I have been thinking about making my own homemade dog food but couldn’t find a reliable source that compares the real cost of making dog food versus buying a good dog food brand. So I did the research to come up with a cost comparison of homemade and store-bought dog food and quickly realized that…
It is not cheaper to make dog food than to buy dog food. The average cost of a balanced homemade diet per day for a 30 lb dog is $3.09, but good-quality commercial dog food averages 98c per day. The price of homemade or commercial dog food can vary by up to 50% for different dogs based on their age, health, weight, and activity levels.
Many sites will tell you to save money by throwing some ingredients in a crockpot and feeding this to your dog. But we need to remember that dog food serves an important purpose: dog food provides your dog with the nutrients needed to grow properly and stay healthy over the long-term.
It is this purpose that can make dog food much more expensive to make at home.
Why it is not cheaper to make your own dog food
The following table shows what it costs to feed a 15 lb, 30 lb, and 60 lb dog per day with homemade dog food versus a good brand of commercial dog food.
Looking at this table, you will see that the average cost of homemade dog food is nearly three times the cost of commercial dog food:
|Average Daily Cost of Each Type of Dog Food||15lb adult dog||30 lb adult dog||60 lb adult dog|
|Homemade dog food average daily cost||$1.98||$3.09||$5.12|
|Commercial dog food average daily cost||61c||98c||$1,58|
|DAILY TOTAL DIFFERENCE||$1,37||$2,11||$3,54|
|MONTHLY TOTAL DIFFERENCE||$41,1||$63,30||$106,20|
Feeding a 15 lb dog a balanced homemade dog food recipe rather than a good brand of commercial dog food will cost an extra $1,37 per day and $41,10 a month.
Feeding a 30 lb dog a balanced homemade dog food recipe rather than a good brand of commercial dog food will cost an extra $2,11 per day and $63,30 a month.
Feeding a 60 lb dog a balanced homemade dog food recipe rather than a good brand of commercial dog food will cost an extra $3,54 per day and $106,20 a month.
So, why is it so much more expensive to feed a dog homemade dog food?
Supplements bring up the cost of homemade dog food.
Homemade dog food needs to be supplemented with a balanced, high-quality supplement made to ensure your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals needed. If homemade dog food is not supplemented, your dog probably won’t get all the nutrients to grow properly and stay healthy, causing health issues later in life.
Remember that a dog’s nutritional requirements are not the same as a human’s.
For example, the homemade dog food recipe discussed later in this post has meat, oil, carbohydrates, and vegetables in the list of ingredients, which sounds balanced and healthy (for people). But this food has 17 vitamin and mineral deficiencies for dogs if you skip the supplement.
This is why the word ‘balanced’ is emphasized whenever I refer to homemade dog food in this article – if you are going to switch to homemade dog food, then it’s important to make sure the meals are balanced with all the vitamins and minerals your dog needs, or you might be doing more harm than good.
Why the cost of dog food is so different for each dog
- with special dietary needs, e.g. allergies, food sensitivities
- with health issues e.g. diabetes
- that are very active
- that are young and still growing and developing
- that are large or giant breeds
are usually more expensive to feed. They either need to eat more dog food than other dogs, or they need specialized dog food with/without certain ingredients or nutrients that is more expensive than other brands.
Your dog’s age, weight, activity levels, allergies, special dietary requirements, along with the type of dog food given, will all have an impact on how much your dog eats and how much dog food costs.
In fact, the cost of dog food can vary by up to 50% between different dogs based on these factors. It might cost 98c per day to feed one average 30 lb dog, 49c per day to feed another inactive, indoor dog that weighs 30 lb, and $1,47 per day to feed another 30 lb dog who spends all day running around a farm.
When determining how much to feed your dog, check the feeding chart on the dog food packaging. Feed your dog the amount of food recommended for his/her ideal healthy weight.
This cost research is based on healthy adult dogs
In this research, I used the average (middle of the range) recommended serving sizes for each dog’s weight in my comparison tables (15 lb, 30 lb, and 60 lb). I found these recommended serving sizes in the feeding charts of each dog food brand and in the homemade dog food recipe’s calculators.
All the dog foods mentioned in this research are for healthy dogs that fall within a healthy weight range, without any health issues or special dietary requirements. The recipe and brands discussed are all for adult dogs, not puppies or mature dogs.
The dog food costs in this article are simply a guide to give you a good idea of the price differences, so you can make a more informed choice about whether you want to buy or make your own dog food.
Please do your own research and calculations, and speak to your vet, to make sure you are making the best choice for your pet. If you want a balanced homemade dog food recipe for a dog with special dietary needs, such as vomiting, then visit BalanceIT and choose a need to generate a recipe.
How much it costs to make your own dog food
The cost to make your own dog food depends on the size of your dog, how much your dog exercises, your dog’s health, what state you live in and how much ingredients cost there, and the quality of the ingredients you choose.
Here’s a balanced homemade dog food recipe to feed 3 different dog sizes for 1 day and 1 month (30 days):
|Ingredients||15 lb adult dog||30 lb adult dog||60 lb adult dog|
|Cooked chicken||3.7 oz||5.56 oz||9.26 oz|
|Cooked white rice||4.18 oz||7.66 oz||12.54 oz|
|Olive oil||0.66 oz||1.03 oz||1.72 oz|
|Cooked mixed vegetables||2.4 oz||3.31 oz||5.75 oz|
|Supplement: Balance IT® Canine||0.21 oz||0.33 oz||0.54 oz|
|DAILY TOTAL WEIGHT (COOKED)||11.18 oz||17.89 oz||29.81 oz|
|MONTHLY TOTAL WEIGHT (COOKED)||335.40 oz||536.70 oz||894.30 oz|
The homemade dog food recipe in the table above was adapted from a recipe on Balance IT, where you will find balanced homemade dog food recipes for all dog sizes, with full instructions on how to prepare and serve the dog food with proper supplementation.
Click HERE for the full list of vegetables that are safe for dogs to eat.
Click HERE for the list of vegetables that dogs can NOT eat.
It’s interesting to see above that the price and amount of dog food given doesn’t double as the weight of the dog doubles:
- A 15 lb dog will eat about 11.18 oz of this homemade food recipe per day.
- A 30 lb dog will eat about 17.89 oz of this homemade food recipe per day.
- A 60 lb dog will eat about 29.81 oz of this homemade food recipe per day.
This means that it does not cost double the amount of money to feed a large dog that weighs twice as much as a small dog.
Here’s a breakdown of how much the raw ingredients will cost you per day and per month (30 days), before cooking the food – shrinkage and expansion weights from raw to cooked have been taken into account:
|Ingredients||15 lb adult dog||30 lb adult dog||60 lb adult dog|
|Uncooked white rice||21c||38c||63c|
|Frozen mixed vegetables||14c||20c||35c|
|Supplement: Balance IT® Canine||67c||$1,06||$1,73|
|DAILY TOTAL COST||$1,98||$3,09||$5,12|
|MONTHLY TOTAL COST||$59,40||$92,70||$153,60|
Average retail food prices courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Walmart, and Balance IT
From the table above, we can see that:
- The average cost to feed a 15 lb dog homemade dog food is $1,98 per day and $59,40 per month.
- The average cost to feed a 30 lb dog homemade dog food is $3,09 per day and $92,70 per month.
- The average cost to feed a 60 lb dog homemade dog food is $5,12 per day and $153,60 per month.
The most expensive ingredients in this homemade dog food recipe are chicken and the nutritional supplement, which are just over two-thirds of the total cost. If you are making homemade dog food and need to make it cheaper, choose cheaper protein sources from the list of ingredients on the BalanceIT homemade dog food recipe generator, such as eggs and cottage cheese.
There are a few other costs to think about when making homemade dog food:
- The cost of gas to go and buy the ingredients.
- The cost of your time to plan the meals, buy the ingredients, and cook the food.
- The cost of cooking the dog food.
- The cost of throwing away homemade dog food that’s gone bad because it has no preservatives in it (this can be avoided by freezing portions and defrosting them as you need them).
How much it costs to buy dog food
Once again, the cost to buy dog food depends on the size of your dog, how much your dog exercises, your dog’s health, and the brand you choose.
For this price comparison, I chose 3 dog brands: Royal Canin, Hill’s Science, and Purina Pro. The reason I chose these brands is because they are all well-established brands that have a longstanding history in the dog food industry. I personally feed my dogs Royal Canin because it was recommended to me by my vet, and my dogs are very happy and healthy on this kibble, which I soak for my own dogs.
Here’s a breakdown of how much it costs to feed 3 different dog sizes per day and per month (30 days) with 3 well-known, established commercial dog food brands:
|Dry Dog Food Brand||15lb adult dog||30 lb adult dog||60 lb adult dog|
|Royal Canin Adult||78c||$1,17||$1,95|
|Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken||67c||$1,15||$1,93|
|Purina Pro Adult Shredded Blend Chicken & Rice Formula||37c||61c||85c|
|AVERAGE DAILY COST TO FEED||61c||98c||$1,58|
|AVERAGE MONTHLY COST TO FEED||$18,30||$29,40||$47,40|
In the table above, we can see that:
- The average cost to feed a 15 lb dog commercial dog food is 61c per day and $18,30 per month.
- The average cost to feed a 30 lb dog commercial dog food is 98c per day and $29,40 per month.
- The average cost to feed a 60 lb dog commercial dog food is $1.58 per day and $47,40 per month.
We can also see a price difference between the commercial dog food brands in the table:, which can be expected
- Royal Canin is the more expensive dog food brand. This is the brand my vet recommended and is the brand I buy for my own dogs. Even though it is more expensive than other brands, it is still cheaper than homemade dog food.
- Hill’s Science dog food is a little cheaper than Royal Canin, but it is still a high-quality commercial dog food.
- Purina Pro is the cheapest at just under half the daily feeding price as Royal Canin. This is another option for a good-quality commercial dog food if you are on a budget.
When buying dog food, don’t ever buy brands that aren’t well-known or are much cheaper than other brands. Making high-quality dog food that gives your dog the nutrients he/she needs costs money, and reputable manufacturers have systems in place to ensure the health and safety of the products they sell.
Cheap dog brands often skimp on quality, standards and ingredients, and this food may harm or even kill your dog.
How to save money on good-quality commercial dog food
We know it is cheaper to buy dog food rather than make it.
Here are my best tips on how to save money on commercial dog food:
- Buy dog food in bulk online, whenever possible.
- Give your dog food in a slow feeder, which is healthier than normal bowls and can give your dog time to feel full and stop eating when he/she has had enough to eat.
- Compare the serving sizes and prices of kibble – buying more expensive brands that need smaller serving sizes might save you money in the long run.
- Look for dog food specials, especially around the holidays and on Black Friday. Stock up on dog food when a special comes up.
- Set up delivery subscriptions to get discounts from online pet stores like Chewy.
- Ask your vet for dog food samples.
- Make your own dog treats instead of buying them, such as eggs for dogs.
- Buy cheap meat scraps from your local butcher to bulk up meals or give them to your dog as treats.