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Feeding Your Dog Without Breaking the Bank
One of the biggest costs associated with dog ownership is food. Some expenses are negotiable. Your dog will probably sleep just as comfortably on an old folded comforter as that expensive memory foam dog bed, but good food is a necessity.
To keep dogs happy and healthy, owners should feed them food made from high-quality ingredients that meet the individual pet’s lifestyle requirements (eg, puppies need puppy food, and overweight pets should be on calorie-restricted diets). 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 compromising their pet’s health. Here’s how you do it.
Choose your dog food wisely
Dogs do best when they are 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 picky and always waiting for the next tasty treat that comes with tomorrow’s meal.
Most dogs thrive when they eat high quality, but not necessarily super-premium dog food. If you don’t eat organic, does your dog need it? And some manufacturers spend a lot of money marketing niche products, for example, foods that are supposedly designed for certain breeds. You pay a premium for these formulations, but frankly they are overkill for most individuals within the breed.
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.
Comparison shopping and coupons
Once you’ve found a food that works well for your dog, compare. Prices can vary greatly between dealers. Consider joining a wholesale company like Costco or Sam’s Club. These companies will usually let you into their facilities as a guest so you can check out what they have to offer. Walmart, Target, and Kmart also tend to have great prices on pet food, as do the big pet retailers like Petsmart and Petco. In general, you’ll pay more for food at the smaller pet stores, but they tend to carry a wider variety of premium or specialty pet foods. Don’t forget to sign up for any rewards programs the stores offer.
Keep an eye out for ads run by your local retailers; dog food often goes on sale. And keep your eyes open for coupons. Online sites like retailmenot.com or couponcabin.com are a good way to keep track of current offers. Simply googling the name of your dog food with the word “coupon” is another simple way to see what’s available. The manufacturer’s own website is another excellent resource. Many offer coupons to encourage people to try their products.
If you’ve found an excellent price on your dog’s food, stock up if you have the storage space. Most pet food has 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 then. As a general rule of thumb, larger bags of food are much cheaper by weight and volume than the 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. But this can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get many of your pet supplies, including food.
The big comparison shopping sites like nextag.com and shopping.yahoo.com are a great way to find the lowest prices on food. Simply enter the exact product you’re looking for and voila, all the information you need pops up. However, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. See that the prices all correspond to the same size bag of food, and don’t forget to add shipping costs for those sites that don’t offer free shipping and taxes if applicable.
Amazon.com offers a wide selection of pet food, as do the large pet retailers petco.com and petsmart.com. Other options to consider include petfooddirect.com, petflow.com, 1800petmeds.com and nationalpetpharmacy.com. If you have trouble finding a website where you can order your dog’s food, go to the manufacturer’s website. Many have links to retailers that offer their foods.
However, beware of fly-by-night websites. Shop only from reputable retailers to ensure you receive high quality products, not knock-offs. The websites must have a clearly displayed customer service phone number. Call and ask a few 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 look up a business on the Better Business Bureau website bbb.org.
Some dogs require very specific diets to manage medical issues, and these products tend to be more expensive than typical dog food. If your pet is on a prescription diet, you can still shop around. You do not need to buy the food directly from your vet; he or she must give you a written prescription if you ask for one. Many of the sites listed above (eg, petfooddirect.com and nationalpetpharmacy.com) sell both over-the-counter and prescription diets.
If you feed your dog a homemade diet, use the same cost-cutting techniques you use when buying your own groceries. When meat is on sale, buy a lot and freeze it. Frozen vegetables can be used instead of fresh and stored for much longer periods. But don’t be tempted to buy low-quality ingredients or make unapproved substitutions for what would otherwise be a nutritionally balanced recipe. These types of changes can save money in the short term, but often lead to health problems and expensive treatments in the long term.
In conclusion, you will never skimp on your dog’s food, but there is nothing wrong with spending your money wisely.
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