By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When it comes to the family budget, Americans may be spending less on themselves, but not on their furry friends!

Last year, it was estimated that $20 billion spent on pet food alone, an all-time high. But as 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan finds, there are ways to dish out Fido’s favorite food for a little less scratch.

Whether it’s dry food, wet food or the snacks in between, when it comes to pet food, Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor of Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook, says one thing’s for certain, “We found pretty big price variations.”

Since stores sell items in different size packages, comparing the unit price becomes essential when shopping for pet food.

For example, when Checkbook price-compared cans of the same type of Fancy Feast cat food, it was 16 cents an ounce at Costco and 36 cents an ounce at PetSmart — more than twice as much. Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition dog food was priced at 25 cents per pound at Petco but $1.06 at Acme, four times as much!

Over the course of a year, that adds up. If your dog eats 30 pounds of Iams Pro Active Health dog food a month, it’ll cost you $473 a year if you buy it at Kmart, but $302 at BJ’s Wholesale Club. That’s a $171 difference.

According to Brasler, “The membership warehouse clubs — Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club — they pretty much beat everyone on price for pet food.”

Checkbook found that Walmart and Target generally had low prices, too.

While national chains like Petco and PetSmart had some low prices, be sure to sign up for their free loyalty programs. Manufacturers have frequent buyer programs, too.

“Some have where you buy nine bags of food, you get the 10th bag for free,” Brasler says.

Often, shoppers can combine a manufacturer’s program with a store program and see savings of 10 to 20 percent.

Checkbook found that online retailers seldom offered the lowest prices on pet food, but do tend to charge less for items like heartworm and flea prevention products.

For the next week, only CBS3 viewers will have free access to Checkbook’s price survey. For more, visit:

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