Can My Dog Eat Homemade Dog Food?
Making homemade dog food has become quite popular over the last couple of years. Although the current trend of lifestyle may not allow every dog parent to prepare homemade dog food for their k-9, it is still widely considered a dog’s diet.
Preparing home-cooked food can be a good option for pet owners who prefer to have more control over what their dog eats. This can especially be the case if you own a dog that has specific nutritional needs and would benefit more from the homemade diet.
However, it is important to mention that this type of dog’s food is nutritionally complete and well-balanced so that it can meet your dog’s needs. This is why we recommend you consult your vet about the possibility of feeding homemade food or ask for a consultation with a veterinary nutritionist.
What do we cover in this article?
In this article, we’ll provide you with all the essential information that answers the below questions:
- Should you consult a vet before switching to homemade dog food?
- What are the essential nutritional components of balanced homemade meals?
- What are the benefits and potential concerns of homemade dog food diets?
- Which ingredients should you avoid in homemade dog food recipes?
- What are the proper portion sizes and feeding frequency for homemade food?
- How can you monitor your dog’s health on a homemade diet?
- What are some common pitfalls and mistakes to avoid with homemade food?
- What are some simple and tasty homemade dog food recipe ideas?
- Why is balanced nutrition and consulting a vet nutritionist important?
Hoping that all that information will help you feed your loved dog with the best homemade dog food.
Balanced Homemade Dog Food Recipes: Essential Ingredients
Before diving into the world of possibilities and experiments when it comes to dog recipes, we advise dog owners to first learn what are the essential ingredients that their homemade dog food should have. It is always important to choose high-quality, whole-food ingredients that are both safe and nutritious for your pet.
Here are the most important ingredients that all homemade diets should contain:
Proteins are one of the essential nutrients and they play a critical role in the animals’ overall health. It is widely known that dogs are carnivores, thus their body requires a sufficient amount of protein in order for them to stay healthy. Proteins help in muscle building, tissue repair, enzyme production, hormone regulation, and immune system support.
All dogs love meat, however, some of them may be more reluctant to eat just anything. If you are one lucky owner of a picky eater, don’t worry, there are several choices for you to try in the homemade meals. One of the most commonly used protein sources are lean beef, chicken breasts, turkey, or fish. But you can also use organ meat, such as liver, kidney, or heart.
But meat is not the only way that provides protein. Dogs are especially happy when you share some of your cooked eggs or you give them a dairy product, such as yogurt or cheese. Of course, that does not mean that you need to feed your dog cheese, but it can be a good snack.
Protein can be found in vegetables as well. Lentils, chickpeas, or quinoa can be another way for your dog to get their daily dose of protein.
Many people may find themselves confused when it comes to the use of carbohydrates. But just as we need them as energy sources, dogs need them too. This is why whenever you are trying to make homemade dog food, think about adding carbohydrates to your homemade dog food recipes too.
Another use of them is the presence of fiber. That way they can aid your dog in digesting and promote bowel regularity as well. In many ways, they also help regulate blood glucose levels and support the gastrointestinal system.
So, what can you add to your dog’s diet as carbohydrates? Brown rice and oaths and other whole grains are great sources of this essential ingredient. But so are the starchy vegetables such as sweet potato and pumpkin.
One important thing that we need to emphasize is that nowadays there is a trend of avoiding to use of grains in dry dog food. Many of you have seen Grain- Free dry food that is widely available. However, pet owners need to know that some studies connect DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy), a heart condition, with this type of food. That is why we recommend that before you consider making any changes in your dog’s diet, talk to your vet.
Pretty much everyone is scared of this word! And people may be reluctant to use it in their homemade dog food recipes because they may think that their dog will get fat. This is actually a legitimate concern, especially if you need to monitor your dog’s weight.
However, fats play an important role in your dog’s health and nutrition. They are a great source of energy and can help in certain vitamin absorption.
As mentioned before, it’s important to know your dog’s energy needs when making dog food. This is important because working healthy dogs do require dog food that contains enough fat so that it can balance the overall caloric intake. For example, you can’t give high-caloric dog food to a Pug that enjoys sharing the couch with you. But your working Malinois most certainly will need that!
Fats also provide fatty acids support, which are actually healthy fats, because they contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, that are important for your dog. They support healthy skin and coat, promote brain development and support the immune system. See, fat is not so bad!
You can use lean meats if you want to add fat to your dog’s meals. Fish is another source of fat, such as cod liver oil. But so are coconut oil, olive oil, and eggs. But, have in mind that you should only try to use high-quality fats and avoid using trans or saturated fats.
We all know when our grannies would make us eat our veggies. They always said that they make us strong and healthy. And they are not far from the truth. They are a good way for your dog to get well-balanced dog food.
Vegetables are nature’s gift and they are rich in fiber, antioxidants, lots of vitamins, and important minerals. We have all heard about vitamins C, vitamins B and K, potassium, and folate. Those essential components play a vital role in building and maintaining your dog’s immune system, as well as helping in important cell function.
Because vegetables are rich in fiber, they can help promote gastrointestinal health and motility, can help in maintaining the dog’s weight, and aid the proper nutrient absorption that happens in the gut.
Another plus for the veggies is that if you happen to have a picky dog, you can experiment with different veggies and try to find the perfect one for them. Or you can just use mixed vegetables, for example, a mixture of frozen vegetables. There are not a lot of rules when it comes to making homemade dog food, you just need to try and find what works the best for your k-9.
As a vet, I am frequently asked, especially by new owners whether they can share their favorite fruit with them! And the answer is yes! If you are one of those owners that are interested in preparing fresh dog food, then adding fruit will definitely make your pooch happy.
Fruit is rich in minerals and vitamins, as well as water, which is especially important during these summer hot days. Whether you add them to the dog food, or you prefer to give it as a treat, fruit will certainly be a healthy snack for your dog.
One thing that we need to mention is that before you decide to add any fruit to your own dog food, check how to previously prepare it. Also, do a little research on what you should give and what should avoid when it comes to fruit.
Another thing that needs mentioning is moderation. Fruit is rich in sugar, called fructose and excessive intake could lead to gaining weight or could make your dog’s tummy upset.
What to avoid in your homemade dog food recipes
Whenever you are considering trying out homemade food for your dog, you should think about consulting your vet or a vet nutritionist who can help you start. Often times owners are unaware that some food is not good for their dogs, or that it needs to be prepared in a specific matter.
Here are some important information that you need to be aware of:
Products that are toxic for dogs
This group includes:
- macadamia nuts
- alcohol (avoid fermented fruits as well)
- Yeast dough
Food that contains xylitol is also a big no-no for your fur friend, as it is poisonous and can cause gastrointestinal problems or in severe cases could be potentially deadly.
Food that may contain xylitol:
- Sugar-free gum
- Sugar-free mints and candies
- Sugar-free or low-sugar baked goods
- Certain brands of peanut butter and other nut butter
- Sugar-free desserts (e.g., puddings, jello, ice cream)
- Diet foods and drinks
- Sugar-free yogurt
- Some brands of honey or other sweeteners
- Certain kinds of ketchup or other condiments
- Certain brands of protein bars and shakes
- Sugar-free or low-sugar cereals
- Certain brands of jams and jellies
- Some over-the-counter medications (e.g., cough syrup)
- Certain chewable vitamins or supplements
- Some oral care products, like toothpaste and mouthwash
This is why we always recommend you speak to a vet or veterinary nutritionist about which products are safe for your dog.
Spices and seasoning
Humans want their spices cos it gives them a different taste. Dogs are not really into that, so they can enjoy their food plain just as much as we enjoy it well-seasoned. So, put away that ground garlic powder and just let your dog taste the food as it is.
Bones: raw or cooked?
The first thing we need to emphasize is that bones are not food. They do not possess any of the essential ingredients that dogs need in their diet. I have had many owners come up to me with some gastrointestinal problems that ended up on the operating table after they fed their dog-cooked bones.
Chicken bones, fish bones are small and most dogs don’t even chew them and they end up causing serious intestinal problems, as they can get stuck in the gut. What I do for my boy Fred, is I get him bovine big raw bones, one of those that I know he can’t break, so they are just for chew fun and some dental cleanup. But, have in mind they are raw, which means they will most certainly go bad the next day.
We already said that dogs need fat in their dog food. But, having too much unhealthy saturated fats could potentially cause obesity or an even more scarier condition called pancreatitis. So, does adding french fries to your homemade dog food recipes count as healthy food? No, but then again, fish oil is a great substitute.
Be careful with your raw meat
Nowadays dog owners choose organ meats such as liver, ground chicken, or whole chicken breasts. All of them are great, as long as they come from reputable sources or are graded for human consumption. Dogs are carnivores and there is no reason why you should not be feeding raw. However, you should be aware that raw meat carries a potential risk of bacterial contamination, especially with E.coli and Salmonella. If you feel unsure, you can always cook the meat.
Another thing we need to mention is that we don’t recommend giving raw ground pork or a whole piece of pork meat. There are two reasons for that. The first one is that it can contain a parasite called Trichinella spiralis, which is harmful to your dog if ingested. The other reason is Aujeszky’s virus, also known as pseudo rabies, which is carried by pigs, but they are not infected by it.
Do Your Portion Research
Dog’s specific nutritional values vary a lot. Planning the nutritional value of homemade dog food will certainly depend on factors such as age, activity level, breed, and the underlying condition your dog has. For example, no matter how good chicken broth may be, if your dog has food sensitivities to chicken, you will for sure avoid it.
In general, every balanced dog’s diet should follow the guidelines:
Dogs are carnivores, which of course means, they need meat. Whenever you are making homemade dog food, you should always try to have at least 40-50% protein of the total caloric content.
The energy comes from the fats, which is why your dog will probably need to have around 10-15% of the total meal dedicated to fats.
Not only do they provide energy for your dog, but they are rich in fiber, which helps your dog’s gastrointestinal tract utilize all the ingredients the best way. This is why you would like to have at least 30% of this essential ingredient in your homemade dog food recipes.
Fruit and vegetables
More ingredients that are rich in fiber, energy, and many important micro and macro elements, as well as vitamins. Your homemade dog food should contain at least 20% of these essential components.
Many owners would consider adding probiotics (read more about probiotics for dogs here), calcium, or omega-3 fatty acids to their dog food. But this mainly will depend on your dog’s body, whether they need it or not. Some dogs may have sensitive digestive tracts and will require supplementation.
Recommended serving size and frequency for homemade dog food recipe
Feeding your dog with homemade dog food requires careful consideration when it comes to recommended serving size and feeding frequency. This usually depends on your dog’s nutritional needs, which are reflected by age, activity, or condition. A dog that runs and is a working breed will have different nutritional needs compared to a dog that usually stays at home and goes for a walk once to twice daily.
How you will feed your dog also is dependent on age. having a puppy, especially a medium or large breed, means that they will have different caloric intake per day. These dogs need to grow, so they will also require additional supplementation, such as calcium and Vit. D, for example. Seniors on the other side, have low metabolism and they usually are not as active, which is why when you plan their meals, you will try to feed them something that is more light.
How you feed your dog is totally up to you. You will probably hear many different opinions when it comes to this question. I personally feed my dog once per day, usually in the evening when all the activity is over and we are settled down. The general rule that you may want to follow is that when you have a young pup, it is always recommended to divide the amount of food into several meals. As your pup gets older, you could settle to feeding two, or three times per day.
Even though homemade dog food contains water in it, we should emphasize that it is important that your dog always has access to fresh water, especially on a hot summer day.
Is feeding homemade dog food affordable?
This is a very legit question that many owners ask themselves whenever they are considering switching to homemade meals for their k-9 companions. There are a few things that you need to consider when it comes to this, like which ingredients you plan to use, as in how much are you willing to spend on that and do you have the time for it. Oftentimes, commercial dry food also has good quality and may be cheaper than this option.
Location plays another important role when making the decision to feed your own dog food. Sometimes your dog may need to be fed a specific homemade dog food recipe, that in certain locations will mean that the ingredients will cost more. To put it in simple words, a special commercial dry food may be cheaper in that case.
Another thing that you need to think about is availability. If you live in a place where for example, you can’t get fresh meat or vegetables and fruit whenever you need it. This is why you may need to think about buying in bulk. Even though this may save you some money, it will mean that you will need to have proper storage for it.
The positive side of making homemade dog food is that there is lots of variety. You can experiment with different combinations and see what your k-9 preferences are. This is especially important if you own a picky eater or if your dog requires special dog food. However, if you are aiming for a balanced meal, that may mean that you need to buy some supplements as well. Which again, may not be that cheap.
What can go wrong with homemade dog food?
Often times owners make mistakes when they are planning and preparing dog food. They always guide themselves by what they believe is the best for their dog rather than consulting with someone who is trained to do so. And that is perfectly normal – they just want the best for their pets.
Here are the things that every owner needs to be aware of whenever they are inventing their own homemade dog food recipe:
One of the most important things when preparing the food is to ensure your dog gets all the essential ingredients it needs, for a normal and healthy development. Owners sometimes may not think about the importance of providing the vitamins and minerals or any other essential ingredient, which could lead to a nutritional deficit. Even though nothing scary will happen all of a sudden, if the trend continues, the dog may have some serious consequences.
Too much or too less food
This is another thing where owners could potentially make mistakes. They either underfeed or overfeed their dog. Both things are bad for them, which is why you should always take into consideration your dog’s age, size, activity level, and health when you are planning on the feeding regime and portion.
Choosing the wrong protein
We already mentioned that dogs are carnivores and they need their quality protein intake for muscle development, tissue repair, and for overall well-being. And providing enough amount of protein for your dog may mean you need to pay a bit more, which some owners may not agree with. This is where problems can arise, such as muscle weakness, lowered immune system response, or loss of other vital processes.
This is especially important for owners that have dogs with known allergies or are prone to them. Before introducing a new ingredient in your homemade dog food recipes, make sure to check if they work well with your dog.
Time and effort
This is another important thing to remember, as many owners don’t really think this through at the beginning. Making food for your dog takes time and if you are not ready for that, then you should probably stick to the commercial dog food. And there is nothing wrong with it, your dog will still be happy since they are getting fed.
Tasty and simple recipes that you can make
Cooking for your dog can be fun, and some people would be more interested in making a healthy meal for their dog rather than themselves. And there are endless combinations that you can try, especially if you have a dog that is not a picky eater.
Here are some of our recommendations:
Chicken and rice delight
For this homemade dog food you will need:
- 1 cup cooked and shredded chicken (skinless, boneless)
- 1 cup cooked rice (it can be brown rice)
- 1/2 cup cooked and chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup cooked and chopped green beans
- 1 tablespoon fish oil (for omega-3 fatty acids)
Cooking instructions: Cook the chicken thoroughly and shred it into small pieces and then cook the rice according to the cooking instructions. Steam or boil the carrots and green beans until tender, then chop them into small pieces. Add the fish oil to the mixture and stir well to ensure it’s evenly distributed, then mix everything. Serve once it has cooled down.
Beef and sweet potatoes stew
Dogs usually don’t consume enough water during the day, which is why offering them a meal that is yummy and not that dry will certainly benefit them in more than one way.
Here is what you need for this recipe:
- 1 cup cooked ground beef (lean)
- 1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato
- 1/2 cup cooked and chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup cooked peas
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (for healthy fats)
Cooking instructions: Cook the beef thoroughly and drain any excess fat. Cook the sweet potato until soft and mash them until smooth. Steam or boil the spinach and peas until tender, then chop them into small pieces. Mix everything in a large bowl. Add the coconut oil to the mixture and mix well. Serve once everything has cooled down.
Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Biscuits
All of us want to spoil our dogs and reward them when they are being good boys and girls. So rather than buying commercial treats, why don’t you make your own?
Here is what you will need:
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (unsalted and unsweetened)
- 1 ripe banana, mashed
- 1/4 cup water (or more, as needed)
Cooking instructions: In a large mixing bowl, combine the whole wheat flour and rolled oats. Add the mashed banana and natural peanut butter to the dry ingredients. Mix everything well until you get a crumbly dough. Gradually add water, a little at a time, and continue mixing until the dough comes together and forms a ball. The amount of water needed may vary depending on the consistency of the peanut butter and banana.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to your desired thickness (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick). Use cookie cutters or a knife to cut the dough into shapes. You can make bone shapes, hearts, or any other fun shapes your dog might enjoy. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cut-out biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space between them. Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown and firm.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscuits cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, store the homemade dog biscuits in an airtight container. They can be kept at room temperature for a few days, or you can refrigerate or freeze them for longer storage.
How to monitor my dog’s health when it eats homemade dog food?
Proper canine nutrition is important for a dog’s life because we all want them to be healthy. But, whenever you decide to prepare food for your dog, you also need to think about how this will affect them.
Regular veterinary checkups mean that you are on top of any lurking problem that may be hiding and that may have been caused by the recent change in your dog’s diet. Vets are quite good at spotting changes in their patients because we don’t see them on a regular basis.
You may have heard vets using the term Body Condition Scoring. It is an important tool that helps vets to determine the muscle/fat ratio on your dog and it is our recommendation that you ask your vet to tell you what you need to watch for when you are trying to determine BCS. This way you can monitor how your dog is doing on his diet.
Weigh your dog regularly. If you are trying to help your dog lose or gain weight, make sure you weigh them before you switch them on homemade dog food. Mark the progress each month, this way you will know if the diet is working.
A good way to know if the homemade dog food recipes work for your dog is to follow your dog’s coat and skin. A shiny coat and healthy-looking skin are to be expected when your dog is eating healthy.
Check how your dog poops. Yes, that’s important information that will tell you if your homemade dog food is working for your canine or not.
Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water. Even though homemade dog food recipes usually contain much more water, it is still crucial that you follow your dog’s water intake.
Whenever you have any doubts about starting your dog on homemade dog food, talk to your vet. OR better yet go to a veterinary nutritionist, as they are trained for this. The same goes if you notice any changes whenever you consider making any changes in the recipes.