One of the best ways we can help your pet thrive is through the addition of homemade, healthy dog food. But knowing the basics for making homemade dog food might be daunting to some of us. Just like any homemade food, first, we need to understand how to combine ingredients to meet nutrition goals and maximize flavor. Let’s review how to prepare homemade dog food that is easy to make and that can potentially save you money.
Basics For Making Homemade Dog Food
Just like with human food, homemade dog food can be thought of in terms of the types of nutrients your pooch needs. Protein, fat, and carbohydrates are key. Now blend in a dog’s need for essential amino acids – meaning those that a dog’s body cannot make through food – and we have a good base. Minerals and vitamins should be the result of selecting high-quality ingredients to feed our dogs.
Tip: Make sure your dogs are getting the correct nutrition by using these supplements to help balance your homemade dog food.
Generally speaking, an adult, healthy dog’s protein intake should make up 20-30 percent of their diet. Also, protein should come from a variety of sources and not the same protein repeatedly given to your dog.
Because amino acids come from protein!
But, exactly what are amino acids?
Amino acids are organic substances found in protein that make up the building blocks for muscles and tissue repair. Because dogs only create half of their required amino acids, the remaining, or essential amino acids, come from their diet.
Types of Protein To Use In Homemade Dog Food
Fortunately, there is an abundance of proteins that dogs can eat – including everything from commonly relied upon chicken to the exotic meats like alligator. The key is getting the highest quality protein available – this can include organic, grass-fed, free-range, cage-free, etc., sources. Some proteins that are well tolerated by dogs include:
Tip: For calcium, include eggshells into the homemade dog food you make for your pup. Simply allow eggshells to air dry and then place them into a coffee grinder. Sprinkle the ground eggshells into your homemade dog food for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
Healthy, adult dogs on a typical maintenance diet can consume anywhere from 40 to 50 percent carbohydrates – depending on a dog’s activity level. Omnivores, including dogs, use carbohydrates as a source of energy. However, it is the type of carbohydrate that is vitally important. Using the most nutrient-dense ingredients, in a variety of colors, often provides the best variety of vitamins and minerals. Here are some recommended carbohydrate ingredients that help dogs thrive:
- Bell Peppers (red and yellow)
- Brown Rice
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potato
Tip: Cut ingredients into bite-size pieces appropriate for your dog. Carrots should be shredded. Also, add the fruit to the homemade dog food once it has cooked and is fully cooled.
There is a rather large variation in the amount of fat a dog requires. The basics for making homemade dog food for an adult, healthy dog is 20 to 30 percent fat. However, if a dog is less active and overweight, that number can safely come down to 10 percent. Dogs require omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids for healthy cells, immune systems, and circulatory system. These fats come from both animals and plants, including:
- Fish Oil (Omega 3) – sardines, salmon, herring, etc.,
- Flaxseed and Canola Oil (Omega 3s)
- Pork Fat (Omega 6)
- Poultry Fat (Omega 6)
- Safflower Oil (Omega 6)
- Sunflower Oil (Omega 6)
Tip: You can also grind seeds such as flax, pumpkin, sunflower, etc., and add them to your dog’s food.
Kitchen Tools and Storage Ideas
Now that you have the basics for making homemade dog food, let’s talk about preparation and storage. When preparing homemade dog food, make sure that everything from your hands, utensils, and kitchen space, is thoroughly clean.
We always recommend a slow cooker, as food made at lower temperatures tend to retain more vitamins and minerals. Obviously, you’ll need mixing utensils and a few other items, like the following:
- Crock-Pot – for making homemade dog food
- Cutting Board – wood is best, washed with hot water as required
- Kitchen Scale – for weighing the ingredients
- Knives – for cutting the protein
- Grinder – for grinding meat (for dogs with no teeth, or teeth sensitivities)
- Mixing Bowls – stainless steel
- Measuring Cups – glass or stainless steel
- Mixing Spoons – stainless steel or food-grade silicone
- Rubber Gloves – for keeping your hands clean
Tip: If you do not have a crockpot, use a stainless steel or porcelain pot on the stove and cook at lower temperatures for a longer period of time. Remember to stir the homemade dog food while it cooks on the stove.
Depending on the size of a dog, most people make about 5 pounds worth of dog food at once. This helps save on cost and time. Once you’ve made the homemade dog food it’s best to store in single-serving containers, or in containers that will hold 3-days worth of food. Fresh homemade dog food will stay, on average, 3 days in the refrigerator. The remaining food should be stored in glass, sealable containers, in the freezer, where it will remain fresh for up to 3 months.
Tip: If you want something easy for storage, use small freezer storage bags. They make for easy parsing out in serving size portions, and quick defrosting when pulled out of the freezer.
Making Homemade Dog Food Is Easy
Honestly, making homemade dog food is a lot like making human food – in fact, that’s a great way to look at it. Feeding your dog healthy, high-quality homemade dog food can be as easy as making dinner. If you make your dog’s food, we’d love to hear from you – let us know the ingredients you use, and feel free to share your tips in the comments below!