According to a recent article, pet food spending is at an all time high. The average annual dog food expense is $259. The average for cats is $225 each year. Plus $127 and $58 a year on dog on cat treats, respectively. Quite a few factors go into this number – let’s investigate before we determine if $259 a year is enough for our pets.

This number, $259,  comes from dividing total pet food sales in 2018  by the total number of pets believed to be in people’s homes. This doesn’t include people food that is shared with pets. That’s ok because there’s more to evaluate.

First, let’s look at the average cat vs the average dog. The average adult cat weighs 10 pounds, ranging from 6 to 26 pounds. The average dog weighs close to 30 pounds. The average dog is calculated by adding up the theoretical weight of every single dog and dividing by the number of dogs. I’m not trying to insult your intelligence- I know you know how to calculate an average. But consider adding all the tea cups with all the mastiffs and everything in between. That average dog is the one that an average of $259 was spent on food last year.

But we, the pet owning public, can do our own math regarding pet food. Everything from the cheapest, low quality food to the most expensive food and average them together.

Do you think if you had a 30 pound dog, say a cattle dog, $259 a year is an ideal pet food expense? I mean, it sounds like a reasonable number the way it is presented in the article. $259 a year comes out to 71 cents a day, or $22 a month. That cute little tabby cat? That’s $.62 a day/$19 a month.


That’s nothing! I spend $2.14 a day for a double shot of espresso. (I have been known to go back for more coffee a couple more times in the day.) In the off chance you, too, have a coffee habit – daily visits to Starbucks or equivalent will cost you more than $1220 a year. In case you are a soda drinker, that annual number is pretty similar to my coffee number – the average family spends $850 a year on soda. With these numbers, I spend almost 5 times more on coffee than the average household spends on pet food.

Hello! I’m not advocating coffee, or soda, for pets – I’m advocating for spending a bit more money and buying pet food with quality ingredients and showing you it doesn’t cost that much to do it.

If I fed premium food to my hypothetical 30 pound cattle dog, it might cost $1.70 a day. It’s less than my coffee habit. If I fed top-of-the-line, fresh food, I might spend $2.90 a day. Truthfully, it’s still less than my coffee habit. Why does it seem easy to justify the coffee (soda) expense but not the daily pet food expense?

So if I spend $1200 a year on coffee but only $259 a year on dog food for one dog, am I really spending enough money for my dog’s good health? (Seems like I’m shortchanging my cat even worse at $228 a year.)

Another interesting thing about the spending statistics – pet owners spend the same amount of money on veterinary care as they spend on pet food. (Would you believe Americans buy as much soda as they spend on pet care, too?) What if pet owners upgraded their pet food such that they doubled their pet food expense? (I’d only have to cut out one coffee a day.) Would it necessarily cut their veterinary expenses 100%? Unlikely. But maybe it will cut those bills by 50-80%. Certainly, it would significantly decrease the amount of sick pet visits to the veterinarian.

While there is good money to be made by veterinarians treating sick pets, really, deep down, I don’t think anyone wants to treat things that are preventable. Preventable illness decreases the quality of life of these animals – if they’re coming in for recurrent problems which are preventable by simply feeding higher-quality food.

So I circle around back to my original question: is $259 a year enough money to spend on your pets health?

Ready to start thinking differently about your pet’s health? Consider our membership-each month you can ask those questions of a retired veterinarian who was not afraid to buck the system.

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