Best Cheap Dog Food

Collection

Best Cheap Dog Food: Your Budget Friendly Review

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec,DVM

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The pet market offers a variety of cheap dog food that is budget-friendly with healthy, nutritious, and high-quality ingredients. Almost all reputable dog food brands have lines with affordable products. On the other hand, studies show that many “premium” foods are of low quality.   

If you are interested in the best affordable dog foods, keep reading. We will give tips on what to consider when shopping for dog food on a budget. Plus, with the buying guide covered, we are launching detailed reviews of the 10 best cheap dog food brands. 

Best Cheap Dog Food Review at a Glance 

  1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food
  2. Diamond Naturals Dog Food
  3. Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food
  4. American Journey Dog Food
  5. Taste of the Wild Dog Food
  6. Nutro Ultra Dog Food
  7. Purina ONE SmartBlend Dog Food
  8. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets
  9. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Dog Food
  10. Victor Purpose Dog Food

What to Look for in Cheap Quality Dog Food

What to Look for in Cheap Quality Dog Food

If you are shopping for cheap dog food, it doesn’t mean you have to settle for low quality. Below we listed the factors you should consider to ensure you are buying healthy dog food, in addition to being budget-friendly. 

First Three Ingredients. The first three items on the pet food’s ingredients list can say a lot about the overall quality of the formula. When it comes to dogs, at least one of the first three ingredients must be meat. 

Source of Protein. Although omnivores, dogs thrive on animal-sourced high-quality protein essential for growth and maintenance. Therefore, the dog food should include lean muscle from real meat like poultry, beef, lamb, fish, game, etc. 

Fats and Carbs Content. Dogs need complex carbohydrates and good types of fats in their diets. These nutrients should be secondary as too much of them can easily lead to weight gain and obesity. 

Fruits and Veggies. A balanced dog food formula contains more than just core nutrients – it also needs fruits and vegetables as natural sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. 

Health-Boosting Additions. Depending on your dog’s needs, you should look for foods with added joint supplements (chondroitin, glucosamine), ingredients that support gut health and digestion (probiotics, prebiotics), and animal oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  

No Controversial Ingredients. Unspecified meat by-products, cheap fillers and allergens (corn, soy), bulking agents, preservatives, artificial colors, and GMO ingredients are hazardous for canines and must not be included in dog foods. 

Reputable Pet Food Brand. To suit the needs of dog owners, many popular and trustworthy brands are offering budget-friendly lines of dog food products. If you cannot decide between two foods, go for the brand you are familiar with. 

Top 10 Best Cheap Dog Foods

To make things simpler, we will review the 10 best budget dog foods below. The dry dog foods on this list may not necessarily be the cheapest ones.  

However, they have the highest cost-to-value ratio. In more practical terms, this means they are offering the perfect balance between quality and affordability. 

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Food

Get it on Chewy           Get it on Amazon

Summary: Blue Buffalo is the definition of quality dog food and is well-deserving of our choice as the best budget-friendly dog food. The Life Protection formula contains the brand’s patented LifeSource Bits, thus supporting the immune system. 

Type: Grain-inclusive dry food 

Best for: Adult dogs

Price: About $1.63 per pound

Ingredient Analysis: The first ingredients in this food are chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, pea starch, and flaxseed. They are of high quality, and the overall recipe is in accordance with the AAFCO standards for the maintenance of adult dogs. 

Review: We like the health-boosting nutrients, real chicken as first ingredient, and the lack of anonymous by-products. We dislike the relatively high carbohydrate levels. 

Diamond Naturals Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Dog Food

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Summary: The Diamond Naturals Dog Food features real meat from pasture-raised lambs, healthy carbohydrates sources, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. In addition to being enhanced with superfoods, it also contains guaranteed probiotics. 

Type: Grain-inclusive dry dog food

Best for: Adult dogs 

Price: About $0.93 per pound

Ingredient Analysis: The main ingredients in the diet are lamb meal, ground white rice, cracked pearled barley, grain sorghum, and egg product. The grains are easily digestible, do not cause blood sugar spikes, and will keep the dog satiated for longer. 

Review: We like the use of health-boosting superfoods and probiotics for proper digestion. We dislike the brand’s long history of recalls. 

Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food

Nature's Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food

Get it on Chewy          Get it on Amazon

Summary: The Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food is the ideal choice for dogs suffering from food allergies and sensitivities. It is easily digestible and loaded with probiotics. Plus, it can be used for dogs of all ages – from puppies through adults to seniors. 

Type: Grain-free dry food

Best for: Adult dogs with allergies

Price: About $1.64 per pound 

Ingredient Analysis: The food features real chicken as first ingredient. It also contains chicken meal, garbanzo beans, peas, sweet potato, poultry fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pumpkin, and yucca schidigera extract. 

Review: We like the easy-to-digest kibble enriched with pro and prebiotics. We dislike the lack of specification for the poultry fat ingredient. 

American Journey Dog Food

American Journey Dog Food

Get it on Chewy

Summary: The easily digestible proteins and lack of grains make the American Journey Dog Food ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The food is described as the perfect balance of quality, affordability, and palatability. 

Type: Grain-free dry dog food

Best for: Large breed adult dogs 

Price: About $1.79 per pound 

Ingredient Analysis: The first ingredients in this food are salmon, chicken meal, turkey meal, pea, sweet potato, and chickpea. Plus, the recipe includes healthy ingredients like salmon oil, yucca schidigera extract, and dried bacillus coagulans. 

Review: We like the ingredient sourcing transparency and the lack of recall history. We dislike that the food is available only from Chewy.

Taste of the Wild Dog Food

Taste of the Wild Dog Food

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Summary: The Taste of the Wild Dog Food is all about replicating the dog’s natural diet. This reputable and trustworthy brand offers both grain-free diets and formulas with ancient grains, as well as several puppy food options.  

Type: Grain-free dry dog food

Best for: Adult dogs

Price: About $1.75 per pound 

Ingredient Analysis: The food’s first ingredient is salmon, and it includes ocean fish meal, sweet potato, potato, peas, and lentils. It is enriched with vegetables (tomatoes), fruits (raspberries, blueberries), several probiotics, chicory root, and yucca schidigera extract. 

Review: We like the inclusion of “good bacteria” strains and dietary fiber for digestion support. We dislike the use of canola oil instead of animal oils. 

Nutro Ultra Dog Food

  Nutro Ultra Dog Food

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Summary: The Nutro Ultra Dog Food is thoughtfully crafted to satisfy and nourish – support a healthy heart, strong immune system, and sharp mind. The recipe contains a powerful protein trio (chicken, lamb, and salmon) as well as an exclusive superfood medley. 

Type: Grain-inclusive dry food 

Best for: Adult dogs

Price: About $1.98 per pound

Ingredient Analysis: Chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran, lamb meal, and salmon meal are the main ingredients. The formula features healthy ingredients like chia seeds, coconut, apples, pumpkin, blueberries, carrots, spinach, and kale. 

Review: We like the content of lean muscle and the inclusion of holistic ingredients. We dislike the history of recalls associated with this brand. 

Purina ONE SmartBlend Dog Food

Purina ONE SmarBlend Dog Food

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Summary: Purina is all about providing the best nutrition for your dog. This particular dog food formula is AAFCO-approved and ensures complete and balanced nutrition for adult dogs. It is easily digestible, rich in omega fatty acids, and extremely palatable. 

Type: Grain-inclusive dry dog food 

Best for: Adult dogs

Price: About $1.17 per pound 

Ingredient Analysis:  The first few ingredients in this formula are chicken, rice flour, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, and chicken by-product meal. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, chicken contains glucosamine, thus supporting the joints. 

Review: We like the chicken as the first ingredient and the added blend of antioxidants. We dislike the inclusion of chicken by-products, wheat, and corn gluten meal. 

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets 

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets 

Get it on Chewy          Get it on Amazon

Summary: The Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diet dog food features a single animal source of protein, it is free from grains and fillers and with minimal carbohydrate content. This formula is ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs and is available in a smaller kibble for small pups. 

Type: Limited ingredient, grain-free dry dog food 

Best for: Adult dogs with allergies and sensitivities 

Price: About $2.4 per pound 

Ingredient Analysis: The main ingredients salmon, menhaden meal, sweet potato, cassava flour, and potato are enriched with sunflower oil, dried brewers yeast, flaxseed, menhaden fish oil, and extracts from rosemary, green tea, and spearmint. 

Review: We like the carefully selected and blended ingredients. We dislike the fact that the brand does not own its manufacturing plant.  

Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Dog Food 

Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Dog Food 

Get it on Chewy          Get it on Amazon

Summary: Formulated by the celebrity chef Rachael Ray, the Nutrish Zero Grain Natural Dog Food is grain and gluten-free, thus being suitable for dogs with food allergies and sensitivities. It is a cheap food that can make a difference. 

Type: Grain-free dry dog food 

Best for: Adult dogs with sensitive stomachs

Price: About $1.21 per pound

Ingredient Analysis: The first five ingredients in the food are chicken, chicken meal, soybean meal, grain sorghum, and dried pea. The diet also includes whole corn, which might be tricky for some dogs and is controversial.  

Review: We like that the natural ingredients are cooked in the USA. We dislike the inclusion of whole corn in the recipe. 

Victor Purpose Dog Food

Victor Dog Food

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Summary: Victor offers budget-friendly dry dog foods made of reliable ingredients. The Purpose line is specifically formulated for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The food is extra palatable and suited for picky eaters.  

Type: Grain-free dry food

Best for: Adult large breed dogs 

Price: About $1.80 per pound 

Ingredient Analysis: The formula includes beef meal, pea, sweet potato, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), and menhaden meal. Plus, it contains ingredients like seaweed meal, garbanzo beans, carrot powder, pork meal, and yeast cultures. 

Review: We like that the brand is family-owned and uses locally sourced ingredients. We dislike that there is not plenty of fruits and vegetables on the ingredients list. 

Ingredients to Avoid in Cheap Dog Foods

Knowing what ingredients to avoid in dry dog food is just as important as knowing what to look for. This does not mean you need to be a nutrition expert – it is enough that you skip on affordable dog foods containing one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Melamine. This nitrogen-containing plastic is added to make the food look like it is protein-rich. However, it is toxic and causes kidney failure. In fact, melamine is responsible for some of the largest food recalls
  • BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. These artificial preservatives are used to prolong the food’s shelf life but are linked with liver damage. The fact that ethoxyquin is used as a pesticide says a lot about its dangers.
  • Carrageenan. A thickener used for consistency maintenance, mainly in wet dog foods. Its degraded variant poligeenan can lead to severe gastrointestinal inflammation and even cancer. 
  • Propylene Glycol. Artificial preservative used for texture. Propylene glycol is a forbidden ingredient in cat food because of its toxicity (dogs are less sensitive but think twice if you have both a cat and a dog).
  • Monosodium Glutamate. MSG is an artificial flavor enhancer used to compensate for the lack of natural taste in low-quality dog foods. Sadly, it is a common allergen for pets. 
  • Corn Syrup. This inexpensive sweetener causes sudden blood sugar spikes and increases the risk of weight gain and obesity. Plus, it can cause cravings or make the dog develop a sweet tooth. 
  • Animal By-Products. As an unnamed source of protein, the by-products are, in fact, carcass leftovers. The reason by-products are bad is that they are nutritionally inconsistent and cheap-sourced. 

Finally, if there is a dog food ingredient that is too hard to pronounce or you find it suspicious, do not hesitate to talk to your vets and consult. 

Our Final Thoughts on Best Cheap Dog Food

Best Cheap Dog Food for dogs

Throughout this article, we provided a lot of information on the best cheap dog food. However, purchasing, make sure you do your research. It is critical that you consider your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, reproduction stage, any medical conditions, or food allergies.

After carefully researching hundreds of affordable dog foods, we believe nothing can beat our top choice – Blue Buffalo. In addition to being one of the best dog food brands, Blue Buffalo offers a range of products – dry food, canned food, or a grain-free diet. Plus, each food formula is loaded with high-quality and health-boosting nutrients. 

Sources

https://www.dogloversdigest.com/dog-food/best-cheap-dog-foods/

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/how-to-read-a-dog-food-label/#:~:text=Quick%20Tip%3A%20Look%20at%20the,%2C%20crude%20fiber%2C%20and%20water.

https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/omega-3/

https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/msg-dog-food-can-cause-brain-damage/

https://truthaboutpetfood.com/why-carrageenan-can-be-dangerous-to-your-pet/

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/recalls-withdrawals/melamine-pet-food-recall-frequently-asked-questions

https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/red-flag-ingredients/ethoxyquin-dangerous-dog-food-additive/