Semi-Homemade Dog Food
Pre-mixes are an easy way to try preparing your dogs food yourself.
by Nancy Kerns
We frequently write about kibble and canned dog food, but have neglected some of the less common (but no less worthy) types of commercial foods. Here’s a look at commercial products that make it easy to feed a home-prepared diet.
Coming up with a really fitting name for this product category is difficult, since each manufacturer we’ve included formulates its products differently. We’ll call them all “dog food pre-mixes” – but be aware that their formulations vary widely. Corralling these diverse products into one category may be a stretch, given the products’ differences:
• Five of the seven manufacturers produce a dog food “base” containing grains and vegetables, to which a dog owner adds fresh meat to complete the diet.
• All but one of the products contain dehydrated ingredients; water is added to rehydrate them. The one exception is Spectrum’s “Just Add Base Mix,” which is actually an extruded food; the owner adds only fresh meat.
• A few of the products are intended to be cooked. The others are simply rehydrated with water and soaked before serving.
• Two of these companies make products that can be fed alone for “complete and balanced” nutrition; they meet the nutritional profiles of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) without the inclusion of meat or anything else. These products are also the only ones that were formulated with the AAFCO nutrient profiles in mind. Given that they are “complete” diets, we included them in our “food pre-mix” category only because their makers encourage consumers to add meat and other ingredients if they want to. In the case of The Honest Kitchen, the foods are even formulated to maintain a proper calcium/phosphorus ratio of 1:1 to 2:1 even if meat and vegetables are added.
Other than The Honest Kitchen and Spectrum, none of the makers formulated their products to meet AAFCO’s nutrient profiles. All expressed confidence that their products, prepared as directed, provide nourishment that is superior to that provided by conventional commercial dog foods.
• Except for the products made by The Honest Kitchen, and one by Spectrum, all of the products require the addition of fresh meat (raw or cooked) to complete the food.
• Most of the products contain herbs; some contain just one or two, some contain quite a variety. A few of the products contain other novel ingredients such as bee pollen.
• Most of the companies use at least some organic ingredients; a couple use all organic ingredients, except for the vitamin/mineral supplement used in the pre-mix. We are not aware of any organic vitamin/mineral mixes that are available to pet food manufacturers.
• Speaking of vitamin/mineral mixes, only three of the companies contain these supplements. Happy Dog’s products are mixed with a separate vitamin/mineral supplement (provided with the food).
• Two companies’ products require the addition of some sort of oil supplement.
Not rated or ranked
In our reviews of dry and canned foods, we make specific recommendations for selecting products for your dog. We’re not going to do this here; instead, we simply want to inform you about these alternatives to conventional kibble and canned food, and describe the differences between them.
We like the concept of a pre-mix that helps dog owners more easily prepare a complete and balanced diet with fresh, top-quality ingredients, and all of these products accomplish that goal. All of the products have a fresh, appealing aroma and appearance. However, some of their makers do a better job of providing information and support to consumers, and on the next two pages, we’ll note these efforts (or lack thereof) with our descriptions of the foods.
When suggested feeding amounts were provided for a range of dog sizes, we quoted the amount suggested for a 30-pound dog.