals per day. As a rule of thumb, dogs need about 1/3 cup of dry food per day for every 5 kilograms of weight. Keep in mind puppies may need 2x or even 3x as much, depending on the breed and age. Consult your vet for personalised recommendations for your dog. (3)

Do food banks have free dog food?

Yes, food banks sometimes offer free dog food to assist dog owners in need. While food banks primarily focus on providing food for people, some recognise the importance of pets in their clients' lives and include pet food in their offerings. However, the availability of free dog food at food banks may vary depending on location and resources. It's advisable to check with local food banks or contact them directly to inquire about their pet food assistance programs.


  1. Duffy, E. June 17, 2019. “How much do pets cost and can you afford one?”. Savings.com. Retrieved July 5, 2023. https://www.savings.com.au/savings-accounts/how-much-does-a-dog-or-cat-cost 
  2. “Pet Ownership in Australia 2013”. October 22, 2013. Animal Medicines Australia.  Retrieved July 5, 2023. https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/report/pet-ownership-in-australia-2013/
  3. Coates, J. May 5, 2020. “Are you feeding your dog the right amount?”. PetMD.  Retrieved July 5, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/dr-coates/2015/july/are-you-feeding-your-dog-right-amount-32905

Olivia De Santos

Olivia De Santos is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer and Video Content Creator.

Olivia has over 10 years of experience writing professionally and is a dog Mum to Pip, her Podengo and Blue, her Flat-coated Retriever. She loves writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners.

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