More and more people are choosing to make homemade food for their dogs. For some, the change is about losing trust in pet food companies because of recalls. For others, it’s about digestive problems that just couldn’t be resolved any other way. Whatever your reasons, making homemade food for your dog is a great green way to go when it comes to dog food.
What’s Not Green About “Regular” Dog Food?
When you remove any element of pet care (or anything else, for that matter) from commercial production, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. Chances are your dog food is manufactured across the country, or even across the world. The emissions involved in transportation alone are worth conserving, and that’s not even considering the emissions involved in factory production. Meat and other ingredients must be raised and processed, and the packaging must be milled and printed.
What About Organic Brands?
Some of the environmental concerns with commercial dog food production can be resolved simply by buying 100% organic brands. Certified 100% organic foods will not contain herbicides, toxic persistent pesticides, and the foods will not have been treated with irradiation. Organic manufacturers are also required to adhere to a number of other environmental best practices, as well as cruelty-free animal care.
There are other reputable pet food companies, like Taste of the Wild, who are not exclusively organic, but who are on the greener side of commercial dog food. So, yes! Buy 100% certified organic products, or close to organic, whenever possible. Making your own is still going to be an even greener option.
Potential Pitfalls to Homemade Food for Dogs
Many pet owners have had great success cooking for their dogs at home. There’s ample opportunity for success, and there are also some pitfalls. The most common mistake even the most loving pet owners might make when switching from a commercial brand to a homemade diet, is not consulting closely enough with their veterinarian.
“The trouble I see on regular basis,” says Dr. Erica Mollica, DVM, of Carroll Gardens Veterinary Group in Brooklyn, NY, “is that owners have good intentions in the beginning, and follow a recipe exactly. Then, over time, they might find a dog dislikes an ingredient, so they omit it. Or one of the ingredients might become costly, so they use less of it.” These changes can take what was once a balanced diet into something that unknowingly creates a deficiency. She adds, “Most homemade diets off the internet are unbalanced.”
Dr. Mollica says the most common imbalances she finds in her practice as a result of homemade diets include overdoses, as well as deficiencies, and mostly involve calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B.
Your veterinarian should always be consulted when making a major dietary adjustment for your pet.
Sample Components of Homemade Food for Dogs
Most successful homemade dog foods will include:
- 60%-80% whole protein like deboned chicken or beef chunks, including the skin and fat. Salmon and other proteins may also work.
- 5% - 10% vegetables or fruit, like carrots or blueberries, chopped very small or pureed
- 10% - 20% fiber rich carbohydrates like sweet potato, rice, or oatmeal
- A vitamin or other nutritional supplement
- Some add parsley for fresh breath, eggs for added protein with the shells for calcium, or probiotics
Basic Preparation Guidelines for Homemade Dog Food
The ingredients above can be combined in the portions recommended, added to a pot, and heated until everything is cooked through. You may wish to add some water for moisture. Some choose to puree everything in a blender, while others roughly chop all the ingredients until it’s a loose stew-like consistency.
Tips for Easy Preparation
- Buy organic meats in bulk to save money
- Buy boneless meat, but keep the skin
- Sometimes your butcher may save you trimmings for free. Can’t hurt to ask!
- Prepare up to a month at once and freeze portioned amounts in muffin tins, then pop them out and store in baggies.
Basic Preparation Guidelines for Homemade Dog Treats
Treats can be even more fun to make at home than regular meals, as there’s more flexibility when the food items aren’t responsible for the bulk of your dog’s daily nutritional intake.
A simple meat jerky can be made by slicing raw chicken, beef, or another favorite protein into super-thin slices, on the grain. An eighth of an inch works. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Spray a pan lightly with nonstick spray, or line the pan with a silpat. Then bake the meat slices for about two hours, or till they’re the desired consistency. Allow jerky to cool. Then slice with scissors into bite sized portions. Store in an airtight container for a few weeks, or keep in the freezer for several months.
Be Sure You’re Doing it Right
Dr. Mollica advises that pet parents pay close attention to their dog’s energy and comfort levels, and especially changes to their stool. Other indications that a homemade diet isn’t doing the trick might include “...muscle loss or atrophy, neurologic symptoms, weakness, or inability to raise the head and neck.”
Dr. Mollica says protein is vital, “but not the be all end all. Carbs, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are all equally important.” Nutritionally balanced supplements are a good consideration, especially if homemade meals will be served on a permanent basis.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.