Food and Nutrition

A Guide to the Best cheap dog food (but not nasty!)

We all love our dogs. They are truly family, so we want to give them the best we can. But when it comes to dog food brands, the best may cost way more than your budget could let you afford. But just because you are looking for affordable dog food, it does not mean that you are saving money at the expense of your dog or that you don’t want him to eat good dog foods.

Here is a surprising thought:

The most expensive does not necessarily mean the best. We are used to thinking that the cheaper things are, the less is their quality. But that is not always true.

Look at the ingredients of some expensive dog food brands and you will be surprised that they are not better and in some cases even worse than the ingredients of cheaper brands. Are you asking yourself how is it possible? That is exactly what I was wondering. It turns out, huge part of that price tag is advertising cost.

We do not want to say that all expensive food is bad, there are some really good quality kinds. Just read the ingredients.

Some companies spend a lot of money trying to make us believe their food is the healthiest for our dogs and all natural. And they have little money left for actually making that true. While other manufacturers in fact make quality dog foods, but we do not know about them because they have little if any advertising.

You have already probably spend a lot of time looking for this second type dog food. So, to make it easier for you here is an article on the best cheap dog food and a buying guide.

Top 9 Best Cheap Dog Food

The thing is, there is no one-size-fits-all dog food. If one particular brand and product is good for your neighbor’s dog, it does not mean it will be the best choice for yours. But if you have a dog, you probably know that the food greatly depends on the breed and age of the animal. That is why we have made a list based on the breeds, so that you can choose yourself what is best for your dog.

Image Product Details

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Pine Forest
  • 28 lb
  • Real venison as first ingredient
  • Highly digestible

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
  • 30 lb
  • Chicken & brown rice recipe
  • With LifeSource Bits

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Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Wet Dog Food
  • (12) 13 oz. cans
  • Lamb & brown rice
  • Supports shiny coat

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Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food
  • 40 lb
  • Real beef
  • Enhanced with probiotics

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Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Original
  • 26 lb
  • Turkey & chicken
  • Grain free

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Dog Food
  • 15 lb
  • Chicken & brown rice
  • Specially formulated for adult small breed dogs

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Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food
  • 12 lb
  • Turkey & oatmeal
  • All natural ingredients

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Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food
  • 30 lb
  • Chicken meal & oats
  • Specifically for large breed puppies

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Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food
  • 34 lb
  • Chicken with shreds
  • Fortified with live probiotics

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Different Types of Dog Food

Before choosing the brand of cheap dog food, you have to decide what type of food you want your dog to eat.

Generally, they distinguish between four types of dog food: dry (kibble), moist (wet or canned), semi-moist and frozen (freeze-dried). When making this choice you will have to take into consideration the nutrition needs of your dog, the age, breed and, of course, your budget. You also do not need to stick with only one type, you can mix them to provide well-balanced diet for your dog.

Kibble or dry dog food

This is what you usually see in the dog food commercials: small dry coloured bones or brown biscuits. This type has a very low moisture content.

There are many benefits of dry dog food. First of all, it is the cheapest dog food option. Also, because of its crunchiness, it cleans your dog’s teeth. Dry dog food does not expire as fast as all the other types and you do not need to refrigerate it. It is easy to serve and to clean up. You do not need to prepare it at all. But remember to pour water for the dog as he will want to drink after eating dry food.

Dry food, however, has its disadvantages. Firstly, there are many kibble foods that cannot be called a healthy diet. They contain too much artificial flavors, color, and preservatives and do not have virtually any nutritional value. So, be careful when you buy something.

Moist dog food

It has a high moisture content, so it is the opposite to kibble. It suits well for older dogs because it is easier for them to chew. It usually comes in cans, foil trays or pouches.

The pros are that it has quite a long shelf life, so you can store it, just check the expiry date. It is generally more nutritious, but the more water you see in the contents, the less filling it is, so your dog will eat more.

The cons include a higher price. Some canned food also can have too much artificial additives.

Semi-moist dog food

This type is more used like a treat than regular food. It looks like soft pellets and has chewy texture.

Most veterinarians do not suggest semi-moist food for regular daily diet because it is not nutritious enough.

Frozen and Freeze-Dried Dog Food

This is probably the healthiest type of dog food unless you are feeding him fresh raw meat. It is basically raw food that was frozen or freeze-dried. It does not lose important healthy contents like canned food does when it is heated.

The biggest downside is the price. It is twice the cost of traditional kibble or even higher.

Another thing you might not like is that it requires preparation, very careful handling and storage. It does not last long and if you do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions, it can go bad easily.

But your dog is your family, right? So, it is worth spending time trying to feed him like one if you can afford it.

Even with all of this information, certain dog food might not agree with your pup. If that’s the case, check out our post on the best food for dogs with sensitive stomachs to try and find a better option.

Quality Brands of Cheap Dog Food

There are tons of brands now on the market that offer cheap dog foods. Some of them are more famous, others are almost unknown, some are cheaper, others cost quite a lot, some have long history and good reputation, others have just started to produce dog food. There is no good or bad and right or wrong here. Pick the one your dog likes and you can afford.

Taste of the Wild: They make all dog food from real roasted meats and supplement it with vegetables and fruit. They offer grain-free formulas with good taste, full of energy and antioxidants for their immune system.

Hills: Founded in 1907. It is an American company that produces pet nutrition, including dog and cat foods. Hills is a subsidiary company of Colgate-Palmolive.

Merrick: Created by Garth Merrick in 1988. They state that they make the best food ever because pets love it and it makes them feel better.

Pedigree: Founded in 1957, Pedigree Petfoods is a subsidiary company of the American group Mars, Incorporated. It has factories in England at Melton Mowbray and Birstall, Leeds; and office at McLean, Virginia.

Natural Balance: Founded in 1989 and based in Burbank, California. They created pet food based on sound scientific principles and nutritional truths. NB offers a wide selection of dog and cat food formulas.

Ainsworth Pet Nutrition®: Founded more than 75 years ago and evolved from a small regional business to a multi-tiered North American organization. They make a wide variety of pet food and snacks.

Big Heart Pet Brands: Is a manufacturer and distributor of premium quality, branded pet products. They are based in San Francisco, CA. Their brands include Meow Mix, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Milk-Bone, 9Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Nature’s Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, and Milo’s Kitchen.

Dog food reviews

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Pine Forest

Taste of the Wild says their food provides dogs with a natural and balanced diet like the one they could find “in the wild”. And it is not just an advertising hook or nice words because when you look at the ingredients, the first one is actually bison. The contents also include venison, lamb meal and chicken meal. This food is supposed to satisfy your dog’s instinctual cravings. This grain-free dog food in not only made with real roasted meats, but also supplemented with fruits and vegetables. Such ingredients include sweet potato, peas, potatoes, canola oil, tomato pomace, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries.

Taste of the Wild High Prairie Canine Dry Dog Food is high in protein and fat. Fat being an essential part of a healthy diet for your four-legged friend, this is a good choice of cheapest dog food.

Most dog food reviews also say that dogs love this food and it makes them feel good and look healthy. If now your dog has health problem or does not show much energy, the taste of the Wild might solve this problem. It can help him reach a healthy weight and become active. His coat will also look great.

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Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult

This is another example that inexpensive brands can also provide quality dog food.

Most dogs like the taste of Blue Buffalo. And the ingredients seem to be good for their health. It is made of protein-rich deboned lamb, and includes wholesome whole grains, garden veggies and fruit. An important thing that you can rarely see in the contents label is that there is no chicken meal, corn, wheat and soy.

Blue Buffalo also has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives

Your dog will get a supply of energy for the day from carbs in the wholesome whole grains: brown rice, barley and oats. There are also healthy garden vegetables including whole carrots, sweet potato and garlic.

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Best cheap dog food for boxers and labs.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Wet Dog Food

This food is particularly a good recommendation because it has a much shorter ingredient list than most other dog foods. This is a good thing when you have a boxer who can become allergic to some kinds of food. It also makes it very easy to read the label and actually understand what you are feeding your dog.

The main ingredient of this Natural Balance dog food is lamb that is high in fat meat, so you lab or boxer will have a healthy looking coat.

A downside may be the lack of fruit and vegetables in it, but it is easy enough to add them to your dog’s diet at home. Let him just chew on some carrot, for example.

Read the reviews on Amazon

Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe Premium

This is a great choice if you are looking for affordable dog food. True, it has some low quality food ingredients like fish and chicken meal instead of a good raw piece of meat. But many dog owners of labs and boxers say their dogs feel great eating this dog food.

Diamond Naturals is not the best food on the market, but for the price that they are offering, the ingredients are very good. This is good nutritious food for your dog.

Besides, the taste must be good because all the reviews say the dogs love it.

Read the reviews on Amazon

Best cheap food for bulldogs and pitbulls

Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Wellness Core is a little more expensive, but it is definitely worth it. Your dog will love it, you will love how he looks and feels. No more upset bowels or other such problems.

First of all, Wellness Core is 100% a grain-free dog food, so it is complete and balanced nutrition for your dog for every day. Your dog will get important proteins from turkey and chicken and necessary vitamins and minerals from real vegetables.

It contains no wheat, corn, soy, meat by-products, or artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Do you know what does it mean? That you will actually save money because your dog will eat less. Without those grains fillers, he will get full earlier and the portions will become smaller.

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Best cheap dog food for shih tzu and yorkies

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Dog Food

Blue Buffalo created this dog food specially for small breed dogs like Shih Tzus and Deer Head Chihuahuas. And it does not only mean that the kibbles are smaller. It also helps to support the special needs of smaller dogs. For example, it is made with increased protein and carbohydrates to meet higher energy needs.

They use only natural ingredients such as deboned chicken. Wholesome whole grains, garden veggies and fruit. It does not have chicken meal, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

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Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food

Wellness made a special small breed formula with turkey and oatmeal recipe. If you are looking for healthy, natural dog food and you gave an adult small breed dog, this is a great choice.

The kibbles are smaller size and the ingredients are chosen to fit for everyday use. They provide a good balance of nutrient-rich whole foods.

Wellness Complete Health Dry Dog Food is supposed to support your dog’s balanced natural nutrition, help him retain healthy body mass and overall health and vitality including nutrient absorption, digestion, bone and joint health and immune system support.

Plus, the small dogs love it.

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Best cheap dog food for puppies

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food

Puppies require a special diet. Especially large breeds like the Shollie or Saint Berdoodle). They are growing and very fast, so you have to make sure they get enough healthy nutrition from the food.

Hill’s Science Diet dry dog food supports bone joint growth for puppies. It is made with only natural ingredients and vitamins and minerals and amino acids to make sure your puppy has everything he needs for fun and healthy life.

Science Diet is available not only as this particular dry food, however but also in a variety of dry, canned foods and treats.

Hills also gives to 100% satisfaction guarantee, or your will get your money back.

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Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food

This Purina puppy food has high quality protein from chicken which is the first ingredient. It has a nice texture that most puppies seem to love because it combines hard kibbles with smaller tender pieces.

It includes different ingredients specially included for the growth and development. Fish oil with Omega – for brain and vision, antioxidants – for immune system, calcium and phosphorus – for teeth and bones and vitamins and minerals.

Read the reviews on Amazon

Looking for a dog toy next? – Here’s our list of the best puzzle dog toys available

Buying Guide

As you probably have already understood, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the most ideal dog food brands. Here is a list of tips for you to make the process easier.

Price: You are looking for affordable dog food brands, right? You saw from above, that cheap does not mean bad at all. So, buy the best you can afford but always remember to read the ingredients.

Breed: There are some dog foods that are specially created for particular breeds and they will write it on the package. But make sure that it is not just another advertising trick and check if the ingredients are actually different from any other dog food brands. You can always find online what particular breeds need and what to avoid. Also, ask what other dog owners of the same breed have to say or read the reviews.

Dog age: If you have a puppy, you should definitely consider this because according to this website puppies need more protein and some other ingredients. Also, if you have an old dog who has difficulties with chewing dry kibbles, try switching to moist food.


Your dog deserves the best food you can afford. But it does not mean you have to break the bank feeding him. There are many brands which offer good compromise between quality food and price on the market. Remember to always look at the ingredients and monitor your dog closely when switching his diet. And you and your dog will be happy and healthy.