An increasing number of pet owners want to know more about making their own homemade dog food. This is certainly a wonderful and achievable goal, as long as you are prepared to learn about the recipes, the risks, the many components of dog food nutrition, and some other special considerations based on your dog’s individual needs.
How To Find A Good Recipe?
The information that is available today about dog food recipes can be extremely confusing for the average person to sort through. Google will lead you to any number of dog food recipes and blogs, but they certainly aren’t all created equal. Most of them are deficient in iron, calcium, copper, and zinc, to begin with, if not unbalanced in macro-nutrients such as protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Many owners assume that simply rotating a variety of different healthy recipes will provide a proper balance overall, but this is not the case. Studies repeatedly show that a varied diet does not fix deficiencies in diet. To avoid future health problems, it is best to start with and stick with a proper balanced diet.
Unfortunately, without a background of knowledge and study from which to judge these recipes, it can be confusing to navigate all of the different recommendations! You can read blogs and articles all day long, and try to sort out the conflicting advice, but your best source for the most up-to-date information is a board certified veterinary nutritionist. You can ask your own vet to recommend one that they trust, or you can start the search yourself through the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN). Your pet nutritionist will work with you to create the correct balance of nutrients necessary. They have the experience and the knowledge to start you on the right path of this journey.
How To Follow The Recipe?
Once you’ve sourced the perfect recipes, it is absolutely crucial to follow them as they are written. It is not healthier for your pet if you reduce the recommended amounts of salt or oil, for example, although that might sound like a good idea! A nutritionally sound dog food recipe will take their every need into consideration, so do not make substitutions without consulting the nutritionist. Even a tiny change to an amount can throw off the balance of the entire diet. A food scale will be an invaluable resource as you prepare your recipes, taking all the guesswork out of your measurements. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, consider taking advantage of one of the commercial mixes that are available one the market today, such as The Honest Kitchen or Dr. Harvey’s premixes. These are designed to be nutritionally complete, and often just require you to add a protein. However, even these premixed options can be deficient in an essential nutrient, so ask an expert to evaluate these, as well.
One of the biggest perks of making your own dog food is that you can source the freshest, healthiest, most high quality ingredients. You’ll know exactly where they came from and how old they are. Take some time to consider seasonality for freshness, too. Your dog will thank you!
Make Sure Homemade Dog Food Is Balanced
If you do find yourself worrying that the perfectly balanced recipes will not provide enough variety, change up the treats you offer. Fruits and vegetables offer a wonderful alternative to those more fatty treats, and your dog will be happy with anything you offer. Apples, peas, carrots, and broccoli are just a few canine favorites. The best thing about healthy produce as a treat is that it will not add any additional calories to Fido’s diet, so you can delight your pup without sabotaging his or her nutrition! Vegetables can be cooked or uncooked, so play around and find out what the preferred preparation is in your household. Just make sure to avoid those foods which are toxic to dogs, such as grapes, raisins, garlic, chocolate, onions, avocado, macadamia nuts, and anything with caffeine. Take caution, as well, that the treats you offer to your pet are not overly hard on their teeth.
Every dog requires the proper balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, calcium and essential fatty acids. Chicken is the most popular protein, but other recommendations include turkey, lamb, pork, beef, or eggs. Pasta, white or brown rice, sweet potato, barley, peas, corn, and oatmeal are wonderful sources of carbohydrates in a dog’s diet. You’ll also want to be sure that your pet is getting enough fiber, but not too much. More than 10% fiber in a dog’s diet can lead to health problems. Fat sources in your pet’s diet can come from meat or oil, if additional fat is needed.
Nutritional Needs Will Vary Widely
It’s important to have an expert who will take into consideration your pet’s age, weight, habits, and health history. If your dog has health issues, you may need an even more carefully customized diet. Talk to your pet nutritionist about supplements, because many homemade diets will still be missing something that is easiest to get in supplement form. The nutritionist will be able to direct you to legitimate, tested sources for these as well. You can never be too careful ordering things like this online, so it is best to run it by an expert.
If you haven’t already spoken with your vet about it, be sure to communicate your dog’s new diet plans! You’ll want to have a current weight, as well as an idea of a healthy weight, if your pet is not quite there right now. A vet visit within the first 3 weeks of starting a new diet plan is crucial, because it is important to know whether or not your dog losing or gaining weight, and if everything else looks well. Continue to weigh your pet regularly, if possible, and check in with your vet at least twice per year. Your vet will examine not only your dog’s weight, but their skin, coat, and teeth to give them clues about how the diet is working.
How About Raw-Diet Foods?
During your research, you will very likely come across recommendations for the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, also known as the BARF diet (as unappetizing as that sounds), or the raw food diet. The idea is that it may be healthier for dogs to eat as their canine ancestors did. However, this is not advised by either the Animal Veterinary Medical Association, nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A raw food diet can carry unknown health risks due to contamination, leading to possible public health concerns, so you will want to be sure to cook everything as directed. Animal products can carry harmful bacteria, so make sure to cook these thoroughly for safety, and many uncooked starches, grains, and beans can be difficult on an animal’s digestion.
As you can see, making your dog’s food from scratch can be an exciting endeavor! With the right tools, advice, and ingredients, you can be well on your way to new culinary experiences for your furry family member. Take your time with your research and preparation, and you will be an expert yourself before you know it!