With the growing interest in—and body of evidence supporting—feeding our pets fresh, whole foods, many consumers are exploring raw diets. That’s exciting, because every dog will benefit from an optimal diet, often dramatically. According to Dr. Karen Becker, a leading integrative and wellness veterinarian, “Many of the chronic and acute diseases suffered by humans and animals are directly related to diet.” 

While feeding raw is admittedly more expensive than even the highest-quality kibbles, there are ways for pet owners to incorporate the advantages of raw on a budget. Let’s start with some of the simplest. 

1. Feed one raw meal a day instead of two.  

Many people find that feeding one raw meal a day is enough to provide significant benefits at essentially half the cost. It doesn’t matter which meal is the raw meal, but most of our customers find it easier to feed raw at dinnertime when they aren’t rushing to get ready for work—but if morning is more convenient, then make that the raw meal. Some like to mix raw and kibble together and serve that twice a day, as it makes the kibble more appetizing (one caveat: mixing can sometimes result in gassiness). We usually suggest that people experiment to find the best fit for their situation.  

2. Use raw as a tasty, high-value treat 

Substituting raw for conventional treats is a great way to get the benefits of raw and also familiarize both themselves and their dog with the product. Because it is so tasty, raw food is a high-value treat and a great way to incorporate fresh foods into the diet. You can portion out bite-size amounts or give a larger dog a whole 2-oz. patty. Compare a 3-lb. entrée bag of raw at $20.00 ($0.42/oz) to a 5-oz. bag of treats for $13.00 ($2.60/oz) – that’s quite a value! For those who don’t want to treat with raw, freeze-dried raw is a terrific option.  

3. Make raw an occasional meal 

The benefits of raw food are so important that even a once-a-week meal is well worth doing, according to top canine nutritionist, author and consultant Steve Brown. “Just one day per week provides your dog with additional high-quality protein, improves the balance of fats, and adds hundreds, perhaps thousands, of nutrients that were part of the canine ancestral diet and that are not usually available in commercial dry foods.”

4. Spend your money on great food, not veterinary bills 

It isn’t always the easiest sell, but it really is the best sell: feeding a properly balanced raw diet translates to less money spent at the vet’s office. According to the authors of Paleo Dog, “No matter what medicines, supplements, or treatments you give your dog, none of them is as important to overall health as diet. An animal cannot heal its body if its nutritional needs remain unfilled.” This book also provides an excellent description of the benefits of a balanced raw diet, including decreases in many chronic diseases, and savings on medications, prescription foods, flea baths and more as well as vet bills. 

In other words, pay now or pay later. And paying now, in the form of feeding your dog an optimal diet, means your dog gets to enjoy a healthier, happier life, and you get to enjoy that too! 

The bottom line is, the better we eat, the better we feel—and that’s as true for our dogs as it is for us. While there is a cost to eating well, it’s important to remember there’s also a cost to not eating well. We all have more control over the health of our pets, and our budgets, than we realize.