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How to Make Homemade Dog Food: 5 Important Guidelines to Make Healthy Food for Dogs

Amanda was raised with dogs and has kept dogs all her life. "Dogs aren't just pets," she says, "They're workmates, friends, and family."

When making your own dog food, it's vital to make sure the recipe contains all the nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy and happy.

When making your own dog food, it's vital to make sure the recipe contains all the nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy and happy.

Guidelines for Homemade Dog Food

While a good, proprietary dog food certified by the Association of American Feed Controls should provide all your dog's nutritional needs, you might want to make your dog's meals from scratch. Many dog owners enjoy preparing their pet's food and above all knowing exactly what their most beloved furry friend is eating. If you fancy giving it a go, there's no health-related reason why you shouldn't. But mixing and preparing a dog's food from raw ingredients takes a lot of time and care to get it right. If you want to give it a go, stick to the following guidelines.

Dogs' Nutritional Needs

Table showing the basic nutritional elements needed for a healthy diet for dogs

Nutrition

Proteins and Amino Acids

Fats and Fatty Acids

Carbohydrates

Vitamins

Minerals

1. Use a Recipe From a Certified Pet Nutritionist

A recent study by the California University School of Veterinary Medicine1 showed that a high percentage of dog food recipes available in books and online were nutritionally deficient. The solution is to choose a method planned by a certified animal nutritionist, ideally someone who specializes in dog nutrition. Your vet can recommend someone or may even have recipes you can try.

A good recipe should include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, calcium, and essential fatty acids. Meat, dairy products, and eggs are good sources of protein. Vegetable oils contain healthy fats. The best sources of carbohydrates are cereal grains and vegetables. Besides meat and dairy, calcium-rich foods include bone meal and powdered eggshells. Essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3, which your dog needs for healthy skin and fur, are in vegetable oils, egg yolks, and oats.

Not all recipes for homemade dog food are nutritionally balanced. Before feeding homemade meals to your dog, always seek advice from a vet or qualified pet nutritionist.

Not all recipes for homemade dog food are nutritionally balanced. Before feeding homemade meals to your dog, always seek advice from a vet or qualified pet nutritionist.

Where's the Best Place to Get Ingredients for Homemade Dog Food?

The best place to source the ingredients for your homemade dog food depends on the recipe you follow. A good recipe will have a variety of ingredients, including both animal- and plant-derived products. Many will also include supplements and oils if needed.

The key principle when you shop for your dog's food is to get the best ingredients you can buy. They don't have to be "natural" or "organic", but they should be in good condition, within the sell- or use-by date, and fit for human consumption (even if it's something you wouldn't actually want to eat!).

If it all seems like too much trouble, you can always compromise and buy a pre-prepared "homemade" dog food from a reputable supplier. Clearly such products are not homemade, but they are made from fresh, mixed ingredients and packaged in sealed containers to keep them in a fresh condition until feeding. It's a halfway house between real home preparation and generic canned food. Hill's Science Diet, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, Orijen, Canidae, Iams, and others are all well-known brands which have products that fit this description.

2. Follow the Recipe Carefully

Once you've gone to the trouble to find a trustworthy, complete, and well-balanced dog food recipe and sourced the best products you can afford, don't make changes or swap out similar ingredients. If you do, you could compromise your dog's health. Poultry prepared with and without the skin, or different vegetable oils, for example, have different nutritional values. You should also stick to the recipe's recommended quantities to avoid loading your dog's food with too many calories.

When deciding which recipe to use for your dog's food, always take into account his age, breed, and size. It's a good idea to take advice from a qualified animal dietitian or your vet to make sure your pooch gets everything he needs from his diet.

When deciding which recipe to use for your dog's food, always take into account his age, breed, and size. It's a good idea to take advice from a qualified animal dietitian or your vet to make sure your pooch gets everything he needs from his diet.

3. Check Your Dog Food Recipe's Measures

It's a good idea to use an electronic scale rather than cup measures, as they are more accurate and precise. Cook any animal products you use, such as meat and eggs, to destroy harmful bacteria. Cooked cereals, legumes, and pulses are more comfortable for your dog to digest, and the same applies to starchy, fibrous vegetables.

When following a dog food recipe, which you should get from a vet or pet nutritionist, make sure you get all the weights and measures right to ensure a healthy diet for your pet.

When following a dog food recipe, which you should get from a vet or pet nutritionist, make sure you get all the weights and measures right to ensure a healthy diet for your pet.

4. Consider Adding Supplements to Your Dog's Diet

Your vet or pet nutritionist can advise you about supplements to keep your dog in good, healthy condition when making his food from scratch. The most common supplements contain essential fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A. Always follow the vet's recommendations and read the manufacturer's guidelines as the dose will vary depending on the breed, age, size, and current health of your dog.

5. Monitor Your Dog's Health 

Once you switch to homemade dog food, it's essential to monitor your dog's health to make sure the diet is working, and he's getting all the nutrients he needs. Take him to the vet for a check-up two to three weeks after changing his diet. If your dog develops problems with his weight, skin, coat, or general well-being, the vet can recommend dietary changes or supplements to help. If all's well, and the diet is working, a regular sixth-month health-check should be enough.

If you feed a dog food that you've made yourself, even if you've followed an approved recipe, always take your dog for regular health-checks at the vet to make sure he's thriving on the diet you're giving him.

If you feed a dog food that you've made yourself, even if you've followed an approved recipe, always take your dog for regular health-checks at the vet to make sure he's thriving on the diet you're giving him.

Preparing your dog's food from scratch can be complicated at the start. But once you've got it right, it's easy enough. Many dog owners like to know exactly what their canine friends are eating. If you do it right, preparing your dog's food at home can be an excellent way to guarantee he gets the best.

Reference

1. Homemade dog food recipes can be risky business, study finds Retrieved from https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/homemade-dog-food-recipes-can-be-risky-business-study-finds/

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Amanda Littlejohn

Comments

Amanda Littlejohn (author) on October 11, 2018:

Hi Shelley,

Thanks for your comment. Cats are hunters by nature and dogs are scavengers, too. In short, they're a lot less fussy as a rule. I'm sure if you're giving your pets premium store brand it's a good healthy diet. Just check to be sure it has the AAFCO seal on the packaging. The word "premium" has no official status or meaning and any manufacturer can use it lawfully, regardless of the contents of the packet.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 10, 2018:

Dogs must be more agreeable when it comes to homemade pet food. I know my cats are extremely hard to please, so I have returned to giving them premium store brand. Sigh. You cover the topic well for the canine crowd. Woof, woof.