Since March 2007, when the federal Food and Drug Administration announced a nationwide recall of several dog and cat foods as well as livestock feeds that were contaminated with melamine, enough pet owners have been interested in home-cooked pet foods that an industry has developed.
Initial Nutritional Consultation
Take your homemade dog food cookbooks and Internet articles with recipes along for a nutritional consultation with your dog's veterinarian. While the information you've found yourself is a great place to start, it truly is just that: a place to start. Your veterinarian knows your dog's current health concerns and will provide the most accurate nutritional guidance to individually meet those needs, according to WedMD Healthy Dogs. Let the professional evaluate the merits of proposed recipes. This is the most effective way to meet the goal of providing a more thorough and personalized meal through the home cooking of dog food.
Talking to your dog's doctor about his nutritional needs isn't a one-time conversation, according to small animal veterinary professors from the colleges of veterinary medicine at Michigan State University and the University of Tennessee quoted on WedMD Healthy Dogs. A minimum of two nutritional visits per year to include weight monitoring, general health check-up and blood work that gives biological indicators of hormonal and vitamin levels is recommended to ensure homemade meal preparation is indeed meeting nutritional goals.
Avoid Feeding Raw Meat
While dogs will eagerly attempt to eat it, raw meat is not particularly safe in today's world with the increased presence of salmonella and E. coli bacteria. Thoroughly cooking the meat to recommended temperatures will kill off these bacteria that cause fever and diarrhea.
Use Calcium Supplements
Canines require additional sources of calcium to appropriately support their extensive bone structures. Founders Veterinary Clinic recommends using bone meal powder or calcium citrate by mixing it in with the dog's meal. A dog weighing 20 pounds needs 250 milligrams of supplemental calcium, according to Founders Veterinary Clinic.
Avoid Soy and Byproducts
As you scan labels for nutritional information, keep a close eye on a few words that signal certain ingredients aren't the most wholesome choice. According to the Rodale Institute, which is dedicated to promoting healthy living through the use of whole, organic foods, avoid soy because it leads to bloat, which is potentially fatal in dogs. Rodale advises you to skip anything labeled as a "byproduct" because it is a leftover waste product resulting from the removal of the more nutritional aspects of the original product.
According to information on homemade dog food at Dog Aware, veterinarians recommend feeding many different types of meat, such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and fish, as well as non-meat protein sources such as eggs and yogurt. Rotate the proteins to maintain variety.
Include Carbohydrates and Vegetables Sparingly
While dogs will eat fruits and vegetables, their digestive systems and nutritional needs are still predominantly carnivorous in nature, according to Vet Balance. They do have some limited omnivorous digestive traits, allowing them to convert certain vegetable-based nutrients to forms they can absorb. However, they are still considered carnivores requiring high levels of dietary protein. Adding small amounts—approximately a half cup daily for a 20-pound dog—of cooked vegetables such as green beans, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and carrots is more than sufficient to meet the vegetable-based vitamin needs of a dog, according to Founders Veterinary Clinic. Be sure to avoid onions, grapes and raisins, garlic, mushrooms and uncooked potatoes, as these contain enzymes that make them toxic to dogs.
Buying fresh meat for your pup is going to cost more than simply grabbing a bag of kibble at the local retailer. Just how much extra will depend on the cuts of meat you purchase and where you buy them. However, money isn't the only budget consideration to account for when beginning a homemade dog food regime. Becoming a dog food cook can take a lot of time. While WebMD makes no bones about the fact that "home-cooked diets can be very healthy and rewarding for owners," the truth remains that they require a time commitment.
- WebMD: Pets: Healthy Dogs: Homemade Dog Food
- Founders Veterinary Clinic: Home Cooking: The Alternative to Pet Foods
- Dog Aware: Homemade Cooked Diets for Dogs
- Organic Pet Digest: Homemade Dog Food Recipes: Guidelines & Recipe Categories
- Pet Place: Raw Meat Debate—Should You Feed it to Your Dog?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: E. coli
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.