How to Start Cooking Dog Food at Home

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Cooking dog food at home may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide will cover the benefits of feeding your dog fresh food, how to properly prepare homemade dog food, which supplements you’ll need to balance your dog’s diet, and an example of a balanced dog food recipe.

cooking dog food at home

Why should you cook for your dog?

There are plenty of benefits to cooking fresh, homemade meals for your furry friend. Here are a few of them:

Knowing every ingredient

If you read the nutrition label on your dog’s food, you may see words you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, which is never a good sign. Making your dog’s food at home means you can control every ingredient, so you know what nutrients they’re getting without adding any unnecessary mystery items.

No additives

Dog food is made to last a long time in storage, so it’s usually full of additives like preservatives that can be bad for your dog’s health. Cooking dog food at home prevents you from having to feed them any harmful chemicals.

Some dog food companies even use food coloring agents to make kibble more attractive to human buyers. But dogs are colorblind, so adding fake color doesn’t make them any more or less likely to eat a particular food.

Food coloring is another ingredient you don’t have to worry about in your dog’s diet if you make their food by yourself.

Higher quality ingredients

Most commercial dog foods don’t use human-grade ingredients.

Instead, the protein is derived from leftover animal parts and may contain lots of fillers. Human-grade food is much more nutritious and will improve your dog’s overall health.

With a proper diet, your dog should look and feel stronger, faster, more energetic, and happier. They will have better joints, a glossier coat, and even better breath. Not only will your dog look and feel better, but a diet of fresh, whole foods will help your dog live a longer life.

Weight control

Making your dog’s food can help them maintain or lose weight. When you cook for your dog you know exactly how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates they’re getting so it’s easier for you to control their diet.

Homecooked food is also better for your dog’s digestive system since many store-bought dog foods contain undigestible ingredients.

Special dietary needs

If your dog has any special dietary needs, such as food allergies or a nutritional shortage, the best way to manage it is by making their food at home.

You won’t have to worry about causing an allergic reaction or digestive upset they might get from dry dog food and you can be sure they’re getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.

What to do before cooking dog food at home?

If you decide to start making your dog’s food at home, it’s not enough to boil up some chicken and rice every day. In order to keep your dog healthy while cooking for them, you must be sure to:

Talk to your vet

Always consult with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet, and especially when switching to homemade food. Talk to them about recipes and ingredients to make sure that what you’re making for your dog isn’t only safe but supplies them with all the nutritional supplements they need.

Also, check in with your vet regularly after starting your dog on their new food to be sure the diet is working and that they’re healthy.

It may be a good idea to reach to a holistic veterinarian or a pet nutritionist, as they may know more about dog dietary needs and be able to guide you in making homecooked food properly.

Know which foods are safe for dogs

Remember that dogs’ bodies are different from ours and that there are certain human foods that are poisonous to them. Be careful not to add anything to your dog’s food that could be toxic to them. For example, did you know onion is poisonous to dogs?

Keep a list of unsafe ingredients posted on your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll have easy access to while cooking so you can always check your ingredients.

Find a few good recipes

Select your recipes from a high-quality and trustworthy source. Your safest bet is to ask your vet for recommendations or to use a cookbook or website that’s backed by science. You want recipes that are designed for dogs, not humans, and that will meet all their nutritional needs.

Follow recipes exactly

Once you’ve found a good recipe that meets all your dog’s nutritional needs, be sure to follow it as precisely as possible. Don’t swap out or alter the amounts of ingredients as this can change the nutritional balance of the food.

The guidelines for making your own balanced homemade dog food

A balanced dog diet includes meat/protein, grains/carbohydrates, vegetables, and some fruits.

Meat (60%)

The best meats for dogs are chicken or turkey (breast, thighs, or legs), beef, and fish (fresh or canned) While they’re all packed with protein, each meat has a few different nutritional benefits, so it’s a good idea to feed your dog different sources of protein rather than sticking to only one type.

Eggs, cottage cheese, or plain Greek yogurt are all good sources of protein in small amounts, as well.

Organs (5%)

You should also include a small amount of organ meat, such as liver or spleen in your dog’s diet, as these parts are highly rich in nutrients.

Grains and Starchy Vegetables (10%)

Oats, rice, pasta, quinoa, lentils, white potatoes, and yams are safe for dogs, but should not make up the base of their food. Whenever possible, it’s best to replace simple carbs with complex carbs (such as brown rice and sweet potatoes).

Vegetables (15%)

Pumpkin, broccoli (in moderation), kale, carrots, zucchini, green beans, peas, cauliflower (in moderation), and beet are all healthy choices of vegetables for your dog. Be sure to change them up though and don’t feed them too many cruciferous vegetables, as they can cause stomach discomfort.

Gain, certain vegetables like onions are toxic to dogs in any amount, so be sure to double-check before adding any ingredient to your dog food.

Fruits (10%)

Fruits should be limited to 10% of the daily diet.

Raspberry, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, pears, and mango are all acceptable as an occasional treat. Raisins and grapes are toxic for dogs, so leave them out of your pup’s diet.

Supplements

You’ll probably need to add supplements to your dog’s diet when you switch to fresh, homecooked food, as they may not be able to get all the nutrients they need depending on which recipe you use.

Talk to your vet about what supplements to add to your dog’s diet and follow instructions exactly since overdosing on supplements can be just as dangerous as lacking nutrients.

A healthy, balanced homemade diet for your dog will include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. The minerals they need are Magnesium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, Sulfur, Iron, Zinc, Iodine, Copper, and Selenium.

Most of these can be derived from food products, but since it’s hard to get all of the right amounts of each in one type of food, a multivitamin (made for dogs) can be used for supplementation.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the calcium and phosphorus balance in your dog’s body. Canned sardines are an excellent source of vitamin D and you can easily add them to your dog’s food. The daily recommended amount is 100 IUs per 20 pounds of body weight, which is approximately one sardine.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that’s known for its skin and coat health benefits and can be found in many multivitamins for dogs. The daily recommended amount is 1 to 2 IUs per pound of body weight.

Calcium

Calcium is a highly important supplement for dogs, as it helps build strong teeth and bones, affects nerve function, supports heart health, and helps blood clot. The daily recommended amount is 800 to 1,000 mg per pound of home-cooked food, which is about ½ teaspoon of ground eggshell.

Phosphorous

Dogs also need phosphorus, but ideally they need more calcium than phosphorus for a balanced diet. The appropriate ratio for dogs is 1:1 or 2:1 calcium to phosphorus.

Certain proteins, like organ meats, are higher in phosphorus than calcium.

Fish oil

In addition to these, many pet owners choose to supplement their dog’s diet with glucosamine, fish oil, and probiotics.

Fish oil contains essential omega-3 fatty acids which can help with various skin conditions, cognitive function, joint pain, and cellular inflammation. The daily recommended amount is 150 mg EPA per 20 pounds of body weight.

Eggs

Eggs are also a good source of many vitamins and minerals and should be given daily in small amounts.

Talking to a holistic veterinarian or pet nutritionist can help clear up these confusing details and make your homemade dog food as balanced as possible.

Balanced homemade dog food recipe

In addition to the supplements listed above, it’s important that your dog food contain enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

This is one example of a balanced recipe for dog food that should work for most dogs. You may need to supplement certain vitamins and minerals according to your vet’s instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2.5 lbs. ground chicken
  • 3.5 oz. chicken liver
  • 3 carrots

Preparation

  1. Prepare the rice according to package instructions and set aside. Chop the carrots into bite-sized or smaller pieces.
  2. Coat the bottom of a large pot with the olive oil and place over medium heat. Cook the chicken and liver in the oil until they’re browned (this should take about 3-5 minutes).
  3. Stir the rice and carrots into the chicken until all ingredients are warmed (about another 3-5 minutes). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before serving to your dog. If needed, you can use a blender or food processor to make the food easier to eat and digest.

How much should I feed my dog?

When starting to cook for your pooch at home, it’s important to first consult with a veterinarian or pet nutritionist to make sure you’re giving them the right portions of food.

However, a good place to start is to feed your dog around 2-3 percent of their body weight daily. For example, if your dog weighs 20 pounds, they should be eating about 8 ounces of food every day.

Puppies, however, need more protein in their diets than adult dogs, so discuss any adjustments to the recipe according to your dog’s age. 

How to make the switch from dry food to cooked food?

Any change in your dog’s diet should be made gradually. Start by replacing some of their current dry food with the new food, then gradually increase the amount over several days until all their food is cooked.

Example:

  • Day 1 – Mix 20% cooked food with 80% dry food.
  • Day 2 – Mix 40% cooked food with 60% dry food.
  • Day 3 – Mix 60% cooked food with 40%< dry food.
  • Day 4 – Mix 80% cooked food with 20% dry food.
  • Day 5 – Feed 100% cooked food.

If you notice any digestive problems, such as diarrhea, consider slowing down the transition. Some dogs may be more sensitive than others to the change in diet. In case there’s no improvement, tell your veterinarian about the problem.

In conclusion

Cooking dog food at home can be highly beneficial to your dog when done responsibly and correctly. Homemade food can make your dog healthier, happier, and live longer.

Always speak to your vet before changing your dog’s diet and make sure the recipes you plan to use are balanced and approved. If necessary, add any supplements your dog may need, including a multivitamin supplement, a calcium supplement, and fish oil.

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