Owning a dog is a lot of responsibility, but ask any pet owner and they’ll tell you it’s completely worth it. They go to great lengths to ensure the health and happiness of these adorable creatures. Like making home-cooked meals for your dog, just like you would for your kids.
But how much do we really know about the diet requirements of our pets? Having a thorough understanding of dog nutrition is necessary to ensure that our fur babies stay healthy and happy. Here’s everything you need to know about pet nutrition and how you can prepare home-cooked dog food to keep your dog well-fed and healthy.
Is Home-Cooked Food Better?
One of the immediate benefits of serving home-cooked meals to your dog is that you can be certain of the nutritional value your dog is receiving daily. Knowing exactly everything that goes into your dog’s mouth can be incredibly helpful in monitoring their long-term health.
There are various reasons why dog owners often prefer making homemade meals for their dogs. Gaining control over their diet is simply one of them. Although commercial pet foods are designed to be balanced nutritionally, eating the same processed food every day can get boring for an energetic and growing canine.
Not to mention, some dogs might have allergies, skin conditions, or gastrointestinal problems that would respond better to a home-cooked meal. Making meals for your dog to appease their picky diets while providing nutrition at the same time will help you build a stronger bond with your pet.
When Should You Feed Your Dog?
Dogs can make the most innocent faces that will melt your heart when they’re hungry. They will always know how to get more food out of you, so you may have to show some tough love for the sake of their health.
Dogs have a sensitive stomach and they may not always know what’s bad for them to eat or when to stop. There are two ways to go about your dog’s feeding schedule. It depends on the type of dog you have.
• Healthy-Weight Mature Dogs
If your dog is of a healthy weight and isn’t running around the house causing a ruckus, you can opt for the free-choice method. This means leaving a fixed amount of food in the bowl all day and letting your dog decide its lunch and dinner timings.
This is also a great way to deal with highly active dogs who burn more calories than lazy ones and thus need to eat more. Free-choice feeding is also preferable if you have a mother dog who’s nursing. She will probably need calories all day to produce enough milk for her pups.
• Young/Lazy Dogs
For dogs without discipline who never know when to stop eating, it’s probably best that you control their portions and set fixed timings for meals. According to most dog nutritionists, two meals in a 24-hour period with intervals of 8–12 hours is optimal.
As for timings, it’s not really that important as long as you maintain the interval. But try to set fixed timings based on your schedule so your dog can adjust faster to their feeding routine. This is especially the case for puppies or they might become overweight.
Is Home-Cooked Food More Cost-Efficient?
Cost is not the most crucial factor in making the decision to switch to homemade meals, but you can end up saving more if you plan right. The larger your dog, the more money you save making the food yourself.
High-end wet food for dogs will cost somewhere around USD $3. Dry dog food, on the other hand, is cheaper, costing less than a dollar per serving. By serving your dog a mixture of wet and dry foods, you can bring your commercial food expense down to USD $5 per day. This does not, however, include bones, supplements, and dental treats.
A home-cooked and balanced meal made of vegetables, rice, meats, and/or fruits can cost you on average, USD $3.52 per day or USD $5.58 if you cut out all the processed food and go organic.
Ingredients to Include and Avoid
Dogs, as you may already know, are curious animals who are capable of eating anything, regardless of whether it’s good for them or not. So you shouldn’t take the fact that your dog is eating to mean what they’re eating is good for them.
Here is a general list of ingredients you can and should add (with controlled portion sizes) and the ones to avoid, according to nutrition experts.
• Ingredients to Include
Beef, turkey, lamb, pork, tuna, and eggs are all acceptable dog foods. But, with meats that are high in fat, serve them in moderation or trim the excess fat and remove any bones that may splinter.
Cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, green beans, spinach, celery, and peas are acceptable ingredients. Your dog may not like vegetables initially, especially if they’ve mostly experienced tasty treats and bones. It may take time and adjustment, but you need to get your dog on some veggies too.
As for carbohydrates, you can give your dog rice, pasta, quinoa, and oatmeal.
The most crucial element for dogs. You can serve them plain yogurt paired with non-citrus fruits or cottage cheese. Avoid high-fat options like ice cream or regular cheese, especially for puppies because some of them could be lactose intolerant.
• Ingredients to Avoid
#1. Citrus Fruits
Avoid feeding any foods with citruses like tangerines, lemon, grapes, raisins, or oranges to your dog. This can upset their stomach, and if they eat too much of it, it might even cause central nervous system depression.
You’ve probably heard you’re not supposed to give dogs chocolates. But can dogs eat cinnamon? Chocolates, coffee, cinnamon, and caffeine all contain methylxanthines that, when ingested by your dog over certain amount, may cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, heart problems, and even death in the worst cases. If your dog has consumed any of these, take them to the veterinarian immediately.
Avoid feeding cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts as much as chocolate. They’re also toxic for your dog. Macadamia, in particular, can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, and hyperthermia in dogs.
#4. Onions, Garlic, and Chives
These can lead to gastrointestinal irritation, and if consumed in large quantities, even cause red blood cell damage and anemia.
#5. Salty Foods
Too much salt can lead to excessive thirst and urination. It’s best to try and avoid it altogether.
This is the sweetener used in a majority of processed foods. As a rule of thumb, avoid giving your dog sugary processed foods, which is basically everything we consider junk food. Only feed plain unsweetened yogurt, or milk, and that too in moderate quantities.
Avoid feeding mushrooms to any of your pets.
Popular Home-Cooked Dog Food Recipes
Before you make any changes to your dog’s diet, it would be best to consult your veterinarian to find out more about your dog’s existing allergies, digestive problems, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and what portions to feed them, depending on the size and breed.
You also don’t want to switch your dog from store-bought food to homemade overnight. Slowly transitioning over a one-week period would be wiser.
#1. Turkey Rice
Image source: Pinterest
• 1 ½ cups of brown rice
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 3 pounds of ground turkey
• 3 cups of chopped baby spinach
• 2 carrots, diced or shredded
• 1 zucchini, mashed
• ½ cup canned or frozen peas
#1. Cook the rice as per the instructions on the package and set it aside.
#2. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the ground turkey and cook on medium for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the turkey starts to brown. Make sure you keep crumbling it as it cooks.
#3. Add all the veggies from the list and brown rice with the turkey and stir for another 3 to 5 minutes until the spinach begins to wilt.
#4. Voila! You’re finished. That was easy right? Now wait for it to cool, and then based on your dog’s size, divide the meal into appropriate portions and keep them in containers in the refrigerator. If you’re serving it right from the refrigerator, remember to warm it up just a little.
If you like this recipe, click out this video tutorial.
#2. Meat Balls
• 10 pounds of ground beef (make sure they’re lean cuts or trim the fat yourself)
• 2 cups of oat bran
• 3 cans of pumpkin puree.
• 4 carrots, steamed and mashed
• Kale leaves from 4 stalks, chopped finely
• 3 slices of bread, cut into small cubes
• Just a few pinches of salt, for some flavor
• 1 cup of Flour
#1. Add all of the ingredients except flour in a large bowl and keep mixing until everything is all mashed up together.
#2. Roll into balls of any size, it’s your choice.
#3. Lightly dredge the balls with flour and brush off any excess.
#4. Into the oven, the balls go. The bake time varies with the size of the balls, try 400°F for about 25 minutes or until the balls start to show a healthy browning.
For a diet, grain-free version of this recipe, click it below.
Tips for Home-Cooked Dog Food
Due to their sensitive diets and different nutritional requirements, no matter what you cook for dogs, there are some important tips and safety guidelines you need to keep in mind. And this goes double for puppies who tend to be more high-maintenance than people give them credit for.
#1. Add-ins/ Supplements
A lot of people need dietary supplements in their life to maintain balanced nutrition, and dogs are no different. According to the FDA, dogs on commercially processed dog food diets receive the right balance of all the necessary minerals and vitamins, whereas dogs on a homemade diet might need supplements.
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E (which come from citrusy foods that can upset a dog’s stomach) help reduce inflammation and boost memory in dogs.
But before you purchase supplements, check with your veterinarian to learn about your dog’s specific requirements, given the diet you already provide them. Make sure you only purchase from trusted vendors and always read the labels before buying.
#2. Check for Nutrition Requirements
A balanced diet for dogs constitutes of:
• 50% cooked protein
• 25% essential vitamins and minerals
• 25% cooked complex carbs
• Plenty of water
Your dog may have some special dietary requirements as well if she’s pregnant, sick, or a special breed. So always check with a trusted source of information, or better yet, a vet.
#3. Mind the Portions
To give you a rough picture of how many calories your dog should eat per day, you can use the following formula:
30 x (weight of dog in kilograms) + 70
So if your dog weighs 10 kilograms, the calories they need would come to roughly 400 calories per day at the most. Note that this isn’t a definitive equation but it does give you a ballpark amount of how much your dog needs to eat.
If your dog is on a weight gain program or a weight loss program, vets recommend making a change of 20–30% to what this equation gives you. For a more precise answer, you can use this calculator to determine what calorie intake is best suited for your dog.
#4. Pay Attention to Allergy Alternatives
The one thing you need to constantly monitor is how well your dog responds to the food they’re eating. This will help you detect whether they have any possible allergies to certain foods.
A Few Parting Words
Home-cooked dog food is not that laborious. But you don’t have to completely cut your dog off commercial foods either. They can remain a part of the diet to make up for any nutritional deficiencies.
Dogs are intelligent and highly compassionate beings, but remember, if you’re going to own a dog, it is imperative you learn as much as you can about their nutritional requirements.