Caring for a pet isn’t cheap. Dogs in particular can be some of the most expensive animals to own, especially when it comes to the cost of their food. Fortunately, if you are a low-income household, there are multiple resources available to help you get ahold of free or low-cost dog food.

Check out a nearby shelter

Believe it or not, many animal shelters are willing to donate extra dog chow to low-income homes. Local shelters often run at least partially on community donations of pet care essentials, including donated bags/cans of food. If these shelters end up overstocked on donations, they may have programs in place (like pet food banks or income-focused relief) that can provide free food to community members.

Not every shelter will have a surplus, and not all will have free food programs in place. Some places may struggle to afford pet food costs or might be flying by on donations themselves. However, those that are well-funded are likely willing to part with some of their dog food supply. They won’t judge you for your financial need, nor will they try to take away your pet. They are there to serve the animals of their community, and if yours is in need, then they’re happy to help hook your pup up with food. Check with your local shelters to find out their personal policies on redistributing donated food.

Contact your vet clinic

Most vet’s offices sell pet food in addition to their regular appointment services. Many veterinary clinics, particularly those in low-income areas, are willing to cut down on (or even eliminate) the cost of dog food for their patrons who are in a financial bind. These offices may be able to offer a steep discount on the food they have available for public sale if you meet the criteria for financial need. This may be especially helpful for low-income owners with canines who require specific, expensive foods due to unique conditions (i.e. gluten-free).

If you’re worried about affording the high cost of dog food, don’t be afraid to talk to your veterinarian about possible low-cost food options during your next visit. Just like a shelter, they aren’t there to judge you. They are there to help support your pet and may be able to provide financial relief in the form of low-cost chow. They may also be able to offer other vet services for a discounted rate to keep your canine healthy all year round. It doesn’t hurt to check in with your vet to see how they may be able to accommodate your financial needs.

Look into local religious groups

Religious organizations tend to focus part of their efforts on charity, and their philanthropist behaviors sometimes extend beyond supporting human beings. In addition to organizing food banks for members of the community, certain groups may also have tools in place to support animals in their area. If you’re struggling with the steep cost of dog food, check in with a local religious organization such as a church, mosque, synagogue, or religious community center to see if they have any resources they’re willing to donate to you.

This being said, not every religious group will have the tools to provide relief for your furry friend right away. However, if they don’t have direct access to dog food, they may be willing to call community members together to ask for donations on your behalf. Religious groups are typically willing to help anyone in need, even if you do not practice the same religion as them. Don’t let any differing beliefs stop you from reaching out to organizations that have the power to help your four-legged friend.

Touch base with pet nonprofits

While you may not have run across a pet nonprofit before, plenty of organizations exist to support dedicated, responsible owners in caring for their pets, no matter their financial situation. They take the work done by shelters one step further. Not only do they try to find pets good homes, but they make sure that those homes are fully equipped with all of the supplies needed to care for those pets. If you are struggling to afford dog food, consider researching pet nonprofits in your area to see how they may be able to assist you.

If you’re in an area that doesn’t boast a high number of pet resources or nonprofit groups, consider moving your research for free/affordable food online. Look up other organizations in your area (or ones that will ship to your area) that might have access to dog food and email/call to find out if they can fulfill your needs. Chances are there is at least one organization in or around your area that is willing to help you gain access to free or low-cost dog food.