- Key Points
- Store-Bought Pet Food Benefits and Disadvantages
- Homemade Dog Food Benefits and Disadvantages
- When to Avoid Homemade Dog Food
- Raw Homemade Food Versus Cooked Homemade Food
- Understand the Core Ingredients for Dog Nutrition
- Poisonous Foods to Dogs
- Healthy Homemade Dog Food Ratio
- Easy Cheap Homemade Dog Food Recipe Sample
- Homemade Dog Food Delivery Option
- The Bottom (Line) of the Food Bowl
Store-bought dog food is often expensive and filled with ingredients that are not beneficial to your pup's health.
Homemade dog food recipes must be nutritionally complete and balanced, utilizing proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats and oils, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Different factors, such as your pup's age, size, and activity level, need consideration when creating homemade dog food recipes.
Homemade dog food delivery services are a convenient alternative to homemade recipes, providing vet-approved meals with fresh, all-natural ingredients delivered right to your door.
The quality of dog food is important in keeping your dog healthy and happy. However, did you know that homemade dog food is better than store-bought food? Not only does making your food for Fido save money, it also allows you to customize the meals based on your pup's needs.
This guide walks you through everything you need to know about preparing delicious, healthy homemade dog food recipes for your furry friend.
Store-Bought Pet Food Benefits and Disadvantages
Buying pre-made dog food has its perks. It's convenient, and it comes in various formulas tailored to meet different nutritional needs. If your furry friend has certain health conditions – food allergies, kidney disease, liver disease, or joint problems – there are medication and supplement-enriched brands that specifically cater to those needs. Most importantly, the FDA regulates the production and safety of dog food to assure dog owners the products meet a certain level of safety standards.
Dangers of Store-Bought Dog Food
Unfortunately, it turns out there are many loopholes in the safety standards. Even if the label says the food is "nutritionally complete," companies may use loopholes in the regulations. As a result, they still use many ingredients that are harmful to your pup in their pet food.
Although the ingredient label includes chicken, beef, lamb, or rabbit, it may consist of only organs, bones, beaks – and even fur and feathers. Byproducts are a cheaper alternative for pet food companies to make money, but they lack nutrients and cause severe health issues like digestive problems.
Corn gluten, soybean meal, and wheat middling are often incorporated to bulk up the product and keep costs low. They're not necessarily nutritious or even digestible for your pup. Furthermore, corn and wheat cause digestive disturbances in pups who lack the necessary enzymes to digest these foods. Some dogs may even develop allergies due to the high carbohydrate content in grains.
Artificial Coloring and Flavors
Artificial coloring and flavors make dog food more appealing to both pet owners and their pooches. Unfortunately, these additives cause serious health problems including cancer, kidney disease, and skin allergies.
Many store-bought dog foods contain preservatives like BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate to keep food from spoiling. These chemicals cause kidney damage and other health issues, so it's best to avoid them if possible.
Store-bought dog food may contain bacteria or mold contamination due to improper storage or handling during production. These problems easily result in food poisoning in your fur baby. Other times, commercial dog foods may contain diseased animals, even euthanized dogs and cats. These animals have high amounts of the euthanasia drug phenobarbital, which causes early kidney and liver failure, and even cancer in dogs.
Homemade Dog Food Benefits and Disadvantages
The most obvious benefit of feeding your pup homemade food is knowing precisely what ingredients go into each meal. There are many other advantages, as well.
Nutrition Tailored to Your Pup's Needs
With tailor-homemade food, dog owners get to cater exact nutritional needs of their pups. Depending on whether your pooch has certain allergies or medical conditions, adjustment to the homemade recipes ensures that the meals are perfectly balanced and safe for them to eat.
Making homemade meals for your pup offers various financial benefits compared to store-bought options. Creating multiple tasty dishes from one grocery shopping trip drastically keeps costs down. If you buy ingredients in bulk, it further reduces expenses over time.
Better Digestion and Healthier Bowels
If there's one thing all pups have in common, they need fiber in their diets for optimal digestive health. When making meals at home with fresh ingredients like fruits and vegetables and lean proteins like chicken and fish, you give your pup plenty of fiber for healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Drawbacks of Homemade Dog Food
Making your dog food does take up a lot of time, especially if you plan to prepare meals in advance or make large batches at once. At the same time, creating a balanced meal requires knowledge about canine nutrition. Many owners mistake human nutritional needs as applicable to dogs as well. This could lead to malnutrition or other dietary issues if not done properly.
When to Avoid Homemade Dog Food
Although homemade food is generally healthy for dogs, there are certain stages in a dog's life when it may not be sufficient to provide the optimal nutrition they need. According to American Kennel Club (AKC) chief veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein, most vets "generally don't recommend homemade diets for a dog less than one-year-old. If young dogs don't receive the appropriate amount of calcium and phosphorus, significant bone abnormalities may result […] Pregnant and lactating dogs also have unique dietary requirements that may not be addressed by a recipe found on the internet."
Raw Homemade Food Versus Cooked Homemade Food
There has been a long debate between raw and cooked dog food. While some people prefer one over the other, it comes down to personal preference and food source availability.
Here are a few points to consider when deciding which is right for your pup:
Pros and Cons of Raw Diets
In general, raw diets provide more nutrients than cooked meals. However, raw food carries a risk of bacterial contamination and parasites. Because grocery store meat and dairy products are often not suitable for pets, sourcing quality proteins is difficult. Depending on where you live, it might be impossible to find raw meat that is suitable for your pup.
Pros and Cons of Cooked Diets
Cooking does reduce the risk of bacteria and parasites, but it also destroys some nutritional value in the process. Additionally, cooked meals require more ingredients compared to their raw counterparts. The cooking process breaks down certain ingredients, making it easier for dogs to digest and absorb nutrients.
Alternative Option to Raw and Cooked Homemade Food
Instead of choosing one option over another, you have the option to provide both cooked meat and raw ingredients, such as vegetables and fruits, as an alternative solution. Freeze dried raw diet also fills the gap between homemade and commercial food. This way, you still get the benefits of homemade food without all the hassle and potential risks.
No matter what route you choose, homemade dog meals are a great option for any pup owner looking to provide an affordable, nutritionally complete meal for their four-legged friend. With the right research and dedication, you have lots of options to create easy homemade meals for your pup.
Understand the Core Ingredients for Dog Nutrition
Whether you're cooking homemade meals or buying pre-packaged food, it's important to understand the core ingredients in nutritionally complete homemade dog food.
Protein is an essential building block for your pup's muscles, connective tissue, enzymes, and hormones. It also keeps their coat looking shiny and their skin healthy. Dogs generate around 10 of the 20 essential amino acids their body needs for optimal health. The other ten amino acids require external sources from their diets.
When selecting a protein source, opt for nutritionally dense foods with high biologic values to allow your dog to absorb all their nutritional benefits more efficiently. To ensure your pup receives the best quality nutrition, look for animal-based proteins.
There are vegetarian and vegan alternatives, but Tuft University research studies found that significant amounts of pea and legume protein amplify a dog's heart size and impair their heart-pumping capability. In serious cases, it may lead to early death.
Essential fatty acids are necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A and E and aid in brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially beneficial to dogs as they reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve joint, skin, and bone health. They also shield the internal organs, maintain healthy cellular growth, regulate bodily temperature, and support a balanced nervous system.
Dogs love fatty food as much as humans do. Even if you make the healthiest dog food on earth, those furballs are likely to walk away if the food doesn't appeal to them. That little bit of fat instantly transforms homemade meals from boring to tasty. The crucial thing is to choose the right fats and skip the bad ones.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential to dogs because they cannot produce these fats in their bodies. Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in various sources, including flaxseed, chia seed, hempseed, and walnut oils. Seafood such as salmon, herring, anchovies, mackerel, sardine, mussels, and oysters are also rich in omega-3 and other important minerals.
If you are looking for a vegetarian alternative, algae, freshly ground wheat germs, coconut oil, and hemp seeds provide excellent sources of omega-3. Additionally, omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in a variety of sources like hempseed, soybean oil, safflower sunflower oil, eggs, and meat products.
Carbohydrates are the fuel that sustains the body and gives it energy. Created with sugars, starches, and fiber components, carbohydrates offer vital vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant-based nutrients to keep dogs in their best health. However, they are less necessary since proteins and fat generate glucose, as well.
Nevertheless, healthy carbs provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients crucial for dogs' health. Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and sorghum are good sources of carbohydrates. Vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, apples, and blueberries are excellent ingredients as they all offer important nutrients.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are also necessary for good health. Vitamins regulate all chemical reactions in the body, while minerals form structures like bones and teeth. Before you start adding supplements to your dog's diet, always check with your veterinarian to ensure you are adding the right amount.
Excessive daily consumption of supplements actually harms your fur baby. For example, too much vitamin B causes kidney problems, skin sores, and gum bleeding.
Water is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. Water makes up 60 percent of a dog's body weight. Without adequate water consumption, dogs become dehydrated and experience headaches, fatigue, dry skin and fur coats, dry nose pads, lethargy, confusion, or disorientation. Make sure your pup has access to fresh water throughout the day.
Poisonous Foods to Dogs
Although some foods are nutritious to humans, they are toxic to dogs. As dog owners, you probably know that chocolate and raisins are among the items most commonly known to be dangerous for dogs.
However, many more foods are harmful to dogs, including garlic, onions, avocados, grapes, currants, raisins, chives, cherries, tomatoes, persimmons, peaches, plums, apricots, rhubarb, leeks, macadamia nuts, yeast dough, alcohol, coffee or tea grounds, and sweeteners such as xylitol.
Healthy Homemade Dog Food Ratio
For a healthy canine diet, aim for 40 percent protein, 50 percent vegetables, and 10 percent starch. However, be aware that some pups may not properly tolerate large amounts of protein. Consider consulting your veterinarian to adjust the food ratio for certain breeds predisposed to developing kidney and liver disease.
Adjustment for Different Factors
Remember that each dog has their unique needs. Your fur baby may need more or less ingredients to maintain their ideal weight and sustain their nutritional needs. Age, size, activity level, and food allergies are just some deciding factors that affect the quantity and balance of a healthy homemade meal. Consult your veterinarian as they use blood work tests and other medical examinations to pinpoint your dog's nutrient needs. They may also refer you to a nutrition specialist if your pooch requires a more comprehensive diet.
Nutrition Differences for Larger Breeds
According to AKC, large dog breeds are any dogs weighing between 51 to 90 pounds, while giant breeds are those over 90 pounds. From puppyhood to old age, large and giant breeds require a distinctive kind of nourishment than their smaller brethren.
For example, if you follow a protein/fat ratio of 30/20 for large breed dogs, they suffer from detrimental skeletal issues as a result of overconsuming nutrients that causes abnormally rapid bone growth. To counter this problem, large dog homemade recipes need at least a 26/14 ratio and the right levels of calcium and phosphorus to slow down bone growth rate but enough to promote strong bones and joints.
Easy Cheap Homemade Dog Food Recipe Sample
The homemade diet for your pup must include proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats and oils, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. All homemade recipes always must be nutritionally complete and balanced with the correct nutrient ratio.
Here is an example of easy homemade dog food with pumpkin. This recipe yields about 10 cups of food for a dog around 15 pounds:
1 1⁄2 cups brown rice, quinoa, or oats (cook in 3 cups of water)
3 lb. ground turkey
3 cups spinach
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 14-oz can of pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. probiotic powder (optional)
1 shredded apple
3 tbsp. hemp seed oil, salmon oil, or coconut oil
Cook the rice, quinoa, or oats in an Instant pot.
While the starch source is cooking, oil a large pan with hemp seed oil, salmon oil, or coconut oil.
Once the pan is hot, add the ground turkey, cook until it is well done, and set aside.
Remember to store the food in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator (refrigerated food can last up to four days or frozen for future use).
If you are looking for homemade dog food with chicken recipe, just use the same recipe but switch the turkey to chicken instead.
Homemade Dog Food Delivery Option
If you want to give your fur baby the best food but don't have time to make it yourself, homemade food delivery services are available as an alternative. This type of service offers nutritionally complete meals from homemade recipes vet approved and made with fresh, all-natural ingredients. Additionally, delivery services are convenient because you receive all homemade meals from mail delivery right to your door. Unlike store-bought generic dog food, you have peace of mind knowing exactly what's in your pup's homemade diet.
The Bottom (Line) of the Food Bowl
Homemade dog food often provides an affordable and nutritionally balanced homemade diet for dogs. Before you dash out to buy ingredients, always consult your veterinarian and make necessary adjustments to homemade recipes depending on your pup's age, size, and activity level. If you don't have the time to create meals, homemade dog food delivery services provide an alternative option for an easy and convenient homemade diet solution that is both delicious and nutritionally complete.
No matter how you decide to provide homemade meals for your furry family member, the most important thing is providing all the nutrients and calories they need to be healthy and happy.