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The 8 Best Budget Dog Foods

Even though luxury dog food products have grown, it is still feasible to provide your dog a diet that is nutritionally balanced without blowing your shopping budget. While there are excellent dog meals available from boutique makers and subscription programs, it is frequently more cost-effective to purchase dog food from larger companies.

Richard C. Hill, PhD, DACVIM (medicine), DACVIM (nutrition), associate professor and board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the University of Florida, recommends a national brand because there are more states evaluating whether pet food firms comply with the regulations. "I also recommend a major company since they have the capacity to inspect their supply chain and test their products more thoroughly than smaller ones."

We've researched many brands of full, balanced dog food that won't need you to don a monocle or take out a second mortgage. While it is always essential to consult your dog's veterinarian before making a nutritional change, especially if your dog is older or has a sensitive stomach, our budget-friendly recommendations are an excellent starting point for your own investigation.

Our favorite brand overall is Purina ONE, which provides complete nutrition in a variety of formulations. Additionally, it has both crunchy kibble and meaty chunks, so most dogs enjoy it. However, we also propose numerous alternative dog meals that your dog may enjoy even more.

Here are the best budget dog foods listed by BestForPets (bestforpets.org).


Best Overall Dry: Natural Purina ONE SmartBlend Dog Food

What We Enjoy

  • Genuine meat primary ingredient
  • Reputable brand with many of the same benefits as the premium line
  • Prebiotic material
  • Texturally diverse meal containing both chewy and crunchy components
  • Numerous formulations and sizes

What We Dislike

  • No probiotics

Purina Pro Plan is one of our most recommended dog feeds, and we especially appreciate their puppy formula, but Purina’s budget brand, Purina ONE, offers many of the same benefits. Purina ONE is available for as cheap as $1.26 per pound (for a 40-pound bag), although Purina Pro Plan is more expensive at around $1.70 per pound.

The first component in Purina ONE Smartblend Natural Dog Food Chicken & Rice Formula is real chicken (just as lamb is the first ingredient for the Lamb & Rice formula, etc.). It is manufactured without fillers and contains prebiotic fiber to promote a healthy microbiome.

It also contains glucosamine, which is often advised by vets for joint health (while the study is ongoing, adding glucosamine to your dog’s diet is safe). In addition to providing full nutrition, Purina ONE is sure to be popular with your dog due to its blend of crunchy kibble and delicate meat chunks.

Purina ONE doesn’t include probiotics, unlike Purina Pro Plan. Despite the fact that probiotics have been shown to have certain advantages, healthy dogs presumably do not need them, and evidence of their usefulness is still limited. 

Additionally, Purina ONE contains somewhat less fiber and natural nutrients. If you’re searching for basic dog food for an adult dog without special dietary requirements, you may save money without sacrificing quality by choosing ONE over Pro Plan.

Purina ONE Smartblend Natural Dog Food is available in Chicken & Rice, Beef & Rice, and Lamb & Rice flavors, as well as formulae designed for puppies, older dogs, big breeds, dogs with sensitive stomachs, and others. It is also offered as a wet food formula.

  • Life Stage: Adult︱Available Flavors: Chicken & rice, beef & rice, lamb & rice, and more︱Nutritional Specs: 26 percent protein, 16 percent crude fat, 12 percent moisture


Best Overall Wet: Canned Dog Food Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Chicken Dinner

What We Enjoy

  • The meat of superior grade
  • Vegetables in their entirety
  • There are no artificial colors or preservatives.
  • A diverse spectrum of tastes

What We Dislike

  • Small breed portions may be insufficient for medium-small dogs, while full-size can amount may be excessive.

The first three components in Blue Buffalo’s Homestyle Recipe “Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables” recipe are chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver, but you can also see carrots and peas. Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe is a pate-style wet food with no corn, wheat, or soy in it.

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe comes in a variety of tastes, such as Turkey Meatloaf, Beef Dinner, Fish & Sweet Potato, Lamb Dinner, and others. There are also customized mixes for tiny breed dogs that come in 3.5-ounce chunks rather than the regular 12.5-ounce container.

  • Life Stage: Adult (also available in large breed formula)︱Available Flavors: Chicken, turkey, beef︱Nutritional Specs: 8.5 percent protein, 5.5 percent fat, 78 percent moisture


Best for Puppies: High Protein Purina Pro Plan Dry Puppy Food

What We Enjoy

  • There are numerous recipes available, including large breeds.
  • There are no artificial colors or tastes.
  • Smaller kibble sizes are available for tiny breeds.

What We Dislike

  • Bags that are larger more cost-effective, although little breeds might become stale quicker

Puppies develop quickly and require almost double the energy of an adult dog of the same breed, and this vet- and breeder-recommended brand contains everything your growing canine requires. Puppy mixes are often increased in fat and protein content to aid with growth. It also includes DHA, which is good for the brain and visual development.

Purina Pro Plan Puppy comes in a variety of flavors that cater to various young dog age ranges and demands.

  • Life Stage: Puppies︱Available Flavors: Chicken, lamb, beef︱Nutritional Specs: 28 percent protein, 18 percent fat, 12 percent moisture


Best Bulk Buy: Adult Complete Nutrition Dog Food by Pedigree

What We Enjoy

  • Easily accessible
  • Budget-friendly

What We Dislike

  • Corn is the first component mentioned.
  • Kibble is too big for little dogs.

If you have a picky eater, Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition is a great bulk buy, available in packages weighing up to 44 pounds. It’s complete and balanced, with no artificial flavors or sugar added. The kibble is available in three distinct sizes, providing your dog with a variety of textures.

  • Life Stage: Adult︱Flavors: Steak, chicken︱Nutritional Specs: 21 percent protein, 10 percent fat, 12 percent moisture


Best for Seniors: ProActive Health Mature Adult Dry Dog Food by Iams

What We Enjoy

  • Smaller nuggets are simpler for older dogs to chew, particularly if they have dental problems.
  • Large breed formula is also available.

What We Dislike

  • It is sometimes difficult to locate

Senior dogs require protein to maintain muscle strength and may benefit from diet including brain and joint health vitamins. The first component of Iams Proactive Health Good Aging Dog Food is genuine chicken, and it provides nutrients to assist aging joints as well as fiber for healthy digestion. This may help elderly dogs maintain more consistent toilet habits.

  • Flavors: Chicken︱Life Stage: Senior (age 6 or older for large dogs, 7 to 10 years for small dogs)︱Nutritional Specs: 24 percent protein, 10.5 percent fat, 10 percent moisture


Best Grain-Free: Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Pumpkin Dog Food

What We Enjoy

  • Grain-free cuisine at a reasonable price
  • The first component is real chicken.
  • Sweet potato and pumpkin are both simple to digest.

What We Dislike

  • It is sometimes difficult to locate

Grain-free meals are intended for dogs with dietary sensitivities who have been identified by a veterinarian, not for the ordinary dog.

Despite its growing availability in recent years, giving your dog a grain-free diet is not suggested since it has been linked to an increase in heart illness or dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. If your dog is on a grain-free diet, as prescribed by your veterinarian, this low-priced brand is a terrific choice.

  • Life Stage: Adult︱Available Flavors: Chicken, salmon, lamb︱Nutritional Specs: 25 percent protein, 12 percent fat, 10 percent moisture

Buyer's Guide

Nutritional Adequacy Statement from AAFCO

Based on the most recent research in pet nutrition, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, recognizes acceptable components and recommends nutrient profiles for pet foods.

They do not, however, examine, authorize, certify, or regulate pet foods. Instead, the group establishes a baseline for each state’s feed laws. Foods must fulfill nutritional standards defined in AAFCO’s minimal requirements in order to be promoted as “complete and balanced.”

Complete and Equitable

“The food should be labeled as ‘complete and balanced for the life period the diet is intended to feed,” says Richard C. Hill, Ph.D., DACVIM (medicine), DACVIM (nutrition), associate professor and board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the University of Florida. “Many dog meals are suitable.”

Stage of Life

Pet meals are designed for different periods of your dog’s life. Growth and Reproduction (puppies and pregnant dogs), Adult Maintenance (adult dogs), and All Life Stages diets are available.

Furthermore, the breed of a dog influences what life-stage diet is advised. Large breeds, for example, with an adult weight of 70 pounds or more, may be more sensitive to extra calcium in their diets as they mature.

As a result, “it’s critical to feed huge or giant breeds a diet with very limited levels of calcium throughout growth,” explains Hill. Look for packaging that indicates “growth” and is designed for huge breeds.

Wet Versus Dry

Wet foods have 75 to 78 percent moisture, whereas dry meals include 10 to 12 percent moisture. Because your pet must chew dry meals, they prevent tartar formation, but wet foods may be more tempting to finicky eaters, older dogs, or dogs that have difficulties chewing due to tooth loss.

It’s also OK to combine kinds. More importantly, check with your veterinarian about your dog’s calorie requirements to avoid overfeeding. Obesity, as it does in humans, may have a negative impact on your dog’s health and lifespan.


Should you feed your dog raw food if you’re on a tight budget?

Raw food is actually not suggested for any dog. Regardless of what you may have heard on numerous websites supporting such a diet, there is no scientific evidence that raw pet food is superior to any other type.

“Raw meals frequently include potentially harmful organisms that can impact both the animal and humans who handle the animal,” Dr. Hill explains.

Another actual danger? Imbalances in nutrition.

How much money should I set aside each month for dog food?

According to a recent owner study, monthly dog food costs ranged from $17 to $195. It obviously depends on the size of your dog and the sort of food you buy. Little dogs will use less calories, however larger dogs will consume a greater portion of your money.


For the best budget dog foodsBestForPets (bestforpets.org) selected Purina ONE Smartblend Natural Dog Food because it offers many of the same benefits as one of our favorite premium meals, such as chewy and crunchy kibble, as well as a variety of tastes and formula alternatives. Purina Pro Plan Puppy High Protein Dog Food is recommended for pups since it is designed to encourage growth and is also available in big breed formula to satisfy the particular nutritional demands of huge and gigantic breed dogs.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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