Make Your Own Dog Food!?
February 13, 2013
I make my own dog food. I have for several years. When my Maltese, Bailey, was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I began to research ways to help him. That led me to dog nutrition. When I began researching dog nutrition, I was appalled at how awful dog kibble was. Some kibble is just downright horrible, but others are not bad. Learn to read dog food labels to find better ones. I don’t think any kibble is as good as it should be, so I began to make my own. I often get asked how I make it, so I thought I’d share my process with everyone.
First of all, if you are going to take on making your own dog food, do some research. Find a reliable source, such as The Whole Dog Journal, to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients needed. It is also a good idea to make sure you do regular blood work with your vet to make sure everything is still on track and you aren’t feeding too much of something or not enough of another. There are also two schools of thought on homemade dog food: raw vs. cooked. The decision is up to you. After you’ve done your research on both, decide what you are most comfortable with. Both have benefits and are definitely better than kibble. I personally don’t do raw because my budget doesn’t allow for buying organic grass fed meat all the time. It’s a good idea to seek out a reputable butcher. We have one in my town with "certified humane" meats, and I feel comfortable buying my meat there. They also have "dog food" already packaged and ready to cook. It’s basically a mixture of organ meats ground up that humans won’t buy, although organ meats are some of the most nutritious! You want to make sure you have at least some organ meat with every batch of food you make. I will buy whatever meat is on sale that day. I use primarily chicken, beef, and pork. Although, feel free to use turkey, lamb, elk, etc. Usually once every week and a half, they get a fish meal. This is just a can of mackerel, a veggie, some cottage cheese, and an egg. Calcium is usually the number one deficiency dogs have with a home cooked meal, so you need to make sure you are giving your dog a supplement or adding eggs or fish (with bones)..
Next, I get some veggies. I almost always include sweet potatoes and carrots. Then I add in a few others to the mix. I usually like to have about 80-85% meat (liver or kidney should be about 5% of the meat) and 15-20% veggies. A good way to make sure you’re rotating veggies is to include all the colors! Some weeks I’ll do celery and red cabbage; the next week, I'll do green beans and cauliflower. Limit spinach, and don’t use kale. Include many different kinds over the course of a month to give your pet lots of different vitamins and minerals. I never use corn. Dogs, just like humans, can’t digest it, and it has little to no nutritional value. I personally don’t do any rice or wheat at all. Dogs don’t need carbs, and they get plenty from the veggies. There are a lot of recipes out there that include rice or grains, and you are more than welcome to do your research to see if you’d like to add them. I would also stay away from any gluten. Dogs are sensitive to it, and it can cause a myriad of problems. I also don’t do any beans. You need to be careful with beans and make sure they are fully cooked if you are going to add them. There is a toxin in legumes (excluding green beans) if they are fed uncooked.
I cook the meat and grind up all the veggies in a food processer. There is a cell membrane on vegetables that dogs are unable to break down. So if you don’t grind them up, they just pass right through their system without being able to soak up any of the nutrients. If you don’t want to grind them, you need to steam or cook them before feeding. Mix it all up in a big bowl, divide into daily portions and you're done. I freeze what I don’t put in the fridge. It usually takes about an hour to prepare and divide up. In the morning, they get a raw egg (they need the calcium with all the meat) with their meal, and I also add cottage cheese, another good source of protein and calcium. I also add sardines to the meal at least once a week, this helps with their coat, and with the bones from the fish, it's another good way to get the calcium.
It’s not important that every meal be balanced and complete. You just need to make sure that you are using a wide variety of meats, (including organ meats and especially liver) and veggies. You’ll be surprised how much this improves your dog’s life. They’ll have more energy, clear eyes, soft (not stinky) coat, plus they shed less. You’ll also have the added benefit of very little gas! This is definitely a plus with big dogs who can clear a room, and they poop less. Less to clean up! Allergies disappear, they don’t get sick, vet bills are smaller, and you have the peace of mind of knowing what your dog is eating!
This blog in no way is all the information you need to start preparing your own home cooked meal. Please do your research before starting to ensure proper nutrition. I suggest purchasing The Whole Dog Journal (eBook) on home cooked meals; It can be found on The Whole Dog Journal's website.