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Homemade Dog Food: How To Prepare A Nutritional Diet For Your Dog

dog ready to eat

Pet parents today are savvier than ever when it comes to pet care. Homemade dog food is just one way to spoil your best friend with the best you have to offer. Sure, you can find some healthy store-bought food, but nothing beats homemade food.

Think about it, would you rather eat a pre-made salad from the store or a beautiful, fresh homemade one with premium ingredients? I know I certainly wouldn't want the store's salad. Your dogs feel the same way about their food.

However, before you start making just any kind of food for your puppy, you should know what you are doing. To properly make homemade dog food, it is important to understand what goes into your dog’s bowl and how best to prepare and store it properly.

A Brief History of Dog Food

For most of history, dogs subsisted on whatever their owners fed them, usually scraps from the family’s table and whatever they may have hunted or scavenged themselves. The dog biscuit as we know it was introduced in the mid 19th century where it first gained popularity among wealthy English gentlemen.

Advances in technology in the early 20th century helped to shape the dog food industry as a way of using up scraps from meat and grain processing factories. The pet food industry took off post World War II, partly due to the economic boom and also in part due to revolutions in pet food processing technology.

Why Make Homemade Dog Food?

dog in the kitchen waiting for homemade dog food

With a wide variety of commercial dog foods to choose from, why consider making homemade dog food? Making your dog food allows you to look out for your dog’s health and gives you greater control over their diet.

Your dog’s health

A healthier diet means your dog will be healthier overall. Just like humans, dogs can have sensitivities, allergies, or health conditions that are exacerbated by certain foods. By avoiding feeding foods that you know your dog is sensitive to can help keep your dog healthy and happy for years to come.

Quality control

While premium quality dog foods may use human grade meat, there are dog foods that use rendered meal from meat sources considered not appropriate for human consumption. Commercial dog foods may also use filler ingredients that do not have substantial nutritional benefit for the dog as well as other additives and preservatives.

By making your homemade dog food, you ensure that all the food is the best quality you can find and can avoid fillers and preservatives.

Advantages of Homemade Dog Food

With high quality, veterinarian approved commercial dog foods readily available, making your dog food may seem to be more trouble than its worth. But there are still some significant advantages to making your own. Nutritional homemade dog food is also beneficial for senior dogs.

Tailored for Your Dog

Making your dog’s food has the advantage of being tailored specifically for your dog’s tastes and needs. Do they have health problems that your vet recommends trying particular foods to help with? Is your dog a picky eater? By making your dog’s food at home, you can choose to feed foods that you know your dog will enjoy.

Variety in your dog’s diet

By cooking your dog’s food at home, you can more easily introduce new foods in smaller, more controllable portions. For example, you can make a recipe of dog food with chicken and sweet potato to eat one day of the week, and then make another recipe which contains salmon and peas. This way your dog enjoys a variety of different foods, helping to balance their overall diet.


The cost of homemade dog food will vary depending on the ingredients you put into it. In some cases, it can be less expensive per pound; however, this depends very much on the quality and quantity of ingredients you are using. For example, if you feed your dog mostly organic meats and vegetables, the cost per pound may exceed that of a premium commercial dog food.

Types of Homemade Dog Food

Dog food recipes vary as widely as human recipes. Pet parents can assemble dog food via cooked or raw ingredients.

Cooked dog food

Home cooked homemade dog food is food that is cooked at home, prepared especially for dogs. These include dog-safe human grade cooked meats, vegetables, fruits, and grains, in recipes balanced for a dog’s nutritional needs.

Raw feeding

Some pet parents choose to feed their dogs a raw diet. Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) and the Prey Model Raw Food (PMRF) are two popular forms of raw feeding. These diets revolve around uncooked meats including organ meats, bones, and sometimes fruits and vegetables.

Raw feeding is popular among pet owners. However, mainstream veterinarians or the Food and Drug Administration do not advocate raw feeding due to concerns about bacteria in uncooked meats and choking hazards on bones.

What to Add to Homemade Dog Food

dog eating homemade dog food

Before you transition your dog to a homemade diet, consult your veterinarian about any health and food concerns you may have. Your vet should be able to tell you what to look for and avoid in recipes for your pet.


Dog food recipes generally call for lean protein. You can vary the type of protein depending on what your dog likes; where that protein comes from depends on your dog’s tastes and dietary needs. Examples of meat choices include chicken breast, pork loin, lean ground beef, and venison.

Whatever meat you choose, trim the excess fat and remove the bones from whatever protein you are preparing for your dog's dinner. Organ meats such as liver and heart are excellent additions to their nutritional content.

Eggs and dairy products such as yogurt and kefir can also be added to a dog’s diet though some dogs may be lactose intolerant. If your dog is lactose intolerant, you can use goat’s milk products.


Carbohydrates for dog food can come from vegetables, fruits, or grains. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and beans are nutritious for dogs. Dogs can also eat grains like quinoa, oatmeal, and rice.

Be careful to ensure that carbohydrates do not make up more than 50 percent of your dog’s food.

Fat and fatty acids

Fats are a source of energy and support other body functions like vitamin absorption. You need to make sure your dog food includes the right types of fat in the right amounts. Dogs need essential fatty acids such as Omega 3s and Omega 6s. You can ensure that your dog’s food includes these by adding whole fish such as sardines or salmon to their diet.

If your homemade dog food does not include Omega 3 rich fatty fish like sardines, consider adding a supplement such as cod liver oil or fish oil.

Other nutrients

Unlike commercially prepared food, homemade dog food may be lacking in particular nutrients that are essential for a dog’s health. Calcium is an essential nutrient for dogs. You can add calcium by adding calcium-rich foods like sardines, spinach, or cottage cheese. You can also use a calcium supplement. Ask your vet for the proper dosage for your pet.

Foods NOT to Feed Your Dog

Food not for dogs

There are some foods that dogs should NEVER eat because they are toxic to them. Your homemade dog food should never include onions, garlic, chocolate, grapes or raisins, and macadamia nuts. Do not add extra salt or sugar to your dog’s food. Never include cooked bones in your dog’s food. Cooked bones can splinter and become a choking and intestinal blockage risk.

Be careful of how much fat is in your dog’s food. Too much fat in a dog’s diet can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

Homemade Dog Food Recipes

To get you started, here are some great homemade dog food recipes.

DIY homemade dog food

  • 1 ½ cups brown rice
  • One tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • Two shredded carrots
  • One shredded zucchini
  • Check
    ½ cup peas

This dog food recipe from Damn Delicious is a 50/25/25 mix of protein, vegetables, and grains. Cook brown rice according to package directions and set aside. Heat oil in a large pan and brown the ground turkey. When you brow the turkey, add the vegetables and stir-fry until the spinach is wilted and vegetables are cooked. Mix with the brown rice. Let cool thoroughly before serving.

Homemade Pet Loaf

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • ½ cup peas
  • ½ cup oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs

This dog-friendly meatloaf from PopSugar is full of delicious ingredients your pet is sure to love. Mix the turkey, carrots, peas, oats, and raw eggs. Press half of the mixture into a greased loaf pan and line up the boiled eggs in the center of the loaf. Cover with the rest of the meat mixture. Bake in a preheated 350F for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before serving to your pets.

Proper Storage of Prepared Food

After you have prepared your dog food, let it cool completely before storing. For ease of serving, separate your cooked food into portions in either plastic containers or plastic zip-top bags. You can either put these in the refrigerator or the freezer.

If you store your dog food in the refrigerator, use within three days to ensure freshness. If you freeze your dog food, place in the fridge to thaw safely the night before you plan to feed it to your dog.

Doggy Bag

Homemade dog food is an excellent way to help ensure that your dog is eating the best food you can give them. By talking with your vet to make sure that your dog food recipes and supplements help meet your dog’s nutritional needs, mealtime becomes another way to show just how much you love them.

Happy Dog, Happy Life

So, what are you waiting for? Make the switch and starting creating your dog's food at home. Not only will they be happy to have a home cooked meal, but you will know exactly what is in their food. You will never again have to worry if your pet's food is unsafe. And they will love you even more than they already do when they take a bite.


Senior Dog Diet: Why It’s Important To Feed Your Senior Dog A Nutritional Diet

dog diet

When it comes to the subject of the senior dog diet, the prevailing opinion, even among veterinarians, seems to be, “It depends.” There are no set-in-stone rules for what constitutes a “senior dog.” It usually depends on the breed, the dog’s size, even the dog’s lifestyle.

Every dog will have their own nutritional needs and dietary concerns as they age. No single senior dog diet covers all dogs. Even evaluating the age at which we consider a dog a senior varies according to breed, size, and lifestyle, but most veterinarians will consider dogs "senior" at the age of 7 or 8 years old, according to Deena Krestel-Rickert of the Missouri-based Pettec pet food consulting firm. She says of their diet:

"Generally, older dogs need a complete and balanced diet that is lower in calories but still has protein and fat and more fiber. Some can be fed a normal diet, but in smaller quantities."

What Is the Definition of an Older Dog?

older dog

Generally speaking, experts consider a dog as “older” when they are in the last third of their expected lifespan. With that in mind, remember that some dogs, just like some people, seem younger or older than their numerical age.

Dogs now live longer for several reasons. Factors such as treatment, healthcare, and nutrition can all have an impact on a dog’s physically perceived age. Also, animal nutritionists now have a much better understanding of a dog’s dietary needs throughout its life.

Besides the general age parameters, there are, more often than not, specific conditions commonly found in some older dogs. These usually will demand specific dietary changes and adaptations.

Thankfully, what may seem like a debilitating and life-long issue may be something treatable. Sometimes, they can be treated with medication. And sometimes, they can be alleviated or eliminated with a few reasonable modifications in diet.

Senior Dog Diet as a Treatment for Diseases and Maladies

Higher levels of antioxidants seem to be beneficial in combating issues such as senile dementia in most dogs. Other dietary changes might include increasing the fatty acids and glucosamine levels in dogs with arthritis or joint pain.

Dogs suffering from kidney, liver, or heart diseases can be helped by having their sodium, phosphorous, and protein levels reduced. As some dogs grow older, they can develop constipation, which is a condition that requires increased doses, or increased intake of fiber. However, be careful not to overcompensate if you do have to increase the fiber intake because Too much fiber can result in painful or even dangerous constipation in older dogs.

We can expect many of the physical changes that occur with age in almost all dogs. These include the loss of fur, loss of muscle mass, weight gain or obesity, dental issues, intestinal problems, and a lowered resistance to infection. We can't treat all of these issues by diet alone. However, in some cases, a simple change in food or the addition of some common supplements can help. Many go a long way in keeping your pet happy, healthy, and active for years to come.

Read the Label: First Things First

Nutritional fact for dogs

Just as with humans, when caring for an older dog, make yourself aware of just exactly what ingredients are going into their food. Generally, you want to look at the first ingredients first when examining the label. Just as in human food products, the first listed ingredient will be the one most prevalent in the can, bag, or box.

If the first listed ingredient is chicken, you can be sure that chicken is the primary ingredient. However, some veterinarians contend that the first five ingredients tell a complete story. For example, the first ingredient may be chicken, but if the next four are all things such as corn, grains, or meal, the food may have more grain than chicken.

Also, be on the lookout for listings of “byproducts” on the label. Susan Thixton, the author of the book "Buyer Beware: The Crimes, Lies, and Truth About Pet Food," states that byproducts are something that pet owners should be aware of. "

By-products are parts of a slaughtered animal that are not commonly consumed by humans," she says. "However, byproducts can include feathers, fur, intestines, and unhealthy or diseased internal organs."

This isn’t illegal, but these things may not be what you want your beloved dog to eat. Besides having little or no nutritional value, they may also be harmful to an animal with a delicate stomach or some other gastrointestinal condition.

Some Obvious Things to Consider

Some dietary changes are more obvious than others for your dog. Select lower calorie foods if your buddy is less active than they used to be to help them avoid gaining weight. Choose smaller kibble or softer foods for dogs with dental or mandible issues.

If your pet is having digestive issues, feed proteins that your pet can more easily absorb. It some cases, it may even be necessary to put your dog on a diet leaning more toward cuts of fresh meat. These will provide the protein they require in a more digestible form.

All dry and even some semi-moist dog foods are dehydrated, and this will cause your dog to have to drink much more water. These foods place more stress on your dog's internal organs than a diet of fresh meats.


owner gives a senior dog diet to dog

Some pet owners check that their dog's food has some supplements added for a specific condition. However, you should be aware that the label can be deceptive. For example, the Omega-3 listed on the label to combat disorders such as inflammation is also very sensitive to heat and light.

While it may have been added to your dog's food, the manufacturing process renders it virtually useless as a supplement. Sometimes, your best bet is to add your supplements.

When added to your pet’s food, fish oil containing unprocessed Omega-3 will help in several meaningful ways. Besides being good for the skin and coat, it will also help with joint issues, inflammatory and autoimmune disease, cardiovascular health, and neurological problems.

Sardines packed in water are ideal for this purpose. However, for larger dogs, canned jack mackerel and pink salmon provide ample amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids to your senior dog diet at a low cost.

'People Food' in the Senior Dog Diet

Once, many dog food companies once promoted adherence to the rule of "dog food only" for your pet's health. However, some "people food" is perfectly suitable for your senior dog's consumption. After all, people and dogs both share similar nutritional needs and enjoy the benefits of the same food options.

In fact, as people begin to relate more closely to their family dogs, pet food manufacturers have responded by boasting about many new ingredients that once were the sole purview of human consumption. Foods like pumpkins, blueberries, and other anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables now feature significantly in many commercially prepared dog food formulas.


Eggs provide adequate protein and several vitamins and minerals to a senior dog diet. And they're relatively inexpensive and very easy to add. Offer them to your dog raw, soft-boiled, or scrambled, and your dog will gladly consume them.


Yogurt is another natural source of probiotics you'll find easy to feed to your dog. Use plain, low-fat or non-fat yogurt to avoid the sugars of flavored types. Especially beneficial to older dogs with digestive issues, low-fat yogurt has less than 20 calories per ounce. Even smaller dogs can benefit from a tablespoon or two.


Blueberries come loaded with antioxidants. Most dogs also like bananas, melon, and some even like citrus. Be sure not to feed your dog any fruit with pits, though. And avoid raisins and grapes as they can cause kidney problems.


Green leafy vegetables are better for your furry friend than grains and starches. Some dogs consider raw veggies, such as peas, zucchini, and carrots, a treat. However, avoid the veggies that can cause gas, like broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables.


Cooked chicken can be a simple and exciting source of protein for your pet. Almost all dogs consider cooked chicken a special treat, and they'll consume it with their tail wagging. It's not difficult to prepare, and most pooches will appreciate it even if all you do is boil it. And it's also not very expensive, especially considering that it’s for your best friend.


Leftovers can also be an acceptable addition to a senior dog diet, but be sure that you give your dog something that he needs and not just whatever is on your plate. Make sure you offer healthy leftovers like meat, fish, or green veggies. Avoid fatty scraps as they can cause your dog to gain excess weight.

Not Every Older Dog Needs a Special Senior Dog Diet

If you're satisfied with your pet's senior dog diet, and he continues happy and healthy, there may be no need to change anything at this time. If it isn’t broken; don’t fix it. However, pay attention to any changes in your pal’s mood or behavior. Just because your dog has reached, “a certain age,” doesn’t mean he will automatically have physical issues or special dietary needs.

However, it does mean that it may be time to pay closer attention to his activities so that you'll notice if he has any issues causing him discomfort or inconvenience. If you use common sense and make the proper adjustment to his diet, you can still have many wonderful and active years together.

What are your senior dog's favorite treats? Have you seen improvement in your older dog's health by changing his food or adding a nutritional supplement? Let us know in the comments below. By sharing your experience, more of our readers will be able to keep their senior dog in peak health.