We publish a lot of homemade dog food recipes and guides, videos, articles related to homemade dog food diet here on Top Dog Tips, and for a good reason – cooking for your dogs is generally a good idea when doing it correctly. However, there's a lot of misinformation and myths about this diet floating around the interwebs.
In this podcast episode I decided to go solo and tackle some of the most common myths about the homemade dog food diet. If you've seen some of my dog food recipe videos, you know what and how often I cook for my dogs. This means I also have to do a ton of research on this topic, and after years of learning about homemade dog food diets, I feel that it's time to lay out some of the most important facts I've gathered.
Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.
- Episode link: TOP 025 – Common Myths About Homemade Dog Food Diet
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Debunking 8 Homemade Dog Food Diet Myths
(raw podcast transcript)
A lot of these things are shared and passed around by pet owners. It's something that we think because it's said by so many pet owners that it must be true. But I'm actually going to debunk these myths for you so that you can educate yourself, and of course stop passing along false information. I think, as a community of pet parents we get a lot of our information from each other. We get it from other experienced dog owners, cat owners, we ask questions of people that we know have been long-time pet owners. So if we're all passing around mixed information, then we're not getting the right information that we need to care for our pets to the fullest.
Now without further ado, let's talk about some of these most common myths now. I have a list of eight of the most common myths about homemade food that I hear all the time.
I get questions all the time from other pet owners, people that write into the website asking questions about the homemade diets, some of the recipes that we share on there and some of the questions are about me and my dogs specifically and why I choose to feed homemade food. And that's what I talked about last week, were all of those benefits for not only your pets, but yourself with feeding homemade food.
Then, after I tell them about why I feed homemade, then I get all of these questions, and they're asking things that they've heard through the grapevine of other pet owners and from the pet industry and things like that. And they're not all true.
Myths #1 and #2: Cooking is more expensive and time-consuming
So the first thing that I hear all the time, the top two things and I kind of touched on these last week, was that feeding home-made food is more expensive than commercial diets and it's also more time-consuming.
First of all, the time-consuming thing. Yes, its true that it's more, obviously, more time-consuming than feeding a commercial diet. If you're just dumping kibble in a bowl that only takes you a few seconds, but to prepare a home-made meal takes a little bit longer.
I also hear from a lot of people that they think that it takes hours to prepare food, that you're spending hours every week cooking for your dog. Because they think of it like cooking for your family where it takes you half an hour to cook breakfast, maybe 20 minutes to make lunch, and another half an hour, 45 minutes to cook dinner. And now you're going to have to also cook for your pet on top of that.
That's not necessarily the case. It certainly can be if you want to make one meal at a time for your dog, but what a lot of people don't realize is that you can make dog food recipes in large quantities and then you can freeze most of them and you can refrigerate them for, most of the time, it's five to seven days for refrigeration and you can freeze dog food for two to three months.
So essentially, if you — let's say that you were going to freeze your dog food and you were going to freeze it for a three-month period — you could essentially, in one afternoon, make enough dog food to feed your dog for three months. Freeze it, and then you would only have to make food once every three months. So you'd have to spend an afternoon making dog food four times a year. So the time-consuming part, yes, it is more time-consuming than a commercial diet, but no, it's not as time consuming as a lot of people think.
And the other thing with that that's really great, and this is just tip for anybody that does feed home-made or is thinking about feeding home-made, what I do is I make it in bulk, the dog food, and then I freeze it, but I freeze it in individual-portioned containers. So every day I know that I'm going to feed both my dogs. We have two dogs, a chocolate lab and a beagle, and I portion bigger portions for the chocolate lab, obviously, and smaller portions for the beagle.
I know I'm going to feed them each in the morning and at night, so I take out two portions for the chocolate lab and two portions for the beagle every night, every evening before I go to bed and so they have time to thaw overnight. In the morning, breakfast is ready. I stick supper in the refrigerator and it's all unthawed and ready to go. I just microwave it for about 30 seconds to warm it up a little bit and it's ready for dinner. Then, that's part of my bed-time routine, is to go to the freezer and get out tomorrow's dog food.
So actually you know the time-consuming part again – it is more time consuming — but if you do it and you plan it, it's actually very easy and can be just as simple as feeding a commercial diet, in the sense that all you have to do is take it out of the freezer, let it thaw overnight, and you can just feed it to your dog in the morning. You don't have to make meals every day.
And hand in hand with that is the expense. I hear so many people say, “Well I can't afford to feed homemade dog food,” “Oh, I don't feed homemade because it's so much more expensive.” If you are feeding, hopefully, a very healthy, top-quality commercial dog food, it actually will be either cheaper or no more expensive for you to feed homemade. The pricier dog foods are better quality. And of course, we have to feed our dogs based on our budget and what we can handle. But, those pricier foods usually are more expensive than homemade.
If you do it right and, again, plan what you're going to be making for your dog, you can use fruits and vegetables that are in season. That will cut the cost. You can buy in bulk, especially protein sources – buying hamburger and chicken in bulk instead of buying it in a package here and there when you're making food, that helps. You can buy from larger stores, like Costco. It's things like rice and pasta that you might put into your dog food. You can buy those in bulk as well and save some money there.
So, there are a lot of ways to cut corners and actually make homemade dog food a very affordable option on any budget. So that's something that kind of disheartens me when I hear people say that, it's a misconception that really disappoints me because I think that holds a lot of people back from cooking homemade. And it doesn't need to be because it's absolutely not true.
Myth #3: Homemade dog food and raw feeding are the same
So those are my top two. But I hear a lot of other ones as well. Some of those — raw. When people think homemade dog food, they sometimes associate it with the raw food diet. The raw dog food diets have come around to be quite popular in the last couple of years. And I always hear people say, either raw is the absolute best option for our pets or raw is the absolute worse option for our pets. Neither is true. It's not the best and it's not the worse. It's completely separate from a homemade dog food diet.
Of course, raw food is a homemade dog food diet. But, when you use the term homemade dog food, it's not speaking to raw food. It's actually speaking to homemade dog food that is cooked. You cook the ingredients, the protein sources, the vegetables, things like that.
So, first of all, raw and homemade dog food are not synonymous; they are not one and the same, and second of all just the generalization that raw food is either the best or the worst. I don't like that either, and I hate that that's spread around by pet parents. Usually the people that say that it's the best are the people that feed that. And it can be the best option for some dogs.
However, it needs to be done right and it needs to be done in a safe manner because if it is not done the right way and in a safe way, it can make your dog extremely ill. So saying that it is the best is very misleading and again on the other hand saying that it is the worst is extremely misleading as well. It is not necessarily the worst for your dog. Can it make your dog sick? Absolutely, but if you do it the right way, and you do it the healthy way, and you are very careful about the ingredients and how you handle the ingredients, it can actually be a very healthy, beneficial diet for dogs.
So hearing people kind of use homemade dog food and raw dog food in the same context and interchanging them is a little upsetting to me, and of course just making that generalization that raw food is the absolute best or the absolute worst again, not true.
Myth #4: It's the easiest way to meet dog's nutritional requirements
Some of the other ones that stick out to me. I hear people say that using healthy ingredients will eventually just meet all of your dog's nutritional needs. If you are making homemade food, you are using high quality proteins, you are using organic natural ingredients, you're not adding any fillers or any artificial preservatives or flavorings like commercial dog foods have. So you're using all of these healthy ingredients and of course that's one of the best benefits of a homemade dog diet.
I hear people that say that if I am feeding these healthy ingredients it is automatically going to meet my dog's nutritional needs eventually. If I alternate the different protein sources, and I alternate the fruits and vegetables that I use, it will meet all of his needs eventually. That is absolutely not true. Dogs need certain — just like humans — certain nutritional elements in their diet everyday. They need a certain amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, certain amounts of carbohydrates and fats, things like that.
So, the difference between humans and dogs — obviously all of us humans are built differently, some are bigger, some are smaller. We all have different metabolisms, we all have different health conditions and things like that, but we have kind of an average basis for the calories that an average human should have during the day and it fluctuates a little bit, but we see all of our nutritional guidelines on our food is based on this average.
Dogs have no average. There are small breeds, medium breeds, large, extra-large breeds. There are dogs with health conditions. There are dogs that are overweight, underweight. There are dogs with conditions that they need extra protein. For example, working dogs: they're building muscle all the time, they need more protein than your traditional house dog, so using healthy ingredients isn't going to get you where you need to be.
You need to work with a veterinarian or somebody trained in canine nutrition to help you and they will take all those variables into consideration with your dog. They will take into consideration his weight, his age, his activity level, his breed, his size, all those things and he'll help you to determine how many calories, how many carbs, how many fats, all of that stuff, how many nutrients your dog needs and the quantity of those nutrients that your dog's going to need every day and they will help you be able to work out a diet that's going to meet his exact needs.
The other tricky thing about dogs — and this is the same in humans as well — is that their nutritional needs vary over time. Puppies need much different nutrients than senior dogs. Adult dogs that have high energy or moderate energy level need different nutrients than an adult dog that lives a sedentary lifestyle.
So this is why it's really crucial that you work with somebody that's trained in canine nutrition that can help you find a diet that's going to meet all of those needs. Then you can start building recipes and creating recipes, finding them online, that will meet these needs throughout the course of every day.
Myth #5: Multivitamins will fix everything
Another myth that I hear a lot is that adding a multivitamin is going to fill any of those nutritional gaps. So when I tell people that all of that healthy ingredients that's not actually true. Dogs need different amounts of different nutrients and it's not always going to meet all the nutritional needs. They very quickly reply to me — “Oh yeah, that's why I throw in a multivitamin every day. My vet recommended this multi-vitamin powder, this multivitamin supplement and I add that every day and so that'll fill in any of the gaps.” Again, not necessarily.
You're depending on the recipe in the food that you're feeding your dog. There's going to be nutrients in the food and adding a multivitamin for that, a) may not add all the nutrients that he needs and it may still leave some gaps there, and b) let's take for example calcium. Calcium is a great one. You feed a dog food and you add raw bones and egg shells, things like that into your dog food. So your dog's getting some calcium, then you throw in a multi-vitamin on top of that and your dog is getting even more calcium. So everyday he is getting more calcium than his body needs.
Calcium toxicity is actually a very real and very scary thing in dogs, so by feeding a multi-vitamin and you are thinking to yourself I'm doing something good for my dog actually you are doing something bad for your dog's health by giving him too much. There is too much of a good thing and in the case of vitamins and minerals for dogs that is absolutely true, and again don't forget that that multi-vitamin might not close all of the gaps. You might still have some nutrients that your dog is lacking. So multi-vitamins aren't the answer either.
Myth #6: All healthy human food is just as good for dogs
Kind of along the same lines I hear a lot of people say what's healthy for me is healthy for my dog. So they feed their dog a very similar diet to what they eat themselves. If they're eating, say, a steak and potatoes and a vegetable for dinner, broccoli, they feed their dog steak, potatoes, and broccoli as well — if it's healthy for me it's gonna healthy for dog.
That's not true and again that's where you get into those nutritional gaps, you're going to be creating those gaps and calcium is another good example. Calcium needs to be added to virtually every homemade dog diet unless you're feeding raw bones on a regular basis.
So, that's something that just feeding your dog the traditional food that you always eat yourself and yes, it is maybe healthy for you and might be healthy for him as well, but you're creating those nutritional gaps.
So those ones kind of go hand in hand, the multi-vitamins and thinking that what's healthy for you is healthy for your dog, but neither one are actually true.
Myth #7: Homemade dog food diet is best for all dogs
Then I hear people say a lot of the times that homemade dog food is ideal for every pet. Homemade dog food diet it often comes from people who feed a homemade diet and they preach about it and I am one. If you listen to my podcast, if you read my articles on top dog tips, I certainly encourage people to look into a homemade diet for their dogs. Again speak with your veterinarian, speak with your canine nutritionist, that's what you need to do to make sure that you're getting the proper, your dog is getting, I should say, the proper nutrients he needs everyday. And it certainly is going to work for virtually every dog out there — you can find a homemade diet that is going to benefit them.
However, it may not be right for every dog and again this is where it becomes so important to talk to a trained professional, somebody that can evaluate your dog and his nutritional needs and can tell you — actually maybe you have a senior dog that has some health issues and he might need a prescription diet because he's got some serious things going on that aren't going to be able to be helped with a homemade dog food diet.
So I love hearing people talk about homemade food and how great it is and the benefits of it. And I love that they're trying to educate other pet owners about it. But I get a little leery when I hear people say — “Oh sure, homemade dog food's going to be great for your dog. It doesn't matter, it's good for dogs of any size, any breed, any age.” Things like that and it's not in every case. Again I'm going to jump back on that soapbox and just remind you that if you're thinking about switching to a homemade diet, remember to check with your veterinarian first.
Myth #8: Carbs are the devil
Finally, the last myth that I want to debunk for you today, is that a lot of people will say — and I get it a lot when I post recipes online to share with people — is dogs don't need carbs. While it's true that wild dogs aren't out in the wilderness eating carbs all the time, actually complex carbohydrates provide energy and they also aid in healthy digestion.
So carbs in moderation are healthy for dogs. They help digestion, a lot of people are misled into thinking that dogs can't digest carbohydrates, that's not true. Carbs are actually a great staple to add into your dogs food, they give them nutrition and they aid in digestion. So it's actually something that's great to add in there, but you just have to do it in the right quantities, you can't overload your dog with carbs by any means. Some of the healthiest carbs to add — wild rice and brown rice are great, starchy vegetables are good, quinoa is another great source.
So there's some good sources of some complex carbohydrates that can really benefit your dog. And again, talk to somebody that knows canine nutrition and they will be able to guide you and tell you what types of nutrients your dog is going to need every day and what kinds of things you should be adding into diet. If there's a reason that your dog needs a low carb diet or maybe a little bit more carbs, they're going to be able to tell you that.
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