Homemade dog food has become a rather popular trend lately. In most cases, pet owners are seeking more control over what goes into their dog’s body. Some are concerned about pet food recalls. Others find that their dog doesn’t want to eat the type of dog food that has been prescribed for a specific medical condition. For centuries, pet owners have been feeding their dog table scraps, but lately, many pet owners like the idea of their dog’s diet consisting completely of home cooking.
While the idea of homemade dog food sounds healthier, this isn’t necessarily the case. Dogs do have specific nutritional requirements, and many commercial dog foods are designed to meet these needs. Although meeting your dog’s nutritional needs through home cooking can be done, just be advised that it will require a lot of work, dedication and could be costly.
Is Homemade Dog Food Right for Your Pet?
The first aspect to consider is your dog’s age. Homemade diets are riskier for puppies. One reason for this is that growing pups are developing muscle and bone. If they get too many minerals, they can develop serious orthopedic issues. Experts recommend first consulting your veterinarian to make sure it is time to switch your young dog to an adult dog food. If it is, at that time you can begin preparing homemade dog food for your canine friend.
Another consideration is your dog’s overall health. Some dogs are in need of specific types of dog food for a particular condition that they have. At times, the dog may not want to eat these special blends. In cases where the dog is old or very sick, it certainly is better for the dog to eat your homemade dog food than nothing at all. In any case, it is a good idea to get your dog a checkup with his veterinarian to ensure his health, before giving him homemade dog food.
Homemade dog food begins with the right recipe. Many recipes are missing certain nutrients, such as iron, copper, calcium and zinc. To get the right recipe, it is a good idea to have your vet point you in the direction of a certified pet nutritionist. Your dog’s diet should consist of protein from animal meat, seafood, dairy or eggs. He will also need fat from meat or oil and carbohydrates from grains or veggies. Calcium and essential fatty acids are also required.
If you have decided to create your own recipes, keep in mind that no single type of food such as chicken should ever make up over half of their diet. Here are some general guidelines about specific foods to give your dog.
Half of your dog’s diet should consist of different types of meat. Ideally, the meat should not have more than 10% fat. Both poultry and red meat should be included. You may also choose to feed your dog raw meaty bones, but never feed them cooked bones. Fish is another great protein source for your dog. Some good choices include canned fish with bones, such as sardines, and pink salmon. If you are cooking fresh fish, be sure to remove the bones and cook it thoroughly. Small amounts of fish can be given daily or larger portions a few times a week.
Beef or chicken livers are especially nutritious for your dog. Eggs are another highly beneficial addition to your dog’s diet. Dogs that are at least 20 pounds can have one egg per day. Plain yogurt and kefir will help your dog get the calcium that they need. Cottage and ricotta cheese are other good choices. If you give fruit to your dog, try bananas, apples, berries, melon and papaya. While vegetables are not a significant part of a dog’s diet, they do contain fiber, antioxidants and other helpful nutrients.
If you choose to give your dog starchy vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash and beans are great choices. Starchy vegetables are a great source of carbohydrates that will help keep weight on skinny or active dogs. If your dog is overweight, limit their consumption of starchy vegetables.
Grains tend to be a controversial ingredient as some pets are believed to have allergic reactions to them. However, many dogs don’t have a problem with them. Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, barley and pasta are good choices for your dog. Grains shouldn’t make up more than half of the dog’s diet, and they should always be cooked thoroughly.
Going by a Recipe
When it is time to prepare your recipe, it is important to stick to it, completely. For example, if the recipe calls for chicken with the skin on, don’t remove it. Making changes to the ingredients will change its nutrient profile, including its calorie count. Another example is if the recipe calls for canola oil, don’t use olive oil. Each oil contains specific fatty acids, some of which are needed to keep your dog healthy.
Weighing your meat on a food scale will provide you with a more accurate measurement than a measuring cup will. It is important to make sure that all ingredients are cooked thoroughly, in order to kill bacteria that could make your dog sick. Cooking grains, beans and starchy vegetables properly will ensure that they are easier to digest.
Resist the urge to add ingredients that are not on the list, as several human foods are toxic to dogs. Dangerous ingredients include onions, garlic, avocados, chocolate, grapes, raisins and Macadamia nuts. The best homemade dog food recipes require that you add supplements, such as calcium.
Again, check with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist to see which supplements need to be added to the food. Common supplements that may need to be added include fish oil, cod liver oil, plant oils, vitamins and minerals and iodine. To ensure that your dog is thriving on your homemade dog food, after 6 months he should receive diagnostic testing from your veterinarian. Doing this is the best way to make sure your dog is getting the vital nutrition that he or she needs.
For some great recipes, visit our friends at Toby’s Bone.