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Feeding Your Dog a Raw Diet on a Budget: Ultimate Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cute puppy waiting raw dog food in a white bowl

Most of us have heard the expression, “You get what you pay for,” plenty of times. However, when it comes to your dog’s diet, this becomes a sad truth. Companies can charge an incredible premium for foods that fall under a raw diet banner because it requires top-notch ingredients and high-quality production.

If you believe that feeding your pup a raw diet is the best option for them but don’t have the money to buy each meal, this article is for you! We go over what a raw diet is, why it is so expensive, and how to serve it up on a budget.

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What Is a Raw Diet for Your Dog?

A raw dog food diet is what it sounds like. You feed your dog raw food, including meat, bones, vegetables, and fruit, to give them a complete diet. It should contain all the nutrients essential for their growth and maintained development.

The Benefits of a Raw Diet

  • Cutting out fillers
  • Keeping their food 100% species-appropriate
  • Having complete control over their food

According to Pets WebMD, the potential health benefits of a raw food diet include:

  • Healthier skin
  • Clean teeth
  • Shiny coats
  • Increased energy levels
  • Smaller stool

However, feeding a dog a raw diet is still relatively controversial. It does take more care and consideration to source, store, and serve this food safely.

French Bulldog eating Cucumber
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

The Risks of a Raw Diet

  • Threats from bacteria in raw meat to both humans and dogs
  • More challenging to balance and ensure total health
  • Bones can be a choking hazard or cause teeth breakage

Typical foods that you might find in a raw food diet include raw eggs, meat from organs like livers and kidneys, and muscle meat, generally on the bone. Bones might be either ground or whole.

Vegetables are necessary even though dogs are obligate carnivores. In the wild, dogs would get a small amount of nutrition from fruits and vegetables after consuming their prey’s digestive system.

Fruits and vegetables that you can use in a raw diet should always get cleaned thoroughly before serving. These might include apples, celery, broccoli, and even spinach.

Always look up the safety of a particular fruit or vegetable for your pup before serving it to them. Just because humans can eat it doesn’t mean it is safe for dogs.

mastiff dog eating a raw bone
Image Credit: A.P.S.Photography, Shutterstock

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Why Is a Raw Diet So Expensive?

Raw diets are typically more expensive than either canned food or kibble. Most people do not craft their own raw meals for their dogs because it takes so much more time and maintenance to ensure their continued health. Instead, they usually purchase premade raw food meals, which can cost $2 to $4 each.

Why are these premade meals so expensive when technically, kibble is also “premade?”

You are essentially paying for the safe sourcing of raw meats and vegetables without worrying about bacteria that could make your dog sick. You also pay for the balance of ingredients, much like a bag of kibble or canned food would have. Finally, raw foods have to be packaged and delivered with more safety precautions to ensure continued health.

That means the primary way that you can reduce the cost of a raw diet is to do it yourself. We have tips for sticking to your budget and for simple ways to maintain a raw diet for your dog.

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Tips for Staying on a Budget

Sticking to a budget can be difficult. The best way is to plan, organize, and be incredibly specific. You should set an exact dollar amount for what you can afford to pay. Then, you can figure out exactly where you have room to fudge and other areas that you need to stay strict with yourself.

1. Keep Coupons

After you set your dollar amount, you can start saving money to stay under that amount. That includes keeping coupons, an age-old trick to maintaining a budget. If you know that a raw meat supplier puts coupons in a newspaper, pay the newspaper’s price to save more money later.

2. Find Asian Supermarkets

Asian supermarkets are excellent suppliers for all kinds of meal additives for dogs. The whole animal tends to be used in Asian cuisine, whereas American and European markets tend to be much pickier. Your dog, however, is not so picky. The more parts of the animal that you can include in their meals, the more well-rounded their diet will be.

Try to find things at Asian supermarkets like various parts of birds, cows, or pigs. You can often find things in bulk, like animal hearts for less than $5, which can easily be chopped into cubes and frozen for later.

3. Pinpoint Budget Grocery Stores

Locate the grocery stores in your area that cater to budget buyers. In some regions, some stores get things that didn’t expire but didn’t sell the way that bigger stores wanted them to. Places like Walmart might sell these “extras” for much cheaper so you can buy these unwanted food items for half their original price or less.

Siberian husky dog puppy eating a meat_Tati argent_shutterstock
Image Credit: Tati Argent, Shutterstock

Also, you can track and keep your dogs healthy by using our dog feeding tool below:

The exact amount of calories an individual animal needs to maintain a healthy weight is variable and influenced by many factors including genetics, age, breed, and activity level. This tool is meant to be used only as a guideline for healthy individuals and does not substitute veterinary advice 

Divider 5Tips for Sticking to a Raw Diet

Prepping, storing, and making your own raw meals is hard work. Over time, it might not seem like it is worth it. However, take note of your dog’s energy levels and the health of their body, coat, and teeth before abandoning the diet and switching to kibble. If you still struggle, here are three tips to help you out.

1. Strategize a Meal Plan

Planning is what a personalized raw diet is all about. You will find that it is much easier if you don’t walk into the kitchen each night with little to no idea of what you need to make.

Making a meal plan is an excellent way to stick to a budget. It helps you consistently inventory what you have, when you are going to use it, and how much. Planning also helps you know that your dog’s food is balanced.

It is best to write this information down somewhere for referral as you continue. A dog’s food doesn’t need to change dramatically every week. A weekly meal plan using what you have can easily incorporate all the nutrition that they need.

woman writing up a plan
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

2. Buy Bulk and Freeze

Buying in bulk is a great way to save money for large families. It is also a good way for you to save money on your dog’s raw diet. By buying in bulk, you can plan further into the future.

Do the work to portion out meal-sized proportions, wrap them up properly, and label them with the date. Then, stick them in the freezer, and take them out as needed to thaw, one meal at a time. It will save you money and time.

3. Check in With Your Vet

Finally, take your dog to check-ups with your vet. If you need reassurance regarding how the raw diet is going, speaking to your vet is the best way to get this. They can tell you if you need to supplement your dog’s diet with anything else or if you are doing a great job.

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Raw diets for our pets are becoming more and more popular. However, purchasing a plan from a company can get pretty costly. If you want to feed your dog a raw diet, there are plenty of ways to save money. However, you need to work with an animal nutritionist to ensure you’re giving your dog all the nutrients they require.

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Featured Image Credit: Jan Dix, Shutterstock

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