Can Cheap Dog Food Be Healthy?

cheap dog food

Most cheap dog food is not very good – they are cheap because they use cheap, substandard ingredients.

I was recently asked if a cheap dog food can be healthy. The answer for the most part is ‘no’. Dog food is made cheaply by using lots of low quality and by-product ingredients. That being said, you don’t necessarily have to buy the most expensive dog food, either. While a healthier dog food will be a bit more than something like Ol’ Roy or Alpo, you don’t have to get a gourmet dog food. What you need to do is look at the ingredients label to see what you are really feeding your dog.

What To Look For In A Healthy, Cheap Dog Food

The following are the things I would look at when comparing cheap dog foods to see which would be best for my dog:

  • Flavorings/preservatives/colorings: I stay away from foods that have flavorings added – if you’ve got to flavor it, it’s probably no good.
  • Preservatives: look for natural ones, like vitamin C & E (ascorbic acid & tocopherols) – stay away from BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin, which can cause health problems.
  • Colorings: it’s just not needed – your dog doesn’t care and it’s just more artificial things in their body that they have to overcome. Basically, stay as natural as possible.
  • Unidentified meat sources: meat, meat by-product, poultry, poultry by-product, fish, etc – when the source is not identified (i.e. chicken, beef, lamb, salmon) you just don’t know what you are getting. This is a huge red flag for me.
  • Too much grain: if grains or grain-byproducts are the majority of the first 5 ingredients, then the chances that your dog will develop allergies or food intolerance are greater. Although dogs are omnivores, their main source of protein should be meat – they don’t process grain protein as well and efficiently as meat protein. If I could only afford a high grain dog food, I would really try to supplement with human-grade meat and/or eggs. High grain dog foods (which are mainly by-products and not the ‘whole grain’ many people think of) are probably the cheapest dog food you will find.
  • Read the post on How to Read The Dog Food Ingredients Label to understand what is considered good, OK, and bad ingredients.

What If Cheap Dog Food Is All I Can Afford?

So what can you do if all you can afford is cheap dog food? If it were me, I would supplement the food I could afford with multi-vitamins and/or human vegetables and meats.

Human Food Helps Cheap Dog Food

One of the easiest ways to supplement is to use human food. Look for bargains while you grocery shop. When frozen vegetables go on sale, I stock up, especially the store brands. I’ll grab a couple of different types of vegetables and throw them in the blender with some water and apple cider vinegar. My daughter calls them vegetable smoothies for the dogs.

Other things I look for on sale are cottage cheese and yogurt. Eggs are another relatively cheap food that is packed full of nutrients. Just by adding these things in with cheap dog food can help boost the nutritional value of their food.

Refer to my page ‘Do Not Feed’ on ingredients that should NOT be fed to dogs.

Supplements for Cheap Dog Food

Another way to supplement cheap dog food would definitely be canine vitamins. Enhancing the dog food with vitamins will help your dog be less prone to illness and allergies as it helps boost the overall health and immune system.

And there are all sorts of supplements out there. If your dog is experiencing certain problems, such as hip/joint pain, try adding a supplement with glucosamine for dogs. These also contain the core vitamins/minerals, but also extra supplements targeting special dog health problems.


Cheap dog food just isn’t going to be the healthiest dog food, but if that is all your budget will allow, you really should try to supplement with multi-vitamins and raw, human ingredients if at all possible. Even if it is only a couple of days a week that you can supplement your cheap dog food, your dog will be able to stay healthier.