Feeding a Dog Cheap Dog Food Can Cost You

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In the modern world, food is relatively abundant and there is a wide variety of convenient foods available on the grocery store shelf. More often than not, these foods may contain ingredients of dubious quality, yet the general public mostly chooses to ignore the ingredient label and will still purchase the foods for themselves and their families. For examples, look no further than the cereal or beverage aisles, where many of the products are full of added sugar and artificial colorings. Many precooked entrée meals will also include added sugar and artificial preservatives and colorings as well.


As humans, if we choose to ignore the ingredient label and eat foods like these, than we are the ones that will bear the brunt of those decisions, including obesity and an increase in assorted health ailments related to weight and poor eating like diabetes and heart disease. We will pay later, in the form of reduced life span, lower overall quality of life, and the medical costs of treating ailments that are facilitated by poor eating (and lack of exercise).


For our dogs, the situation is a little different. Dogs do not choose which food to eat, nor do they control how much they eat. Dogs rely on their humans to choose their foods and treats and to portion out these in an appropriate way. Unfortunately, at least in the US, we have not done a good job with this responsibility, as more than half of all dogs (and cats) are estimated to be overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. And judging by the pet food sold in the grocery store aisles, many pet owners are not properly scrutinizing the food that is served to their dog.
Do I have to

When a pet owner chooses which foods to purchase for their pet, in many cases, one of the factors that is considered is the price. Not wanting to spend ‘too much’ on dog food, it is an easy decision for many to choose the bargain priced food. This is short sighted, and I would argue that this decision will ultimately cost the pet owner more than if they chose a better quality, species appropriate food.


The Hidden Costs of Cheap Dog Food

A multi-step calculation is required to properly compare the prices of different foods. I will explain this calculation in detail in a future post. In short, comparing food prices require a re-basing of the size of the bag (or can), the calorie amount per cup, and the density of the food.  However, we can still look at some of the hidden costs of choosing a low quality food for your dog. Just like with humans, dogs who eat a poor diet are susceptible to shorter and lower quality lives and are at increased risk for disease.


Overfeeding. Feeding your dog a lower quality food normally means that your dog’s body is not getting the proper nutrition that it needs. This can result in overfeeding because the dog’s body will still crave the nutrition that it needs and it will remain hungry throughout the day, and ultimately express this to the pet owner, who is likely to cave in and overfeed. Even though a food might provide ‘complete and balanced nutrition’ (according to the AAFCO statement), the source of the nutrients can make a big difference as to whether the dog is able to properly absorb and utilize these nutrients. Using plant or grain protein, which dogs cannot digest as well as meat protein is one example. This is often reflected in a dogs poop, as unabsorbed food must makes its way out of the body.  The dog’s stomach might be ‘full’, but their body might still be hungry for the nutrients it needs.


Increased Medical Costs. There is little doubt in my mind that food can help to prevent or help facilitate the onset of many canine diseases. Serving a dog a cheaper food laden with artificial ingredients, sugar, and inappropriate protein and vitamin and mineral sources can often lead to the onset of health problems. Gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular illness, osteoarthritis, poor skin and coat, and even cancer can result from feeding a dog low quality food for extended periods of time. Sure, you might be able to save $.10 – $.50 or more a day on food by choosing a low quality product. But if this leads to health problems, the cost of a few vet visits will quickly eliminate these savings and often surpass what might be saved on the cost of food. As an example, a prescription for Rimadyl, a commonly prescribed canine NSAID, can cost over $50 per month (depending on the dosage amounts), easily surpassing the cost savings from purchasing a cheaper food.


Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

There was an old TV commercial that used the tag line “you can pay me now or you can pay me later”. This commercial suggested that you could spend a little bit more now for a high quality air filter, or a lot of money later for a new carburetor. The implication was that you are better off taking care of the issue early on, before it can grow into something more serious and costly. This tag line is absolutely appropriate for pet food. You can pay now, by upgrading to a better dog food, or you can pay later, by choosing a poor quality dog food and suffering the consequences.

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  1. When Mom first moved to Germany in 1997, “good” food was twice the price there is was in the US. Her husband found it ridiculous to spend so much money on dog food and insisted his family had fed the grocery store stuff and the dogs were just fine. Mom had no choice and bought a bag of that awful stuff. Instead of 2-3 cups a day, Trine got 14 cups a day. Instead of pooping 1-2 times a day, it was 5-6 and smelly. The best was, Trine had her bed in the home office where the husband spent most of his time and guess what. Yep…she had gas…really bad gas! It was perfect. After about two weeks he caved and Trine got to get back to eating quality food. That cheap stuff is bad for sooo many reasons!
    Emma recently posted…St. Patrick’s Day PartyMy Profile

  2. I so agree with you… we always look twice before food for me or for my staff lands in our shopping cart. Many moons ago made the mistake and bought colorful little hearts and bones, because they were cheap and totally cute… and then we had to pay for a new carpet and for the bill of the vet :o(
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog TROUBLE TUESDAYMy Profile

  3. Being on a limited income limits how much one can spend on A LOT of things. But, I’ve cut back on other things so I can afford to give my girls better quality food than I could otherwise.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Lazy Sunday MorningMy Profile

  4. Cheap food makes more more poops so more time outside cleaning up messes and more poop bags.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…St. Patrick’s Day Treats~Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

  5. So true! And even with “good” dog food, it’s so important to read the label.
    Sue recently posted…Grain Free Pure Heaven @Canidae Dog Treats from @ChewyMy Profile

  6. Is this ever so up my alley this week. I am in the process of changing Jax’s food from the puppy junk he’s been on to the food Harley eats. The junk he’s eating now – gives Jax soft stool, it stinks to high heaven (why do people say that?) and it’s so much – OMD. I should be finished with the weaning by the end of this week, can’t wait. I’m taking it slow – so not to upset his little tummy, but this cheap food filled with all this crap should be banned from the market. I prefer to spend $$ on quality food for them and cut costs elsewhere like – substituting commercial treats for healthy snacks I eat (fruits and veggies), I make toys with old things around the house for them to tear up. Dogs are no different than us – they are what they eat!

  7. It’s just sad that so many people will never know better, and get taken in by the marketing of the low quality food. They’ll never realize that they’re not saving the money they think they are!
    Jan K recently posted…Book Review: Twin PiquesMy Profile

  8. I remember the DRASTIC change in our pups’ overall health when we stopped feeding the dog food recommended by our vet (Science Diet) and switched to higher & higher quality foods (Blue Buffalo, Great Life, Ziwipeak) ~ took me a while to familiarize myself with the art of label reading, but it was SO worth it! For the first few months of his life, our boy Buzz had one ear infection after the other, and while our pups’ coats looked good to us, they started glowing & looking fantastic once the switch to higher quality food was made.

    Unfortunately, our girl Missy had to have a cancerous tumor removed last year, and had to get 4 rounds of chemotherapy. She is recovering, however, and on the way back to great health. I was really frustrated when we discovered the tumor, as Missy eats healthy food, doesn’t get any table scraps, and exercises & plays every day. I suppose being a Boxer mix, her Boxer genes reared their ugly heads.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Handcrafted Organic Shamrock Dog CookiesMy Profile

    • Glad to read about your experiences with upgrading your pups food – wish more people would do that and see the results like you. Sorry about Missy – hope she is recovered soon.
      mkob recently posted…Feeding a Dog Cheap Dog Food Can Cost YouMy Profile

  9. P.S. Buzz’s ear infections stopped abruptly with the introduction of the higher quality food!

  10. Oh I couldn’t agree more!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…St. Patty’s Day With The Sibe TribeMy Profile

  11. Excellent post! We so agree…it’s so important to feed our furkids healthy good food. Some of the things on dog food labels is scary! Why anyone would want to feed it to their pets is beyond me! And we do remember that commercial…such true words.
    FiveSibesMom recently posted…Spring Fever on a FiveSibes Flashback Friday!My Profile

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