Dogs can eat quite a bit, and it’s not surprising that someone might try to find a budget dog food that they can feed their pet instead of a higher-end brand. However, even the ingredients in high-end brands can vary dramatically, and it’s natural to be concerned about the quality of a budget brand.
We’ve chosen 10 different popular budget foods to review for you so you can see just how different one brand is from another. We’ll tell you what we like and didn’t like about each kind, and give you a little insight into the ingredients and health benefits each brand provides. We’ve also included a short buyer’s guide where we explain what makes one brand better than another and what each food should include among its ingredients.
Join us while we look at kibble size, ingredients, health benefits, cost, and more to help you make an educated purchase. Here are the best cheap dog food options this year:
A Quick Glance at the Winners in 2022
The 10 Best Budget Dog Foods
1. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food – Best Overall
Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food is our pick for the best overall budget dog food. It contains United Sated farm-raised chicken as its number one ingredient, and it includes several other high-quality ingredients as well to help it supply a complete and balanced meal. Brown rice and beet pulp add fiber to the meal as well as a good supply of prebiotics, which help nurture and feed your bets natural probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria in your dog’s gut that help digest food and keep the digestive system balanced. Chicken fat is naturally high in omega fats, so your pet will be getting the nutrients it needs for healthy eye and brain development as well as a softer shinier coat.
Rachael Ray Nutrish doesn’t have any soy or corn ingredients or chemical preservatives, and the only negative thing we could say about this brand is that some dogs don’t like it. Healthier foods tend to be less appealing to some dogs.
2. Purina ONE SmartBlend Adult Dry Dog Food
Purina ONE SmartBlend Adult Formula Dry Dog Food is our runner-up for the best overall dog food. This brand contains lamb as its first ingredient, but you can also get it with chicken or turkey. It’s fortified with omega fats, which will help create a shiny coat, and it’s also a natural source of glucosamine. Glucosamine can help with joints and arthritis. Vets prescribe it to older dogs with arthritis, but it can help younger dogs as well. It features a highly digestible formula that’s easy on your pet’s sensitive gastrointestinal tract.
Like many healthy dog foods, the only real problem with Purina ONE SmartBlend is that some dogs won’t eat it.
3. Purina Puppy Chow Dry Dog Food – Best for Puppies
Purina Puppy Chow Complete Dry Dog Food is our choice for the best budget dog food for puppies. This brand uses a formula designed for puppies under one year. It has plenty of carbohydrates to provide extra energy and contains up to 27% protein to help keep up with their rapidly developing muscular system. It also contains vitamin C to help boost the immune system, and the recipe they use is highly digestible and shouldn’t throw off your pet’s delicate digestive system.
The main thing we didn’t like about Purina Puppy Chow Complete is that it contains corn, which can cause digestive issues with some pets.
4. Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dry Dog Food
The Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dry Dog Food uses select and limited ingredients to ensure a healthy balanced diet free from chemicals and harmful preservatives. It has turkey listed as the first ingredient, and it also contains plenty of complex carbohydrates, including brown rice, oat groats, pearled barley, and millet. It also has taurine, which can help with several nervous system and brain functions. It’s fortified with antioxidants and probiotics, which can help boost the immune system, and omega fatty acids can help with brain and eye development as well as a healthy coat.
What we didn’t like about Gentle Giants is that the kibble is a little big for some of your smaller dogs, and some of the dogs didn’t like it.
5. Iams ProActive Health Adult MiniChunks Dog Food
Iams ProActive Health Adult MiniChunks Dry Dog Food is a brand that our dogs liked a lot and contains chicken as its first ingredient. The kibble size is a little smaller than many other brands, so it’s perfect for smaller-sized dogs. It’s high in fiber as well as probiotics to maintain a balanced digestive tract, and it’s fortified with antioxidants to help your pet stay healthy. There are no artificial colors or dyes.
Even though our dogs like this brand, we couldn’t put it higher on the list because of some questionable ingredients. It has a lot of corn, which can cause problems for some dogs, and it also has chicken byproduct meal that we try to avoid.
6. Purina Dog Chow Adult Dry Dog Food
Purina Dog Chow Complete Adult Dry Dog Food delivers complete and balanced nutrition to your pet. It’s fortified with 23 essential vitamins and minerals and also contains omega fats to help your pet develop into a healthy dog. It also uses whole American-raised chicken in its ingredients.
The downside to Purina Dog Chow Complete is that corn is the number one ingredient, and some dogs can have difficulty digesting it. Another bad ingredient is the food dyes it contains, which can also cause problems for many dogs, and some may have an allergic reaction. It also has a bad smell that fills the whole room when you open a bag, and we found it quite expensive for a brand with corn as the main ingredient.
7. Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Dry Dog Food
The Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Dry Dog Food is a brand for adult dogs. It’s fortified with antioxidants and also contains essential vitamins and minerals. Whole grains provide a high amount of fiber that can help balance your pet’s digestive system. It also supplies omega fats for a healthy coat.
Unfortunately, Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition has corn as the main ingredient, and corn is an ingredient we try to avoid. We also found that this brand made our pets very gassy, which caused uncontrollable flatulence. Some of our dogs also had a hard time chewing this kibble.
8. Kibbles ‘n Bits Original Dry Dog Food
Kibbles ‘n Bits Original Dry Dog Food contains crunchy kibble and soft bits to add a bit of variety to your pet’s meal. It has added chicken and beef flavor that our dogs all seemed to enjoy, and it’s fortified with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will help boost your dog’s immune system.
Unfortunately, Kibbles ‘n Bits Original contains plenty of low-grade ingredients we would normally recommend avoiding. Corn is the first ingredient instead of whole meat like chicken, beef, or turkey. In fact, there isn’t any whole meat listed in the ingredients at all. This food also made a few of our dogs itchy, and their coats didn’t seem as shiny.
9. Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Adult Dry Dog
Diamond Naturals Beef Meal & Rice Formula Adult Dry Dog food contains many high-quality ingredients like flaxseed, taurine, and carrots, as well as superfoods like blueberries, spinach, and kale. It’s fortified with Vitamin E, A, and B12, as well as important minerals like copper, zinc, and iron. A unique probiotic blend helps balance the digestive system, and omega fats help with a healthy coat.
However, the Diamond Naturals blend doesn’t have any whole meats, only an ingredient labeled beef meal. Some of our dogs liked it, but it would cause loose stools and even occasional diarrhea. We blame the loose stools on the pumpkin ingredient, but you may want to introduce this food to your pet slowly to make sure they don’t get diarrhea. Eggs are another ingredient that many dogs are allergic to, so you’ll need to be careful if you don’t already feed them a food that contains eggs. Only about half of our dogs will eat this food. The others would try to avoid it.
10. True Acre Foods Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
True Acre Foods Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is the last brand on our list to review, but there are still some good qualities to this budget food. It features chicken as its first ingredient, and it also contains antioxidants, fiber, and Omega fats. There is no corn or artificial dyes included in this food, and the fruits and vegetables are farm-grown and inspected for quality.
True Acre Foods was hit-or-miss for many of our dogs, and several of them didn’t like this brand at all. The dogs that did like it would become very gassy and needed to go outside more often. Our biggest problem was that it contains poultry byproduct, even though it’s not that high on the list. The kibble may also be too hard for some dogs to chew, and it was quite dusty.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Budget Dog Food
Here are some important things to look for when choosing the best cheap dog food.
Store-Bought or Homemade
It’s easy to think that a homemade meal would be better for your pet than commercial dog food. However, your pet’s nutritional needs are very complex, and their digestive system very sensitive, so it’s best to feed them commercial dog food that provides a complete and balanced meal to keep your dog healthy and happy.
One place we do recommend cooking the food yourself is with dog treats. Often, commercial dog treats have a lot of bad ingredients, and you can make treats at home that are much better for your pet using online sources or a cookbook.
Wet or Dry Dog Food
Both wet and dry dog food provides a complete and balanced meal, but each has pros and cons that will take a look at here.
Dry Dog Food
Dry dog food is the most popular choice and is the type of food we recommend feeding your dog. The primary reason that dry dog food is preferred is that it helps clean your pet’s teeth. As your dog chews to dry kibble, it scrapes and rubs away plaque and tartar that can lead to cavities and gum disease. Plaque and tartar are also the main causes of bad breath. Dry dog food is also less expensive and comes in bigger packages.
The disadvantage to dry dog food is that some dogs don’t like it as well. The large packages also may be hard to keep fresh and get stale before your pet makes it through the bag. It’s also not uncommon to find mold or even bugs in dry dog food.
Wet Dog Food
The main advantage of feeding your dog wet food is that it provides moisture that dry food lacks. If your dog is constipated or dehydrated, wet food can help alleviate the symptoms and return your pet to normal. Many dogs also prefer wet food to dry food, so it’s good to put on top of the dry food to get your pet to eat it, and it also works for hiding any medication that your pet is refusing to take.
However, wet food will not clean your pet’s teeth. It may instead cling to the teeth and accelerate the rate of tooth decay as well as create bad breath. We recommend feeding your dog wet food only when you’re vigilant about manually brushing your pet’s teeth. Wet food is also more likely to cause diarrhea ended more expensive.
The ingredients listed on the bag is of critical importance when choosing a brand budget dog food. There are several ingredients to look for, and some to avoid. We’ll go over both in this section.
When we say whole meat, we mean real pieces of chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey are ingredients in creating the food. Avoid foods that push this important ingredient further down the list or remove it altogether. Many budget brands will substitute a less expensive meat byproduct or meat meal in place of whole meat. Meat byproduct is usually a dried and ground product that is not as healthy as whole meat, and many dogs can taste the difference.
You might also want to use caution when choosing a brand that uses exotic meat that is not part of a dog’s diet. Exotic meats include alligator, venison, kangaroo, and eel, among others. These exotic meats are a relatively new additive to commercial dog food, and there’s not a lot of research stating how these meats will affect your pet’s health over the long term.
Fruits and Vegetables
There are several vegetables that your dog can eat that will be beneficial to them, including carrots broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, and many more. These vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals, and they also are high in fiber, which helps keep your pet’s digestive tract in balance.
There are also several fruits your pet can eat, including blueberries, bananas, apples, oranges, peaches, pears, and mangoes. Fruit will also supply your pet with much-needed vitamins and minerals, and they will include antioxidants that help boost your pet’s immune system. We recommend finding a brand that lists a good amount of fruits and vegetables among its ingredients.
Other fortifications that we recommend you look for when choosing a brand of budget dog food are omega fats and probiotics. Omega fats can help with eye and brain development as your puppies grow into adult dogs. They also help maintain a smooth, shiny coat in adult dogs, and they help maintain moisture in the skin preventing rashes and other problems.
Probiotics are the good bacteria in the gut, and they will help balance your pet-sensitive gastrointestinal tract. They will help boost the immune system as most of your pet’s immune system resides in the digestive system.
What to Avoid
We’ve already mentioned the need to avoid meat by-products and meat meals in your pet’s food, but there are a few other ingredients you should avoid also. You also want to avoid chemical preservatives like BHA and BHT, which are very popular in dog food. Mini food dyes can also cause an allergic reaction in your dog, and since they don’t supply any nutritional value, we recommend avoiding brands that include them. In our reviews, we tried to specify any foods that contained ingredients you should avoid.
Conclusion: What’s the Best Dog Food for the Money?
We hope you enjoyed this roundup of the best affordable dog food available this year! When choosing a budget dog food, it’s going to be tough to be our best overall. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food has chicken as its first ingredient. It contains prebiotics and omega fats, and is also high in fiber. Purina ONE SmartBlend Adult Formula Dry Dog Food is another great choice. Our runner-up contains probiotics and glucosamine, which can help with adult dog’s sore joints.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over these reviews and learn some things about dog food you didn’t know before. If we have helped you choose a brand that’s both inexpensive and healthy please share these best budget dog foods on Facebook and Twitter.
We hope that this guide helps you find the best affordable dog food on the market. Good luck in your search!
Featured Image: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock