Why Homemade Dog Food? Making your dog homemade dishes can be a healthy alternative to feeding commercial products because you’re offering meals that retain natural nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and fatty acids.
Grain-free Dog Food
Grain-free: Grain-free dog food is one of the fastest-growing segments of the commercial pet food world because more pet lovers are concerned about the high percentage of grains in traditional kibble.
Can dogs eat grain? Certainly. But dogs have a tougher time digesting grains than humans do, partly because they lack the enzymes in their saliva to start digestion.
Some dogs might even be allergic to grains (although dogs can definitely have allergies to beef, chicken, and other meats as well).
Paleo Diet for Dogs
Paleo: As more people turn to a Paleo diet (which mimics the diet of the hunter-gatherer) for themselves, they also look to their dogs’ diets and wonder what’s biologically appropriate for their dog.
Setting aside the convenience of the bag of kibble, what is most appropriate for dogs— animals that can eat as omnivores but whose teeth obviously say “carnivore”?
Many people believe that a dog’s ideal diet would be a canine version of the Paleo diet, most often referred to as an Ancestral Diet where dogs are concerned. This diet is higher in meat-based protein and fat and far lower in carbohydrates than commercial diets.
Raw Dog Food Diet
Raw: Perhaps no other canine diet is as hotly debated as the raw diet. Proponents point to the cleaner teeth, smaller stools, and excellent skin and coat of dogs on the raw diet.
On the other side, detractors emphasize the risk (to both dogs and their humans) of bacteria spread when your dog eats raw meat, then chews on a toy that Grandma later picks up. Others point to the danger of eating whole bones (although not all raw feeders serve whole bones; some grind bones or add supplements).
Switching Dog Food
If you do decide to switch to a specific specialty diet, make the transition gradually to avoid digestive problems that could arise from a sudden change in diet. (This gradual introduction is also recommended when switching from one commercial brand to another one.)
Start by reducing the amount of “regular” food from your dog’s diet, supplementing it with the specialty food, and then adjusting the relative amounts daily until you are feeding only the specialty diet. Typically 20–25 percent of your dog’s diet should be switched out per day as you gradually change to the new diet.
Switching to Raw Dog Food
One exception: If you’re switching to a raw diet, you should know that most raw proponents recommend against a gradual transition from kibble to raw. Instead, most advise a twenty-four-hour fast before the switch; once that’s done, they recommend a complete change to raw.
Our dogs have always been fed a varied diet. We give our dogs a wide range of foods all the time; their digestive systems have grown accustomed to a constant change of foods. Just as we eat a diverse diet, our dogs do as well.
Unlike dogs who eat a diet of a single variety of kibble for months (or years) on end, our dogs are accustomed to one meal at breakfast and a totally different meal at dinner and do well with the diversity. Every dog is an individual, however, so work with your veterinarian to determine what will work best for your dog.
Save Money with Homemade Food
Making your own dog food can also save you money. Compared to the price of premium dog food (including commercial raw diets), homemade food can be a cost-saver, especially when you consider that many of the ingredients are simple, staple items that you can purchase in bulk and store for future use.
By using produce that is in season, you have the double advantage of having fresh ingredients at their nutritional peak available at the very lowest price.
Here’s a quick look at some of the best seasonal buys:
- Fall: acorn squash, apples, butternut squash, figs, pears, pumpkin, sweet potatoes.
- Winter: radishes, rutabagas, turnips.
- Spring: apricots, carrots, mangos, spinach, strawberries, snow peas, sugar snap peas.
- Summer: blackberries, blueberries, green beans, peaches, plums, raspberries, watermelon, zucchini.
However, along with the immediate savings of making your own foods, there are also hidden economic benefits. By ensuring that your dogs have proper nutrition, you are giving them the foundation for excellent lifetime health, meaning far fewer visits to the veterinarian’s office for expensive treatments and medications.
Vet-Approved Homemade Dog Food
Although it’s easy to make your dog one or two homemade meals per week for variety, switching to a totally homemade diet isn’t a change to be taken lightly.
Dogs need balanced nutrition to help them live their best life and figuring out that balance week in and week out can be daunting for some pet parents. After trying some of these recipes out on your dog, you may decide that you want to make your dog’s principal diet homemade.
Your first step is to schedule a talk with your veterinarian. Discuss the switch and get your vet’s recommendations on foods and supplements for your dog’s size, age, activity level, and any health concerns.
Your dog’s life stage plays an important role in the formulation of a proper diet. Compared to adult dogs, puppies need a higher fat, protein, and calorie content in their food. Large and small dogs have varying needs as well; large breed pups need less calcium than their smaller cousins.
How much Homemade Dog Food to Feed?
Did you know that too much of most nutritional elements can be just as harmful as too little? Yes, even too much of a good thing can lead to health problems. Here’s some food for thought:
- Too much protein can overwork your dog’s kidneys and liver as they work to remove the excess protein the body cannot absorb. (Too little protein can lead to growth problems for puppies.)
- Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to, you guessed it, excess poundage on your pup! Too little fat, though, results in a dull coat and flaky skin.
- Too many vitamins can stress your dog’s organs and even lead to bladder stones, while a lack of vitamins will make your tail-wagging chum tired and weak.
- Fiber also plays an important role in a balanced diet. Too much fiber leads to gas. Too little? Loose stools. Fiber is one component of your pet’s diet that’s easy to see (and suffer from) a lack of balance.
As you can see, obtaining the right balance involves many factors—but there are big benefits. Along with being in control of the ingredients that compose your dog’s diet, you can also vary the diet according to your pooch’s personal palate. Work closely with your dog’s veterinarian to be sure your dog is getting everything he needs.
Disclaimer: This article is to provide information to help you prepare nutritious, homemade meals for your dog. It is not intended to diagnose, cure or replace the expert care and specific nutritional advice provided by your veterinarian.