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The Long Term Cost of Cheap Dog Food

| Published on January 2, 2024

Reviewed by: Dr. Theresa Fossum

Reviewed by:

Dr. Theresa Fossum

Meet Dr. Theresa (Terry) W. Fossum, DVM, MS. Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS – a remarkable animal lover whose passion for animal care and innovative solutions has left an indelible mark on the veterinary world. As the CEO of both Phoenix Animal Wellness and Epic Veterinary Specialists, she's ensuring dogs and cats receive the highest level of care and compassion.Read more
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The dog food market presents a wide range of choices for pet parents. Before you decide which particular food to feed your pup, it’s important to understand the different types of food that are available and how they may impact your budget and your dog.Beagle eating food


Whether you’re new to the pet parenting game or just looking to change things up for the health and well-being of your furry friend, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to get the scoop on the different kinds of dog food and what those choices will cost in terms of money and health. We’ll discuss fresh food, like Ollie, wet food, raw and dry.

Fresh Dog Food

Fresh foods, such as Ollie, have entered the market as an alternative to kibble and canned foods. They’re cooked instead of processed, meaning their quality is often more consistent than other types of food. To put it simply, they retain the look and texture of real food because they are real food. Some fresh food companies use human-grade ingredients, including whole cuts of meats, vegetables, and grains. They typically have little to no preservatives and they’re usually fortified with necessary essential oils and nutrients.

And that’s just what you’ll find when you try Ollie for your dog because they’re a fresh dog food company that prioritizes freshness and quality above all else. Made with real, human-grade ingredients, each meal is designed with your dog’s nutritional needs at the forefront. From nutrient-rich lean meats to fiber-packed vegetables and legumes, Ollie ensures that every bite your dog takes is not just tasty but also wholesomely beneficial for their health.

Unlike many traditional dog food brands, Ollie doesn’t rely on heavy processing or artificial additives. Instead, they gently cook their food to preserve the integrity of their high-quality ingredients and then promptly deliver it to your doorstep. This ensures that each serving of Ollie dog food retains its freshness, vitality, and abundance of nutrients, providing your furry friend with the natural nourishment they deserve.

Financial Costs of Fresh Dog Food

Similar to commercially-packaged raw dog food, fresh food will run about $5 – $6.50 per day. Many fresh food companies deliver right to your door. Some even offer free delivery. If the meals are personalized and pre-portioned for your dog, you save time and effort, too.

Health Implications of Fresh Dog Food

Anyone with the most basic understanding of nutrition knows that eating whole, real foods is far healthier than eating processed foods. The same principle goes for dogs. Some of the proven health benefits for dogs who eat fresh food include:

  • Fresh ingredients are more digestible, enabling greater absorption of energy and therefore more energy for your dog.  
  • Shinier coats, healthier skin, and fewer skin allergies.
  • Brighter, healthier eyes, indicating improved eye health.
  • Smaller, firmer stools, which means your dog’s body is actually using the food being eaten, not just passing it.
  • Lower risk of colon cancer and other digestive tract-related illnesses.
  • Dogs with chronic conditions such as allergies, skin irritation, or sensitive tummies find relief on a fresh dog food diet (free of the artificial additives that cause these conditions) which also leads to fewer costly vet visits.
  • Longer life span due to a lowered risk of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

If you choose to feed your dog fresh food, there are no known risks to the health of your pet, provided you’re feeding meals that are properly portioned, balanced, and complete. If you want to go fresh, please enlist the support of a qualified veterinary nutritionist or choose a pet food company that employs one. This will ensure your dog is not missing out on any of the essential components to a healthy canine diet.

Happy dog outside

Wet Dog Food

Compared to dry food, wet food contains significantly more moisture, and is usually packed in serving-size cans. To make wet dog food, large batches of ingredients are mixed together and cooked. In many formulas, grain, gluten, and protein gels are used to make meaty chunks designed to look like real meat. The food is portioned and sealed in cans that are then sterilized by heating the cans to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the food to be shelf-stable.

Financial Costs of Wet Dog Food

Like kibble, wet food is also widely available at a range of prices and levels of quality. These foods range from a little over $1 per day to over $6 per day. For a higher-end formula, approximately 21 cans of food are required per week (3 cans per day) for a 30-pound dog. Yet, one must take into account shipping fees for online purchases or the costs of going out and buying wet food.

Health Implications of Wet Food

Generally speaking, wet foods contain more meat protein and less carbohydrates than dry food. Wet food is preserved via canning so it generally does not contain synthetic preservatives like most kibble. Heating the final product at a high temperature adversely impacts the nutritional quality of the food. Also, and most concerning, eating canned foods may expose your dog to BPA, which has numerous adverse health effects.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment found that BPA levels in the blood stream of subject dogs increased by 3 times after just 2 weeks of eating canned dog food. Exposure to BPA in humans has been linked to:

  • Reproductive disorders and breast cancer in women and impotence in men
  • Heart disease, diabetes, and liver-enzyme abnormalities
  • Problems in brain function, memory and learning
  • Reduced effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment
  • Asthma

Thus, if you want to use canned dog food, look for products that use BPA-free cans.

Raw Dog Food

Raw foods are a relative newcomer to the dog food market. They try to recreate diets similar to what dogs ate in the wild. Raw food formulas consist of raw, uncooked ingredients including meat, edible bones, organs, fruits, and vegetables. Because the food is uncooked or preserved, care must be taken to avoid bacterial contamination in the household. Raw diets are either homemade or commercially produced.

Financial Costs of Raw Dog Food

Commercially-produced raw foods that are nutritionally complete and balanced tend to have the least variance in cost between high-end and low-end options, running from approximately $6.30 to $6.50 per day. Again, you must account for costs associated with purchasing these products, which are not as widely available in stores as other options. Thus, you may need to pay shipping costs.

Health Implications of Raw Food

Properly balanced and complete raw diets can improve the health of your dog compared to kibble and canned foods. Raw diets can lead to the following benefits, as documented in a New Zealand study.

  • Shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, and smaller stools.
  • Improved digestive function.
  • Higher nutrient absorption.
  • Higher levels of good bacteria are associated with protein and fat digestion.

Potential health problems with a raw diet include:

  • Inadequate calcium and phosphorus can cause bone fractures and dental problems.
  • A 2006 study of 20 commercially available raw meat diets found that 7.1% contained a type of salmonella.
  • There’s a higher risk of E. coli bacteria in raw food diets.
  • These bacteria can be shed in the feces, leading to potential human exposure and infection.
  • Too much fat and not enough protein can cause mild anemia.

Dog eating raw food

Dry Dog Food

Kibble is super convenient, has a very long shelf life, and can be inexpensive. This is the biggest category in pet food with dry dog food sales at 68% of the total dog food share.

Dry dog food is made by combining grains, proteins, vitamins, fiber, and other ingredients such as preservatives in large batches. Those batches are cooked at extremely high pressure and temperature to create a doughy substance. That dough is then formed into pellets, balls, or similar shapes and cooked again to get the desired crunchy consistency. 

Financial Costs of Dry Dog Food

Dry dog food is sold in a variety of tiers from low-grade, cheap formulas to super-premium, pricier formulas. Most kibble brands cost between $1 and $2 per day, but it depends on your dog’s size and dietary needs. Additional financial costs associated with kibble include shipping or gas to drive to the pet supply store.

Dog eating dry food

Health Implications of Dry Dog Food

Many dog parents are recently turning their noses up at kibble. Recalls, low-quality ingredients, and FDA warnings are sounding alarms for dog families, making some of us question the kibble we feed our dogs. Food boredom is also an issue with kibble, making many dogs uninterested in dry food.

Here are some examples of dry dog food issues:

  • Most dry pet food has a number of problems, including poor-quality, rendered, and high-glycemic ingredients. Some may even have extreme processing that creates cancerous byproducts.
  • As soon as a bag of kibble is opened, important dietary fats in the food start to go rancid, and long-term consumption of rancid fats can negatively impact your pet’s health.
  • Starchy ingredients are used in high quantities in dry dog food. Carbs break down into sugar, which fuels degenerative conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Bottom Line on Dry Food

Kibble is by far the most convenient way to feed your dog and can be the least expensive. It offers basic nutritional needs for your dog, but if not carefully selected, it may cost your pet’s health, vitality, and longevity. If you choose to feed kibble, make yourself aware of the ingredients that are included as well as how they are processed, if possible.

Cute dog begging

Ready to Go Fresh?

iHeartDogs believes in the power of fresh food for dogs. Ollie is our official partner in fresh food for dogs. They deliver pre-portioned, human-grade meals to your door on a schedule that works best for you. Try Ollie today and get 60% off your first box!

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