Can You Use Food Stamps to Buy Dog Food?

woman buying dog food

In these challenging economic times, many families are struggling to make ends meet. A common strategy to save money is using food stamps to purchase groceries. However, a burning question remains: Is it possible to use food stamps to buy dog food?

The Connection Between Dog Food and Food Stamps

Regrettably, it is not permissible to directly buy dog food with food stamps. The reason behind this is that pet food falls under the category of non-food items as it is not intended for human consumption. Nevertheless, there are certain situations where it might be feasible to obtain dog food with government assistance. It is vital to conduct thorough research and take note of the numerous restrictions that apply.

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Understanding SNAP

Food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provide low-income families with access to nutritious food. SNAP benefits can be used at most grocery stores to purchase essential items such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. In some cases, recipients may even be able to buy hot foods and ready-to-eat meals from grocery stores or restaurants.

What is an EBT Card?

An Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card is a plastic card that resembles a credit card and is used to access government benefits, including food stamps and cash assistance. The EBT card, also referred to as a “benefits card,” can be used to purchase a variety of items, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care.

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Regarding food purchases, the EBT card generally allows for the acquisition of non-hot items that are not meant to be consumed immediately. On the back of the card, there is a magnetic strip that stores the beneficiary’s account information. To use the card, the beneficiary swipes it through a machine at the grocery store. In certain cases, the EBT card may also facilitate cash withdrawals from ATMs.

Man on computer holding a card
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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

If you receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through your EBT card, you may have the opportunity to purchase pet food. TANF provides grant funds to states and territories to offer financial assistance and other services to families in need. To qualify for TANF benefits, you must meet certain criteria, including being a U.S. citizen, legal alien, or qualified alien, residing in the state where you applied, being unemployed or underemployed, and having a low or very low income.

Additionally, you must fulfill one of the following requirements: have a child aged 18 or younger, be pregnant, or be 18 years old or younger and the head of your household. If your state issues TANF benefits through your EBT card, you can withdraw money from an ATM to purchase items like pet food.

Buying Pet Food Ingredients Using an EBT Card

If you do not qualify for TANF, you can still utilize your EBT card to buy meat, fruits, and vegetables to prepare your own dog food. However, it is crucial to research which foods are safe for your dog and the appropriate ratios and portions. While commercially prepared dog foods are formulated to meet your dog’s nutritional needs, with research, you can provide those essential nutrients through homemade food. It’s important to note that nutritionally balanced homemade pet foods can be more expensive and time-consuming to prepare than commercial options.

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pouring dog food
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Other Sources of Assistance

If the TANF program is not available to you, there are alternative avenues to explore for assistance in purchasing pet food and other necessities. Feeding Pets of the Homeless provides an interactive resource map that helps locate pet food pantries and other pet-related community services. Additionally, local shelters and rescue organizations often offer aid. Meals on Wheels, in collaboration with PetSmart Charity, provides dog food and supplies to seniors.



In conclusion, it is indeed possible to purchase dog food using food stamps, but only if you qualify for TANF and use cash withdrawn from your EBT card at an ATM. If you do not have access to TANF, it may still be feasible to buy human-grade food with your EBT card and prepare it for your dog, although this method can be more challenging and time-consuming.

If you need assistance with feeding your pet, there may be local pet food banks or other resources available in your area. Make sure to conduct thorough research to find the appropriate resources that meet your needs.

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