Homemade dog food is becoming a very popular method for feeding our canine companions. Some owners are looking to provide top quality nutrition, while others are using a homemade diet to help with certain health conditions. Either way, the most common dog food ingredients are easily available, affordable and provide some really amazing health benefits.
These are just the ingredients that I use the most, but they aren't the only nutritious ingredients that are healthy for our dogs. Your dog may not even like some of these ingredients, so your list could end up being completely different than mine.
Cooking homemade dog food is an easy way to add extra nutrition to your pup's food, but it's also a good way to provide enticing meals for picky eaters. Keep your dog's preferences in mind. If he doesn't like some of the ingredients on this list, do some research to look for an equally healthy substitute.
My Top 10 Most Common Homemade Dog Food Ingredients
1. Muscle Meat
Meat is an obvious choice as the first thing on my list of the best dog food ingredients. Muscle meat always makes up the largest portion of my dogs' meals. While some pet owners believe that a dog can be healthy on a vegetarian diet, I choose to feed my dogs a diet more aligned with that of their ancestors.
Most experts agree that a balanced homemade dog food recipe should include at least 25% – 50% meat. This will also depend on the exact type and fattiness of the meat, the age and condition of the dog, and the other ingredients in your recipe.
Meat also serves as the best source of amino acids for dogs. Essential amino acids that dogs require from dog food ingredients include:
2. Organ Meat
Organ meat is sometimes forgotten by pet owners, but it's actually the most nutritious ingredient you can include in your dog's meals. It is more nutrient dense than muscle meat, which is why it is one of my most common dog food ingredients. Some high quality organ meat like kidneys, heart and liver are also often cheaper than muscle meat.
When you skip on organ meats, you’ll have to stuff your dog’s homemade food with more artificial supplements to create a well-balanced meal. Protein aside, organ meats will also supply your pooch with the most essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, B vitamins and folate.
Best organ meats for dogs may include:
- Liver: A “detox” organ, this is the nature's multivitamin.
- Tongue: Technically a muscle meat, it's full of healthy fats.
- Heart: A very lean source of protein.
- Kidneys: Another good source of protein and vitamins.
- Brain: It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Sweetbreads: Made of thymus gland and pancreas, they're highly nutritious.
- Tripe: Its chewy texture may not always be liked by dogs, but it's worth trying.
Balance is key when it comes to adding organ meat to your dog's food, as it's possible to include too much in Fido's diet. For example, if you're using liver, it should not make up more than 10% of the diet, as liver meat is very nutrient rich. Likewise, beef hearts shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the recipe, as they are also quite nutritious.
The exact breed, age and condition of the dog are important variables to consider when deciding how much organ meat to include in his diet. The best thing to do is work with a canine nutrition expert to create recipes that will meet your dog's individual needs.
RELATED: Homemade Dog Food Recipe Calculator
Pumpkins are actually incredibly nutritious with relatively few calories and a huge amount of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. A 1 cup serving of pumpkin contains:
Copper, manganese and riboflavin
Niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and thiamin
Pumpkin aids in digestion and helps to keep your dog's stool regular and solid. It's an ideal ingredient for pets with a sensitive stomach or dogs that are regaining an appetite after being ill. Most canine nutritionists also recommend adding pumpkin to help a dog lose weight.
Blueberries are chock-full of nutrition, and these are some of the most essential vitamins and minerals found in this superfood:
Some studies have shown that in working dogs in particular, feeding blueberries can help with preventing oxidative damage, which results from strenuous exercise. Blueberries have been shown to repair cell damage in humans and canines, and their is also research linking them to blood sugar control.
Broccoli makes a great low calorie snack for canines, which is just one of the reasons that it makes my list of most common dog food ingredients. It's also high in fiber, which aids in digestive health.
Many people don't realize that broccoli is also a good source of Vitamin C. However, you also need to limit the amount of broccoli that you feed, as too much could cause gastric irritation in dogs with a sensitive tummy.
Spinach is another great vegetable to add to your dog's home cooked meals. It contains lots of Vitamins, including A, B, C and K. It also contains iron, beta-carotene and antioxidants.
This canine superfood has been shown to have cancer fighting properties. It also aids in bone and heart health, as well as immune system support. Spinach is easy to find in virtually any grocery store, and is very inexpensive.
7. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are not only one of the most common dog food ingredients that I use, they are also one of the most versatile. I add sweet potatoes to dog food recipes, dehydrate them to make cheap and healthy dog chews and add them as a food topper to tempt my pups to eat when they don't want to.
High in dietary fiber, sweet potatoes are great for digestive health. They are also low in fat, which is one of the main reasons that I use the as treats. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants, beta-carotene and Vitamins A and C.
RECIPE: Sweet Potato Fries for Dogs
8. Fish Oil
Fish oil is very appealing to most dogs, due to its strong odor. While most pet owners know that fish oil aids in skin and coat health, they don't understand all of the benefits of this beneficial homemade dog food ingredient.
The main ingredient responsible for the powerful benefits of fish oil is Omega-3 essential fatty acid. Omega-3's are made of two long-chain acid forms called EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are responsible for benefiting dog brain function, aiding their eye health and a lot more. For example, DHA is one of the building blocks for the of tissues in the brain and the retina of the eye.
Studies show that fish oil can aid in the health of the brain, kidneys, heart and immune system. It can also help with arthritis and other joint issues. In our article on The 5 Best Fish Oil for Dogs, you'll also learn about fish oil helping dogs that are recovering from cancer.
9. Plain Yogurt
Plain yogurt is one of the most common dog food ingredients that I use. In the summer months, I even freeze it in ice cube trays to give to my dogs as a snack. It is a natural source of probiotics, which improve gut health. Proper gut health aids in your pooch's overall health and well-being.
Yogurt is also a great source of protein and calcium. Just remember to stay away from flavored yogurts, as they have artificial ingredients and sweeteners that are not good for your dog.
10. Raw Honey
We've written an entire article on the benefits of raw honey for dogs. You just nee to make sure that you get local honey, because the bees leave pollen behind in the honey. If you get honey made in a different region, it will have pollen from that region. When it comes to raw honey, the more local, the better!
Raw honey can help to relieve environmental allergies, treat respiratory problems and improve digestion. The reason I use it as one of the most common dog food ingredients for my pets is because raw honey also has natural anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.