A lot of pet parents are overwhelmed at the thought of cooking for their dog. It is a lot of work, and it can be time consuming if you're new to the job. But, learning how to make homemade dog food is actually a lot of fun. You can try different recipes and learn about your pet's taste preferences.
Everyone enjoys a home cooked meal, including the four-legged members of your family. There are lots of benefits to making your own dog food, but there are a few drawbacks too. Learning how to make homemade dog food takes time, and they don't keep as long as store bought products with lots of preservatives.
If you think making homemade dog food can't be done on a budget, you're wrong!
There are ways to make it more affordable, and I'll discuss some of those later. In fact, compared to commercial dog food of the same quality, homemade dog food can actually be made for less money per serving.
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How To Make Homemade Dog Food
1. Work with a professional
When learning how to make homemade dog food, the key is to work with a professional. Unless you're trained on the ins and outs of canine nutrition, you'll need help to figure out your dog's nutritional requirements.
Your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist can help you understand your pet's individual needs. Like humans, every dog requires a different amount of nutrients from his diet. Some need more protein while others require a low fat diet.
Your dog may also need supplements added to his homemade dog food, but a vet or canine nutritionist can help you make that decision.
During your consultation, you'll need to be prepared to answer questions about your dog's weight, breed, overall health and well-being, and the diet that he currently eats. This shouldn't be difficult if you already own the dog.
However, if you'll be adopting the dog/puppy in the future you may need to speak with the shelter or breeder before consulting with the professional. Using this information, the nutritionist or veterinarian will be able to help you customize a diet that will meet all of your dog's needs.
FURTHER READING: Raw Diet for Dogs 101 – The Ultimate Guide
The veterinarian or canine nutritionist that you work with will be able to tell you the number of certain nutrients that your pet should be getting each day. These nutrients will include:
- vitamins A, D, and E
Your dog may require a special type of diet, and your veterinarian will be able to walk you through that. Puppies, senior dogs, pregnant dogs, dogs with skin conditions, and dogs suffering from food allergies all need special diets.
Your dog's diet will also need to change as he grows and develops. Learning how to make homemade dog food is something that you'll have to continue learning throughout your pup's life. His diet needs to evolve with him over the years.
Finally, you can also always use the help of tons of dog food recipe books available for purchase online. Some of these contain nutritional breakdowns with macronutrients and calories, which is very helpful to know if you're tracking your dog's calories.
Just remember that whenever you cook for your dog yourself, it's important to pay attention to which nutrients may be lacking in your canine's homemade meals. Very often, pet parents skip on the essential fats and only feeds dogs protein and little carbohydrates. In those cases, adding fish oil or other sources with omega-3s and essential fatty acids using dog supplements is highly advisable to avoid any health issues.
2. Select quality ingredients
Once you know the daily nutrients that your dog requires, you can start selecting ingredients for his meals. When discussing how to make homemade dog food, it's important to note that you should buy the best ingredients that you can afford.
Look for ingredients that are fresh, all-natural, and organic. When selecting the protein source that you're going to use, try to buy hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. Look for local sources like a butcher shop, natural food store or farmer's market in your area.
3. Cater the meals to your dog's needs/wants
Working with a professional will tell you everything you need to know about the requirements of your pet's diet. If your furry friend needs a customized diet because of his age, weight, or health issue, you'll need to focus on that.
But that doesn't mean that his food has to be bland or that you need to feed him the same food day in and day out. One of the best things about learning how to make homemade dog food is that you can learn a lot about your pet's taste preferences in the process.
If Fido prefers beef over chicken or really enjoys eating blueberries, try to incorporate those things into a lot of his meals. Just like you, your dog doesn't enjoy eating the same things every day, but he does have some favorite flavors.
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4. Time-saving options
When discussing how to make homemade dog food, I often get told by pet parents that they don't have the time to make all of their dog's meals. I understand how busy things can get. Trust me, sometimes I have a hard time just making dinner for the humans in our family.
You can save some time by using a slow cooker to prepare your dog's meals. All you have to do is add the ingredients to the slow cooker in the morning, go to work, and your pup's dinner will be ready when you come home.
You can also make food in advance, as I explain in my video guide. Most homemade dog food recipes can be kept frozen for 2-3 months. You can spend a Sunday morning preparing all the dog food you'll need for the next 8-12 weeks.
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5. How to make homemade dog food on a budget
Many people believe that making homemade dog food is more expensive than buying commercial meals. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you compare by the quality you'll find out that it's no more expensive (and in some cases cheaper) to make your own dog food than to purchase commercial brands.
If you want to try and save yourself some money, buy produce that is in season. You can substitute some canine-friendly fruits or vegetables if the recipe calls for out-of-season ingredients.
You can also grow your own ingredients. If you live in a rural area you may want to raise your own meat or poultry. You could also grow a large garden with plenty of food for the two- and four-legged members of your family.
If you live in an urban area that may not be possible. However, you could grow a few vegetables in a raised bed or a window box. You'd be surprised how much money this could save you on your dog food expenses.
FULL GUIDE: How To Make Homemade Dog Treats 101