Making homemade dog food is an increasingly popular concept, and understandably so. If the right ingredients are used, it is healthy, easy to make and affordable, and offers a sense of reassurance to pet parents concerned about pet food recalls.
Where Labs Came From, and What They Ate There
Parents of Labrador retrievers can further customize their dogs' diet to cater to the breed, along with their dog's activity levels, age and other factors.
Labradors originated on the island of Newfoundland, where they helped local fishermen haul nets, fetch ropes and retrieve escaped fish. In this environment, they were likely offered fish as they worked alongside their human counterparts.
Using this historical knowledge, modern-day Lab parents can consider offering fish as part of a homemade diet.
General Components of a Homemade Diet
Alongside fish, dogs should have other meats, vegetables, fruits, healthy oils and starches. Generally, a dog should eat 50 to 75 percent animal protein, 15 to 18 percent fat and 25 percent carbohydrates.
Dogs can eat a range of meats including poultry, lamb and venison. Since some dogs are sensitive to beef and cannot digest it, experiment with small amounts and monitor your dog's reaction.
Vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, carrots and squash are great additions, and healthy oils include olive, flax and safflower oils.
How to Begin
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Dietary changes should be done gradually, allowing your dog's body to adjust and minimizing intestinal upset. A guideline is to add new foods at a rate of 10 to 25 percent each week. For example, for a 60-pound Lab needing 1,500 calories per day, you might add 150 calories' worth of new food per week, while removing an equal amount of current food. Add a bit more homemade food each week, and he will be used to a homemade diet in no time.
Cooking Suggestions and Other Advice
In the beginning, cook all the food you are serving to your dog. This helps with digestibility, which is especially important for dogs who have not had much fresh, homemade foods before.
In later stages, if your dog is tolerating the transition, you can experiment with small amounts of chopped or grated raw vegetables.
After clearing any dietary issues with your veterinary nutritionist, you can have your Lab well on the way to a healthy, delicious and safely prepared homemade diet.
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.