Dog ownership can be as do-it-yourself friendly as any other aspect of life. You can make your own dog shampoo for canine bathtime. You can make your own dog beds and toys for sustainability and general earth friendliness. You can try your hand at some home remedies for common dog ailments. And of course, you can make your own dog food, which can be more earth-friendly than purchasing commercial dog food, more manageable financially, and could be better for your puppy's overall health. So what are the specific benefits of homemade puppy food?
Why Make Puppy Food at Home?
Maybe you've lost trust in pet food companies because of recalls. Perhaps your puppy's health or energy level isn't where you want it to be. Maybe you can't seem to get it right with commercially made products. Or perhaps it's just your natural inclination to try your hand at something new.
One significant reason to switch to homemade food can be your love for a greener world. Most canine food is processed and packed in industries that do not care much about sustainability. However, there are a few 100% organic brands like The Home Kitchen or Primal Dog Food. So if you are switching for this reason, you can try these popular brands instead.
There are also dog food brands that are not 100% organic but are still on the greener side as they do keep some checks to prevent any harm to the environment. An example of such a brand includes Taste of the Wild. Products of this brand, such as Taste of the Wild Wetlands Dog Food or Taste Of The Wild Puppy Pacific Stream Canine Formula, are more organically created and packed.
Whatever your motivations, if switching to homemade puppy food for the long haul, be sure you have the time and energy to keep things consistent and involve a professional. Without proper care and attention, your puppy can suffer from nutritional deficiencies, affecting its growth and developmental health.
If you make the leap, be sure you can commit to doing it correctly.
Guidelines for Making Puppy Food at Home
Your puppy should enjoy a balanced diet including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The protein, fat, and carb ingredients are pretty easy to put together. Supplements should be added to all homemade dog food, especially puppy food, to ensure the diet is rounded out.
Follow these basic guidelines for proportions, but be sure to consult your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist throughout the process.
Boneless chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, pork, or duck; deboned fish, especially salmon; and eggs which can be cooked with their crushed shells included for extra calcium. Organ meats are very healthy as well but typically should not make up more than 15% of the diet.
Fruits & Veggies
Carrots, blueberries, peas, and more. But steer clear of anything poisonous for dogs.
Potatoes, both sweet and regular; brown, jasmine, or white rice; peas; lentils; and oatmeal or barley in smaller amounts.
Poultry skin; rendered poultry fat from cooking; safflower, canola, or soybean oil; or ground flax seeds or flax oil.
Vitamins and Minerals
Consider a puppy supplement with plenty of calcium for your growing dog. Consult your veterinarian for recommended brands.
Some folks save treats like tinned tuna juice, broth, leftover chicken soup, and other tasty morsels to include in their puppy’s food. Other extras may include parsley for fresher breath or probiotics to stimulate immunity. Later in life, it might make sense to add supplements like glucosamine for achy joints, but in your young dog, this won’t be necessary.
Appropriate portioning should be discussed with your vet since this will change from breed to breed quite a bit.
According to Jenna Stregowski, RVT, "Most pups should be fed at least three times a day until six months of age." She adds, "four small meals may be better for tiny dogs."
How to Prepare the Food
Unless you're going down the BARF or raw-food road, you'll want to cook all the ingredients in your homemade puppy food gently.
Put all the ingredients, except for the supplements, together in a saucepan.
Add a bit of water or no-sodium broth.
Heat gently until everything is cooked through.
When it's done cooking, allow it to cool.
Some pet parents chop, mash, or shred the ingredients into small, puppy-sized mouthfuls. Others favor a food processor to macerate everything.
Most practitioners of homemade food cook in bulk and store pre-portioned sizes in small containers in the freezer. Consider muffin tins to get consistent sizing.
Add in supplements before every meal, one serving at a time.
Downsides to Making Your Own Puppy Food
The most common pitfall is that pet parents don't consult closely enough with their veterinarians and end up creating deficiencies or overdoses in their dog's diet. Stregowski says, "Establish a good relationship with your vet. Be in touch with them as you make this transition. They can make recommendations specific to your puppy. Call your veterinarian for input if you notice lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, or a bloated abdomen. If you notice more severe abnormalities like dizziness, trouble moving, or if they develop blue or pale gums, bring them in right away."
If there is a lack of nutrition in your homemade food, you might have to take support of supplements. You can use dog vitamins or joint supplements for dogs to ensure that their bones remain strong and that they don’t face any vitamin deficiencies.
Another crucial supplement you might want to give your dog is omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. You can use Nordic Naturals Omega 3 oil or Salmon oil for dogs as supplements to give your food this essential fatty acid. These are flavorless supplements that you can add to the top of your dog’s food. The best part is that they won’t alter the taste of the food.
If you're willing to put in the time and learn a lot, making your pet's food could be a source of adventure, fun, and bonding for you and your puppy.
Is a Raw Pet Food Diet The Right Way to Go?
Every few years, a new dieting trend seems to emerge, and the latest health craze has begun to spread to our furry friends.
WHAT IS A RAW PET FOOD DIET?
Similar to the popular paleo diet or the ancestral diet, the concept behind a raw-only nutritional regimen is that you eat only the things that our prehistoric predecessors would have eaten. That means everything you eat is unprocessed, grain-free, and supposedly much cleaner than the crud we typically consume. While a diet like this can be a great way to trim a lot of the hydrogenated oils and trans fats out of our diets, when it comes to our pets, is a raw food diet a good idea? Recent studies are starting to think that it isn't.
You can still give raw dog food to your pet, but it’s best to give it in small quantities. The thing is that raw food can be very high in proteins, and as already established, too much protein can be bad for your furry friend. There are some other negative impacts as well that we will see later in this article.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
What might otherwise seem like a natural fit, a raw food-only diet similar to what their wolven brothers and sisters consume, might not satisfy our precious pooches' dietary needs? However, as it would happen, our dogs have not been wolves, or anything close to wolves, for nearly 10,000 years. That means that their dietary needs are in no way the same as their more wild cousins. Now, there are plenty of advocates out there for feeding your pet a raw diet, claiming that the unprocessed, fresh foods give their pet:
- an especially shiny coat
- improved skin health
- a boosted immune system
- cleaner teeth
- help to control their weight
However, none of these claims have been tested, let alone proven, in any scientific study.
RISKS OF THE RAW PET FOOD DIET
What has been proven, on the other hand, is the fact that a raw diet of this nature leaves our pets at a much greater risk of contracting a virus, such as
- E. Coli
Moreover, by feeding your pet a raw food-only diet, the onus is on you to ensure they are getting all of their essential nutrients. Pet food is generally crafted to meet all of your dog or cat's dietary needs. On the other hand, a raw diet is entirely crafted by you, so you will need to carefully select the things you include to ensure that your pet is maintaining a healthy diet. This will include creating a well-balanced diet for your pet.
An unbalanced diet can lead to problems and digestive complications that can discomfort your pet. Hence, instead of giving raw food diet, it is best to use the best dog food brands and their products, like Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food or American Journey Dog Food. But if you are adamant about making homemade food for your puppy, follow the table given above to create a well-balanced diet for the dog.
HOW TO HANDLE YOUR PET’S DIET
The CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital has the following recommendations when it comes to feeding our furry friends:
- Make sure they are eating a well-balanced diet.
- Ensure that the food they are eating is designed for their age and size (specifically, don't feed a puppy or kitten food suited for "all ages")
- Make sure the brand of food you buy has strict quality control and has a boarded nutritionist on staff.
- IF YOU DO CHOOSE TO PREPARE FOOD - make sure the diet is discussed with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that it suits your pet's needs. Also, any meat used should be cooked to an internal temp of at least 165 degrees to ensure that any unwanted organisms are cooked off.
- Make sure to employ a smooth transition when switching diets - generally, ween your pet off their old food over 5-7 days.
- If you have questions about your pet's diet, consult your vet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best homemade food for puppies?
The best homemade food for puppies will depend on the specific nutritional needs of the puppy, which can vary based on breed, size, and any underlying health conditions. However, in general, a homemade diet for puppies should include a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. A good starting point might be a mixture of cooked lean protein (such as chicken, turkey, or fish) and cooked complex carbohydrates (such as brown rice or sweet potatoes) with added vegetables for vitamins and minerals. It is also important to consult with a veterinarian before starting a homemade diet for a puppy.
Is it OK to feed puppies homemade food?
It can be fine to feed puppies homemade food as long as the diet is properly balanced and meets all of the puppy's nutritional needs. However, it's important to consult with a veterinarian before starting a homemade diet, as they can help ensure that the diet is complete and balanced and can also provide guidance on the appropriate portion sizes for the puppy. Also, homemade food may not have all the essential nutrients that commercial puppy food contains. Preparing a balanced and complete diet for a puppy can be difficult, and it requires knowledge of canine nutrition, meal planning, and proper food handling. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs, and they require a specific balance of nutrients, such as protein, fat, and calcium, that are vital for proper growth and development. If you are not sure about it, it's best to stick to commercial puppy food or consult a veterinarian or a professional canine nutritionist.
What can I put in homemade puppy food?
When preparing homemade puppy food, it's important to include a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Some ingredients you can use include lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef or lamb, eggs, and cottage cheese. You can add complex carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, barley, or oats. Vegetables like carrots, broccoli, green beans, spinach, and squash are all good options. Fruits like apples, blueberries, and bananas can be added as a source of vitamins and minerals. You should also use healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and fish oil in your puppy's food. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs, and they require a specific balance of nutrients, such as protein, fat, and calcium, that are vital for proper growth and development. Consult with a veterinarian before starting a homemade diet, as they can help ensure that the diet is complete and balanced and can also provide guidance on the appropriate portion sizes for the puppy.
How much homemade food should I feed my puppy?
The appropriate portion size for a homemade diet will depend on the specific nutritional needs of the puppy, which can vary based on breed, size, and any underlying health conditions. As a general rule, a puppy should eat about two to three small meals per day, with the total daily food intake divided among those meals. The amount of food will depend on the puppy's size, breed, and activity level, but a good starting point is about 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups of food per day, divided into two or three meals. Keep in mind that puppies are growing quickly and will need more energy and nutrients than adult dogs, so it's important to provide them with enough food to support their growth. It's also important to monitor your puppy's weight and adjust its food intake as necessary. Puppies should have a visible waist, and their ribs should not be visible but also should not be hard to feel. If you notice that your puppy is gaining or losing weight too quickly, adjust their food intake accordingly and consult with your vet.
Why are vets against homemade food?
While some veterinarians may be against homemade food, it's not necessarily a universal stance. Some veterinarians may be against homemade food for puppies because preparing a balanced and complete diet for a puppy can be difficult, and it requires knowledge of canine nutrition, meal planning, and proper food handling. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs, and they require a specific balance of nutrients, such as protein, fat, and calcium, that are vital for proper growth and development. Vets are often concerned that homemade diets may not provide the right balance of nutrients that a puppy needs and can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health issues.
PetPlus is a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more. Source: Colorado State University News - Pet Health: Raw-food diets come with risks, and claims of nutritional benefits are unfoundedAVMA - Raw or Undercooked Source Protein in Cat and Dog Food
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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. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.