How to Make Homemade Dog Food

A homemade dog food diet isn't hard to design, but does require planning. Here is how to make dog food at home that is complete and balanced and that your dog will love!



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.

Make Homemade Dog Food

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.


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.

Make Homemade Dog Food

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.


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 Contact her via her website if you would like to submit a diet to be critiqued.

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Mary Straus has been a regular contributor to Whole Dog Journal since 2006. Mary first became interested in dog training and behavior in the 1980s. In 1997, Mary attended a seminar on wolf behavior at Wolf Park in Indiana. There, she was introduced to clicker training for the first time, and began to consider the question of how we feed our dogs after watching the wolves eat whole deer carcasses. Mary maintains and operates her own site,, which offers information and research on canine nutrition and health. has been created to help make people more "aware" of how to make the best decisions for their dogs. It's designed for people who like to ask questions and understand the reasoning behind decisions, rather than just being told what to do.  Mary has spent years doing research for people whose dogs have health problems, or who just want to learn how to feed them a better diet. Over this time, she has learned a great deal about dog nutrition and health, including the role of diet, supplements and nutraceuticals.  In 2007, she was asked by The Ivy Group to contribute to The Healthy Dog Cookbook. She previously also wrote a column for Dog World.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. Wow! After all I got a website from where I know how to actually take helpful data regarding my study and knowledge.

  16. Hi Cara,
    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.

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  19. Thank you so, so much! You are a wealth of knowledge and I appreciate you responding so quickly!

  20. Very helpful and informative!

    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?


  21. 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.

  22. 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.