The last two decades has seen a steady rise in the number of dog owners who has shown a willingness to learn how to make homemade dog food partly because dog owners can decide on the quality of the food their dog feeds on and with the added advantage that healthy homemade dog food are generally cheaper than commercial dog food.
Homemade dog food generally falls into 2 categories:
Raw food diet in which you primarily feed your dog on uncooked raw food.
Raw food diet option
Our dogs are domesticated wild animals with a diet that has evolved
over centuries to accommodate a wider spectrum of food choices than it used to be in the wild. And just like human beings, the best diet for a dog is its native one: wholly meat based.
Basically raw food diet for dogs consist of uncooked meat which may include venison, buffalo, beef, turkey, chicken, fish, ostrich and rabbit.
60% – 80% of the dog’s raw diet should be raw meat, roughly broken down to 35% muscle meat, 20% organs and 20% fat and skin. You may also feed with fresh bones but avoid preserved bones or bones that are not from freshly killed animals.
Chicken bones are alright to feed your dog but do not feed with cooked bones because cooked bones splinter easily while uncooked bones are easy to eat and digest.
In addition with the raw meats, your dog’s diet should consist of about 20% -40% vegetables. Appropriate vegetables to include are: squash, carrots, celery and asparagus.
There is no questioning the fact that homemade dog food is clearly the best option for any dog owner who wants to be certain about the quality of ingredients that go into the diet of his dog with the additional benefit of a lower cost, for this reason it is very important to know the proper recipes for homemade dog food.
You do not need to be an expert in nutrition to be able to come up the proper recipe to prepare homemade dog food that is balanced and highly nutritious. What you however need is a guideline that will enable you to feed your dog on homemade food either cooked or raw like a nutrition expert.
A vital fact to keep in mind is that you should not obsess about ensuring that every single homemade dog food must be nutritionally complete but as long as she gets all the nutrition she needs over the course of a week or two, she will be OK.
In order words, your dog’s diet (not every meal) must be complete and balanced i.e. it supplies all of the dog’s nutritional requirements.
These guidelines will help you feed your dog on cooked or raw homemade dog food.
Meat and other animal products: this should be at least half of the diet. Unless you dog exercises regularly then you will want to avoid meat that is high on fat which could lead to obesity. If however you decide to fed your dog with fatty meat and limit the quantity served so as to control your dog’s weight, this may lead to deficiency in other required nutrients.
So your best option is to feed her on lean meat with a very low percentage of fat or poultry with the skin taken off. Dark meat poultry is preferred to breast except your dog will benefit from a very low fat diet.
Boneless meat: this includes both red meat and poultry.
Fish: source of vitamin D. canned fish such as pink salmon, sardines, jack mackerel make good choices. Make sure you take the bones out of fish that you cook. You may feed your dog with large quantities of fish once or twice a week or small daily quantities. It should be an ounce of fish for every pound of meat.
Eggs: a nutritious inclusion to any diet. Dogs of not less than 20 pounds will be OK on a whole egg per day.
Organs: liver should be about 5% of organs feed your dog but you should also include chicken and other liver type. Small daily quantity is better large quantities feed less often.
Fruits and vegetables: supplies fiber which is important for digestive health and also provides antioxidants and other nutrients that promote good health and longevity. Deeply colored fruits and vegetables are very nutritious.
Non starchy vegetables: low in calories and can easily be fed in varying quantities. Too much though can cause gas. They must be pureed by blender, food processor for it to be properly digestible by your dog.
With the dangerous preservatives, artificial additives and vitamin fortifications that goes into the production of commercially made dog food, it has become very essential for every dog owner that truly cares for his furry friend to learn how to make dog food otherwise the health and indeed the life of that dog is been put in jeopardy.
While these poor quality commercial dog foods (but rich in waste materials) may not appear harmful to your dog in the short term however they are not providing the optimum nutrition for your dog either and with serious health conditions such as cancer in dogs linked with poor quality dog food, it is almost suicidal for dog owners to put their entire trust in off-the-shelf dog food rather than learn how to make dog food.
Reasons why dog owners should learn how to make dog food
Another reason you should learn how to make dog food is because it gives you control over the quality of what goes into the guts of your dog.
By learning how to make dog food you will be able to cut back on the cost of feeding your dog as the cost of preparing your own dog food is cheaper than the cost of the high end commercial dog food.Unless you can afford to feed your dog with commercial dog food made with human grade ingredients then you are stuffing up the guts of your beloved furry friend with rendered protein (meat) I.e. the leftovers of animals (meat-by-products) after all the meaty parts have been used up – worthless and low quality protein.
If you know how to make dog food then you can decide on the meat source to feed your dog particularly if your dog is allergic to certain types of protein.
A particularly good reason for knowing how to make dog food is that you can prepare and freeze your dog food for several weeks ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about what your dog will eat for the period that the frozen food will last.
Some of the concern about dog allergy is due to lack of variety in the food they consume and this can be easily taken care of if you decide to dictate the diet of your dog from the comfort of your kitchen rather than from off the shelf of those who care more about their pocket than your dog’s health. You knowledge of how to make dog food puts this power in your hands.
High quantities of stool and bad odor are signs that your dog is probably feeding on poor quality food which may be as a result of fillers in commercial dog food.When you know how to make dog food then you are in a good position to take care of such things.
Reasons dog owners are reluctant to about homemade dog food
The fear of not been able to feed their dog with a balanced diet. The truth is that there is a vital connection between health and nutrition so if you feed your dog with unbalanced diet then you risk compromising the dog’s health which is the primarily reason why there is this huge crusade against off-the-shelf dog food. But the complete truth is that making a balanced homemade dog food is not as complex as it may sound – if you can feed yourself a balanced diet then you can learn how to make dog food that is healthy and balanced.
Some dog owners are reluctant to learn how to make dog food because they think it will take a lot of their time. While making dog food will certainly take more time than going to the shop to purchase dog food but once you get a handle on hold to make food for your dog along with a number of dog food recipes at your finger tip, the time it takes to prepare your dog food will drop over a short time. You can always make dog food that will last some weeks which will make up for the time spent in preparation.
Some vets are opposed to the idea of homemade dog food and they do have their reasons for this. This is because some of the dogs they have seen fed on homemade diet are either malnourished or out rightly overweight. Lots of pet parents who have switched to homemade dog food do so without taking the time to learn how to make do food before switching to homemade dog food.This article aims to help dog owners have detail knowledge of how to make dog food that is balanced and healthy.
Homemade dog food fall into two general categories
Homemade cooked dog food simply means that the food you prepare for your dog from your kitchen was cooked before being served which a raw diet means the food is served uncooked (raw).
It should be noted that whenever the phase “raw dog food “is used in this article, it’s a reference to homemade raw dog food as opposed to commercial raw dog food.
There are different arguments being put out by those who are in favor of home cooked food dog food as the preferred (or even out rightly the only right way) way for making dog food. However, those in love of raw dog food think otherwise and they are not without their own set of arguments.
In this article we will take a detail look at how to make dog food both cooked and raw, listing the arguments on both sides and the benefits (if at all) one has over the other. We will conclude this section of this post by trying to identify the better route to tread and perhaps if both home cooked and homemade raw food can be feed to your dog.
Home cooked dog food vs. raw dog food
Like I have already indicated that the debate between proponents of home cooked dog food and those in support of homemade raw dog food is one of the hottest debates in the world of homemade dog food.
The arguments of those opposed to cooked dog food but in favor of homemade raw dog food
Proteins in food get destroyed when it is cooked at a high temperature.As much as 50% of minerals and vitamins in food also get destroy as a result of cooking.
The enzymes which regulate the chemical reaction in the body of a dog are also destroyed by cooking.
Dogs are carnivores animals and therefore are naturally capable of digesting and absorbing the nutrients in raw meat. The freshness of the meat supplies all the nutritional balance that nature requires.
Raw feeder say that dogs have feed on raw diet for thousands of years before man decided to domesticate their food for commercial gains. Dogs could never have been around now if they could not thrive on raw food.
Raw feeders say that preparing dog food that is similar to what dogs eat in the wild before they were fully domesticated by man can be beneficiary for dogs suffering from certain health problem or food allergies because you can adjust your dog’s diet to meet his health needs.
One of the most common bragging points of proponents of homemade raw food is the undeniable evidence of good health that most of them have seen in their dog. They are quick to show off their dog’s improve shiny, soft coat, whiter teeth, fresh breath, less doggy odor (your friends will think you spend a lot on dog grooming), bright eyes, smaller stool, more energy and that health problems like skin or ear infections they were battling with was all gone once they switched over to raw feeding.
Raw bones helps in cleaning dog’s teeth.
The arguments of those opposed to homemade raw dog food but in favor of cooked dog food
The potential risk of bacteria in raw meat could affect the dog’s health.
Dogs that feed on raw food could easily be subject to nutritional deficiencies if the pet owner does not make extra effort to learn about the nutritional balance required for dog food. This is the one of the main reasons why vet are opposed to homemade dog food (this includes homemade cooked dog food).
Bone in the raw meat may choke the dog to death.
There are no scientific evidences that raw food hold any specific benefit.
Supporters of cooked dog food say that cooking made the food easier to digest for the dog.
Some opponents of raw feeding say that feeding raw will make their dog vicious, mean and bloodthirsty.
As listed above both camps in the dog food war have their pros and cons regarding how to make dog food but our position on this issue is pretty straight forward. Like with humans, every dog is different so what works for one may not necessarily work for the other even if they are of the same breed, parent and size.
The questions of which homemade approach will be best suited for your dog may require trying out the approach that you feel incline towards and if one does not work for you, the other will most likely work.
If neither cooking nor raw appears to work for you then you can mix both approaches, which essentially involves cooking the meat, chicken or whatever the major protein source may be (which constitute the major part of raw). The remaining part of the dog diet will serve raw. If you don’t try out things then you cannot know if it will work for you and how well it may work.
A complete list of dog food ingredients
The following list is a real attempt to provide an exhaustive list of ingredients that can be safely used in the making of homemade dog food include the reasons and benefits of using the ingredient.
When as a dog owner you have a sound understanding of how to make dog food and the ingredients that are ideal and unsafe for your dog’s diet then you are in a good position to confidently take to making your own dog food.
The reason lots of dog owners keep away from making their own dog food is because of lack of knowledge of how to make dog food is balanced and healthy. But with sound knowledge of the ingredients for making dog food you will naturally find yourself coming up with varieties of homemade dog food.
About the most important thing you have to know when you are learning about how to make dog food either cooked or raw is that the most important ingredients used in making dog food are those that provide protein. The sources of protein for homemade dog food (both cooked and raw), falls into two general categories:
Because dogs are omnivore animals they can eat both animal based and plant based foods.
The first thing you need to know about how to make dog food that is balanced is that dogs rely heavily on protein for survival because protein contains vital amino acids that are crucial in the production of cells. Deficiency in protein will result in a host of health problems in the dog such as dull and lifeless coat and a weak immune system.
Protein in homemade dog food may be provided by plant sources, animal sources or both. Protein has many functions such as supplying amino acids to build the muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, nails, hair and skin. It also plays a vital role in enzymes and hormone production.
Essential sources of animal based protein for dog food:
Organ meat such as liver, kidney, etc.
Essential sources of plant based protein for dog food:
Shelled hemp seeds
Even though dogs are omnivore animals they have a simple gastrointestinal tract which cannot digest large quantities of plant based protein and some of these plant food may be deficient in some vital amino acids. Therefore dog owners should feed more animal based protein food and moderate quantities of plant based foods.
All proteins are not all equal. Proteins from animal sources are far more complete than protein from plant based sources i.e. animal protein contain all the essential amino acids while plant based protein do not.
The down side is that animal protein is high in fat (particularly saturated fat) and cholesterol which may result in health issue when too much of it is consumed.
The best animal protein to be used in making dog food (same as with man) is fish and poultry but keep away from fish with lots of mercury.
Some recent studies carried out on senior/adult dogs showed that dogs that were fed on 100% animal based protein compared with senior/adult dogs fed on increasing levels of plant based protein and decreasing levels of animal protein had:
Increase in body fat.
A drop in the level of blood proteins – a measure of superior nutritional status.
A drop in lean tissue.
Based on these finding it was obvious that while plant based protein is OK for dog food, however dog diet made up of primarily animal based protein foods:
Helps in maintaining dogs muscle mass.
Helps in reversing certain age related changes in skeletal muscles of adult/senior dogs.
Enhances the well being and long term health of adult/senior dogs.
Cooked fish is also an excellent source of protein for dogs and salmon is the fish of choice because of its high omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids because they are essential for pets (same with human beings) but their bodies cannot produce them, which means they have to be present in their diet. However, there has to be a balance between the ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid contained in the dogs’ diet.
Decreases blood cholesterol levels and maintains healthy blood pressure.
Development of the immune system and the eyes (the retina and visual cortex).
Additional food sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids for homemade dog food
Sardines (good as a supplement).
Cooked eggs are an excellent source of complete protein and fat for dogs. The quality of protein found in eggs is higher than those found in meat, poultry and fish. It is the most easily digestible (i.e. has a high biological value) protein source and it is more readily available to your dog when cooked than served raw. Egg shell is also an excellent source of calcium for your dog.
Diary product such as cheese is also a good source of calcium and balanced proteins. Though cottage cheese and regular cheese contain protein, they have different amounts of fat. Cottage cheese is a good choice for a dog that requires a lower fat diet.
As you learn more on how to make dog food and put your knowledge into practice, you should steer clear of making your dog food with inferior protein source such as meat by products. These are meat taken from a carcass after the main meat has been stripped off.
Even though these meats by product contain some protein, it is less digestible for dogs which means the protein will go through his system largely undigested increasing the volume of stool.
Meat by-product includes:
Corn and wheat are popular sources of protein in many brand dog food but they are inferior sources of protein. While dogs fed on corns and wheat will be able to render a little bit of protein out of it, however protein gotten from these sources are difficult for dogs to digest. A great deal of this protein will therefore go through the dog’s system unused.
Carbohydrate requirement in dog food
Carbohydrates are an excellent source of quick and easy energy. Protein and fat are also a source of energy however they are only accessed for energy in the absence of carbohydrate.
Because carbohydrates are easier for the dogs’ body to convert to energy, protein and fat are only used for energy when carbohydrate is absent in your dog’s body.
This is the reason carbohydrate is responsible for regulating how much fat and starch will be broken down and used.
Glucose obtained from carbohydrate is what primarily maintains the health of the organs of your dog’s body such as thyroid, nerve tissue, heart, brain and liver. This means that if your dog’s diet is low on carbohydrates but rich in protein and fat then the glucose requirement of your dog will be met.
Essentially carbohydrates is not bad for dogs but too much of it as found in commercial dog food is bad. The pet food industry use a lot of carbohydrates as a source of energy in dog food because is cheaper than protein, so the driving force is profit and not the love and the health of dogs.
Since carbohydrate is not essential to a dog’s diet, your furry friend can live a healthy life with without it. Ideally you should include carbohydrate in the diet of your dog depending on the energy level you want out of your dog. Because if carbohydrates are easier to convert to energy and glucose than fat and protein then it means the protein and fat conversion into glucose and energy is an expensive task.
So why put your dog’s body through the expensive task of converting fat and protein into glucose when an easier process of getting the same result exists.
If your dog requires a lot of energy then more carbohydrate will be needed than an average dog that sits at home all day long with very little energy demanding activities. If you feed your dog with a lot of carbohydrate and he does not make use of it then your dog will start adding fat and may even become obese and by the same token a dog that you intend to put on diet food will do will with extremely little or no carbohydrates.
A thorough understanding of carbohydrates is essential for preparing dog food that is healthy and balanced
Sources of high quality carbohydrates for your home prepared dog food
Rice -brown rice helps with intestinal problem like diarrhea and less likely to cause dog allergy symptoms, brown rice is more
nutritious than white rice (which is simply brown rice with most of the nutrient polished out of it).
Sources of low quality carbohydrates to avoid in homemade dog food
Minerals and vitamins
You will need more than just feeding your dog on quality protein food, carbohydrates and fat ingredients in order for it to thrive. Homemade dog food requires an all encompassing knowledge of how to make dog food.
Canine body cannot make its own vitamins (with the exception of vitamin C, in addition they need vitamin A, B, and E) so it has to be feed through his diet.
Minerals and vitamins such magnesium, calcium and iron are essential nutrients needed by the canine body.
A sound knowledge of minerals and vitamins is essential if you really want to know how to make dog food that is well balanced and healthy.
Minerals help the canine body carry out certain functions and prevent deficiencies. Some minerals are required in large amounts (macro minerals) such as phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride and sulfur. Mineral required in small quantities are called trace minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, fluorine and chromium.
Calcium is essential for dogs particularly growing puppies. Calcium can be found not just in teeth and bones but it is also needed in the blood.
Calcium in the blood provides very important functions in the canine body. Muscle contraction and nerve function, hormones and blood clotting.
For a balanced homemade dog food you can also provide the essential calcium by making eggshell powders and this is very easy to make. Simply save your egg shell (about 12-15 minimum), leave them until they are very dry then grind the in a food processor and use it as part of making your homemade dog food.
Your dog needs a calcium/phosphorus balance. While the eggshell or bones will provide the calcium needed, fish and meat which are quite high in phosphorus helps to inhibit absorption of calcium in the dog’s diet when the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is not the ideal.
A deficiency of calcium and phosphorous in a dog’s diet may lead to bone deformities, fracture and weakness.
Sources of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and for dogs can be found in bone meal, fish, muscles and organ meat, beans, molasses and vegetables.
Chloride and sodium assist the functions of the dog’s nervous system, muscles and heart. While chloride is needed for the production of stomach acid, an imbalance in the sodium/chloride mix may result in dehydration, fatigue, hair loss and may even cause paralysis in dogs.
Dietary source of chloride and sodium are fish, meat, beans, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
Deficiencies of potassium in a dog’s diet may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty in breathing and other illnesses that are similar to sodium/chloride deficiency.
Sulfur is vital for the maintenance of the dog’s nails, hairs, skin, wound healing and detoxification of the body. Sulfur deficiencies shows up in skin condition in the dog.
Dietary source of sulfur are fish, meat, eggs and molasses.
Occasionally use liver meat, beans, poultry, red meat and kidney as a source of trace mineral for the dog food.
Even though trace minerals is required in small quantities that does not make them less important.
It is no news these days that the cheapest way to raise your dog in a healthy way is to make your own dog food; not only is this approach cheap but it gives dog owners absolute control of what goes into the guts of their beloved furry friends.
Making your own dog food is clearly one of the best ways of ensuring that you always have quality dog food at hand for your canine pet.
Most pet owners cannot forget in a hurry the unfortunate incident of 2007 in which thousands of dogs and cats died as a result of contaminant commercial dog food and the subsequent recalls since then. This exposed the commercial pet food industry and since then wise pet owners and veterinarians have focused more on how to make their own dog food which is actually cheaper and healthy.
There are several reasons why pet parents may choose to make their own dog food such as:
To cater to the special diet needs of dogs with certain health challenges.
For dog owners who want to avoid chemical additives, by-products etc found the most commercial dog food.
Some very active and high performance dogs require high amount of protein and fat that cannot be easily found in commercial dog food.
Generally speaking homemade dog food can be classified into 3 different groups:
The first category of homemade dog food is made with high quality protein sources, fats, carbohydrates and fiber that satisfy the dog’s entire mineral and vitamin requirements. This is the ideal homemade dog food.
The second category is a diet that is consists of mix of commercial dog food and homemade dog food. The homemade dog food is usually a supplement to the commercial food.
The last category of homemade dog food consists almost entirely of table food that is lacking in right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins.
Some pros and cons of homemade dog food include:
Making your own dog food is more time consuming compared to buying off the shelf dog food.
On the average homemade dog food is cheaper than commercial dog food.
In order to make your own dog food that is complete and balanced, you must ensure that it is supplemented with essential minerals and vitamins.
Unbalanced homemade dog food can end up as a worse deal than commercial dog foods.
A lot of care and attention is needed when preparing your own dog food in order to prevent contamination and consequently food borne illnesses.
If your dog is already on commercial dog food and you decide to start making your own dog food, you will need to gradually switch your dog to your homemade dog food in order to avoid stomach upset.
Because you decide on the ingredients used in making your own dog food, you are fully aware of what goes into the guts of your dog.
There is an abundance of easy to follow homemade dog food recipes and easily accessible ingredients.
It takes some effort and knowledge in order to make your own dog food that is balanced and complete.
Feeding a balanced diet
Feeding your dog with a complete and balanced diet from the comfort of your home means that you make your own dog food to meet all your dog’s nutritional requirements. The key to feeding a complete and balanced diet hinges on feeding your dog a wide variety food all of which combines to provide the balanced diet that your dog requires.
As you make your own dog food one of the primary goal you should have fixated in your mind is providing a wide variety of food to your dog as this is the foundation of a balanced and complete homemade diet.
The following guideline will help you in preparing your own dog food that is complete and balanced:
Protein sources: animal protein is very essential in the diet of a healthy dog and it should take up not less than half of the diet. Good sources of animal protein are lean muscle meat, kidney, heart, liver, eggs and dairy products such as cottage cheese. Keep the kidney and liver to about 5% of the diet.
Other sources of protein: you should vary the diet by feeding different sources of protein such as pork, lamb, turkey, chicken, fish and eggs.
Vegetables and fruits: they are a good source of antioxidants and fiber which aids digestion and they should be less than half of the diet.
Grains: dogs have no nutritional requirements regarding carbohydrates therefore grains and starchy vegetables can be missing from their diet but if present it should be less than half the diet. Also not all dogs will do well on grains so dog owners need to closely observe their dogs for any strange reactions that may be linked to grains.
Grains should be kept away from dogs that have certain health conditions such as allergies, arthritis, etc. some safe grains that can be fed to dogs in moderation are barley, oatmeal, quinoa and brown rice.
Supplements are essential in situations when the dog is fed on cooked food because the cooking process destroys the nutrients in the food just as much as freezing does. Also if the diet of a dog is limited in varieties then it is most likely lacking in the essential vitamins and minerals which mean that is far from being balanced and therefore supplements will be needed to fill in the gaps.