Hi there, welcome to [blog name]. I’m [name], and today we’re going to be talking about how to make food for your dog.
So you’re probably wondering why you need a new recipe for dog food when there are so many different kinds of dry and canned dog food products out there. The answer is simple: because it’s important to feed your dog the right nutrition.
You may have heard that you should avoid feeding your dog human food (because it’s often high in salt, fat, or sugar), but the truth is that there are many foods that can improve their diet if prepared correctly. That’s where this blog comes in! In this series of articles, I’ll show you how to prepare healthy meals for Fido using only ingredients from his own kitchen—and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
How To Make Food For Dogs
With news of recalls and information about commercial dog foods constantly shifting, more and more dog owners are opting to prepare their own dog food at home. Dogs love home-cooked food, but making homemade dog food is not the same as cooking a meal for yourself or your human family members. There are some important rules to follow in order to keep your dog healthy.
Should You Feed a Homemade Diet?
Homemade diets are growing in popularity in part because the ingredients can be controlled, so there is no fear of dog food recalls. In addition, many people are trying to eat healthier and they want the same for their dogs. Homemade diets are favored by some because they contain whole food ingredients that are generally considered healthier than processed dog food.
Home cooking dog food is not right for everyone. There are some factors to consider before you switch your dog to a homemade diet.
- Be sure to find a dog food recipe that is complete and balanced. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to feed an incomplete or imbalanced diet to your dog.
- It takes time to measure ingredients and prepare the food correctly. Be sure you have a schedule that allows enough time to properly make your dog’s food on a regular basis.
- Make sure you can afford the ingredients to make your own dog food. Homemade food is typically less expensive than commercially prepared fresh or raw dog food, but it usually costs a little more than kibble.
- If you have a picky dog, you may need to source multiple recipes so you can change the diet periodically and keep your dog interested.
Proper Nutrition for Dogs
Like humans, dogs have nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. Dogs’ nutritional needs differ from our own, so you can’t exactly start sharing your own dinner with your dog. Feeding an incomplete or imbalanced diet can lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies in dogs.
Dogs need enough calories to meet their energy requirements. A dog’s daily caloric need depends on the dog’s life stage and activity level.1 Your veterinarian can help you determine how many calories your dog needs each day.
A homemade dog diet should contain an appropriate balance of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat. Vitamins and minerals must be added to the food to ensure it is complete and balanced.2
- At least 10% protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef
- Up to 50% carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, and potatoes (also provides some fiber)
- About 2.5-4.5% fiber, which can come from vegetables like peas, green beans, and carrots
- At least 5.5% fat, usually in the form of vegetable oil
- Vitamin and mineral supplements (dog-specific; can be purchased from a reputable company like BalanceIT.com)
If you are ready to get started cooking for your dog, the first step is to talk to your veterinarian. Your vet may have recipes for you to try. Or you may need a referral to a veterinary nutritionist or a vet that focuses on canine nutrition.
What to Watch for When Feeding Homemade Dog Food
It’s important to monitor your dog closely when changing to homemade dog food. Stay in contact with your veterinarian regarding any changes you notice, whether good or bad. For best results, keep a record of your dog’s weight and body condition over time. Weigh your dog at least once per week and contact your vet if you notice unintended weight loss or gain. Watch for vomiting or diarrhea that may occur if your dog is sensitive to one or more ingredients. Note and report these or any other signs of illness to your veterinarian.
How to Prepare Homemade Food for Dogs
When preparing a diet at home for your dog, it is essential that you follow a recipe that is complete and balanced. Once you and your vet have chosen an appropriate recipe, it’s time to get started.
- Before you begin, it’s best if you have ready a food scale, food processor, pots and pans, and containers or bags for portioning the food.
- Purchase fresh, high-quality ingredients that are not canned, seasoned, or heavily processed.
- Set yourself up in a clean area of the kitchen that is free of foods that may be harmful to your dog.
- Measure out the ingredients. Use a food scale if possible for accuracy.
- Cook ingredients as directed on the recipe
- Mix food and supplements together well (ideally, use a food processor to blend ingredients).
- Place food in containers and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
- In general, refrigerated food will stay fresh for three to four days. Frozen dog food is best within about two months. Avoid feeding homemade dog food that has been in the freezer for more than six months.
Many owners choose to prepare food in bulk and refrigerate or freeze it in pre-portioned containers. This is a great idea to save time and money, but you might want to begin by making smaller quantities so you can see how your dog does on the diet.
Sample Dog Food Recipes
The following recipes have been created by veterinarians for general use in healthy dogs. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian before feeding your dog these or other homemade diets.
MSPCA-Angell Sample Dog Food Recipe
MSPCA-Angell offers the following recipe for the average 15 lb adult dog with no medical problems as a possible option to concerned pet owners. This recipe is balanced for long-term feeding when fed according to instructions.
Homemade diet formulation: We recommend the use of a dietary gram scale to weigh out these foods until you become familiar with the approximate volumes of each. Food scales can be purchased from local grocery and large discount stores. All items should be blended together to prevent your pet from picking out single food items. A nutritionally balanced homemade food could result in an imbalanced intake of nutrients if ingredients are allowed to separate and the animal does not consume the entire food mixture.
These are cooked weights and amounts of each food ingredient per day for a 15 lb (ideal weight) adult dog. Final cooked weights do vary in water content and cooking times; however, weighing these ingredients is more accurate than measuring by volume.
|Protein source: Chicken, dark meat cooked||80||net wt. oz.|
|Carbohydrate source: Rice, white, cooked||190||1 1/3 cups|
|Fiber source: Mixed vegetables||15||1 Tbsp|
|Fat source: Vegetable oil||5-10||1-2 tsp|
|Supplements to be mixed in the food: Balance IT Canine||6||1.5 black scoops|
A 15 lb dog’s daily energy requirement is estimated at 443 kcal and this diet contains about 1.51 kcal per gram as fed, therefore the dog should eat about 300 grams of this diet daily. We calculate the initial food dose using a generic dog equation, however, for any individual dog this generic equation can be off by +/- 50%. If you think your dog requires more or less food, simply feed more or less in total adjusting (-/+ 25%) the amount for proper weight and condition. Please weigh the dog weekly while eating this diet.
Recipe shared with permission from MSPCA-Angell.
Northwest Holistic Pet Care: Cooked Meal for a 20 lb. Dog
IMPORTANT: Before making any changes to your dog’s diet, please consult with your holistic veterinarian to ensure the changes are compatible with your dog’s current health status. Weigh your dog before making diet changes. Having a baseline; tracking their weight will help you in adjusting quantities should they lose or gain too much. The amount of food a dog requires will vary based on activity level, age, and overall health status.
- 8 ounces ground organic turkey thigh (boneless)
- 2 tbsp ground organic turkey organ meat (liver, gizzards, hearts)
- ¼ c finely grated organic veggies
- 1 tsp ground raw sunflower seeds
- ½ tsp organic coconut oil
- ½ tsp salmon oil
- 500 mg Calcium Citrate (*must include this!)
*Adjust ingredient measurements based on your dog’s weight and activity level. The amounts listed above are for a 20 lb. dog who receives minimal exercise. A dog’s caloric needs can quadruple with intense exercise. Be sure to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust meal portions to meet caloric requirements.
- 40 lb. Dog: Above amounts x 2
- 60 lb. Dog: Above amounts x 3
- 80 lb. Dog: Above amounts x 4
Blanch veggies and set aside. Gently cook the ground turkey thigh and organ meat at a medium-low temperature. Remove from burner when most of the meat has turned white, but some remains pinkish. Place blanched veggies in food processor or clean coffee grinder and pulse until finely grated in appearance. Mix all ingredients together and serve after making sure the mixture has cooled down enough to eat.
Tips: Heat from the cooking process decreases the life force (vitality) of the food. Gentle partial cooking will retain more of the food’s vitality while still providing a meal that’s easier for some pets to digest than raw food. Blanching and finely grating veggies makes them easier to digest and enhances nutrient absorption.
- If your dog has a history of urinary tract infections, struvite or calcium oxalate stones, please ask your veterinarian for guidance.
- Track your dog’s urinary pH because it’s directly linked to, and impacted by their diet. You can buy pH strips at most pharmacies. The normal pH level for dogs is 6.5.
Nutritional Supplements (for a 20 lb. dog)
These are additional nutrients (supplements) that can be added to the recipe above and are not included in the nutritional analysis table.
- 1 ½ tbsp ground parsley, burdock root, zucchini or other greens (daily)
- ¼ tsp cod liver oil (3 x week) *Cod liver oil is excellent for cancer prevention.
Recipe shared with permission from Donna Kelleher, DVM of Northwest Holistic Pet Care. Check out Dr. Donna’s book, “Zen and the Art of Caring for Pets.”
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Homemade Dog Food RecipePlay VideoIt’s a fact, feeding your pup a diet of 100% human grade dog food is easy, cost effective, and WAY better for them than a traditional doggie diet of processed kibble! My easy homemade dog food recipe combines lean ground sirloin, wholesome brown rice, fresh vegetables, hard boiled eggs, and tender herbs for a healthy, vibrant alternative to traditional dog food that has given our 11 year old dog a new lease on life!
***Please note, I am not a veterinarian, just a very passionate dog owner! The information in this blog post documents our own personal experiences, research, and the recipes that we feed our dogs under our veterinarian’s careful supervision. Please, consult with your vet and use your own personal judgment when considering transitioning to a 100% human-grade food diet for your pup. This post was updated with video August 16, 2020, updated with additional recipe links 9/14/2020, updated 1/7/2021 with metric measurements, updated 1/3/2022 with recipe links for hydrating meals.***
At the end of 2019, during our yearly vet check, we received the devastating news that our 11 year old dog’s blood work showed that he was in stage 4 kidney failure!
Honestly, I was a basket case, how on earth did we miss this? He seemed like he was just dealing with some symptoms of getting older – frequent urination, sometimes excessive water drinking. It definitely didn’t feel like life-threatening symptoms. As much as the diagnosis was a shock, the price tag of the prescription diet he would need to eat for the remainder of his life was pretty horrifying too!
We spent the days that followed his diagnosis in-between cuddle puddles in the floor with him and Google deep dive sessions researching canine kidney disease.
After reading about a bazillion articles we found that there were a few super easy changes we could immediately make at home besides diet that would positively impact Hooch’s health and make things easier on his kidneys.
- Filtered or distilled water only || The kidney’s main function is to filter out the toxins in our bodies and since tap water can be loaded with chemicals and contaminants it is best to only give your dog clean, filtered water to drink. If you have a dog living with kidney disease like we do, you may also want to eventually invest in a slow water feeder as dogs with kidney disease can get quite thirsty and will actually start drinking water too fast which causes its own unique set of problems.
- Increase exercise || Luckily for us, right before Hooch’s diagnosis we adopted a puppy. She has played a big part in making sure he is more active and on his feet playing a good portion of the day. We still have had to make a conscious effort to get out and walk with him more than we were before though. Dogs are just like us, the more they move, the better their bodies function and the easier it is for their kidney’s to do their job.
- Vitamins & Nutrients || Humans don’t get all of the vitamins and nutrients they need from a one-stop-shop kind of a diet and neither do our dogs! Whether your dog is eating a diet that consist of kibble or you are dishing up a homemade dog food recipe like this one, your pup needs vitamins! We really like and use the brand Dog Greens! It is a plant based vitamin and mineral powder that we just shake over the dog’s food at each serving. They love the flavor and I love knowing that all of their nutritional needs have been met at every meal!
When people find out we make our own dog food at home they always ask us, “What about a raw diet?”, so let’s get that out of the way first….
There are LOTS of thoughts and theories on feeding your dog a raw diet especially a dog that is living with kidney disease. Our vet however, was personally opposed to feeding a raw diet due to the fact that dogs, just like us, are very susceptible to food poisoning. Besides that, a raw diet can be tricky to get just right! You run the risk of giving your dog a horrible belly ache by mixing a raw diet with cooked treats, so if you decided to go raw it is important to have both raw meals and raw treats planned for your pup at all times. NO MIXING the two! Since raw and cooked foods digest at different rates any combination of the two can wreak serious havoc on your pup’s gut which can lead to some pretty unpleasant situations for you – if you get my drift.
Now, let’s break down the recipe for my Easy Homemade Dog Food shall we?
The recipe box below contains a printable version of my go-to recipe for homemade dog food, which consist of lean ground sirloin, brown rice, carrots, hard boiled eggs, parsley, and a few tablespoons of oil that is high in Omega’s. But sometimes, especially since social distancing, I’ve found that it is helpful to have a list of easy substitutes for when ingredients run low. Plug in or swap out any of the items below based on what foods your pup likes/needs and what you have on hand to create your pup’s ideal dog food flavor profile.
***It is important to note that dog’s can have food allergies too!!! The top 5 (in order) foods that dogs can be allergic to are beef, dairy, wheat, chicken, & egg. If you notice your dog having any issues after ingesting these ingredients you should contact your veterinarian.***
Meat || Lean ground beef, ground chicken, ground white or dark meat turkey, & ground pork are all great options. Just be sure to make sure that any meat you feed your animals is free of seasonings when purchasing! Dog’s living with a kidney disease diagnosis need meals that are lower in phosphorus – so for us a lean ground beef like ground sirloin is best the way to go!
Grains || Brown rice has all of the fiber from the hull of the rice grain still intact and it’s easily digestible, which makes it a great ingredient for homemade dog food! If you are limiting phosphorus in your dog’s food due to kidney disease you can use white rice instead. Other grains like oats, quinoa, and even whole grain pasta are also easily digestible options. Gluten grains can be included in a dog’s diet too, however it is important to note that gluten is one of the top 5 dog allergens. In our personal experience with Hooch over the years, gluten has been a real problem that causes him extreme gastrointestinal discomfort, so we avoid it.
Eggs || Eggs are one of the top 5 allergens for dogs and the yolks are very high in phosphorus -which you want to limit in dog’s with kidney disease. But, eggs are also one of the highest quality forms of protein you can feed your pet! Ultimately, a hard-boiled egg is Hooch’s favorite thing on the planet so, with our vet’s approval, we opted to leave them in his food.
Vegetables || My dogs both really LOVE fresh shredded carrots and fennel, so if I have either of those on hand I use them, but there are LOADS of other great dog-friendly veggies too! Frozen veggie blends that contain peas, corn, carrots, and green beans are a wonderful choice that our dogs love! Cooked sweet potatoes are a great addition to bulk up their meals too, just never feed your dog raw sweet potato as it can cause serious blockages! Canned 100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, is another great addition to your dog’s daily meal. A tablespoon or two mixed in at each feeding really ups their fiber intake and can work wonders for your dog’s digestive system!
Herbs || Lots of fresh and dried herbs are great for dogs! The curly, not flat-leaf, variety of parsley is great for preventative kidney health. It’s cleansing for the organs (which will help prevent disease). However, for a dog with an actual kidney disease diagnosis, you may want to limit their intake of parsley altogether. Herbs like cilantro, thyme, or basil are delicious options for your pup that are loaded with health benefits too!
Oil || You will want to drizzle a few tablespoons of oil that is high in Omega 3’s into each batch of dog food you make. I usually just stick with olive oil or safflower oil because I typically have them on hand and they are affordable. There are great Omega oil blends available on the market too that contain Omega’s 3,6, & 9 but they tend to be a bit pricier.
Hydration is VERY important for dog’s with kidney disease.
Dog’s with kidney disease are in need of hydrating fluids wherever they can get them! The benefit of feeding food that is saturated instead of dry is that the kidneys won’t have to work as hard to perform their normal function in the body.
There are lots of ways to add more liquid to your pup’s meals. Obviously, a bit of water mixed in is one option, but we prefer hydrating with a liquid that adds nutritional value as well.
Dog-Friendly Bone Broth Recipe
Bone broth recipes for dogs should be very different than those for humans! Dog’s cannot eat certain ingredients that are typically used in bone broth for humans like onions.
This recipe is full of dog-friendly ingredients like apples, ginger, and mushrooms and can be made on the stove, in the Instant Pot, or slow cooker!
You can hydrate your dog’s food while also boosting their immune system, improving liver health, supporting healthy digestion, and helping to relieve joint pain by adding homemade bone broth to your dog’s daily meals.
Beef Bone Broth Topper from The Native Pet
Native Pet’s bone broth contains only natural ingredients and is sourced and packaged in the USA.
Our bone broth delivers on the nutritional benefits of a homemade broth in a convenient powder form and is used to re-hydrate dry food, or as a simple, nourishing drink.
Use code “THISMESSISOURS20″ at checkout for 20% off your order!
Unlike most pet food, which is feed grade, this 100% human-grade goat milk from The Honest Kitchen is made with human-grade ingredients and produced in a human food facility. That means higher quality ingredients and more safety standards, just like you would expect from your own food!
This topper is easy to make too —simply add warm water to the dehydrated mix and stir to combine.