Dog Owner Expenses: How Much Do You Spend on Dog Food per Month?

dog with a speech bubble "how much do you spend on dog food each month"

How much you spend on dog food per month is probably nominal compared to other expenses incurred by dog owners. However, food, unlike many other expenses, is not optional and cannot be postponed. 

How much you spend on dog food per month is based on the number of dogs you own, how much they eat, and the dog food brand you buy. On average, dog owners feed small to average-sized dogs with premium or specialty dog food for less than $40.00 a month or fresh delivered dog food for about $125.00.

Whether you’re a first time dog owner or you simply don’t keep track of your dog food expenses, this article is for you. We’ll cover the various types of dog foods available and how much they cost dog owners each month. We’ll also consider extra expenses such as training treats and dental products. 

Dog Owners Spend an Average of $37 per Month on Dog Food

Not all that long ago, puppies were free. We always knew someone whose dog had a litter of pups for whom they needed to find homes. Dog owners would just hand a kid a puppy simply for asking, and good luck when you got the pup home! 

We would find a box and stuff it with old clothes for a dog bed and feed the dog whatever we were eating each day. An occasional visit to a vet for distemper shots or an injury might be approved.

At some point during the last fifty years, our dogs became family members with all the entitlements of other family members. The dog food manufacturers have gotten the message that dog owners want clean, green, and healthy premium foods for their dogs just as they do for themselves. 

Worldwide, pet food is fast becoming a $100 Billion industry annually. Many manufacturers have moved their premium products to grocery store shelves and online stores instead of just pet specialty stores. 

Consumers like shopping in the same place for food for the whole family, including the dog. US dog owners spent an average of $442.00 on pet food in 2020. That is about $37.00 a month for an average-sized dog.

Food cost will vary based on the brand you buy, whether you add canned food or other additives to the dry food, and how much your dog eats. Still, compared to all the other pet ownership expenses, dog food is a bargain by comparison. 

Although, the best value in dog food is not always the cheapest. Many dogs have special dietary needs, just as people do. Luckily, you can maintain a healthy, well-fed dog at very affordable prices.

Average Monthly Cost of Human-Grade Dog Food

We found five highly rated human-grade dog food brands and determined the average monthly cost based on a 20-pound (9.07 kg) dog. The average monthly expense an owner can expect from these no-grain/no-filler dog foods is about $130.00.

Ollie 

Average Cost: $124.00 per Month

Ollie human-grade dog food is formulated to meet a dog’s nutritional needs. The food is cooked but only minimally, so it retains nutrients. 

There are no artificial flavors or preservatives, no fillers, and corn, wheat, or soy. Taste it and see why dogs love it. 

Ollie offers four recipes; beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb. 

Nom Nom

Average Cost: $125.00 per Month  

A board-certified veterinary nutritionist designs the nutrient makeup of the food. 

Instead of using animal feed-grade food, NomNom uses human-grade ingredients. 

The nutrient levels are based on those established by The Association of American Feed Control Officials. (AAFCO). 

All ingredients are sourced from USA farmers and prepared in their kitchens. 

Beef Mash, Chicken Cuisine, Pork Potluck, and Turkey Fare is the fresh food line-up for NomNom human-grade dog food. 

The Farmer’s Dog 

Average Cost: $125.00 per Month

The Farmer’s Dog is a vet-designed plan. They will customize meals especially for your dog based on a questionnaire you complete. The meals are proportioned to suit your dogs’ size and weight. 

The company makes known their scathing contempt of the commercial dog food industry as a whole.

The Farmer’s Dog brand of human-grade food is well-publicized, celebrity-supported, and highly-reviewed frequently.  

Darwin’s Pet

Average Cost: $115.00 per Month

Darwin’s Pet is a raw diet designed for dogs as they would have eaten in the wild if they were smart and lucky hunters.

Free-range meats and organically grown vegetables are selected and measured to supply your dog with complete nutrition. All ingredients are steroid, hormone, and antibiotic-free. 

Darwin also offers a lower-cost selection consisting of ordinary meat and vegetables rather than premium and organically grown. The cost is $95.00 per month.

Many dog owners are firm believers in a raw diet for their dogs. No doubt, the lack of processing and elimination of all fillers or additives has proven beneficial for dogs with stubborn allergies.

Spot & Tango 

Average Cost: $ 163.00 per Month

Spot & Tango fresh human-grade dog food is the costliest of the top 5 but you get what you pay for with this excellent option. 

You can get the same quality grade food, dehydrated and shelf-stable, just like commercial dog food. The only things missing are those fillers and grains you didn’t want anyway.

The cost for the same-sized dog is $85.00. Your dog gets the healthy food he needs, and you get the convenience of less frequent orders, easy storage, and portability.

All of these brands are made from fresh human-grade food and are nutritionally sound. They do not contain fillers or preservatives. Most are purchased from the individual brand’s online store and customized for your dog’s age and weight, and delivered to your door free of charge. 

The average cost per month for one 20 lb (9.07 kg) dog is about $130.00. For multiple dogs or large dogs, this is an expensive choice compared to top brand kibble. If eating clean is essential to you, then you won’t mind the extra cost. But it is your dog, your money, and your preference. 

It’s an excellent solution for dogs who, like many people, have allergies to preservatives and artificial colors. Certainly, it’s worth a try if you have been unable to relieve your dog’s discomfort.

If human-grade food solves the problem, you and your dog will be happier, and you’ll save money on vet visits and medications. 

Average Monthly Cost of Specialized Dog Food

Perhaps your vet has recommended a grain-free diet for your dog to help lose weight or for easier digestion. Indeed, there are many grain-free brands from which to choose because grain-free has been the trendy thing to do. 

People figure if Keto and gluten-free are good for them, it must be good for the dog. However, this isn’t actually true. Quality whole grains are good carbohydrates for your dog as long they are appropriately balanced with protein and fats; The grains also include needed fiber. 

But when grains are removed from the food, they are replaced by other carbohydrates like peas, potatoes, and soy. Conditions like obesity, cancer, pancreatitis, and diabetes are reasons to choose grain-free for easier digestion.  

If it seems that your dog is allergic to grains in his food it may be the quality of grain that is the problem. Cheap fillers like ground cornmeal are often the culprit, not the whole grain. 

You want value for your money, so always look for quality first, then price. 

That’s what I did when we found these grain-free, gluten-free, and well-balanced options, with no fillers and no GMOs. These five brands are comparable and among the top-selling and top-rated for customer satisfaction. The average cost per month is $20.00 

We think that Amazon’s own brand of dog food checks out for grain-free quality food at an amazingly low cost. Indeed, it’s worth trying to see if your dog likes it. Wag dog food would bring your yearly cost down to less than $145.00 a year for grain-free dog food. 

Merrick is the most expensive at around $38.00 per month, which would raise your yearly cost to over $450.00. 

The prices for these brands may be reduced by buying in larger sizes and signing up for Amazon’s subscription service. 

A reminder; my average costs are based on a 20-pound (9.07 kg) dog. Larger dogs may double and triple those estimates. 

ProductDescriptionKey Information
Taste of the Wild Their marketing strategy gives the nod to the dog ancestors, wild wolves. Their ingredients include buffalo, salmon, duck, venison, beef, and lamb. Protein: 25%Fat: 15Average monthly cost: around $15.00
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein, Natural Adult Dry Dog FoodPrimary ingredients include chicken, sweet potatoes, peas with additional essential nutrients.  Protein: 34%Fat: 15%Average monthly cost: around $18.00
Wellness CORE High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food, TurkeyPrimary ingredients are turkey, chicken, salmon oil, fruits, and vegetables.Protein: 36%Fat: 16%Average monthly cost: around $18.00
Merrick Grain-Free Healthy WeightBeef is the first ingredient with additional protein, fats, and carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits. All ingredients are locally sourced from trusted farmers. Protein: 32%Fat: 10%Average monthly cost: around $38.00
Wag Dry Dog/Puppy FoodThe high-protein formula includes beef and wild boar. The food is also offered with turkey, chicken, or salmon. Protein: 35%Fat:  15%Average monthly cost: around $12.00

Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food With Smoked Salmon

Average Monthly Cost of Dog Treats and Other Extras

Our dogs need chew bones, busy bones, treats, and special treats. They also need breath fresheners and dental health aids. Picky eaters or those with indulgent humans need unique food toppers to encourage them to eat their kibble. 

A few cans of wet food each month might be required as a mixer and softener for dogs with dental issues. The costs can add up.  

WebMD says treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake. But as long as you are spending money on them, why not choose those treats with added benefits?

Dental Products

Most vets approve dental products since they’re safe for dogs and beneficial for controlling plaque and tartar on your dog’s teeth. Feed one per day as recommended. The dental chews may increase your dog food costs by $10.00 to $35.00 per month. However, they may save you some money on dental expenses.

Here are some dental products from Amazon.com:

  • Original Greenies. Greenies are designed to be pliable enough that your dog can sink his teeth into the gum-line. Chewing action helps clean your dog’s teeth. They also help freshen his breath. The chews contain vitamins and minerals. This has a 5-star rating out of 5 stars. 
  • Merrick Fresh Kisses Breath Strips. Merrick Pet Care offers a comparable dental chew under their brand. These are called Fresh Kisses Breath Strips and are made from all-natural products and no gluten. Each chew is infused with spearmint for fresh breath. The double brush design is for extra teeth cleaning capabilities. This has a 4.7-star rating out of 5 stars.
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish Smoochies Brushes. Rachel Ray Nutrish brings us her version of dental chews with Smoochies. Apple and mint-flavored Smoochies are made from all-natural products and contain no grains. They, too, are shaped like a knubby toothbrush for removing plaque and tartar. This has a 4.3-star rating out of 5 stars.                          

Chew Bones

Chew bones are suitable for the dog’s teeth, and they fulfill the dog’s natural urge to chew. 

According to the American Kennel Club, bones are a good source of appetite-satisfying nutrients and minerals. 

Chewing bones alleviates boredom, so the dog is less likely to scratch and chew his paws. 

However, bones are also a choking hazard. Your vet may tell you that the risk is more significant than any benefit. 

Therefore, if you still want to give your dog bones, there are safety rules you will want to follow: 

  • Only give your dog raw, not cooked, meat bones. Cooked bones are brittle, and they splinter. Cooking removes the nutrients and increases the risk of choking. 
  • Big dogs should be given big bones. 
  • Small dogs should be given bones so big they can just barely manage to carry them in their mouth. 
  • Always give the whole bone, never pieces.
  • Only give the dog an appropriate bone when no other dogs are present, and you or a family member is present to supervise. 
  • Fifteen minutes at a time is about as long as he should have the bone. Then it needs to be refrigerated again. 
  • Only keep the bone for about four days, dispose of it, and replace it with a fresh bone. 

Butchers sell meat bones for use as soup bones or dog treats. They may charge $1.00-$3.00 per pound (0.45 kg)

Make friends with your local grocery store butcher, and you might get the bones free of charge. The same is true for meat packing houses. If you have freezer space, you can acquire the bones in bulk and freeze them. 

The FDA warns against buying processed and packaged dog bones for your dog. They are unsafe for dogs because the bones are a composition of small bones, which is a choking hazard. 

In addition, the bones are processed and flavored rather than natural, so they are unstable.

The AKC, on their website, suggests an alternative to natural raw chew bones: American Kennel Club Chicken Chew’ N’ Bones (available on Amazon.com). The chews are easily digestible and helpful with tooth cleaning. They are available in other flavors and are acceptable for all-sized dogs.

The first six ingredients are:

  1. Rice flour
  2. Glycerine
  3. Water
  4. Calcium carbonate
  5. Cellulose
  6. Vegetable oil

Training Treats

Dog owners enjoy giving treats to their dogs, and dogs want to get those treats. It’s how we say “I love you.”

Except for training, treats are not necessary. But if you must buy them, keep in mind that one is a treat and two is a Snickers bar. 

Most of the package treats in stores are high in calories and preservatives and low in nutrition. They’re cheap to buy. You can buy a month’s worth of daily treats for under $10.00.

We checked the recommendations of Preventative Vet for ideas from dog trainer Cathy Madson, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA. The most highly valued treats Include small pieces of turkey, chicken, fish, beef hearts, and lamb liver. The average monthly cost for one bag of premium treats can range from around $12 to $20.

Here are some great options we found on Amazon.com: 

As we mentioned before, treats are not a necessary monthly dog food expense. But if you are going to buy them, choose nutritional choices and hand them out sparingly. 

Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Beef Nibs Dog Treats - All Natural - Made & Sourced in USA - Grain Free - 2.5 oz Resealable Pouch - 10 Pack

Invest in Quality Dog Food

In my opinion, premium healthy dog food, even specialty formulas, are a bargain.

If you are checking your budget to see if you can afford a dog, essential food of premium quality will not be a burdensome expense.

Firstly, you need dog food that your dog really likes and looks forward to eating. It should meet the dogs’ nutritional requirements. Dogs need protein, fat, and carbohydrates with easily digestible fiber. A reasonable ratio is 20% protein-10% fat and the rest carbohydrates with added nutrients. 

If you notice your dog is scratching or has inflamed skin, may be having an allergic reaction to one ingredient in his food, and you should try another brand. 

Avoid the cheaper brands that many will recognize. They have been around for decades.  Alpo, Purina, Gravy Train, Kalkan are brands that are still on the supermarket shelves today. 

They are not recommended by any pet food experts because of cheap, mystery protein ingredients, fat, grain, and meal fillers. They meet the standards for feed but they are hard to digest, lack essential nutrients, and will make the dog fat. 

You may choose to increase your costs by buying food items that are not essential. If it makes you and your dog happy and you can afford them, do it. Just don’t skimp on the daily food in favor of treats.

Additionally, dog food is processed at high temperatures according to FDA and AAFCO standards for animal feed. I did say animal feed because that is what is in the bag. 

Kibble is not human-grade food, so the standards set for chicken used in dog food are not the same as those for the chicken you are roasting for dinner.

The top brands of dog food far exceed the AAFCO minimum standards. Corporations have billions riding on their product. One slip up, and they’re out of business because consumers have plenty of other options. 

Conclusion

  1. Pancreatitis is often preventable if we avoid giving our dogs high-fat people food and forbidding others to do so, even on holidays. One day of feasting could trigger pancreatic inflammation. 
  2. Reach out to your Vet at the first sign of pancreatitis to prevent further discomfort for the dog and damage the pancreas.
  3. Follow the Vet’s feeding directions explicitly. If the Vet says low-fat commercial food is fine, then choose one from our list. If the Vet prescribes a low-fat food, then that’s the one to buy. 
  4. The price differences in dog food brands and between commercial and prescription are not significant enough to risk your dog’s health. 

Sources

Andrew

My name is Andrew, and I've been around dogs my entire life. Look at my profile picture and, you see me as a little kid with my family's two German Shepherds. That's how my life with dogs started, and ever since, I've been both living and working with dogs.

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