There are a number of reasons some dog caregivers have decided to start making their own food blends for their canine companions. Allergies, expense, knowing exactly what is going into the food, enjoyment of cooking—the list is endless. Whatever the reason, creating homemade food for your dogs can be an enriching experience for everyone involved. Before embarking on the homemade dog food journey, though, there are some elements to take into consideration for optimal results.
The key to a to a healthy homemade diet is the same for commercial diets. Any regular diet a dog eats needs balanced nutrition. “The best nutritional option for your dog is to feed a consistent, balanced and veterinarian-approved canine diet that meets their individual nutritional requirements and is appropriate for their life stage,” says Jo Ann Morrison, DVM, MS, DACVIM, of Banfield Pet Hospital.
A dog’s individual health, body type and age are all factors when it comes to their dietary requirements. Homemade food can be filled with healthy ingredients but if meals aren’t nutritionally balanced then then dogs are missing vital elements. And if that’s the case, these meals aren’t healthy after all.
It’s for these reasons that Lou Anne Wolfe, DVM, is cautious when it comes to homemade diets. She’s so cautious, in fact, that she usually recommends supplementing homemade food with commercial just to be extra safe. “I encourage people to feed a commercial ration of some sort,” she says. “It is hard to do-it-yourself when it comes to including all necessary nutrients for animals.”
Before beginning a large-scale project like making your own dog food, learning what is good for dogs is the first building block to a healthy diet.
Some of the basic healthy ingredients dogs can eat include:
- Raw or cooked lean cuts of boneless poultry (chicken or turkey), beef (ground or cubed), lamb, whitefish like cod, and fatty fish like salmon and herring
- Finely chopped or ground raw vegetables, including carrots, broccoli florets, white potatoes, and leafy greens (collards, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce)
- Cooked grains like rice, barley, bulgur, polenta, oatmeal and pasta
- Raw, scrambled, fried (in canola oil), hard-boiled or poached eggs
- Plain yogurt
- Small amount of grated hard cheese
- Bits of fruit like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, melons, apples, pears and bananas
- Healthy people meals like stew or soup with meat and vegetables (not onion or onion pieces!), meatloaf, egg salad and tuna salad.
Just as vital—maybe even more so—is a list of what to avoid. In fact, Dr. Morrison recommends commercial diets over the possibility of dogs ingesting certain foods that could be toxic.
“It is very important to be familiar with what should not be fed to dogs,” she says. “Many human foods and plants are toxic to dogs and cats, so it is generally safer to avoid feeding anything other than a recommended pet food altogether.”
Foods for Dogs to Avoid
In addition to an individual’s allergies, there are a number of foods that all dogs need to avoid.
- Fatty meats
- Cured meats, like sausage, bacon and hotdogs
- Fried chicken
- Raw pork
- French fries
- Onions and chives
- Pastries, cookies, cakes and other sugary baked goods
- Pancakes and waffles
- Processed foods
- Milk, cream and ice cream
- Grapes and raisins
- Fast food
- Coffee and caffeine
- Salty snack foods
- Nuts, such almonds and pecans
- Yeast dough
- Macadamia nuts
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Xylitol (sweetener)
Making your own homemade diets for your dogs can avoid pitfalls by including experts. Trusted veterinary professionals who have your dogs’ best interests at heart can help guide you when it comes to proper nutrition.
“If you choose to feed your dog a homemade diet, work with a certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure it’s complete, balanced and appropriate for your pet and its individual nutritional requirements,” Morrison says. “Incomplete or unbalanced diets can cause significant health problems for pets, so it’s imperative to take steps in advance to ensure you’re meeting their nutritional needs.”
Some planning ahead with veterinarians who are familiar with nutrition and a dog’s individual health needs can set pets up for success. Once a diet a healthy diet is in place, your vet can also help with other ways to enhance a dog’s health. Exercise, training, weather protection and regular veterinary care can help dogs their happiest, healthiest lives.
By: Chewy Editorial