People are becoming more health-conscious and recognizing the importance of eating well. With growing concern about nutrition labels and quality ingredients, why not take the same care of what goes into your dog’s body as well? After all, dog is man’s best friend, so doesn’t your pup deserve the best?
In this article, I’ll explore the benefits of cooking dog food at home, how to properly prepare homemade dog food, and which supplements you’ll need to balance your dog’s diet.
Why Should You Cook for Your Dog?
There are many benefits of fresh, home-cooked food for your dog, including:
1. 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 your dog is getting without adding any unnecessary mystery items.
2. 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 him 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 his food by yourself.
3. 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. He will have better joints, a glossier coat, and better breath. Not only will your dog look and feel better, but a diet of high-quality home-cooked food can boost his immune system and lengthen his lifespan.
4. Weight Control
Making your dog’s food at home can help him maintain or lose weight. Home-cooked food is better for your dog’s digestive system since many store-bought dog foods contain undigestible ingredients. When you cook for your dog you know exactly how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates he’s getting so it’s easier for you to monitor and manage his weight.
5. 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 his food at home. You won’t have to worry about causing an allergic reaction or digestive upset he might get from dry dog food and you can be sure he’s getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs.
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 for your dog every day. In order to keep your good boy healthy while cooking for him, there are a few steps you must follow:
1. 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 him. 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.
2. 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.
Also, follow the directions as precisely as possible. Don’t swap out or alter the amounts of ingredients, as this can change the nutritional balance of the meal.
3. Talk to a Professional
Consult with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet, especially when switching to homemade food. Discuss the recipes you want to use to make sure that what you’re making for your dog isn’t only safe, but supplies him with all the nutritional supplements he needs.
Check in with your veterinarian regularly after starting your dog on his new food to be sure the diet is working well. It’s also a good idea to talk to a holistic veterinarian or a pet nutritionist, as they may know more about dog dietary needs.
The Guidelines for Making Your Own Balanced Homemade Dog Food
A balanced dog diet includes meat (protein), grains, and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates), and vegetables. Some fruits (as long as they’re not toxic to dogs) and plain Greek yogurt is allowed, but not necessary.
Meat (around 50-60%): The best meats for dogs are beef, chicken, and turkey (breast, thighs, or legs), and fish (fresh or canned salmon, tuna, etc.) 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.
You should also include 5% organs, such as liver, as these parts are highly rich in nutrients that your dog needs in his diet.
Grains and Starchy Vegetables (around 10 to 20%): Oats, rice, pasta, quinoa, white potatoes, and yams are safe for dogs, but should not make up the base of their food as they lack nutritional value. Whenever possible, it’s recommended to use complex carbohydrates or combine a simple carbohydrate with a complex carbohydrate.
Vegetables (around 20%): 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 him too many cruciferous vegetables, as they can cause stomach discomfort.
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: 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.
What About Supplements?
You’ll probably need to add supplements to your dog’s diet when you switch to fresh, homecooked food, as he may not be able to get all the nutrients he needs depending on which recipe you use.
Again, 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 should also include vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, D, E, and Calcium. These can be derived from food sources, but since it’s hard to get all of the right amounts of each in one type of food, a multivitamin can be used for supplementation.
In addition, many pet owners choose to supplement their dog’s diet with fish oil, probiotics, and glucosamine.
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 add them to your dog’s food either daily or a couple of times a week. The daily recommended amount is 100 IUs per 20 pounds of body weight, which is approximately one sardine.
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.
Eggs are also a good source of many vitamins and minerals and should be given daily in small amounts.
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.
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.
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.
As I said, talking to a vet, 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
Here’s an example of a balanced recipe for a 20-pound dog. You may need to supplement certain vitamins and minerals according to your vet’s instructions. The amount you should feed your dog per day will depend on his weight, so discuss serving sizes as well.
I should point out that puppies need more protein in their diets than adult dogs, so make any adjustments to the recipe according to your dog’s age.
When cooking dog food at home, it’s important to choose from a wide variety of foods to balance out your dog’s diet as much as possible. Of course, you don’t have to feed only balanced meals, but be sure that between whichever recipes you choose you’re meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs.
- 1 oz. uncooked white rice
- 6.5 oz. chicken tenders
- 1/2 oz. chicken liver
- 1.5 oz. diced bell peppers and carrots
- 1/4 hard-boiled egg
- 1/4 sardine in olive oil (drained)
- Prepare the rice according to package instructions (preferably without oil) and set aside.
- Cut the vegetables into bite-sized or smaller pieces.
- Put the chicken tenders and chicken liver in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes (make sure that they’re cooked from inside).
- When the chicken tenders and chicken liver are cool enough to handle, chop or shred them together in a food processor.
- Stir the rice, bell peppers, and carrots into the chicken mixture until all ingredients are distributed evenly.
- Allow the food to cool completely before serving to your dog.
- If you feed your dog twice a day, add the boiled egg in the morning and the sardine in the evening.
Cooking dog food at home can be highly beneficial to your dog’s health when done responsibly and correctly. It can make him healthier, happier, and live longer. But always consult with a vet or pet nutritionist before making any changes to your dog’s diet and make sure the recipes you plan to use are balanced and approved.
If necessary, add any supplements to your dog’s diet that he may be lacking from homecooked food, or be sure that his food contains all the vitamins and minerals he needs.