More and more pet owners are beginning to switch to a homemade dog food diet rather than buying commercially prepared kibble and wet food formulas. The benefits of a homemade dog food diet are many, but there are some challenges and caveats associated with it as well. Before you make the switch, be sure to learn the basics about crafting a nutritious homemade dog food diet for your pet so he receives all the nutrients he needs.
Striking the Right Balance
The key concern with making your own homemade dog food is ensuring that the food meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs, providing him with a balance of nutrients to keep his body healthy. If you perform an online search for homemade dog food recipes, you are likely to find a large number of results – many of those results, however, are not healthy recipes. In order to ensure that your dog gets the right nutrients, you should follow a recipe that has been approved by a veterinary nutritionist. Over time, you may get the hang of it and be able to create your own recipes but to start with you should use a tested recipe and follow a few simple rules:
- No single ingredient should make up more than 50% of the dog’s diet (ex: chicken)
- Meat and animal products should make up at least half of the diet
- Use lean meats when possible including fish to avoid making the diet too high in fat
- Organ meats should be used often, especially liver which contains a variety of nutrients
- Avoid dairy products unless you know your dog can tolerate it (small amounts of yogurt and kefir may be good additions to the diet)
- Dogs weighing 20 lbs. or more can eat a whole egg per day, smaller dogs should be given less
- Include plenty of leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables in the diet
- Avoid grains like wheat and corn unless you know your dog can tolerate it (other grains like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa may be healthier options)
Types of Homemade Dog Food
If you do any research on homemade dog food you will find that recipes are largely divided into two categories: raw and cooked. There is a great deal of controversy regarding whether raw food is safe for dogs – many dog owners and nutritional experts suggest that it is not only safe, but healthier for dogs than cooked food. Ultimately, the choice is yours to make in the end but you should know a few things before you decide.
- Meat should comprise the majority of your dog’s diet, but not all of it
- Safe food handling procedures should be followed when using raw meat
- Cooked food may last a little longer than raw food, but it should still be used within a few days
- Raw food may provide greater benefits for healthy skin and coat
Before you switch your dog to a different diet, no matter what type, you should always do your research to be sure it will satisfy your dog’s nutritional needs. If you need help making a decision, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for advice.