Where to find the best pet food prices

Shop around for pet food in the D.C. area and you might find savings up to 40%. But paying higher prices can have advantages, a local based consumers group finds.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook compared prices of 11 popular dog and cat foods at pet stores, big-box discounters, grocery stores, warehouse clubs and online suppliers.

“Some stores charge 40 percent more than others for the exact same stuff,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org.

Who is cheapest?

“We found the lowest prices probably where you’d expect — at Sam’s Club, at BJ’s and at Walmart,” Brasler said. Costco wasn’t included in the box-store comparison because it doesn’t sell mass market brands.

ruckus a beagle
Ruckus, a beagle with cancer, is now spoiled with a combination if wet and dry food, loving salmon, chicken and beef. (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher) (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)
The calico Sydney gets dry food because her mom says wet food is expensive and messy. (Courtesy Jennifer Smith)
The calico Sydney gets dry food because her mom says wet food is expensive and messy. (Courtesy Jennifer Smith) (Courtesy Jennifer Smith)
Scout enjoys a chicken-and-barley variety of name brand pet food. (WTOP/Darci Marchese) (WTOP/Darci Marchese)
June likes chicken, potatoes and peas. (Federal News Network/Lisa Wolfe) (WFNN/Lisa Wolfe)
Barkley enjoys chicken and barley. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Barkley enjoys chicken and barley. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Freddy Krueger likes tuna or turkey-and-giblets wet food. (Federal News Network/Steff Thomas)
Freddy Krueger likes tuna or turkey-and-giblets wet food. (Federal News Network/Steff Thomas) (WFNN/Steff Thomas)
Abby likes grain-free salmon and sweet potatoes. (WTOP/Carlos Prieto)
Abby likes grain-free salmon and sweet potatoes. (WTOP/Carlos Prieto) (WTOP/Carlos Prieto)
Wally wants ocean fish pate' wet food and anything with cheese. (WTOP/Steff Thomas)
Wally wants ocean fish pate wet food and anything with cheese. (WTOP/Steff Thomas) (WTOP/Steff Thomas)
Mr. Wiggles is missing a leg, but not any meals. He likes anything and everything. (Courtesy Humane Rescue Alliance)
Mr. Wiggles is missing a leg, but not any meals. He likes anything and everything. (Courtesy Humane Rescue Alliance) (Courtesy Humane Rescue Alliance)
Teen Wolf, on left, and Squid. They both eat lamb and rice with oats. (WTOP/Zach Salwen)
Teen Wolf, on left, and Squid. They both eat lamb and rice with oats. (WTOP/Zach Salwen) (WTOP/Zach Salwen)
Foster kitten Bessie seems to be enjoying whatever that is. (Courtesy Jennifer Smith)
Foster kitten Bessie seems to be enjoying whatever that is. (Courtesy Jennifer Smith) (Courtesy Jennifer Smith)
Henry likes thinking about food. He'll eat anything, but chicken and barley is his fave! (WTOP/Carlos Prieto)
Henry likes thinking about food. He’ll eat anything, but chicken and barley is his fave! (WTOP/Carlos Prieto) (WTOP/Carlos Prieto)
Grayson (a/k/a Gray Bones, Graybee, Bones, Boney, Gray Butt). His favorite food is chicken and whole grain corn dry food. (Courtesy Samantha White)
Grayson (a.k.a Gray Bones, Graybee, Bones, Boney, Gray Butt). His favorite food is chicken and whole grain corn dry food. (Courtesy Samantha White) (Courtesy Samantha White)
Dexter says, 'Give me ALL the food and no one gets hurt.' (WTOP/Kristi King)
Dexter says, “Give me ALL the food and no one gets hurt.” (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
The late Lizzie favored dry but moistened kibble in fish or chicken flavor. (Federal News Network/Tom Temin)
The late Lizzie favored dry but moistened kibble in fish or chicken flavor. (Federal News Network/Tom Temin) (Federal News Network/Tom Temin)
This Mississippi Map Turtle is named Eli. He doesn't eat dog or cat food, but wanted to say "Hi!" (Federal News Network/Alazar Moges)
This Mississippi map turtle is named Eli. He doesn’t eat dog or cat food, but wanted to say “Hi!” (Federal News Network/Alazar Moges) (WFNN/Alazar Moges)
(1/16)
ruckus a beagle
The calico Sydney gets dry food because her mom says wet food is expensive and messy. (Courtesy Jennifer Smith)
Barkley enjoys chicken and barley. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Freddy Krueger likes tuna or turkey-and-giblets wet food. (Federal News Network/Steff Thomas)
Abby likes grain-free salmon and sweet potatoes. (WTOP/Carlos Prieto)
Wally wants ocean fish pate' wet food and anything with cheese. (WTOP/Steff Thomas)
Mr. Wiggles is missing a leg, but not any meals. He likes anything and everything. (Courtesy Humane Rescue Alliance)
Teen Wolf, on left, and Squid. They both eat lamb and rice with oats. (WTOP/Zach Salwen)
Foster kitten Bessie seems to be enjoying whatever that is. (Courtesy Jennifer Smith)
Henry likes thinking about food. He'll eat anything, but chicken and barley is his fave! (WTOP/Carlos Prieto)
Grayson (a/k/a Gray Bones, Graybee, Bones, Boney, Gray Butt). His favorite food is chicken and whole grain corn dry food. (Courtesy Samantha White)
Dexter says, 'Give me ALL the food and no one gets hurt.' (WTOP/Kristi King)
The late Lizzie favored dry but moistened kibble in fish or chicken flavor. (Federal News Network/Tom Temin)
This Mississippi Map Turtle is named Eli. He doesn't eat dog or cat food, but wanted to say "Hi!" (Federal News Network/Alazar Moges)

Compared to the all-store average:

  • Sam’s Club was 26% lower;
  • BJ’s, 18% lower;
  • Walmart, 17% lower.

Which big pet-store chain has the best prices? Compared to the all-store average, PetSmart was 5% lower, while Petco was about the average.

Compared to the lowest priced local stores, PetSmart’s prices were about 20% higher, and Petco’s prices were about 25% higher. If you order pet food online and have it shipped to either store for pickup, Petco offers a 10% discount, while PetSmart’s discount is 5 percent.

What about independent shops?

“At the independent stores, one advantage is, you’re likely to get good advice on what to buy. And that’s key,” Brasler said. “The specialty stores that really have a lot of expertise can tell you what might work best.”

The food at independent stores might include more protein so you can feed your pet less, Brasler said, “as opposed to one of the mass market brands that might have a lot of filler in it. So this is actually something worth considering talking to your vet about.”

What about online?

“Amazon had far higher prices than the lower price local stores,” Brasler said. “And it had higher prices than a lot of its online-only competitors.”

The lowest prices Checkbook found online were at Chewy.com, which weren’t much higher than Sam’s Club and BJ’s.

Chewy.com prices were 16% lower than those at Amazon for the same products, Checkbook found.

Through a special arrangement with Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can see Checkbook price comparisons on pet food for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It provides information to help consumers make smarter choices.

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