The jury is in; fresh food is better for your dog. Not only do pet owners notice a difference in their dogs' overall health and well-being, but it seems pets also enjoy it more than commercial dog food. Try making your own homemade dog food and choose from tons of our recipes here, and you will see how much your pup likes it when he cleans his bowl faster than ever before.
Today, with so many controversies surrounding the pet food industry, many dog owners choose to cook their own homemade dog food and avoid commercial brands altogether.
Don't start preparing your dog's dinner plate just yet; there are some things to consider. First, you need to have a conversation with your vet before switching your dog to a homemade diet. Not all homemade diets offer the right amount of nutrients for all dogs.
Your vet will give you tips and advice on how to feed your specific dog using homemade dog food recipes. A veterinarian will also tell you if it would be beneficial to add special dog vitamins or supplements like omega-3 to nutritionally enhance your dog's meals.
Nervous about making your own homemade dog food? Don’t let fear stop you!
As long as you follow the many homemade recipes for dog food we regularly publish here, and supplement your pet's diet with essentials like fish oil supplements, everybody will win. You can find more homemade pet food recipes are all over the internet. No matter what your dog's needs are, you'll find something that works for your canine and budget.
Here are my six best tips on making your own homemade dog food. If you want our homemade dog food pro Samantha to walk you through it, watch the below video.
WATCH THIS: How To Make Homemade Dog Food (Video Guide)
6 Tips for Making Your Own Homemade Dog Food
1. Raw isn't always better; cook everything when needed
Raw food diets are trendy for people and pets. Even so, there are risks to not cooking your food, even raw dog food meals. This short list is just an example. It does not have every disease your dog can get from uncooked and undercooked food products, but it should enlighten you on some of the pros and cons of this approach:
- Eggs and Chicken – Studies show and veterinarians warn that dogs eating too much of raw diet meals can get Salmonella poisoning from contaminated, uncooked or undercooked meat. You may not notice this on them at first.
- Unpasteurized Milk – Raw milk can cause Toxoplasmosis in dogs. It's a very common issue that has been observed in many pets who are fed raw diet when the “paleo” approach gets out of hand.
- Pork – Speaking of not cooking your meat, pork in particular can be dangerous to dogs. Raw and undercooked pork can cause the parasitic disease callled Trichinosis in canines, which was also observed primarily in pets fed raw diet.
- Raw Vegetables – Veggies are the least suspicious item on the list, but it's still important to keep in mind that giving your dog raw vegetables on a regular basis can infect your canine with a diseases like Listeria and Staph. Some raw veggies are okay.
Don't let the above scary you. There are some valid reasons to feed your dog raw food diet as long as you know what you're doing and follow advice from veterinarians and health professionals (rather than get tips on doggy forums).
Note that I'm not suggesting that homemade dog food is not good for your dog just because raw feeding may not always be the best choice. The two are not the same. If you're afraid of feeding your dog raw, simply cook your dog's homemade meals.
If you're new to raw feeding a dog, read our extensive guide on The Raw Dog Diet.
2. Know your dogs and what they need
Amy Marshall from Primal Pooch explains how some dogs are at a greater risk for having problems with undercooked food than others and may not be interested in eating raw. She also provides some tips on how to try and get your dog to start eating.
When making your own homemade dog food, patience will be key. However, sometimes other reasons out of your control could be a factor.
If your pet fits into one of the below categories, you probably better off making sure you are either (a) buy the best quality commercial dog food kibble, or (b) you are properly cooking it all yourself.
- Social Settings – If your canine spends most of his walks in new places that you haven't explored before, vets recommend to keep him on a cooked dog food diet. This is because dogs may come into contact with germs he's not well resistant to yet, which can quickly weaken the immune system when your dog is not ready.
- Pancreatitis, Liver Problems, Other Digestive Issues – If your dog is having digestive system issues, a raw food diet is not recommended because it's difficult to track exactly how your pet reacts. If you prepare your dog’s food at home, make sure it is fully cooked. There are specific diets for dogs food allergies and here's some great advice on how to feed dogs with sensitive stomachs.
- Cancer and Chemotherapy – If you recently found out that your canine has cancer or is already undergoing chemotherapy for canine cancer, you need to make sure that everything in his diet is fully cooked. Not only that, but you absolutely must follow the exact diet that hits every single nutrient he needs and must avoid to a letter.
- Kidney Failure – Fresh food diets for dogs often provide pets with lots of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It must be a good thing, right? Not always. If your dog has weakened kidneys, it can cause a problem because protein is very taxing on kidneys. Make sure you know how to feed dogs with kidney problems.
Proper diet for dogs may not be easy to figure out, particularly when your dog may have certain health issues. What's important to remember when cooking your own homemade dog food is that not all recipes, approaches and advice works for all dogs. Do consult with your veterinarian and then find out exactly how to feed your pet for his optimal health.
3. Dog food cooking times and temperature
By now you know that not cooking your homemade dog food properly can in fact hurt your pet (in some circumstances).
But what the temperature needs to be to keep your canine companion healthy when cooking your own homemade dog food?
Worst comes to worst, you'll need to be more vigilant. Use a reliable cooking thermometer, and always insert the metal probe into the middle of the largest part of the dish.
These are the proper temperatures for safety:
- Chicken, Turkey, Other Fowl – 165° F / 74° C
- Beef and Lamb – 145° F / 63° C
- Ground Beef and Lamb – 160° F / 71° C
- Pork – 145° F / 63° C
- Ground Pork – 160° F / 71° C
- Eggs – Cook until whites and yolks are firm or 155° F / 69° C
- Fish – 165° F / 74° C
- Fruits and Vegetables – 135° F / 57° C
Just as there are standards for human cooking (even if you may not always be aware of them because we follow packing instructions), there are rules that apply to cooking dog food. It's never a good idea to give your dog undercooked or overcooked food.
4. Healthy dog nutrition basics
When making your own homemade dog food, canine nutritional needs should be the top concern. Many people call dogs “carnivores” or meat eaters. This is simply not true.
Dogs, like people, are omnivores – a scientific fact. It has been proven in several studies with this one being the most oft-quoted one. To read more on why dogs are omnivores and not carnivores, there are some good ScienceMag articles.
Dogs evolved to enjoy a meat and plant based diet. This is why they go outside and eat leaves and grass. For a food your dog will love, make a mix of meats and vegetables.
Some examples of good quality ingredients include:
- Beets – Affordable, Low Cost Source of Fiber
- Fish – Omega Fatty Acids
- Meats (Including Fish) – Proteins, Vitamins, and Minerals
Fruits and vegetables provide a small amount of fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and they aren't all healthy for dogs. Dogs benefit from a variety just like people, but you have to be careful which fruits and veggies you're adding to their food.
Stay away from:
- Grapes and raisins
- Apple seeds
- Banana peels (but bananas are okay)
- Cherry seeds, leaves (but cherries are healthy)
- Coconut (but coconut oil is beneficial)
There are some food items dogs should not be eating. See some of the most common toxic foods dogs should not eat here, and make sure to avoid them.
5. Making your own homemade dog food on a budget
The main disadvantage of making your own homemade dog food is that it's expensive.
Not everyone can afford to make home cooked meals for their pets. But do not despair! You can make budget friendly doggy meals for your pet that are affordable for virtually any dog owner, as I have done.
Times have changed human meals. There was a time when everything on the animal was consumed and used. Nothing was wasted. These days you don’t see too many people eating hearts, livers, tongues, or other organs (even though they are very nutritional).
Your dog, on the other hand, loves organ meat, and they are good for him too! Whether you are a hunter or a shopper, it is cheaper to buy these unwanted meats for your pet. You may even be able to get some free from your local butcher.
You can also use in season produce to save some money. Do a little research to learn what foods are in season in your area. These will be often be cheaper. Try your local farmers market for these foods. Make your dog’s meal plan a seasonal affair to make it cheaper.
A few more budget tips can be found here:
- 19 Tips on How to Save on Dog’s Expenses
- Budgeting Guide for Dog Owners
- 18 Tips on How to Save Money on Dog Care
- Where to Buy Cheap Dog Supplies?
- 48 Ways to Save Money With Dogs
Check out the above articles for some dog related budgeting and money saving tips.
6. How to store your homemade dog food
Homemade dog food does not have preservatives like commercial dog foods, which means you must know the proper way on how to store all your own homemade dog food.
You need to be very careful that you don't feed your pooch old, spoiled food. When you make dog food at home, you have to use the same leftovers guidelines that you use for your own leftover meals. If food is not stored properly, your dog can get sick.
Here are some quick and easy to follow tips on how to store homemade dog food after you cooked it:
- Cooking – Let food sit for a few minutes after cooking to ensure everything is cooked fully through. However…
- Counter Time – Do not let food sit out for more than 2 hours because the bacteria will start growing. Keep food covered while it is out on the counter, too.
- Refrigerator and Freezer – Do not put homemade dog food into the freezer or refrigerator too early. Wait until it is lukewarm (not hot) to the touch. Only keep foods in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Any longer than that, and you need to freeze it.
- The Leftover Leftovers Myth – Don't fall for this myth, because you can refreeze leftovers that have already been reheated. You cook your dog's meal and freeze it. Next week, you take it out and thaw it. It is more than you expected. You can refreeze part of that dish, as long as when you heat it, you are getting it to 165° F / 74° C, and letting it cool again properly. You do not have to throw out the unneeded portion.
And that's all you need to keep in mind when cooking your own homemade dog food. I hope these tips were helpful but please let me know in the comments if you have questions or would like to discuss your dog's homemade diet!