How to Make Nutritional Homemade Dog Food
Approximately one in five people — or more than 23 million individuals — adopted pandemic pets to ease their quarantine woes, a large swath of them being millennials. Aided by remote work and an excessive amount of downtime, many millennials of the group have taken an increasingly conscious approach to pet parenting, incorporating their love of health, DIY, and an aversion for big-box brands to create the comfiest life possible for their puppies.
As modern parenting techniques also cross over into how we parent our pups (fueling the growth of companies like Rover and Wild One), many owners are also opting to upgrade the dietary plan for their dogs. Gone are the days of kibble — dry, coarse processed pellets that come in bulky, 50-pound bags. Instead, dog food subscription companies, touting human-grade and organic ingredients, have permeated grocery shelves — from the boutique pet store to the local Target. But these offerings are often expensive, not as healthy as advertised, or require subscriptions that lock you into a plan before you’re ready to commit.
Opting to make your own nutritional dog food can be both cost-effective and give you greater visibility into what your pup is eating. Many canines also have complicated allergies or dietary needs, so preparing your dog’s meals at home is a great option for managing health concerns.
Here’s how to prepare your own nutritional dog food, without preservatives, fillers, and shelf stabilizers. Plus, two recipes for starters.
(Note: Owners with puppies, pregnant dogs, elderly dogs, or dogs with serious health needs should consult a veterinarian before attempting to switch to home-cooked meals for their dog.)
Read more: 7 Ways to Spoil Your Pet
The Best Ingredients for Homemade Dog Food
Some of the healthiest foods for humans also make the list of the best ingredients for dogs. If you’re a healthy eater who avoids fatty and salty foods, you’re starting from a great place. Dogs need a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables to ensure they are growing and have enough energy for the day. According to WebMD for dogs, adult dogs need at least 10 percent of their daily calories from protein, a minimum of five percent from fats, three to five percent from fiber, and up to 50 percent from carbohydrates. Here are some of the most popular ingredients:
Chicken: Lean-cut chicken provides a healthy source of protein that is essential for dogs. It’s one of the most common ingredients in dog food, but we recommend trying a few different proteins to see what your dog likes most, whether it’s beef, turkey, or lamb.
Carrots: Carrots are chock full of phytonutrients, which are good for your dog’s eye health, especially as they age.
Spinach: Any leafy green will do, but spinach is a fan favorite. Dogs are like us, they need to eat their vegetables, and spinach is high in iron and fiber.
- Brown Rice: Rice is a staple option that offers dogs the energy they need during the day. You can also use pasta, oatmeal, or quinoa as substitutes.
Over the span of a week, slowly incorporate more of the homemade dog food into your dog’s existing food to help his gut make the transition. When preparing the food, avoid ingredients that are toxic for dogs — yes, chocolate is on the list — but also onions, garlic, chives, avocado, nuts, dairy, and sugar as a whole. When in doubt, cut the salt.
Recipe One: Healthy Spinach Turkey Grain Bowl
Adapted from This Mess Is Ours
6 cups cooked organic brown rice
2 pounds ground lean turkey
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced small
3 carrots, shredded or thinly sliced
¼ cup spinach
3 tablespoons of olive oil
- Cook brown rice separately (1:1 ratio of water to rice) in a rice cooker or on the stove.
- Sauté ground lean turkey with spinach in a pan with olive oil; drain excess fat.
- Heat water on high until boiling; add in carrots, spinach, and eggs and cook for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Eggs should be hardboiled.
- Dice all the boiled ingredients.
- Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Add olive oil to incorporate, if dry.
Recipe Two: Cod and Sweet Potato
Adapted from Just Food for Dogs
12 oz. Alaskan cod fillet
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup apples, diced
½ cup broccoli
¼ cup safflower oil
Salt (to taste)
- Preheat oven to 400°F and bake cod for 10-12 minutes. When done, take it out and transfer it to a pan.
- In the same pan, arrange the diced sweet and Russet potatoes with a drizzle of safflower oil and a sprinkle of salt.
- Roast potatoes for approximately 25 minutes or until tender.
- Steam the broccoli over boiling water until cooked through, approximately 4 minutes with the pot covered.
- Combine all ingredients, including diced apples into a bowl. Add more safflower oil to incorporate, if dry.
Leftovers last three to five days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.