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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 in an old, folded comforter as that expensive memory foam dog bed, but good food is a must.
To keep dogs happy and healthy, owners should provide them with food made from high-quality ingredients that meet the lifestyle requirements of the individual pet (eg, puppies need food for puppies 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 risking the health of their pets. Here’s how.
Choose your dog’s food wisely
Dogs do best when they are on a consistent diet. People like variety in their meals, but there is no benefit if you constantly change the type of food you feed your dog. This can also increase the risk of a dog becoming cranky, always waiting for the next tasty thing to come with tomorrow’s meal.
Most dogs thrive on high quality dog food, but not necessarily super premium. If you don’t eat organic, does your dog need it? And some manufacturers spend a lot of money marketing specific products, for example foods that are supposedly designed for specific breeds. You pay a price for these formulations, but in all honesty, 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. The two brands that fall into this category are Iams and Purina One. These products also have the advantage of wide availability.
Comparison shopping and coupons
Once you’ve found a food that works well for your dog, comparison shop. Prices can vary widely between retailers. Consider becoming a member of a wholesale operation like Costco or Sam’s Club. These companies will usually allow you to enter their facilities as a guest so you can see what they have to offer. Walmart, Target, and Kmart also tend to have good prices on pet food, as can big pet retailers like Petsmart and Petco. You’ll generally pay more for food at smaller pet boutiques, but they tend to carry a wider selection of premium or specialty pet foods. Don’t forget to sign up for any rewards programs the stores offer.
Look for ads run by your local retailers; dog food often goes on sale. And keep your eyes peeled for coupons. Online sites like retailmenot.com or couponcabin.com are a good way to keep on top of current deals. Simply searching for the name of the dog food with the word “coupon” is another easy 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 a great deal on your dog’s food, stock up if you have the storage space. Most pet foods have 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, larger bags of food are much less expensive by weight and volume than 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, it can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get many of your pet’s supplies, including food.
Great comparison shopping sites like nextag.com and shopping.yahoo.com are a great way to find the lowest prices on food. Just type in the exact product you’re looking for, and voila, all the information you need appears. However, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Check that all prices 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 any.
Amazon.com offers a wide selection of pet food, as do leading pet retailers petco.com and petsmart.com. Other options to consider include petfooddirect.com, petflow.com, 1800petmeds.com and nationalpetpharmacy.com. If you are having trouble finding a website where you can order your dog food, go to the manufacturer’s website. Many of them have ties to vendors who provide their food.
Beware, however, of fly-by-night websites. Buy only from reputable retailers to make sure you get high quality, non-discretionary products. Websites should have a customer service phone number prominently displayed. Call and ask some questions. You just want to get a feel for their legitimacy and customer service. You can also see customer reviews on sites like Yelp.com or search for a company 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 foods. If your pet is on a prescription diet, you can still buy. You don’t have 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 websites mentioned 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 shopping for your own groceries. When meat goes on sale, buy a lot and freeze it. Frozen vegetables can be used instead of fresh and stored for much longer periods of time. 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 may save money in the short term, but often lead to health problems and expensive treatments in the long term.
In conclusion, you never want to skimp on your dog’s food, but there’s nothing wrong with spending your money wisely.
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