Keeping their dogs active and healthy is important to many pet owners. You might have wondered if you could help your dog live an even happier, healthier life by making their food at home. Maybe you've read about recent recalls of dog foods due to contaminants or bacteria, or perhaps you're worried that commercial dog foods contain filler ingredients that aren't healthy for your pet. The great news is, making your own dog food can ease these worries while supporting your pup's health.
There's not just one right answer to this question. Making your own dog food can have health and safety advantages, but it isn't always convenient. You'll need time to buy and prep ingredients on a weekly basis. Depending on the recipe you use, making your own dog food may also cost more than buying pre-made food at the store. Homemade food is often the most cost-effective option, however, if your pet has allergies and you already buy a specialty food.
It's a good idea to talk to your vet and show them the recipe you plan to use before making any major change to your pet's diet. Your vet or a qualified animal nutritionist can tell you more about specific dietary requirements for their breed. Some vet offices even have recipes and prep tips to share with their clients.
When you buy dog food in the store, it's labeled for puppies, adult dogs, or senior dogs. You'll need to take similar care in formulating a food that matches your pet's life stage. Feeding an adult dog a puppy diet can lead to excess weight gain, while feeding a puppy adult food can cause malnutrition and digestive issues. Senior dogs sometimes need diets that are adapted to more sensitive GI tracts. Be sure the recipe you use is tailored to your dog's life stage.
Does your dog have any medical conditions? You'll need to take these into account when formulating your dog food. Some common medical issues that need to be addressed in a dog's diet include food allergies, heart disease, kidney disease, chronic pancreatitis, and bladder stones. If your dog has a medical issue and is already on a specialty diet, ask your vet what homemade diet would most benefit your pet.
Like humans, dogs need to eat a balanced diet in order to stay healthy. Generally speaking, dog food should be made up of at least 10% protein, at least 50% carbohydrates, between 2-5% fiber, and at least 5.5% fat. Do research on their breed to determine the exact ratio your furbaby needs.
In addition to balancing carbs, proteins, and fats in your dog's food, you'll also need to add extra vitamins and minerals. Again, you should consult with your vet or an animal nutritionist to determine your pet's particular vitamin needs. Keep in mind that all breeds need plenty of calcium for healthy bones and joints. Some dog owners feed their pups a bit of yogurt every day, but this is not enough to address your pet's calcium needs. Nutrients should be added directly to their food.
Other supplements aside from standard vitamin and mineral blends might benefit your dog. You can get add-in oils and powders tailored to breeds that tend to suffer from hip dysplasia and other joint issues. You can also find supplements designed to support heart and kidney health if those are concerns for their breed.
It's a debate for humans, and it's a debate with dogs, too: raw or cooked? The truth is that it's just a personal preference. If you would like to try raw dog food, you'll need to take extra precautions. Source ingredients carefully, and never use any meat or produce that has an "off" smell. It's best to feed raw food to your pet immediately after you make it to reduce the risk of foodborne bacterial illnesses.
Grains like rice and barley have gotten a bad rap in the pet world in recent years. However, these ingredients are not harmful to your pets unless they are actually allergic to them. If you'd like to use grains as a carb source in your dog's diet, be sure to cook them first. Not even the toughest dog can digest uncooked rice without problems.
Once you've started your dog on a homemade diet, be alert for changes in behavior or health. Note if your dog has diarrhea or vomits. Track your pet's weight to ensure that they aren't losing or gaining too much. If you notice anything of concern, talk to your veterinarian and make any suggested adjustments to your homemade dog food recipe.
Get your paws on the latest animal news and information