Homemade dog food sounds like a good idea.What could be more nourishing than a home-cooked meal? However, for dogs, it’s not quite that simple. Before you embark on a DIY dog food journey, it’s important to understand the benefits and risks of making your own dog food.
Benefits of Homemade Dog Food
Many people choose to make their own dog food to ensure their dog is eating a natural, whole-food diet. Many processed, off-the-shelf dog foods have preservatives and additives that aren’t exactly healthy. They may also containg fillers like corn, wheat and soy that add calories but not many nutrients.
Your dog may scarf it up, but that doesn’t mean it’s best for him! Gary Weitzman, DVM, President of the San Diego Humane Society and author of the book The Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness, puts it this way: “I like hot dogs, but I’m not going to live my whole life eating them.”
Reasons to opt for home made dog food:
You don't have to worry about food recalls
Some of the larger brands (as well as some smaller brands) of pet food can be recalled for many reasons. These include package mislabeling, unsafe shipping or handling, and even things like contamination with mold or other harmful bacteria that may cause foodborne illess.
You can control all the ingredients in your dog's food
When serving commercial pet food, you can't fully customize your dog's diet. Sure you can add some toppings to boost the flavor, calorie content and nutritional value. But if your dog is allergic to an ingredient? You can't just remove it, you'll have to choose another food.
You can ensure all ingredients are prepared and stored safely
If you shop for all of the ingredients and cook your dog's food in your kitchen you can control for food safety and make sure everything your dog eats is washed, cooked and stored correctly.
You can cook in batches for easy feeding
Like "meal prepping" for yourself, you can do the same for your dog. You can cook their meals in batches and store in the refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to serve.
Dangers of Homemade Dog Food
While there are some obvious benefits to feeding your dog a home cooked meal, there are also some risks. A study from the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine tested 200 popular homemade dog food recipes, a number of which were written by veterinarians. The researchers found that most of the recipes lacked essential nutrients, which could lead to health issues in the long term.
If you are feeding your pup DIY dog food, find a recipe that is approved by your vet, and make sure that you review it with a veterinary nutritionist as well Weitzman says some of the most common mistakes are adding too much or too little calcium, and not including enough of the amino acid taurine, often found in organ meats. Taurine deficiency, if left unaddressed, can cause serious cardiac problems in dogs, including an enlarged heart.
When might a home cooked meal be beneficial for your dog
While in the long term, the risks of nutritional deficinencies and imbalacnes may outweigh the benefits of cooking for your pet, there are some times where in the short term it may be beneficial. These include:
- If your pup is sick
If your pup is sick, especially with gastrointestinal issues, a home cooked bland diet for a few days may be just what the doctor ordered. Plain cooked chicken or beef (fat drained) and rice or some scrambled egg (hold the butter and cheese) might help your dog feel better fast. Chat with your vet first and after a few days you should be able to transition back to your dog's normal food.
- If your pup is recovering from surgery or has a decreased appetite
If your pup is recovering from surgery or illness and has a decreased appetite, cooking for them might be just what they need to help them recover. Ask you vet first but things like bone broth with chicken and carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, grilled fish and other delicious delicacies may entice them to eat and help them feel better faster.
- If your pup's food isn't readily available
If you feed fresh or raw food and you are waiting on a delayed shipment, traveling and forgot or ran out of food, or otherwise don't have on hand what your pup normally eats, it might be okay to make something for them to eat. Consider using a recipe similar to what they already eat. For example if your dog's food contains chicken, rice, spinach and blueberries - use those ingredients. While you may not get the same perfect balance of vitamins and minerals, you won't upset their stomach and they will have something delicious and nutritious to eat.
Feeding your dog well with Ollie
At Ollie, we wanted to combine the best of both worlds. Recipes made with gently cooked human-grade protein, fruits, and vegetables that are created under the supervision of our veterinary nutritionists.
All of our recipes meet AAFCO standards for all life stages, meaning our food is safe to eat and balanced for all dogs from puppies to senior citizens. Now, you can offer complete and balanced meals cooked with love that you don't have to spend hours preparing, storing, or cleaning up.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.