HOMEMADE DOG FOOD: OVERVIEW
1. Feed your dog a wide variety of foods from different food groups.
2. Make sure you supplement your dog’s homemade diet with calcium unless you feed raw meaty bones.
3. Stick to lean meats and remove skin from the poultry you feed unless your dog is highly active.
4. Keep in mind that the less variety of foods you feed, the more important supplements become.
5. Review your homemade dog food diet plan with a veterinarian for approval.
In the past few issues of Whole Dog Journal, I have offered critiques on homemade dog food diets in order to address the dog’s health concerns – or simply to optimize the dog’s diet plan. To do this, I analyzed the cooked and raw homemade dog food diets and compared them to the National Research Council’s guidelines for canine nutrition. I want to be clear, though: I don’t believe this is a requirement for feeding home-cooked dog food. Just as with the diet you feed yourself and your family, feeding a wide variety of healthy foods in appropriate proportions should meet the needs of most healthy dogs. The best diet for dogs, in effect, is a diverse diet.
Problems arise with how healthy dog food is interpreted. Too often, people think that they’re feeding healthy homemade dog food, when key ingredients may be missing or are fed in excess. Here’s how to make dog food at home, and specific guidelines to help ensure that the dog food diet you feed meets your individual dog’s requirements. You do not want just one dog food recipe to follow – you need several, and need to be comfortable mixing and matching ingredients, for reasons explained below.
Complete and Balanced Dog Food Diets
It’s important homemade dog food is “complete and balanced,” meaning it meets all of the dog’s nutritional needs. It is not important, however, that every meal be complete and balanced, unless you feed the same meal every day with little or no variation.
Home-prepared dog diets that include a wide variety of foods fed at different meals rely on balance over time, not at every meal. Similar to the way humans eat, as long as your dog gets everything he needs spread out over each week or two, his diet will be complete and balanced.
A human nutritionist would never expect someone to follow a single recipe with no variation, as veterinary nutritionists routinely do. Instead, a human would be given guidelines in terms of food groups and portion sizes. As long as your dog doesn’t have a health problem that requires a very specific diet, homemade dog food should be the same way.
For more on homemade dog treats, see “DIY Gifts for Dogs: Homemade Dog Treats & Healthy Recipes.”
Keep in mind that puppies are more susceptible to problems caused by nutritional deficiencies or excesses than adult dogs are. Large-breed puppies are particularly at risk from too much calcium prior to puberty. See “Puppy Food: Nutritional Guidelines to Maximize Health,” for more on puppy nutrition.
GUIDELINES TO CREATING BALANCED HOMEMADE DOG FOOD RECIPES
Following are guidelines for feeding a raw or cooked home-prepared diet to healthy dogs. No single type of food, such as chicken, should ever make up more than half the diet.
Except where specified, homemade food for dogs can be fed either raw or cooked. Leftovers from your table can be included as long as they’re foods you would eat yourself, not fatty scraps.
Meat and Other Animal Products: Should always make up at least half of the diet. A raw diet for dogs can be excessively high in fat, which can lead to obesity. Another potential hazard of diets containing too much fat: If an owner restricts the amount fed (in order to control the dog’s weight) too much, the dog may suffer deficiencies of other required nutrients.
Unless your dog gets regular, intense exercise, use lean meats (no more than 10 percent fat), remove skin from poultry, and cut off separable fat. It’s better to feed dark meat poultry than breast, however, unless your dog requires a very low-fat diet.
Raw Meaty Bones (optional): If you choose to feed them, RMBs should make up one third to one half of the total diet. Use the lower end of the range if you feed bony parts such as chicken necks and backs, but you can feed more if you’re using primarily meatier parts such as chicken thighs. Never feed cooked bones. Read a full report on raw meaty bones here.
Boneless Meat: Include both poultry and red meat. Heart is a good choice, as it is lean and often less expensive than other muscle meats.
Fish: Provides vitamin D, which otherwise should be supplemented. Canned fish with bones, such as sardines (packed in water, not oil), jack mackerel, and pink salmon, are good choices. Remove bones from fish you cook yourself, and never feed raw Pacific salmon, trout, or related species. You can feed small amounts of fish daily, or larger amounts once or twice a week. The total amount should be about one ounce of fish per pound of other meats (including RMBs).
Organs: Liver should make up roughly 5 percent of this category, or about one ounce of liver per pound of other animal products. Beef liver is especially nutritious, but include chicken or other types of liver at least occasionally as well. Feeding small amounts of liver daily or every other day is preferable to feeding larger amounts less often.
Eggs: Highly nutritious addition to any diet. Dogs weighing about 20 pounds can have a whole egg every day, but give less to smaller dogs.
Dairy: Plain yogurt and kefir are well tolerated by most dogs (try goat’s milk products if you see problems). Cottage and ricotta cheese are also good options. Limit other forms of cheese, as most are high in fat.
Fruits and Vegetables: While not a significant part of the evolutionary diet of the dog and wolf, fruits and vegetables provide fiber that supports digestive health, as well as antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients that contribute to health and longevity. Deeply colored vegetables and fruits are the most nutritious.
Starchy Vegetables: Veggies such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes (including pumpkin), as well as legumes (beans), provide carbohydrate calories that can be helpful in reducing food costs and keeping weight on skinny and very active dogs. Quantities should be limited for overweight dogs. Starchy foods must be cooked in order to be digestible.
Leafy Green and Other Non-Starchy Vegetables: These are low in calories and can be fed in any quantity desired. Too much can cause gas, and raw, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower can suppress thyroid function (cook them if you feed large amounts). Raw vegetables must be pureed in a food processor, blender, or juicer in order to be digested properly by dogs, though whole raw veggies are not harmful and can be used as treats.
And while you’re preparing these nutritious foods for your dog, consider boosting your own health by adding more veggies to your diet too!
Fruits: Bananas, apples, berries, melon, and papaya are good choices. Avoid grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure in dogs.
Grains: Controversial, as they may contribute to inflammation caused by allergies, arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); as well as seizures and other problems (it’s not clear whether starchy vegetables do the same). Some grains contain gluten that may cause digestive problems for certain dogs. Many dogs do fine with grains, however, and they can be used to reduce the overall cost of feeding a homemade diet.
Grains and starchy veggies should make up no more than half the diet. Good choices include oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and pasta. White rice can be used to settle an upset stomach, particularly if overcooked with extra water, but it’s low in nutrition and should not make up a large part of the diet. All grains must be well cooked.
DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS FOR HOME-FED DOGS
Some supplements are required in addition to natural food for dogs. Others may be needed if you are not able to feed a variety of foods, or if you leave out one or more of the food groups above. In addition, the longer food is cooked or frozen, the more nutrients are lost. Here are some dog supplements to consider:
Unless you feed RMBs, all homemade diets must be supplemented with calcium. The amount found in multivitamin and mineral supplements is not enough. Give 800 to 1,000 mg calcium per pound of food (excluding non-starchy vegetables). You can use any form of plain calcium, including eggshells ground to powder in a clean coffee grinder (1/2 teaspoon eggshell powder provides about 1,000 mg calcium). Animal Essentials‘ Seaweed Calcium provides additional minerals, as well. And here is a good list of calcium-rich foods your dog may like. Just please note this list is for humans and includes orange juice, which is not a good thing to give your dog as the acidity can cause stomach upset.
Most homemade diets require added oils for fat, calories, and to supply particular nutrients. It’s important to use the right types of oils, as each supplies different nutrients.
Fish Oil: Fish oil for dogs provides EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids that help to regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Give an amount that provides about 300 mg EPA and DHA combined per 20 to 30 pounds of body weight on days you don’t feed fish. Note that liquid fish oil supplements often tell you to give much more than this, which can result in too many calories from fat.
Cod Liver Oil: Provides vitamins A and D as well as EPA and DHA. If you don’t feed much fish, give cod liver oil in an amount that provides about 400 IUs vitamin D daily for a 100-pound dog (proportionately less for smaller dogs). Can be combined with other fish oil to increase the amount of EPA and DHA if desired.
Plant Oils: If you don’t feed much poultry fat, found in dark meat and skin, linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid, may be insufficient. You can use walnut, hempseed, corn, vegetable (soybean), or high-linoleic safflower oil to supply linoleic acid if needed. Add about one teaspoon of oil per pound of meat and other animal products, or twice that amount if using canola or sunflower oil. Olive oil and high-oleic safflower oil are low in omega-6 and cannot be used as a substitute, although small amounts can be added to supply fat if needed. Coconut oil provides mostly saturated fats, and can be used in addition to but not as a replacement for other oils.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to vitamin D discussed above, certain vitamins and minerals may be short in some homemade diets, particularly those that don’t include organ meats or vegetables. The more limited the diet that you feed, the more important supplements become, but even highly varied diets are likely to be light in a few areas.
Vitamin E: All homemade diets I’ve analyzed have been short on vitamin E, and the need for vitamin E increases when you supplement with oils. Too much vitamin E, however, may be counterproductive. Give 1 to 2 IUs per pound of body weight daily.
Iodine: Too much or too little iodine can suppress thyroid function, and it’s hard to know how much is in the diet. A 50-pound dog needs about 300 mcg (micrograms) of iodine daily. Kelp is high in iodine, though the amount varies considerably among supplements.
Multivitamin and mineral supplements: A multivitamin and mineral supplement will help to meet most requirements, including iodine and vitamins D and E, but it’s important not to over supplement minerals. If using the one-a-day type of human supplements, such as Centrum for Adults under 50, give one per 40 to 50 pounds of body weight daily. Note that most supplements made for dogs provide a reasonable amount of vitamins but are low in minerals, and so won’t make up for deficiencies in the diet. Be cautious with small dogs; I’ve seen some supplements that recommend the same dosage for 10-pound dogs as for those weighing 50 or even 100 pounds. In those cases, the dosage is usually too high for the small dogs and should be reduced. Products made for humans are also inappropriate for small dogs.
Green Blends: Often containing alfalfa and various herbs, green blends may be especially helpful if you don’t include many green vegetables in your dog’s diet. You can also use a pre-mix that includes alfalfa and vegetables, such as The Honest Kitchen‘s Preference. Note most pre-mixes also supply calcium, so you should reduce or eliminate calcium supplements, depending on how much of the pre-mix you use.
Mary Straus is the owner of DogAware.com. Contact her via her website if you would like to submit a diet to be critiqued.
Wolves got fruit and vegetables from their kills.
You lost me at #3: lean meats and skinless poultry. Dogs, like humans, need fats and the paleo and keto diets have proven fat does not make you fat. Carbs do.
My article does not mention skinless poultry. Diets that derive more than 50-60 percent of their calories from fat can cause weight gain from too many calories, regardless of where those calories come from, and can lead to nutritional deficiencies because there is just too little other food to provide needed nutrients. High-fat diets can also trigger pancreatitis in susceptible dogs and are not appropriate for the typical, rather sedentary, pet dog. See The State of the Commercial Raw Diet Industry in the September 2015 issue for more details.
It’s your article and #3 clearly says to remove the skin from poultry.
Please either re-read or edit so the article says what you want it to say.
You’re right, it does say to remove the skin from poultry (sorry, I was looking at a different place in the article that was talking about fats). In general, for normal pet dogs (not that active). I recommend feeding dark meat with skin removed. If feeding breast, the skin should be included unless you need an ultra-low-fat diet for some reason. Very active dogs (dogs who eat more than would be expected for their size) who don’t have any problems tolerating fat in the diet can eat dark meat chicken with fat included.
If Mary makes these changes will you stop being so rude? And make a donation since you are receiving this advice free of charge.
Right on the money 😉 @Jennifer
Thank you for this article Mary. I came to the comment section to see if there were additional tips
Maybe miss Carmen smarty paints should write the article! And what pubmed journals are you reading that state Leto and paleo are safe long term diets?
I do not have the ability to update articles on the WDJ site (the “updated” date at the top refers to changes made by the publisher, not by me). I do update articles on my website: http://dogaware.com/articles/dietcritique4.html
Very informative article, thanks for this! Having recipes is nice but understanding the mechanics allows me to better spot deficiencies in the ones I choose.
“fat does not make you fat”… Every diet, including keto, is a method of calorie restriction. Over eat approved keto foods and you will gain weight.
Too much fat can lead to issues like pancreatitis so making sure the data they get are high quality
Aaah the days when diet wasn’t a religion to defend and rally your troops around. Paleo and Keto don’t prove carbs make u fat. Eat 10 tubs of lard a day and u may just become fat. Carbs in the right amount provide an easy fuel for your brain to use. But who cares about whether fat makes u fat or not. Too few or too many of fats and especially certain fats is not good.
You make it easy, but still, I think it’s tough to make your dog food at your own the reason is the balance of nutrients and calories which is very important to keep your dog healthy. I believe that the commercial food producers have in house laboratories which they use for testing and when you make food at your own, that may invite some unseen risk.
I see your piece of advice as an advantage like the ingredients you discuss here I can add one in the commercial food as per my need to boot nutrient in my dog feed but to a very limited extent.
Kibble has cooked bone in it.. cooked bone is a irritant to your dog … kibble is poison and filled with fillers like carbs and dogs dont need carbs..
The biggest problem with homemade food is people dont put calcium and wonder why the animal has diarrhea.. the calcium will get pulled from ur animals bones if you dont add calcium.. that’s why raw chicken quarters are perfect.. but if your not doing raw then u need to add the calcium.. I dont know why it’s so hard for people to understand this.. also you should never mix kibble and raw bones because kibble has cooked bone and cooked bone is a irritant and moves faster so it will push out UNDIGESTED raw bone out of your animal .. disagree and talk all the shit u want. All I have to say is LOOK IT UP .. prove me wrong..
Ppl could just add eggshells
Pulverized to their meals.
Bam! Problem solved.
The book “Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets” by Patricia A. Schenck also mentions using Baking Soda as a source of Calcium where that seems like an simpler task of not having to dry out and grind egg shells. At least that’s what I’m using for now.
Rednroll, that book’s suggestion is very dangerous. The author claims that baking soda comes in the form of calcium carbonate, but that is not true (only baking soda substitutes use that form). If you gave your dog the amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in place of calcium need to balance the recipes, you would probably kill your dog. Please do not rely on this book that was updated by a vet who clearly does not care about animal welfare (Schenck was charged with felony animal neglect and pleaded no contest to a lesser charge).
You can buy powdered calcium carbonate from many sources, such as NOW Foods and others, that will be just as easy to use. If you have been feeding your dog baking soda, I would have blood work done by your vet to see if they need treatment for metabolic alkalosis, hypokalemia, hypernatremia, or other issues that could be caused by ingestion of baking soda.
Mary, Thank you for the warning. I made one batch of food with the baking Soda. My dogs turned their noses up to it, where it seemed to give the food a strong amonia kind of smell. Anyways, they only had about 2 servings and I stopped feeding it to them since they didn’t like it and it didn’t smell right to me. Glad I stopped.
Omg some people are so lost about nutrition… btw cooked bone isn’t bad cause it irritates , it is bad cause it splinters and can hurt the dogs intestines.
I’ve read about the awful things that go into some commercial dog foods. Chemicals including barbiturates; poisons; bacteria found in road kill. Horrible stuff. There is some government oversight but not nearly as much as most people think. I did research on this before starting to make my own dog food last year.
Have you seen the Netflix documentary… “Pet FOOleD”?
A MUST for every dog owner feeding kibble!
Dogs started getting cancer when they started eating commercial dog kibbles. Most are not good for them regardless how healthy they say they are for one reason or another.
Same as with human food! Cancer became prominent with processed foods! And preservatives… and food dyes!
That was so confusing to me I’m back to label reading on canned dog food. My boy has skin allergies because of where we live in the country but my house is for sale and we’re moving closer in toward town. I was hoping for a recipe that while giving me choices to vary his diet would be a basic I could work from instead of a list of do’s and dont’s.
All you need to do is just do research, dont use kibble and canned food.. dont use dog food at all. When u go shopping for your dog food you should be at the grocery store . My 4 year old pitbull is ripped and all muscle and is very healthy.. I stopped the dog food almost a year now and I wish I did research along time ago.. I now feed him chicken, ground beef, steak, pork chops, lamb chops, he loves sardines, cafe liver, and always add calcium , I use the seaweed calcium that’s on amazon.. but u can buy regular calcium from the store but it can NOT have D3. And most of them have D3. So find the right one.. D3 will mess your animal up bad.. also I add turmeric, black pepper. And veggies they dont need alot of, I use spinach and peas and kale.. but not alot at all. You can use oats but my dog is allergic to oats… just do research and just do it. It’s not hard. I cook 2 times a day for my dog.
I’m confused about your “don’t incl. D3″…they need vit D to help synthesize calcium.
This site has a good article on Vit D, and difference between D2 + D3.
Dave, do you have a recipe you’d be willing to share (I’m about to be the proud owner of an 8 week old golden doodle in a couple of weeks and want to start her out on the right diet). I’m open to making my own at home, just want to make sure I’m including what I need in that recipe.
Can we use Bone Meal Powder?
Yes. See my article on calcium for more info: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/food/calcium-in-homemade-dog-food/
This all sounds great! I would love to be able to feed my dog healthy things i cook from home but i just dont have the money or the time. 🙁
I just tried looking up the calcium you recommend on Amazon… is it Nature’s best? Also, is there any specific vitamin E brand you recommend or any other vitamins?
I am looking to start cooking for my senior boxer/pit mix. He is getting heavier as he is getting older and due to pain and limping I don’t exercise him hard. I only feed him 1x day but he is still gaining weight. I would be interested in any recipes you would be willing to share.
If you want simple recipes, I suggest you go to the Balance IT website and use their recipes and supplements: https://secure.balanceit.com/recipegenerator_ver4/index.php?rotator=EZ
I add coconut oil to my dogs food it helps with the itching of dry skin, you might want to try it.
Yes i appreciate how crazy making it can be! As i tell myself, Relax:) variety in what you feed with paying attention to the basics dogs need will work it out; a multivitamin and mineral supplement to cover the bases; personally i cook my dog’s food: bones from sardines and egg shellpowder to supplement calcium;
Go to BalanceIT.com. You put in the food choices you want to use and it gives you a balanced recipe. You still need to add supplements tho, primarily calcium.
Susan, the Balance IT supplements include calcium; it should not be added separately (and the Balance IT recipes should not be used without their supplements).
I wandered upon the article after switching my miniature schnauzer boys to vet recommended Royal Canin at twice the price of Kirkland. Money isn’t a concern, but the itching is keeping them up all night. I’ve eliminated any pest possibilities spraying the yard, bathing and spraying the boys.
Love to cook, so I’m going to see if Da Boys will eat home cooking. Wonder if they will like hamburger omelettes, ham & green beans, cheese & zucchini, grilled salmon & potatoes,… This has got to be better for them than the Bag-o-Crap that I’ve been feeding them.
Mini Schnauzers are the breed most prone to fat intolerance, so you need to be very cautious not to feed your dogs too much fat, which could lead to digestive upset and even pancreatitis. Hamburger, ham, and cheese are all usually quite high in fat, and could be dangerous for your dogs. If you want to feed a homemade diet, you may want to try getting low-fat recipes from Balance IT. With Mini Schnauzers, I’d probably aim for recipes with about 30 grams of fat per Mcal (thousand calories), as shown on the Balance IT recipe’s nutritional analysis.
Royal canin is one of the worst foods and is recommended by the vets because they get huge kickbacks from the company that makes it just chk the ingredients…. horrifying!
Of course they will eat real food.. kibble is poison. Even the wrong human food is better than kibble. Just do alot of research and make sure u add calcium.. that’s the biggest mistake people make of all things… calcium without D3 .. D3 is very bad.
Dave when you say add calcium and you can buy it at the store. I do not want to sound stupid but exactly where and what do you buy
Just look for calcium powder. NOW Foods makes one such product for people, or you can use something like Animal Essentials Seaweed Calcium. Or you can use eggshells that have been ground to powder in a clean coffee grinder or blender.
My dogs go to a holistic vet and we get our recipes from this site, hope this helps 🙂
Hi MU, I went to the site you recommended and got a note saying they could not find this site. Any suggestions, as I really wanted to read the information. Thanks for any assistance you can give me! Rhonda (firstname.lastname@example.org) Appreciate you help.
Do a google search for Hillary’s blend for dogs it comes right up. Good luck
Possibly the spray you are using in the yard is affecting your boys? My dog went undiagnosed with mast cell cancer tumors for few years… i was told they were harmless lypomas:(. These tumors can put out histamines from the mast cells, causing itching, runny nose, itchy ears….
As the author of this article, I wanted to point out that the link to calcium-rich foods was not part of my article. You cannot use calcium-rich foods in place of calcium supplements, and many of the foods listed are inappropriate for dogs.
Love your article! Trying make sense of how to achieve a balanced diet for my pup is a bit confusing but its so nice to have a good reference like this article.
I appreciate it! Would you be able to share a recipe by chance?
I know everyone wants recipes, but I’ve always been reluctant to use them because they encourage people to feed the same thing all the time. That requires each recipe to be complete and balanced, rather than achieving balance over time using a variety of different ingredients, which I prefer. If you want recipes, I recommend using the Balance IT website, as it now allows you to choose different ingredients and different types of recipes (high protein, for example). That way, you’ll know that the diet you’re feeding is complete, though I still recommend feeding a variety of different foods (just get multiple recipes and rotate between them). The recipes are free, you just have to pay for the supplements.
What about like a weekly schedule for ideas
My Jack Russle Whippet mix weighs 23 pounds. He eats twice a day. Using recipes created from the Balance IT website, can you tell me how much to feed him per meal. Currently he eats 1/2 cup of dry dog food twice a day. He is not very active, and puts on weight easily.
Barbara, only your dog can tell you how much food he needs, by watching his weight closely and adjusting the amount you feed as needed to keep him lean. I weigh my dogs weekly (they’re small, so I use a box on top of a postal scale to get an accurate weight), and I weigh all their food.
Balance IT tells you how many calories their recipes provide. You should be able to determine how many calories your dog is getting from his dry dog food, if you’re using half a measuring cup, not just any cup. Contact the company and ask for the calories per cup in the food that you’re feeding, and then you will know how many calories your dog has been getting from his diet.
In general, I can tell you that NRC assumes a 23-lb dog needs about 750 calories/day, but that’s for active adults. An inactive dog that puts on weight easily is more likely to need about 450-550 calories/day. Note this doesn’t take into account calories from other sources (treats, chews, leftovers, supplements, etc.). If your dog is eating less than 450 calories a day, you should probably cut back on some of those.
If you tell Balance IT that you want a recipe for a 15-lb dog, the recipe should have about 550 calories, or use 12 lbs to get a recipe with closer to 450 calories.
I think hands on is the best way to gauge weight on any dog. You should be able to feel their ribs with a li thin layer of fat over the ribs. If you can’t feel the ribs, then their fat. If you feel ribs with-out I a light layer of fat their on the thin side. Weighing your dog is o.k. But most dogs very in bone size length and height.
Thank you so much for your article. It is the first one I have found that isn’t overwhelming and very informative. I have a 90# 2o month old Gerberian Shepsky that is highly allergic to poultry and slightly allergic to beef. He does very well with salmon, though. My question is this: Why do you say to limit fish consumption? This concerns me because it is one of the very few proteins he can tolerate. Thank you so much for all of your research!
I think it’s best to always feed variety if at all possible. If you feed just one protein, you risk your dog becoming allergic to that protein as well. Have you tried lamb? pork? bison? eggs? There are also a number of exotic proteins you could try, such as venison, kangaroo, beaver, rabbit, duck, pheasant, ostrich, and more, but I try to reserve the majority of those in case your dog reaches a point where he can’t handle anything else.
Different protein sources provide different nutrients. If you’re not feeding poultry, you’ll need to add plant oils in order to provide linoleic acid (omega-6 essential fatty acid). If you’re not feeding red meat, your diet will be low in iron and zinc. If you’re not feeding organs, it may be low in other nutrients as well.
Some fish has the potential to be contaminated with toxins, especially very large fish such as tuna, and freshwater fish from polluted lakes and rivers. Salmon is a pretty healthy fish to feed, but by feeding only a single protein source, you are limiting the nutrition your dog is getting, and by always feeding the same thing you’re making it more likely that he will eventually develop allergies to that protein.
I would try introducing new proteins one at a time, starting with small amounts to see how your dog does, and increasing only if you don’t see any reaction. If you can find at least one and preferably two more proteins that your dog can handle, and rotate between them, it will improve the quality of the diet. Be sure to give appropriate supplements to make up for what is missing when you feed such a limited diet.
Thank you so, so much! You are a wealth of knowledge and I appreciate you responding so quickly!
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I really want to try this, but your discussion of the necessity of variety has me a little bit nervous. I definitely dont have the time to feed my dog something different every day. I plan to use a crock pot to cook my dog’s food for the week while I’m doing my own meal prep. Would it be acceptable to switch my dog’s recipe weekly for variety?
Yes. There’s no need to change the diet daily. It’s definitely easier to make batches of food that may last a few days in the fridge, or a couple of weeks if frozen. It’s fine to feed the same food for that long or even a little longer, then just switch some ingredients with the next batch. For example, make one batch with poultry and the next with red meat.
Thank you for the information! I don’t use many recipes for my family, and likely won’t use them for our pup – but having a general idea of how much & what to put in his food helps a great deal – especially with the supplements. We have a 6 month old German Shepard mixed breed who wandered onto our farm with 8 brothers & sisters at 8 weeks old. We re-homed all but our guy. We started him on kibble, but I’ve been supplementing his food with plainly cooked meats & lightly oiled veggies & some grains (if he’ll even eat them) because – who wants to eat brown pellets made in a factory? He ate it a bit at first, but now his bowl sits full & he eats what we eat, for the most part. I can’t see spending $100 a week ordering fresh food, but want to make sure he’s getting everything he needs, so I believe we’ll try this. Thanks again!!
This lady tells you to give your dog those adult one a day multi vitamins, well I thought that sounded weird and to easy so I look it up and it had D3 in it and D3 is horrible for your dog and will store inside of your dog.. that’s why when people add calcium to homemade dog food they need to get calcium without D3 . So good luck with that .. hopefully everyone skipped over that part.. and for whoever already gives their animal D3 and wants to pretend it’s ok then just look it up…
Dave, you just added five comments, all with extreme views. I’m not going to bother to respond other than to say that dogs require vitamin D3 in their diets. It’s included in both AAFCO and NRC guidelines and is added to all commercial diets. It’s also part of many foods, so your dog is getting at least some of this vitamin no matter what type of diet you feed. You are correct that when adding calcium to a homemade diet, plain calcium without added vitamin D is recommended, as otherwise the amount of vitamin D would be too high, but the amount in most one-a-day type of multivitamins should not be dangerous.
You guys need to listen to Dave. I’ve read several recalls for commercial dog food. The recalls were due to unsafe amounts of vitamin D. Don’t believe everything you read online. Do your own research.
Yes, massive amounts of vitamin D are quite dangerous, and this is not the first time there have been recalls due to errors in how vitamin/mineral mixes are formulated. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid vitamin D, or that it is not necessary in proper amounts. Too much water can kill you, too.
Hello everyone my name is Joyce and I have 2 pugs one is very active and skinny the other is sedate and plumper being ignorant I had been feeding dry food morning and meat mixed with vegetables for tea but have now changed over to this way of feeding and have noticed a big difference in just one week Bertie has become much more active and Frankie calmer x just 2 questions 1 I’ve heard that the dye in dried dog food causes the brown stains around eyes ? 2 what snacks do you recommend for the little dog to help fatten her up while what can I give to keep the other one that will help keep him slim kind regards Joyce
Dyes don’t cause discoloration of the fur. That’s caused by yeast growing where it is moist. Try to just clean the area under the eyes regularly, especially in the morning or whenever your dogs eyes tend to be runniest.
Rather than using snacks to fatten up your skinny dog (if she really needs to gain weight, you may want to verify with your vet) would be to feed her a little more, and your other dog a little less. You can read more about weight-loss diets in my article here: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/weight_control/helping-your-dog-lose-weight/
My 13 year old beagle has been diagnosed with kidney disease. She absolutely hates the prescription dog foods. I would like to go with a homemade diet. What are your recommendations since she needs low protein and low phosphorous
Debbie, I have a lot of information about kidney disease on my website, but it’s impossible to offer anything specific without knowing your dog’s test results and history. Be sure to read the newer sections added here; if you have additional questions, you can email me with the details about your dog from my website: http://dogaware.com/health/kidney.html
My 13 year old beagle has been diagnosed with kidney disease. She absolutely hates the prescription dog foods. I would like to go with a homemade diet. What are your recommendations since she needs low protein and low phosphorous?
A very informative article to read. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Fine work. Keep it up.
I’m going a bit nuts trying to figure out a balanced home cooked diet for my dog. Up until 2 weeks ago, he was fed raw for 8 yrs, and I always thought it was balanced, with addition of veggies, RMBs, organs etc.
My dog was diagnosed with a sudden onset auto-immune disorder, such that he can never do raw again, bc of possible bacterial contamination.
So now I’m cooking for him and completely boggled as to what’s too much or too little re: nutrients/vitamins, vis-a-vis what’s already in the food + additional supplementation.
I ordered Hilary’s Blend supplement powder with the cookbook to be used in conjunction, but somehow, i have niggling feeling that with her diet plan + supp, he may end up getting too much vit D + A.??
This book, and supp is formulated by certified pet nutritionist, and is special ordered through vet clinics, so do I have blind faith in this?
Does anyone out there use Hilary’s recipes/supp? Would love your review on.
I’m not a fan of Hilary Watson, as she refuses to provide a nutritional analysis of her supplement, and I won’t buy or recommend any product that will not give out this important information. When I first looked into her recipes, some were dangerously high in fat, with as much as 86% of calories coming from fat, and although I believe this may have changed, it doesn’t give me confidence in her or her products. I would use Balance IT recipes and supplements instead.
I feel like I’m reading a lot of lazy peoples replies. If your dog is over weight, take it for a walk outside or throw ball twice a day. If you take your dog outside, it will not have a vitamin D deficiency either. We all need a little more exercise in our life and your dog will live longer.
Should the eggs be raw or cooked? Also in the organs category you mentioned that liver should be part of that, but then what other organs should be used? And should they be cooked?
My dog has had lots of skin problems this summer, and even though I have been feeding him a high quality dry kibble…now I’m interested in switching away from it completely. I hope that his suffering will stop.
Thanks for the informative article!
Eggs can be fed either raw or cooked, though the whites may be better digested if cooked. Liver is the most nutritious organ, but heart is also good choice to include in the diet.
Have you talked to your vet? Skin problems can be caused by many things. The most common is fleas — if your dog is allergic to flea bites, then even a single bite can cause intense itching and scratching that can last up to two weeks. If you’re not using reliable flea prevention, that’s the best place to start.
Environmental allergies to things like grasses, pollens, dust and mold are far more common than food allergies. Seasonal flare-ups are likely caused by environmental allergies.
Secondary infections (bacterial or yeast) can cause itching and scratching even after the underlying cause has been addressed. Sarcoptic mange can also cause intense itching (it’s contagious, so if your dog has it, other pets in your household would also be affected, and you might notice a rash on yourself).
Sometimes where a dog is itchy can provide clues. Itching around the tail is often fleas. Recurrent ear infections are a sign of allergies (food or environment). Paw licking and itching on the underside of the dog may be due to contact (environmental) allergies. Your vet may be able to tell more with an exam and skin scraping (to look for secondary infections).
Any suggestions for a dog allergic to chicken??? What meat would I use other than beef? Is pork ok? I am hesitant to use other poultry but am not sure about turkey or duck.
Yes, pork is OK to feed, though it tends to be very high in fat, so you would need to use leaner options rather than ground pork unless you know the fat content is OK. If you don’t feed poultry, you’ll need to add plant oils to provide essential omega-6 fatty acids. More info: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/plant-oils/
Maybe I missed it, but how do I determine how many lbs of dog food to give per day based off my dogs body weight? A lot of your recommendations say “per lb of food” but I’m not sure how many lbs of food to be giving per day.
Jessica, there is no way to tell you how much to feed your dog without accounting for what and who you’re feeding. High-fat meats may have two or three times more calories than lean meats. Cooked grains tend to be high in calories, but non-starchy veggies have almost no calories and should not be include in any calculations (feed whatever amount of non-starchy veggies you want that your dog likes and does well with). Small dogs eat much more for their weight than large dogs do. Young, active dogs generally need more calories for their weight than older or sedentary dogs do. If you give treats, chews or leftovers, those calories must be subtracted from the amount you feed in daily meals.
If you’ve been feeding a commercial food, you should be able to calculate approximately how many calories your dog has been getting, or there are calorie calculators online that can help you determine how many your dog needs based on (ideal) weight, life stage and activity level. You would then need to figure out the calories in what you’re feeding, using NutritionData or other sources. Regardless of what method you use, your individual dog may vary, so the only way to know for sure how much food your dog needs is to watch their weight (weigh regularly if possible) and adjust the amount you feed as needed to keep your dog at a lean, healthy weight.
One way to get some idea is to generate recipes on the BalanceIT website (https://secure.balanceit.com), though their estimates run high and need to be reduced for most pet dogs to prevent weight gain.
This is the most helpful article I’ve come across. And your responses to the comments have been so helpful too! My 31 lb. Rat Terrier was recently diagnosed with pancreatitis and is now eating Royal Canin low-fat vet food and on antibiotics (which I am not sure is really necessary). After learning more about what causes pancreatitis, I decided a homemade diet would be best for my dog. He has had digestive issues since he was a puppy, mostly loose stool and regurgitating food shortly after eating, We’ve only ever fed kibble. I am optimistic about trying to cook for him will resolve these issues. Any words of guidance? Oh, and he needs to lose about 3-4lbs too.
DJ, I’ve written articles on pancreatitis and low-fat diets:
If you want to try a homemade diet, the easiest way would be to use recipes and supplements from Balance IT. You can get low-fat “prescription” recipes (“Free Autobalancer EZ for Vet Patients”) with your vet’s approval (which they make very easy to get), or try to adjust regular recipes to be low enough in fat. When you look at the Nutrient Profile for each recipe, check the column “Amount (per Mcal)” for “Total lipid (fat)” to see what I called GFK (grams of fat per thousand calories). You can adjust the recipes to a certain extent to reduce the fat further if needed.
I loved your article UNTIL I got to the part of putting CENTRUM vitamins in the dog food. These do NOT absorb in the body at all. This is the worst vitamin on the market. I am a Chiropractor and whenever I saw an unabsorbed suppliment in the colon I asked what type of vitamin they took. Every time it was Centrum!!!
S. Roberson, what you say is interesting. Any one-a-day type of multivitamin could be substituted for Centrum, but it’s important not to use supplements that provide megadoses of anything (far more than the daily requirement for humans), as that may be too much for dogs.
I’m currently using New Chapter Tiny Tabs for my small dog, as the recommended dose for adult humans is 6 tablets, so I can safely give 1 tablet to my 9-lb dog.
Why so much calcium for dogs ? ! 200mg /pounds seems a lot for my 100 pounds dog it would be 72 g?! A 165 pounds man need just 1200 Mg an à dog half this weight would need 99000mg?! This make a non sense for me they not have more bones..than us so why so much calcium ? ?
Thomas, I can’t figure out where your numbers came from. I never mention “200 mg/pound” anywhere. I also can’t figure out how you calculated 72 grams (72,000 mg) from anything either you or I or anyone else wrote.
My article above says, “Give 800 to 1,000 mg calcium per pound of food (excluding non-starchy vegetables).” A dog weighing 100 lbs would eat about two pounds of food, which would be 2,000 mg (2 grams) of calcium daily.
Hi there to all, it’s in fact a pleasant for me to visit this website, it contains important Information.
I’ve been trying to create multiple cooked food recipes for my dogs. I have all the essential nutrients and ingredients covered but finding some good rules of thumbs for ratios has been a very confusing point and your article has helped me with some of that except I’m confused by your statement in regards to meats. “Meat and Other Animal Products: Should always make up at least half of the diet.” Half of what? For example my recipes contain some form of meat and eggs which would be animal products, and then mixed with carbs such as rice, oatmeal, and potatoes, as well as fiber such as peas, carrots, and spinach. So say for example and to simplify things, if I was making just a chicken and rice meal. If I used 1lb of chicken breasts, and going by your “half” suggestion, would I use 1lb of uncooked dry rice or 1lb of cooked rice for the other half? Or is this “half” by volume quantity? 1 cup of chicken combined with 1 cup of rice? Please help me understand what you mean by “half”. Half of what? Thanks!
Rednroll, your question is a good one. My feeling is that meat and other animal products should provide at least half the calories your dog receives, but that’s not always easy to calculate. If you just use cooked weights, not including any non-starchy veggies, that should be close enough. So, using your example above, I would combine one pound of meat with one pound of COOKED (not uncooked, which would make a huge amount of rice), then add the veggies. Volume measurements of cooked foods would also work, except that it’s hard to measure meat by volume — one cup of chicken breast could vary quite a bit in weight depending on how the meat is cut up and how tightly it’s packed in.
BTW, if you feed chicken breasts, you should include the skin. Better yet, feed dark meat chicken (legs and thighs), which has much more taurine, as well as some of the essential fatty acids needed from poultry. You can include some of the skin from dark meat poultry as long as your dog is somewhat active and doesn’t have a problem tolerating fat; include all of it for highly active dogs. Be sure to use different kinds of meat (red meat, poultry and fish), include some liver, and add additional foods such as eggs and dairy, as well as calcium and vitamin E.
Dave I’ve had 5 dogs all fed with canned food, kibble and a variety of complementary treats. Not one died before the age of 16 and 2 lived in to their early twenties.
People need to chill the fuck out.
Don’t over/underfeed your dog, give it lots of exercise and regular visits to the vet and you will have yourself a healthy happy pooch.
I started feeding my dog home made food about two days ago. How long until her digestive system is fully adjusted and she has a healthy, solid stool? I’m still incorporating bagged food until she adjusts.
Jackie, you should not see any digestive upset when you switch foods. If your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea, go back to what she was eating before until she is stabilized. You can then try again, more slowly this time. If problems continue, you may need to use different foods. Too much fat or too little fiber can cause loose stools. Try introducing just one new food at a time to help determine which foods are causing problems, and which she does well with.
@Mary Straus, thank you! That’s is so helpful. She is just the pickiest and always wants table food. So I decided to cook it fresh for her. Thank you.
Also pumpkin helps loose stools. And they seem to really like it.
So I am stressed to say the least! I have 4 dogs. One very senior lab/mastiff mix, one 9 year old lab/Doberman mix , one 7 year old Shitzhu miz and one 4 year old shitzhu mix. My littles and my biggest are EXTREMELY picky eaters. I am trying to switch them to home made- and I currently am buying it from someone but it is getting cost prohibitive (especially the big guy because he requires quite a bit of food.) I tried that IT site but I am afraid I am not tech savvy and can’t figure out exactly what it is saying. I was thinking of making a recipe with ground beef, brown rice, pumpkin, sweet potato, peas and blueberries and maybe adding a touch of bone broth. I wouldn’t mind switching out the beef for chicken or turkey every other week (but wouldn’t that cause stomach upset if not switched slowly?) I am afraid they wouldn’t be getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. How do you know what to supplement? Thanks for any input. I appreciate all the help!
Kathy, you need to try the Balance IT site again. All you have to do is click on the foods you want to use in each column (they tell you how many you can select for each one), then click on Done to see the recipes. Click on View to see each one. They offer chat help if you’re still stuck.
You do need to use a supplement such as Balance IT to make your diet complete — you make no mention of adding calcium, for example, and other nutrients will also be missing since you’re not including liver, fish, eggs, or dairy. Poultry is also needed to meet certain nutritional requirements. Dogs that are used to being fed different foods rarely have any trouble switching, but dogs that have been fed the same thing for long periods may need a slow transition. Once they’re used to eating a homemade diet, they’re unlikely to have any problem switching proteins unless one of them has too much fat.
If you have multiple picky dogs, it’s likely that you’ve trained them to be picky by offering something else when they refuse to eat what you feed. In that case, you should pick up their food after a reasonable amount of time and not offer anything else until the next mealtime. It’s fine to offer a different food at that time, but when you offer something else right away, you teach your dog to be picky.
It’s amazing how we look for advice online only to find so much conflicting information and harsh opinions from others.
My grandparents had a farm and fed the dogs and pups off cuts, bones, eggs, and a few times a month included a “boiled meal” of veg, fruits and oats. All the dogs were healthy and happy and lived long. No technical science, just people who lived off the land, reared animals and feed them what they had.
We overthink everything and make stuff too complicated. Obviously the dogs distant cousins in the wild don’t argue amongst themselves about what to feed their young. They do their best with what’s on offer.
Thank you for your informative article. I’m desperate to find a homemade dog food recipe for my 75 Lb female Beauceron. I’ve had her tested and she is highly intolerant to turkey, kelp and halibut and mildly intolerant to chicken, duck, flaxseed oil, ginger, olive oil, pork, rabbit, salmon, & tuna. I’ve been making her a chicken and rice homemade dog food and adding a dehydrated dog food that you add water to, for the nutrients, but I was still having a problem with loose stool. My question is for a dog that is sensitive to so many products how do I get a balanced nutritionally sound, homemade dog food that someone can afford to make? How much Calcium would a 75lb dog get? Can I use calcium pills and just crush? I live in Southern California and the cheapest beef I can find anywhere is $2.99 a pound. Since my dog needs 1.5-2.0 pounds of meat a day, well that’s between $135-180 dollar a month in just meat. I feel so defeated.
Thank you for your time.
Linda, the easiest way to feed a complete homemade diet is with recipes and supplements from Balance IT, where you can choose your own ingredients. Mercola recently released a similar product called Meal Mix for Dogs, but I have not tried to compare costs of the supplements to determine if one is more expensive than the other.
To keep costs down, try feeding cheaper cuts such as beef heart or beef cheek meat (ask if they can order it for you). Watch for sales. Big box stores like Costco often have good prices. Check my list of raw food groups to see if there’s one in your area that might offer some cheaper products.
Also see my articles for cost-saving tips:
If not using a supplement that is designed to balance a homemade diet, a 75-lb dog would need about 2,000 mg calcium daily. Most pills are made for people and also contain vitamin D, and so should not be used (too much vitamin D when you give enough calcium). Plain calcium powder from companies like NOW Foods is cheaper anyway.
Note your dog likely needs at least 1,400 kcal (calories) daily, more if she is active. She does not need as much meat as you’ve been feeding, and her loose stools could be linked to too much fat from that meat — she may well do better with less meat and more grains, to reduce the amount of fat in her diet.
You say she’s been tested, but there are no reliable tests for food allergies or intolerances, so your dog may or may not have an issue with the foods you listed. Loose stools are not a common sign of food allergy, though it can be a sign of food intolerance. If that’s the only symptom, it’s more likely to be a sign of fat intolerance, as dogs with digestive issues often have trouble digesting fat. It could also be linked to many other issues, including parasites and bacterial overgrowth, so it’s important to work with your vet to determine what’s going on.
I’m getting the idea that it’s pretty impossible to feed a balanced homemade diet without adding vitamin/mineral supplements like the supplement you refer to from Balance IT or Mercola Meal Mix. I have preferred getting balanced nutrition from whole food sources like Organic Daily Multi Plus from The Pet Health and Nutrition, but of course I want the best for my fur baby! Do you feel their product is not sufficient for covering any lack in a homemade food?(Center.https://www.pethealthandnutritioncenter.com/natural-organic-herbal-daily-multivitamin-dogs-cats.html)
I’m wondering the same thing! I alternate between Dr. Dobias and Pet Nutrition Center. But would like an opinion also.
Pam, I’m not sure what supplements you’re referring to. “Pet Nutrition Center” is a pretty generic term; I didn’t find a brand by that name. Dr. Dobias makes many different supplements. None are designed to help balance out a limited homemade diet and therefore should not be relied upon to do so. They may be beneficial for other purposes.
Valorie, I took a look at the supplement you’re using. Unfortunately, the company does not provide a nutritional analysis so there’s no way to know how much of any vitamin or mineral this supplement is adding. In general, any supplement that is designed for dogs being fed a complete commercial diet will not provide what is missing from a limited homemade diet. Usually they have a few vitamins but not much in the way of minerals. In addition, the supplement you named has a LOT of herbs in it. I’m not real comfortable giving herbs all the time, particularly if they’re not needed. When I feel herbs are needed, I usually pulse them, or rotate through different ones. I’m not a fan of supplements that try to provide too many things at once, and I would never rely on a supplement that doesn’t provide a nutritional analysis. This supplement doesn’t even state the amount of probiotics that are included, which almost certainly means the amounts are inconsequential, too small to provide any benefits. My feeling is that may be true of many of their ingredients.
The best homemade diets include red meat, poultry, fish, liver, eggs, dairy, vegetables, and fruits, with grains and legumes optional. The simpler the diet, the more supplements will be needed. All homemade diets require added calcium (unless the diet includes raw meaty bones that are fully consumed) and vitamin E. Other supplements may be needed if any of these food groups are left out of the diet. See this article for some information about the nutrients provided by these foods:
I like whole food supplements, too, but it’s harder to find ones that provide enough nutrients to help balance a limited homemade diet. I’ve been using New Chapter Tiny Tabs for my small dog, but I feed her a pretty complete