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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.