Chihuahua eating dog food

How Much Is Dog Food?
The True Cost Of Canine Nutrition

Dog food is one of the largest expenses you’ll have as a dog owner. Second to only veterinary bills, food is the big kahuna. If you choose to feed your dog high-quality food (which we sincerely hope you do), it can be even higher than you think. In today’s article, we’ll let you know:

  • How much is dog food
  • The truth about dog food quality
  • How to save on dog food

Sound good? Let’s dive in!

puppy chihuahua

Yearly Dog Food Cost in Australia

Let’s answer the question straight away - how much does dog food cost?

"The average dog owner spends up to $800 AUD on premium dog food. " - Pet Ownership Australia Report, (1

Though bear in mind that this report is from 2013. It’s likely much higher now. That also doesn’t include treats which is a whole other issue.

"For average dog food, you can expect to pay around $622 per year. That is an estimated cost of $8708 for food during your dog’s entire lifetime." -  Savings.com (2)

Looking at our favourite list of excellent dog food, the per-bag cost is as follows:

  • Petzyo - $69 for 8kg
  • Hill’s Pet - $129 for 12kg
  • Ziwi Wet Dog Food - $73 for 360g

Not All Dog Food Is Created Equal

Like with human food, there are various tiers of dog food quality on the market in Australia. You have the premium Michelin star equivalents that will cost you a pretty penny. Then you have the McDonalds of dog food, which won’t cost much but will certainly present other issues.

Generally, we advise that you steer away from the absolute bottom of the barrel dog food. Even though the dollar amount seems cheaper at first, it actually ends up costing you more money in the long run.

The best way to describe this is by giving a human example. Imagine if you ate a bag of chips every single day. You would probably survive but what good would it do for your health and wellbeing? Your bones would suffer from a lack of nutrients causing early onset arthritis. You would have zero energy lessening your ability to function. Because of low vitamins and antioxidants, you would be sick all of the time and need constant medical care.

The same goes for cheap dog food. If you feed your pup the lowest quality dog food, they are more susceptible to ailments. Veterinary bills are much more costly than a better quality food brand. In the long haul, pricier dog food could save you money on your dog’s vet bills. This is especially true if your dog is a puppy, elderly, or already has pre-existing conditions.

However, there’s some nuance to the debate. There isn’t much regulation when it comes to pet food in general in Australia. (3) The facts remain that manufacturers can price themselves in a different bracket than the quality truly merits.

While it’s common for cheap dog food to be of lower quality, sometimes even mid-market dog food is pretty disappointing too. It’s not a direct correlation that price equals quality. It’s a good starting indicator but not definitive by any means.

So what to do? Well, you need to learn to decipher good quality dog food for yourself.

The Tell-Tale Signs of Good Quality Dog Food

Find That Protein

A little crash course on label reading. When you look at an ingredient list, the highest quantity is towards the beginning of the list. The lowest quantity is at the end of the list. If the protein is listed towards the end, then you have a problem. It means the dog food you’re reviewing is mostly filler with a shred of protein.

For top-quality dog food, you want protein to be the first-named ingredient on the list. Fancy food will even add qualifiers e.g “grass-fed beef”.

PRO TIP: “Meat” listed as the protein is not a great sign. It could be a mix of any meat, rather than the protein advertised on the packet. Make sure that the protein is listed with its proper name e.g “chicken”, “duck”, “beef” etc. This is a sign of better quality dog food.

Fruits & Veggies

Whole foods such as fruits and veggies are great additions. Sweet potato, spinach and blueberries are particularly good additions to a well-rounded dog food formula.

Beware sulphite preservatives

The Australian dog food industry isn’t as regulated as other nations are, certain nasty chemicals are often included in dog food formulations. Sulphites are a particular red flag if you see them on an ingredient list. 

 “While sulphites are recognised to be effective preservatives, they also have the potential to substantially reduce the amount of an important vitamin, thiamine (Vitamin B1), in pet food. Thiamine is very important to the health of dogs and cats and is vital to the health of the nervous system, especially the brain.” - Pet Food Industry Association (4)

If you can, purchase dog food with an American seal of approval. It’ll appear as Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO approved on the packet. They have tighter restrictions on what can be included in dog food formulas.


How To Save On Your Dog Food Spend: Top Tips

Now for the really juicy stuff. I love to save money wherever I can. If I can maintain a good quality of life for my pups while saving a few coins, that’s always a bonus! Here are our best hacks for saving money on dog food.

  1. Serve your dog dry food

    Not only does dog dry dog food come in larger packets, but it’s also generally cheaper than wet food on a meal to meal cost average. A wet food can needs to be consumed that day once it’s opened. If you choose high quality canned dog food, that can cost you between $40-70 for one can. Whereas, you can spend around the same amount for an 8-12kg bag of dry food that will last your dog a lot longer.

    It’s up to you whether you serve your pup wet or dry food. But if you want to save money, dry food is the more economical choice.


  2. Buy in bulk

    You can make some huge savings if you buy your dog food in bulk. Larger dry food packs come at a better cost value. Retailers often incentivise larger purchases of their dog food too. This is another reason why dry food is the more cost-effective choice overall. You can stock up at once and keep it going for months!

  3. Be savvy with your treat purchases

    Though doggy cupcakes and the like are adorable to look at, they are a complete waste of money. Doggy cupcakes and specialised snacks are often the same prices as human snacks. Your dog isn’t going to feel two ways about having a perfectly formed bone-shaped, gourmet meat biscuit with their name on it or a rasher of bacon. In both scenarios, they’ll inhale the treat as if it was priceless.

    So why spend crazy prices on treats when it’s not a huge deal?

    That’s not to say you can’t give your dog the odd specialised snack. They certainly are fun to look at/post on Instagram. But the more cost-effective thing is something you typically already have at home. A piece of bacon. A piece of chicken (no bones). A tiny scoop of peanut butter. These will all go down just as well as that $5 dog doughnut you’re eyeing at the shopping centre.


Final Thoughts: Doing The Best You Can

We end this article by saying that of course, the super-premium dog food brands aren’t realistic for every dog owner. If you haven’t adopted/purchased a dog yet, consider working out your budget for dog apparel before you do. Can you afford to give your dog the life they best deserve? What dog food brands would you like to try with your new pup and is it a sustainable expense for you?

If you already have a dog, our takeaway advice is

Buy the best quality dog food that you can afford.

Whatever is in your budget, look for the most sustainable solution for you and your dog long term. As long as the food isn’t actively harming your dog’s health, they’ll surely be fine!

References

  1. “Pet Ownership in Australia 2013”. October 22, 2013. Animal Medicines Australia. Retrieved November 1, 2021. https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/report/pet-ownership-in-australia-2013/
  2. Duffy, E. June 17, 2019. “How much do pets cost and can you afford one?”. Savings.com. Retrieved November 1, 2021. https://www.savings.com.au/savings-accounts/how-much-does-a-dog-or-cat-cost
  3. “Are preservatives in pet food a concern?”. RSPCA. Retrieved November 1, 2021. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/are-preservatives-in-pet-food-products-a-concern/
  4. “Food Safety: the first priority for pet food manufacturers”. January 7, 2020. Pet Food Industry Association. Retrieved November 1, 2021. https://pfiaa.com.au/food-safety-the-first-priority-for-pet-food-manufacturers/
Olivia De Santos

Olivia is a professional writer and animal lover. She loves spending time with her Podengo and Flat Coated Retriever, and writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners

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