Can You Buy Pet Food with SNAP?

Whether you’re strictly a dog person or have a houseful of cats, your pets are an important part of your life. You want to be sure your animals get the nourishment they need to be healthy and happy, even when you’re on a tight budget. That’s why you may want to know if the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) covers pet food.

Can you buy pet food with SNAP?

Unfortunately, no. There are clear rules about what you cannot buy with a SNAP card, and this includes pet food. Other items that SNAP does not cover include alcohol and tobacco products; vitamins and supplements; and other nonfood items. SNAP is solely designed to help you buy healthy, nourishing food for you and your family who lives with you, including:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Breads and cereals
  • Dairy products
  • Snack foods
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants to grow food for your household

SNAP benefits can be used at Walmart, grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retailers that sell food.

How can I get dog food with no money?

How can I get free pet supplies? What can I do for a sick dog with no money? Although SNAP does not cover pet food, there are resources available to help pet owners in need. These programs provide relief to individuals and families struggling to feed and care for their pets. They can mean the difference between being able to keep a beloved fur-friend—and having to make the heartbreaking decision of surrendering it to a shelter.

Here are some places to start if you need help feeding and caring for your pets:

  • The Humane Society offers a complete guide to resources that offer financial support or donations for pet food and veterinary care. It also has a state-by-state directory to help you find pet food assistance in your local area.
  • CoFund My Pet provides an online directory to help you find pet food pantries and pet food banks where you live.
  • Red Rover is a nonprofit organization that lends financial assistance to pet owners with low income. It also helps those hospitalized with COVID-19 and domestic violence survivors. Learn more by visiting their website.
  • The Pet Fund provides financial help to pet owners with low income who need veterinary care. Visit their website to learn more about what support they provide and to fill out an online application for assistance. 

Other options for getting pet food assistance

In addition to the organizations suggested above, here are other avenues you can explore to get the help you need.

Local pet shelters: If they receive sufficient funding, your city’s animal shelter may provide food donations for pet families with low income. Some may even have pet food banks, which operate like a traditional food bank and are open to any pet owners who need them. Contact your local shelter to see what kind of aid they offer. You can find a list of animal welfare groups by state on the Petfinder website.

Veterinary clinics: Many vet clinics in rural or underserved areas provide pet food assistance to struggling families. Some also hold or sponsor low-cost vaccination and spay/neutering programs.

Churches and other religious institutions: Check with your local churches, synagogues, or mosques—you may find one that sponsors occasional pet food drives and pet food banks. Many of these institutions do not require you to be a member of their organization to receive pet food assistance.

Pet food manufacturers: Many manufacturers of dog and cat food offer free samples upon request. It’s not a long-term solution for pet food assistance, but some free samples may help you get by for a few days.

Breed-specific organizations: Clubs, organizations, and social groups focused on certain dog and cat breeds can be great resources for pet food assistance. Look for breed advocacy groups on social media sites like Facebook. The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a searchable directory of rescue groups by breed.

Pet stores: Check with your local pet store to see if they offer need-based discounts on their pet food products. You may even be able to barter services in exchange for a lower price.

Craigslist and other online forums: In some cases, people buy too much pet food or the wrong kind of food, or their pet has passed away and they have leftover food. In any case, you may find people willing to give up these items for free or for a steeply reduced cost. As always, practice caution and common sense when doing transactions with people online.

Read more  How to Help Your Dog Deal with Seasonal Allergies

Find out if you qualify for SNAP—it’s fast and easy

By allowing you to stretch your food budget further, SNAP can provide a little more breathing room. Just ask Krista Garofalo, age 62.

NCOA offers a simple screening tool that can tell you if you qualify before you fill out a SNAP application. Just go to and choose the state in which you live.

If you’re eligible for SNAP benefits, we’ll also give you all the information you need to apply. You can do it yourself—or find someone to walk you through the SNAP application process step by step.

— Update: 15-02-2023 — found an additional article What Are Pet Food Stamps? (Facts, & FAQ) from the website for the keyword can i buy dog food with ebt.

Can i buy dog food with ebt

DISCLAIMER: Pet Keen does not offer pet food stamps, nor do we have any affiliation with any pet food stamp program. This article is for informational purposes only. Please do NOT contact us asking for pet food stamps. We do not have them. Thanks in advance

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has tens of millions of members signed up: low-income individuals and families that receive food stamps to make food more affordable. The scheme aims to ensure that fewer people go hungry and ensures that all household members can enjoy decent-quality meals. However, despite widespread calls to include the purchase of pet food as part of the SNAP food stamp scheme, members are not allowed to use their stamps in this way.

Pets are Part of the Family, Too

Unfortunately, pets from low-income households suffer just as much as the human members of the family. Good nutrition is equally as important to the welfare of a dog as it is to a human, but pet-loving owners who have been hit by unemployment, or are struggling through a tough economic climate, are forced to let their pets go hungry. 

Financial difficulties lead to caring pet owners having to hand their cats, dogs, and other household pets over to shelters, many of which face overcrowding and some of which euthanize their animals to keep numbers down to a manageable level. 

Sending pets to shelters is not only heartbreaking for the family, but it also leads to additional costs for local governments and non-profit organizations.

  • If you are in need of financial aid for your pet we recommend visiting My Pet, which can help you find programs, charities, and local organizations in your area that may be able to offer support. 

Can i buy dog food with ebt

The Pet Food Stamp Program

One not-for-profit organization, Pet Food Stamps, aims to redress this balance by providing free pet food deliveries for six months. The group first verifies the household income and determines their pet food needs. Eligible members receive free deliveries of food for six months. This means that owners can continue to care for their pets in the way they would like and use their SNAP food stamps to feed themselves. 

The application process is completed online, and food is delivered by the online pet food delivery service Pet Food Direct. The group also said that postal applications would be available, but only once they have moved to a new office. If the household is still in a similar position when the six months ends, they can reapply for more food deliveries.

Can i buy dog food with ebt

No Federal Funding

The program’s founder, Marc Okon, said that the program is donation-based and does not rely on any government funding. He also said that Pet Food Stamps is “not looking for government funding at this point” but “should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.” The scheme attracted 45,000 pet enrollments within the first two weeks of the scheme’s introduction.

The pet food stamp scheme fills a glaring gap in Federal programs. In fact, there are genuine concerns that the monthly food stamp scheme itself could shut down. Although similar schemes have been available since 1939, the scheme was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2008, when the recession saw many more families struggling to meet household bills. In its current guise, the government means-tests applicants according to the number of people in their household.



Featured Image Credit: Bicanski, Pixnio

— Update: 16-02-2023 — found an additional article Can I Buy Dog Food Using Food Stamps? What You Need To Know! from the website for the keyword can i buy dog food with ebt.

Can i buy dog food with ebt

As the economy continues to struggle, many families are finding it difficult to make ends meet. One way that some people are able to save money is by shopping for groceries using food stamps. However, is it possible to buy dog food with food stamps?

Read more  How Much Does it Cost to have a Dog Put to Sleep and Cremated?

Sadly, dog food cannot be purchased with food stamps. This is because pet food is considered a non-food item since it is not intended for human consumption. However, in some cases, it may be possible to purchase dog food with government assistance. Unfortunately, many restrictions apply and it is important to do your research first.

Can i buy dog food with ebt

What is SNAP?

Food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are benefits that give low-income families access to healthy food. SNAP can be used at most grocery stores to buy food items like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. The program also allows recipients to buy some hot foods and food items that are prepared in a grocery store or restaurant.

What is an EBT Card?

Can i buy dog food with ebt
Image Credit: rupixen, Pixabay

An EBT card is a plastic card that looks similar to a credit card and is used to access government benefits, such as food stamps or cash assistance. The card is also referred to as a “benefits card.” The funds available on the card can be used to purchase items such as food, clothing, housing, and medical care.

When it comes to food, generally, your EBT card will only allow you to purchase food items that are not hot or that are meant to be eaten at the location where you are using it. The card has a magnetic strip on the back that stores the beneficiary’s account information. To use the card, the beneficiary swipes it through a machine at the grocery store.  In some cases, your EBT may allow you to withdraw cash from an ATM.

Can i buy dog food with ebt

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

You may be able to buy pet food if you receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits through your EBT card. To provide financial assistance and other services to families, the TANF program gives grant funds to states and territories. In order to qualify for TANF benefits, you must be a U.S. citizen, legal alien, or qualified alien, live in the state you applied in, be unemployed or underemployed, and have a low or very low income.

You must also meet one of the following requirements: have a child age 18 or younger, be pregnant, or 18 years of age or younger while being the head of your household. You can withdraw money from an ATM to buy items like food for your pet if your state issues you with TANF benefits through your EBT card.

  • Related Read: Can a Human Eat Dog Food? What You Need to Know!

Buying Pet Food Ingredients Using an EBT Card

Can i buy dog food with ebt
Image Credit: cottonbro, Pexels

If you don’t qualify for TANF, you can use your EBT card to buy meat, fruits, and vegetables so you can prepare your own dog food. If you do this, however, please make sure you research what foods your dog can eat and what ratio and portion of food should be. Commercially prepared dog foods are specifically designed to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. If you research specific ways to supplement your dog’s food, you can provide those nutrients in homemade food. However, nutritionally balanced at-home pet foods can often be more costly and labor-intensive than commercial pet foods.

Other Ways to Get Dog Food

The TANF program may not be available to you, but you may be able to get assistance to purchase pet food and other necessities through state and national programs. A pet food pantry or another pet-related community service can be found on Feeding Pets of the Homeless‘ interactive resource map. Additional assistance can also be obtained from local shelters and rescue organizations. PetSmart Charity offers help with dog food and other supplies to seniors through Meals on Wheels.

Can i buy dog food with ebt


In conclusion, it is possible to buy dog food using food stamps, but only if you qualify for TANF and pay with cash you have withdrawn using your EBT at the ATM. If you do not have TANF, you may still be able to purchase human-grade food with your EBT card and cook it for your dog, but this method will be more difficult and time-consuming.

There may be a number of local pet food banks that may be able to help you feed your dog, so, if you are in need of assistance feeding your pet, be sure to research and see what resources are available in your area.

  • Related Read: When Was Dog Food Invented? The Surprising Answer

Featured Image Credit: Caftor, Shutterstock

— Update: 16-02-2023 — found an additional article Can you buy pet food with EBT card or food stamps? from the website for the keyword can i buy dog food with ebt.

You can’t buy pet foods with EBT cards or food stamps in all states of the USA. Pet foods are on the list of items that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) doesn’t approve. The program only approves food items meant for human household members. Since your pet isn’t human, you can’t feed them off your EBT card.

Read more  How to Properly Care for Your Dog's Paw Pads

You will need to provide another means of payment whenever you need to buy pet foods at a grocery store. You can use your debit or credit cards, or any other accepted payment method at the store.

Let’s find out what happens if you try to buy pet foods with EBT cards, anyway. You’ll also learn what the difference between EBT cards and food stamps is.

What will happen if you buy non-food items with an EBT card?

The chances of you getting away with buying non-eligible items with your SNAP card are extremely low. Most stores program their POS systems to only accept eligible items whenever customers try to use their EBT card for payment. The cashier or self-checkout system will only accept items that the SNAP program approves.

More importantly, state or county inspectors come around to check that the checkout database is correct. They want to make sure that no customer is buying anything they shouldn’t. So most times, grocery stores and supermarkets try their best to stay in compliance with the program. 

When you swipe your card at the checkout stations, the costs won’t go to your card. The system will leave out the balance, so you’d have to pay with an alternative method like your debit or credit card.

That said, food stamp fraud is a thing. It refers to any activity you partake in to acquire benefits illegally. For example, selling your card to someone else for cash or an unapproved item, or writing a higher number than your family size during your application process to get more benefits.

Your cashier may decide to help you checkout unapproved items manually. They just need to enter the item into the system as a non-taxable food item. The penalty for such fraudulent acts varies depending on the degree of your offense and the state you reside in. You could pay fines of up to $250,000 and face imprisonment for up to 20 years.

What is the difference between food stamps and EBT cards?

‘Food stamps’ is the former name of the SNAP program, and not a separate benefits program. The major difference is that ‘food stamps’ was the first name of the benefits program, and it started in 1939. 

Can i buy dog food with ebt
EBT cards (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Can i buy dog food with ebt
Food stamp (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Back then, you’d need to bring stamps in the form of paper slips to a store to buy food. There was no electronic means of receiving benefits. For every $1 stamp you bought, you’d have received an extra stamp worth 50 cents, increasing your purchasing power.

It wasn’t until 1984 before the Federal government of the USA launched the first EBT pilot. It enabled retailers and the state to keep records of purchases. The idea was to reduce food stamp fraud, which dropped from 4% to 1% after EBT cards became mainstream in all 50 states of the USA.

The EBT cards, like the earlier food stamps, are electronic cards that the federal government of the USA funds. The cards allow participants of a benefits program (SNAP,  or WIC) to pay for food in authorized stores. 

EBT alternatives for feeding your pets

It’s hard enough filling your own stomach. Having an extra mouth to feed might add to your headache. Since you can’t use EBT cards to buy food for your pets, there are alternatives you can use.

CoFund My Pet

CoFund My Pet has compiled a list of food pantries that will help you find places to source for your pet food near you. The website is also a fundraising platform you can use to secure financial assistance for your pet’s healthcare

Red Rover

Red Rover is an organization that offers special grants and resources for pet owners suffering economic hardships and COVID-19 patients. They also offer emergency shelters for escaped victims of domestic abuse and their pets. 

Local pet food banks & churches

Use Petfinder to locate animal shelters or food banks close to you. Food banks are free to access, so you shouldn’t expect to pay any fees. Some churches may host food drives occasionally or you can even find a sponsor to help with your pet’s needs financially. 

Pet food manufacturers 

If you’re desperate for pet food, you should consider contacting pet food manufacturers. Like most brands, they’re almost always looking for people to test their products. You can get free pet food samples from them. These 27 companies will give you dog food for free.


While you may not be able to buy pet food with your EBT card, there’s an array of options you can try — and for free! 

When in doubt, you can use the resources we mentioned above to find food banks near you. If you have churches nearby, you can source for sponsors there. 

Pet food manufacturers are also a great place to get free samples. Obviously, they won’t give you free samples for life. But if your pet is starving or you’re stranded without resources, it’s one option you should consider.


Recommended For You

About the Author: Tung Chi