Why I Switched to Homemade Dog Food
A few years ago, I came home to find my poor 16 year old pup lying on the ground in agony. I quickly rushed her to the vet to find out that she had broken her back leg, probably from something as normal as jumping down from the couch, and had to have it amputated.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
It turned out that her bone was extremely brittle due to cancer.
That terrifying ‘C’ word.
The vet recommended a biweekly course of chemo for my baby. It would cost about $500 a visit and there was only a 30% chance of survival.
I decided, after seeing my aunt and stepfather go through the process, that I would rather enjoy the remaining time I had with her rather than subject her to that poison.
Of course, I didn’t just take it lying down, I researched as much as I could about the condition and what I could do about it.
That’s when I came across an article (can’t find it now, unfortunately) that led me to believe that Lady’s food might have something to do with her problems. So I decided to do something about it.
I began cooking her meals of chicken (livers, gizzards, breasts, etc), black beans, and rice in a big batch every Sunday evening.
Within a few weeks, my old girl was acting 10 years younger, her coat was looking better than it had in years, and she was much less “snippy” with the other animals.
She outlived her “life expectancy” by 3x, and passed away happy and full of life. My final memories of the dog that had been with me for all of my major life events are of how she really was, not slowly, painfully deteriorating away.
And I credit that to feeding her homemade dog food instead of relying on a big brand mystery bag.
Why You Should Make Your Own Dog Food
If that story wasn’t enough for you, there are many other reasons to ditch the bag and make your own dog food.
First, I would like to point out that commercial pet food is much less regulated than you think. The FDA and AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) have rules in place but they are not as strict or scrutinized as hard as human food.
Which means that these companies can put almost whatever they like into your dog’s food. And they put a lot of trash in there. Why do you think pet food is constantly getting recalled? And pet owners CONTINUE to buy it!
So that’s why you shouldn’t buy commercial pet food but here’s why you should make your own:
That’s right, you can save money while providing your pup a healthier food option.
And if your canine companion has health issues like irritable bowel syndrome or allergies, DIY dog food can make a huge difference.
How to Make Your Own Dog Food
Making your own dog food really isn’t difficult as long as you follow a few simple rules.
First, unless your pup needs a special diet like grain free or vegan, you should try to stick to this meal ratio: 50% protein, 25% veggies, and 25% grain. You can also follow this ratio of 40-60% raw meat/protein, 20-30% cooked starch, and 20-30% raw vegetables/fruit.
Second, be sure to know what foods dogs can and can’t eat. I’ll go into this more later.
Lastly, add supplements to their meals to make up for nutrients that they aren’t getting from the food alone. There are 6 essential nutrients that every dog needs.
The National Academies of Sciences has put together an amazing resource detailing which vitamins and minerals dogs must have and the exact amount to feed them daily based on age.
But don’t start worrying that you’ll need to take a science class to feed your dog, we’ve compiled a collection of over 80 recipes below that cover almost every type of diet.
- Adding Fresh Foods to Commercial Food
- 10 Foods You Should Be Adding to Your Dog’s Food
- Create a free custom recipe
What Should and Shouldn’t Go Into Your Recipe
Of course, dogs can’t eat all of the same foods that we can. So before you start whipping up something in the kitchen for your pooch, you’re going to need to know what you can and can’t feed a dog.
Here are some popular ingredients to use when cooking for your pup. These are only the most popular so if you’re not sure, consult an authority like your vet or a trusted website like the AKC or PetMD.
The protein portion of your dog’s diet can come from poultry (chicken, turkey, etc) – including organ meats such as livers, hearts, and gizzards – eggs, beef, tuna, salmon, venison, lamb, or pork (be mindful of the fat though).
Some of the best vegetables to add to your pet’s bowl include broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, celery, cucumbers, green beans, peas, spinach, and sweet potatoes. So basically everything that your 3 year old won’t eat.
If your dog has a grain allergy, or you just prefer a grain free diet, feel free to skip this section. If grains aren’t an issue to you, especially for larger dogs who take more to fill up, oatmeal and rice (preferably brown rice) are great choices and they are ridiculously cheap.
Which supplements your dog needs will depend on what you choose to feed them and what conditions they may have. For example, glucosamine would make a good addition for older dogs – especially those with arthritis.
For dogs with digestive issues, you may want to try out a probiotic.
We’ve also included a few recipes down below for “toppings” to add to your dog’s food that can make up for missing nutrients.
Here are some of the most common foods that are dangerous to dogs. This list is not exhaustive so if you’re not sure, do your research first.
- Macadamia nuts
- Brewer’s yeast
- Uncooked spinach
- Coconut and Coconut Oil
- Milk and Dairy
- Yeast Dough
Tips for Making DIY Dog Food
As with most things in life, preplanning can make your life a lot easier. Many of these meals can be made in large batches and used throughout the week (obviously you should refrigerate it).
Most of them can also be frozen if you decide to make a really big batch. Don’t worry, I’ve included a section for that too.
And if you don’t have enough freezer space, you can also can your homemade dog food for long term storage.
Lastly, if you’re making a meal with eggs, don’t throw away the eggshells, add them to the mix for extra calcium.
Choosing the Right Diet for Your Pet
The diet that you ultimately decide on for your pet will, of course, depend largely on your pet (breed, age, medical conditions, size, etc), your budget, and your schedule.
There are meals that can help with diabetes, healthy coats, arthritis, allergies, weight loss, and diarrhea. There are also recipes specific to puppies or senior dogs.
Here are a few resources:
Homemade Dog Food Recipes
I know that was a lot of information and you’re probably overwhelmed. But really all you need to do is pick a diet plan and then choose a recipe that you like from the list we’ve compiled.
Many of these meals can fit into multiple categories (like a grain free puppy food that can be made in a crockpot) so be sure to scan through them all.
If you can’t find one you like, you can create a free pet recipe here.
Healthy Dog Food Recipes
While almost all home cooked dog food recipes are healthier than commercial pet food, the ones below are specifically designed for dogs with diabetes, arthritis, diarrhea, and general health.
- Mini Omelettes – Vet approved
- Ruby Stewbie – For diabetes
- Healing Mash – For Diarrhea
- Hamburger, Lettuce, and Tomato – Holistic
- Multi Grain Dog Food Recipe – Multi grain
- Arthritis Dog Food Recipe – For arthritis
- Arthritis Stew – For arthritis
- Chicken Casserole
- Holly’s Healthy Homemade Recipe
- Pancreatitis Recipes – For pancreatitis
Dog Food Recipes for Puppies
Puppies need extra nutrition to feed their growing bodies. These recipes pack in a lot of nutrients into a smaller package. You might want to think about adding supplements to your puppy’s food as well.
- Puppy Power Smoothies
- Snap Guide’s Puppy Food Recipe
- Puppy Stew
- Daily Puppy’s Home Cooked Recipe
- Puppy Patties
Recipes for Senior Dogs
Older dogs require a different diet than their younger counterparts. Their food is generally easy to chew and has supplements for joint pain relief. Cutting calories while maintaining protein intake is also important as their metabolism slows down.
Grain Free Recipes for Allergies
Grain free meals have many benefits over those with corn, wheat, rice, soy, or oats. Many dogs have an allergic reaction to soy, corn, and/or wheat, causing them to scratch incessantly, develop sores, sneeze, or have digestive issues. Fortunately, switching to a grain free diet can solve many of these issues quickly and without medication.
It is important to note, though, that many dogs are also allergic to protein sources such as beef, chicken, or eggs.
You can also make any of these other recipes grain free by following this guide.
- Food Pucks
- Chicken Liver Meatballs
- 3 Little Pitties Raw Food (and grain free) Recipes
- Doggy Fishcake (video)
- Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Dog Food and Treat Recipes
- Trudy’s Holistic Grain Free Dog Food Recipes for Home
- 56 Homemade Dog Food Recipes
High Protein Recipes
Most dogs, especially younger ones, need a large amount of protein. Pregnant and lactating dogs also need a lot of protein. Canines are not carnivores though, they are omnivores like us. So don’t feed them just meat.
High protein diets can also be used for weight loss since extra protein doesn’t get stored as fat.
- Good Food Cookbook for Dogs
- Dog Obsessed: The Honest Kitchen’s Complete Guide to a Happier, Healthier Life for the Pup You Love
- Better Food For Dogs
Low Protein Recipes
Low protein diets are typically recommended for dogs with kidney disease. However, the article above, by T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM, argues that that myth was started by a study using rats, not dogs. And rats don’t eat meat naturally.
Raw Food Diet Recipes
While there is a lot of hype around raw food diets, both for pets and humans, many vets aren’t as quick to jump on board. Some even recommend cooking the meal before serving (is it still raw food at that point?).
If you do decide to go with a raw food diet, be careful of salmonella. Up to 80% of animals on raw food diets were exposed to it.
- Midsummer Farm Homemade Fish-Based Dog Dinner – Can be frozen
- Jenny’s DIY Raw Dog Food Recipe – Grain free
- 7 Day Raw Food Plan (video)
- The Healthy Hound Cookbook
- Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog
- Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs
Easy Crockpot Dog Food Recipes
I don’t know about you but I absolutely love my crockpot. It’s almost magical how I can put food into it in the morning and come home to a meal.
- Scooby’s Organic Stew
- Easy Crockpot Dog Food
- Chicken and veggie crockpot
- Double Meat Slow Cooker
- High Iron Dog Food Recipe – High iron
- Crockpot Chicken
- Home Cooking Low Fat Recipe (video)
- Beef Stew with Chef Poodle (video)
Vegetarian Dog Food Recipes
As we established before, dogs are omnivores. Which means they eat meat and plants. So can dogs survive and stay healthy on a meatless diet? The short answer is yes (but NOT cats).
For those owners who would like to switch their dog to a vegetarian diet, there are a lot of options. Here are a few:
- Black Bean Bowl
- Kale and Quinoa
- Fruit and Veggie Melee
- Homemade Sweet Potato–Peanut Butter Vegan-Dog Delight
- Dr Ben’s Vegan Dog Food Recipe (video)
- Homemade Vegetarian Dog Food & Treat Recipes
- Dog Food Love: Allergy-Free Recipes, Vegetarian Edition
- Simple Little Vegan Dog Book
- Vegan Dogs
Natural Dog Food Recipes
Dry Dog Food Recipes
While all of these recipes are nutritious and delicious, they are a bit of a pain to serve. But dry dog food keeps longer and can be served with one hand in ten seconds. Or you can make your wet food stores last longer by mixing them with some kibble.
- Crunchy Dog Food
- Droolworthy DIY Dry Dog Food Recipe
- Homemade Kibble
- Baked Dog Kibble
- DIY Dog Food (video)
Recipes for Weight Loss
With America leading the globe in obesity rates, it’s no wonder that our dogs get fat too. And just like us, this extra weight can have a negative impact on their health.
If your pooch needs to lose his pooch, try out a few of these recipes. He’ll get back into his beach body in no time.
- Damn Delicious
- Weight Loss Diet
- Chicken, Rice, and Carrots – Healthy coat
- Turkey, Rice, and Veggies
- Shredded Chicken Salad – Low fat
- Healthy Hot Air (video)
Frozen Dog Food Recipes
For those of us who are short on time, or just like to do everything at once, making a large batch of dog food and freezing it is very handy. Take them out the day before or in the morning and they’ll be ready for Fido’s dinner.
- The Farmer’s Dog
- Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, and Kale
- Chicken Spinach Balls
- Raw Beef & Vegetable (video)
Cheap Dog Food Recipes
Most of the recipes on this list are pretty cheap to make, especially when you cook in bulk. Here are a couple of meals that won’t dent your wallet.
- Beef Stew
- WiseBread’s Homemade Dog Food
- Cooked or Raw
- Food52’s Cheap Recipe
- Healthy & Inexpensive
- Easy, Healthy, and Cheap (video)
Whether your dog isn’t getting enough nutrients out of his regular diet or he needs extra supplements for a medical condition, adding what he needs into his food is pretty easy. And there are a lot of options. Adding glucosamine can ease joint pain and if your pup is lacking calcium, sprinkling egg shells into his meal can be a simple solution.
Of course, there are plenty of companies out there more than willing to sell you a pill or powder to add to your dog’s food but we’re talking about homemade solutions here! So check out these food toppers for improving your dog’s health:
- Not-Quite Satin Balls – For weight gain
- Bone Broth
- Pumpkin Please – Pumpkin
- Chicken Stock
- Superfoods Topping (video)
- Egg Shell Calcium (video)
Dog Food Recipes for Small Dogs
When feeding a small dog, there are some things you need to keep in mind. They have smaller mouths so whatever you feed them shouldn’t be too large for them to eat or get stuck in their throats. They also have smaller stomachs (go figure!) so adjust their portions proportionally.
For more information on their nutrient needs, check out this article.
Dog Food Recipes for Large Dogs
This might come as a shocker to you but large dogs weigh more and have bigger bones than their smaller cousins. Carrying around all that weight means that the larger your dog, the more prone to joint pain and calcium deficiencies.
Big dogs are also more likely to have digestive issues.
- Raw Diet for Big Dogs (video)
- Most of these recipes will work for big dogs, just keep an eye on if you need to add supplements
Do you have a recipe for homemade dog food that you’d like to share? Send it on over!