A healthy homemade dog food diet doesn’t mean including meat and veggies alone, even if most online recipes focus just on that. To make a well-balanced homemade meal, there are a number of essential dog food supplements that you’ll need to add to your pet's dish, depending on several factors.
The exact types and dosage of these dog supplements should be determined based on your dog’s breed, sex, age, physical condition, activity levels, and current (or potential) diseases and illnesses. In her guide/video, Samantha has covered this in more depth. You should always consult with your veterinarian or canine nutritionist about anything you’re going to put into your dog’s food first.
With that in mind, there are a number of popular dog supplements that are most commonly added to homemade dog foods:
Vitamin E is essential for dogs, and its deficiency is very common in canines. Studies show that adding Vitamin E into the dog's diet can improve the pet's coat and allergy factors, among other health issues (1, 2). How much of it you need to add to your homemade dog food meals depends on multiple factors, including whether you add fish oil or plant oil to the dish. Additionally, you can find a lot of different recommendations online regarding the amount of Vitamin E that needs to be added to your dog’s food.
In general, veterinarian sources say that you need to give 100 IUs to small dogs, 200 IUs to medium-sized dogs, and ~400 IUs to larger breeds. At the same time, however, overdoing it with Vitamin E can lead to overdosing, which can turn it from an anti-oxidant into a pro-oxidant. Other specialists recommend 1-2 UIs of Vitamin E per pound of body weight daily. The National Library of Medicine warns about the risks of high Vitamin dosages, therefore it's crucial to discuss this with your vet.
A number of different oils can be used in homemade dog food meals. Fish oil is one of the most beneficial supplements you can possibly give to your dog. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil provide widespread benefits, according to studies with pets (3, 4, 5, 6). They improve the coat and skin, reduce inflammation, regulate the immune system, aid the mental development of puppies, lower blood pressure and triglycerides, and provide support against things such as kidney disease, heart disease, and arthritis.
It's crucial to include an accurate amount of fish oil in the dog's diet. Too little won't have any effect, and by adding too much you're risking side effects, of which there are plenty (7). Here is a fish oil dosage for dogs chart from CSU to follow:
|Dog Weight (lbs.)||Dog Weight (kg.)||Recommended Dose for Osteoarthritis
Per Bauer; 310 mg (EPA + DHA) per kg. MBW per day
Alternatively, you can use Krill oil or whole fish (like sardines), depending on your dog’s breed, size and conditions. If you’re using sardines or other fish, add 1 oz. of it per pound of other meat products in the meal.
Cod Liver Oil (Vitamins A and D)
If you don’t add fish or fish oil to your dog’s diet, cod liver oil is something you should consider instead, which has similar benefits to fish oil and also provides Vitamins A and D. It's particularly good for the dog's heart and cardiovascular health. Make sure you add enough cod oil to provide your dog with about 100 IUs of Vitamin D per 20 pounds of the dog’s body weight each day.
Same as with fish oil, do not add too much cod liver oil into homemade dog food diets because side effects are possible. If more omega-3 fatty acids are needed, add plain fish oil. You can also add Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) into your dog’s meals as it provides a large margin of safety and can allow you to give bigger amounts of cod oil. Vitamin K2 can be found in meats and organ meat in particular, but can also be added as a supplement.
Different types of meat like beef and chicken have different types of fat. For this reason, it’s a good idea to feed your pet diversely with homemade dishes containing different meat sources. A good mixture of beef and chicken, particularly with the chicken’s dark meat (it contains more fat than the chicken breasts) is of great help in balancing out the fats in your dog’s diet.
When pet owners prioritize only one meat source, it often results in a diet that's imbalanced and requires more supplements (and costs more). If you’re focusing on beef meat in your recipes for the most part, then you can add 1 tablespoon of hemp-seed oil, walnut oil, safflower oil, or corn oil per 1 pound of meat. If chicken is the main meat source, add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed or chia seed oils per 1 pound of meat. These can be in supplement form too.
Greens Blend (Kelp or Alfalfa)
Kelp is a great source of iodine, which is important as it can often be of short supply in dogs’ diets, if not entirely absent. Too much iodine is not risk-free either, however, so it needs to be carefully managed. Both too much and too little iodine can suppress thyroid function in dogs. With that in mind, don’t give more than a quarter of a tablespoon to large dogs and proportionally less for smaller breeds.
If you don’t want to go with kelp, you can use iodized salt, a mineral supplement that includes iodine, or a multi-vitamin. Things like good base mixes like those from The Honest Kitchen are a good option as well. They contain vegetables, fruits, and other supplements.
Water-soluble vitamins like the B-complex are also essential in the pet's diet and are responsible for a large number of health benefits. A full range of B-complex contains B vitamins like Thiamin, Niacin, Folic acid, Pantothenic acid, Biotin, Riboflavin, and Pyridoxine. A good source for these vitamins is nutritional or brewer’s yeast. While brewer’s yeast has fewer of these vitamins, it is a good source of choline as well (more so than nutritional yeast).
For Zinc, Copper, Iodine, and Vitamin D…
…consider oysters, beef liver, or an ordinary dog supplement. Zinc, copper, and vitamin D may be in short supply if you don't include beef liver in your dog's diet. This is another reason why it is very important to add organ meats like liver and hearts to your dog’s meals.
If you’ve skipped on the beef liver for some reason, you can add canned oysters in the meat as well – 1 ounce per pound of meat can serve the purpose of supplying enough copper, zinc, and vitamin D to your dog’s diet. If this doesn’t sound like an option, you should at least add these supplements in powder or pill form.