Here at Savings Guide, we are constantly looking for new ways to assist with personal finance matters. And, with 36% of Australian households owning a dog and 23% owning a cat, it’s clear that pets play a big part in our lives, both emotionally and financially.
For the time being, let’s look at the third of households who own a dog. The costs of owning a dog are not stratospheric, with the RSPCA estimating you’ll need to spend a minimum of $650 on food alone. But, when we look at how best to ensure a long and happy life for Spot, it’s clear the cost and quality of dog food is an important issue. As a nation, we spend $1.8 billion annually feeding our pets, so this is also an area that affects a large number among us.
As the biggest expense- and one of the biggest factors in the health of a dog- it’s important that the diet we provide is well-researched, cost-effective and nutritious. Here’s how to keep the pooch one happy camper. Firstly, let’s look at what human food (otherwise known as leftovers) you can feed your dog, and then some options of pet food you can make at home to save money on commercial products.
Consider this a guide to making your own cheap dog food and alternatives to buying commercial dog food that is expensive.
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Firstly, What Does Your Dog Need?
Like us, your dog needs a balanced diet. The pet food industry hasn’t existed forever. The first commercial products were invented in the late 1800s and some varieties were popular before the Second World War. During the war, however, pet food was classified as non-essential and animals were only fed dry food, such as kibble. The real explosion happened post-war.
What does this tell us? That the endless purchasing of a variety of products from the supermarket is not necessarily the best thing we can do for our animal. Animal nutritionists suggest a baseline of commercial product to ensure that their getting a full range of nutrition- look for packs that shout of being balanced and nutritional. But commercial products are a baseline only. Supplement your dog’s diet with a variety of healthy, homemade options and save money in the process. You’re looking to include a protein source, a carbohydrate source, vitamins and minerals as well as a small amount of fat.
Every dog is different, so it’s best to discuss what your dog needs with your vet to ensure they’re getting the best combination of foods for their health.
You’re doing your butcher a favour. This is the person you want onside, for while we might think of dogs eating any stray bone, the RSPCA suggests that they should be fed human grade meat. Dogs aren’t susceptible to salmonella as we are, but that doesn’t mean they can eat anything. Don’t feed them cooked bones, or any bones that might be small enough to swallow. Keep raw bones to once or twice a week.
An important way we can save money, the environment and our dog’s stomachs is to consider what leftovers a dog can be fed. Australians throw away $5 billion worth of food annually, so using everything we have in our fridge is essential for frugality purposes. And yes, your dog can be fed some cooked veggies. Pumpkin and carrots are good, though only in small amounts.
You might not think it, but a dog can quite easily munch down on a small serving of pasta or plain rice. Cooked of course. This is, again, a way to save on throwing food out and supplementing your dog’s diet of commercial product. Avoid feeding the dog anything that’s been doused in onion sauces or, you know, chocolate.
Small amounts of boiled chicken or lamb- sans delicious sauces of course- are perfectly good for the ol’ bow-wow. If you’re feeding your dog dry food, then a bit of leftover cooked meat can be an excellent way to supplement the diet. Just be sure there aren’t any bones in the meat.
A Can Here, A Can There
Likewise, a dry food diet can be supplemented with the occasional can of tuna. It’s a cheap, healthy alternative to pet food. Use tuna in springwater as opposed to oil, as that can be a bit heavy on canine stomachs as well as human ones. Keep fish occasional though, it’s a long time since dogs descended from wolves.
Homemade Pet Food
It’s important to note that it’s best to check all homemade pet food recipes with your vet to ensure it meets the need of your dog. Also, rotate what you feed your pooch and make sure it gets checked out twice every year. Only keep your homemade dog food for 3 days in the fridge. Making your own pet food as part of your dog’s diet is also a good way to avoid your dog being exposed to a large amount of preservatives in its food.
Lean ground beef, combined with cooked carrots, potatoes, a slice of dry white bread, raw liver and brown rice makes an excellent patty for your dog to enjoy. So gourmet!
Ground turkey is cheap to buy and makes an excellent base for homemade pet food, especially when combined with carrots for nutrition. Oats can also be used as part of your dog’s starch requirements.
Meatloaf is another cheap dog food option, and can combine all the nutrients that best suit your dog. Using a base of lean ground beef, veggies and eggs, you can tailor the meatloaf- in consultation with a vet- to include all the things that your dog needs and loves.
Leftover Trail Mix
Mix pieces of meat, potato and vegetables, even fruit (if not raisins). Lightly coat with cooking spray and chuck it in the dehydrator or a 200 degree oven until dried for a tasty dog treat.
Homemade Dog Biscuits
Combine 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour with a tiny bit of salt, one egg, 1 tsp of beef or chicken broth and 1/2 cup hot water. Mix into dough. Cut into slices or dog-shaped cookies and bake for 35 minutes.