Homemade dog food is commonly considered to be the most overly complicated and time consuming method of feeding your dog but with 55% of pet owners wanting to feed their dog a naturally cooked diet it seems a simple guide is called for!
Where on Earth Do I Start?
Like humans, dogs should be eating a diet inclusive of the 6 essential nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
The specific amounts of these nutrients are going to vary dependent on the dogs age, activity level, breed or any medical or behavioral conditions. The general rule of thumb is to feed about 2-3% of the dog’s body weight with the meal consisting of 40% meat, 30% carbohydrates and 30% vegetables.
Choose your Protein
Dog’s derive their energy primarily from protein but which proteins should you be feeding your dog? Both muscle meat and offal meat, organs, gizzards and the like, are chock full of vitamins and minerals that are essential to a dog’s health.
In terms of muscle, lean and boneless is the way to go to avoid any little bone shards from harming your little pup’s gut. Chicken, lamb, beef, pork and fish are all great options and should all be considered due to their varying nutritional benefits.
Offal has plenty of essential enzymes, vitamins and minerals for your dog and so shouldn’t be ignored despite the stench. Green tripe, the unwashed stomach of beef, sheep, goats and deer offers a host of goodies such as probiotics and digestive enzymes that care for the gut of your pup! Liver is the most easily sourced offal meat as it’s offered in most supermarkets so befriending your local butcher and asking for offal offcuts to have some diversity is a must!
Choosing your Carbs
Carbohydrates offer your dog a secondary fuel source as well as fibre, vitamins and minerals. There are plenty to choose from in this category but more slow-digesting, complex carbohydrates offer more for your little friend as well as ensure a balanced blood sugar post-meal time. Although research isn’t conclusive, it seems as though prioritising legumes over grain is potentially unsafe for your fur baby due to its links with increased rates of dilated cardiomyopathy in certain breeds.
Sticking to whole grains and starchy food such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats and other wholegrains seems to be healthiest for the pooches!
Choosing your Fats
As much as meat offers fatty goodness it’s important to ensure that your pup is getting the right balance of essential fatty acids such as the omega complexes.
Although this can be achieved through the help of fatty fishes such as cod, salmon and sardines there are such dog supplements available to assist you and your wallet (fish being quite expensive). Eggs, both raw and cooked, are also a great source of economical fats for your dogs!
Choosing your Vitamins and Minerals
Although there are essential vitamins and minerals in all aspects of the foods we’ve listed so far nothing beats a host of veggies and eggshells.
Broccoli, cucumber, carrots, peas and leafy greens are all good options thanks to their vitamin C, B, A, manganese and various other minerals that are all essential to a dog’s bodily functioning!
Calcium, although in leafy green vegetables, is required in relatively high quantities for dogs as demonstrated by their propensity for bones. Bones can often be quite unsafe to eat thanks to your dog’s ability to chomp them into splinters. Crushed eggshells are an excellent and safe replacement whilst reducing your waste!
Boiling is Best
Dogs are not as finely tuned to the culinary arts as their parents are and definitely shouldn’t be fed as such; bland and simple is the way to go and what offers this more than boiling. Not only is boiling your dog’s food an easy method for you but it also is generally the healthiest option. Frying and baking your dog’s food (without onions and garlic of course) isn’t detrimental as long as you avoid excess oil and any charring of the food but it’s simply just much easier to avoid these pitfalls by boiling.
Dogs have much stronger stomach acid than us humans so you don’t need to be too precious about some partially cooked meats, in fact it’s possible for them to eat it raw. Vegetables however, do need to be lightly blanched to increase their bioavailability to your little one as they can’t absorb cellulose as easily as we can.
Introductions to new diets are always crucial so start slow in transitioning your pets diet. Mix their existing food with their new home-cooked diet in ever decreasing proportions for a week or so to reduce any chances of irritation.
If any irritation persists there’s a good chance that your furry friend might have an allergy. The most common culprit tends to be chicken but worry not there are plenty of other sources of meat that can fill the nutritional void. Swap out chicken for another poultry item or forego poultry entirely should you expect a broader allergy. Red meats, pork and fish offer a similar range of nutrients so your pup won’t be missing much.
Boiling bones makes them much softer and therefore more prone to splintering which can cause tears in the gut of your pup, an understandably painful process. It’s best to source boneless meat and to thoroughly check it when you’re preparing your dog’s meal.
As much as we’ve all heard about the dangers of chocolate to dogs there are several other items you should watch out for: onions, garlic, chives, macadamia nuts,chocolate, xylitol, avocado, alcohol, grapes and raisins.
Irrespective of your dog’s caloric requirements, maintaining a rough balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates and vegetables from high quality sources that your dog loves will ensure a healthy little pup! As much as homemade dog food seems over-complicated and long-winded with this simple guide I hope to have made the process as smooth as your dog’s home-fed coat.