Homemade Dog Food Ingredients: 3 Essential Foods for Dogs

The best ingredients to use in homemade dog food are many! Most whole food ingredients humans eat are good for dogs too, and including a variety of foods in your dog's diet is the key to stellar health.

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Whether you want to try feeding your dog raw food or you’re looking for home-cooked dog food ideas, the components of a good homemade dog food plan are not complicated, but do require diligence and dedication from you – the dog guardian.

Calcium levels in your dog’s diet are important: you can’t feed too little or too much. A balance of nutrients over time is also essential: mixing and matching different types of vegetables and meat over the weeks and years. So how do you make sure your dog’s homemade diet is complete and balanced enough? You need to feed a high variety of foods.

3 Essential Ingredients for Homemade Dog Food:

1. Muscle meat
2. Raw meaty bones and offal (animal organs)
3. Vegetables (leafy, non-starchy)

Whole Dog Journal steers away from providing dog guardians with step-by-step recipes for dog food, raw or cooked. We can share expert dog companions’ personal protocols for feeding their dogs home-prepared, but quickly you will realize not only that the perfect dog food recipe does not exist, but that in order for your dog to receive all necessary nutrients, you really need many recipes that include many different whole food ingredients.

1. Muscle meat

We all know what this is. Chicken, lamb, beef, pork, venison, rabbit – these are the meats you see on commercial pet food labels, and the type of meat humans mostly eat. Fish also falls under this food category: common fish meats to feed dogs include jack mackerel and salmon. Unlike people, there is no limit to the amount of protein a dog should eat; dogs can survive entirely on animal meat if necessary. It does not matter if dogs eat raw meat, either – though there have been cases of dogs getting sick from salmonella or E. coli, this is rare and generally comes down to a preexisting immune deficiency.

2. Raw meaty bones and other animal parts

Here is the trickiest component of homemade dog food. Raw meaty bones refer to a specific type of animal bone that is for eating, not just for chewing (we call these recreational bones). RMBs are fed to dogs unprocessed, with muscle meat and tendons still adhered. They aren’t dried and therefore are not brittle, and usually are big enough not to be swallowed whole. Raw meaty bones are an essential source of calcium for dogs; if for whatever reason your dog can’t handle RMBs, alternatives like ground bones, or ground eggshells, in their food can supply the calcium.

Organ meats like liver, kidney, hearts, and necks are required for home-fed dogs as well. For raw-fed dogs, organs should make up about 10% of their overall diet, which may be a challenge for some dog guardians. Offal meats contain all the rich vitamins and minerals that make your dog glow, but since they aren’t widely eaten (in the United States at least), they aren’t widely available.

3. Vegetables

What veggies should you definitely include in your dog’s diet? There are plenty of vegetables that are good for dogs.

Spinach
Carrots
Peas
Lettuce
All types of squash (pumpkin, zucchini, acorn, butternut)
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Cucumbers
Asparagus

Vegetables and Fruits That Benefit Dogs, But Are Not Essential

Sweet potato
Celery
Kale
Cabbage
Brussels sprouts
Tomatoes
Mushrooms
Green beans (when they’re cooked)
Any edible berry
Any kind of melon
Avocado
Apples
Oranges
Pears
Bananas
Pineapple
Lemons and limes

Need more details on vegetables for dogs? Here you go!

Nutritious plant-based food options are plentiful for dogs, but there are a handful of foods dogs should avoid or limit eating:

Onions
Garlic
Nightshades (potatoes, eggplant, peppers)
Grapes and raisins

Do these foods kill every dog who ingests them? No, of course not. Some dogs eat potatoes and bell peppers their whole lives and don’t have any issues. Other dogs get the occasional grape as a treat and they’re fine. Garlic, in small amounts, is actually good for dogs. The problem is that each of these ingredients contains toxins which, if eaten in excess, can make your dog sick, so we do not recommend using them in your home-prepared dog food.

Grains in Homemade Dog Food

Dogs do not need to eat grains for a complete and balanced diet, nor do they need to eat beans and legumes. Grains and beans aren’t bad for dogs, they just aren’t an essential part of the canine diet. As a filling source of protein, these starchy ingredients can be included in your dog’s meals from time to time, but they should not be main ingredients in the homemade diet you design.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Based on the FDA latest findings of their research of heart diseases as they relate to dog food, I am searching endlessly for a recipe that taken into account their findings. Do you know of any that would support these findings.

  2. Is the following amount of food per day enough to feed a 100 lb dog?

    1/2 of a 15 oz can of jack mackerel
    2 eggs
    2 servings of peas or carrots
    About 3 cups of brown rice
    ground eggshell from one egg
    half slice of whole wheat bread

  3. No. I am a registered nurse, but I do not have formal knowledge regarding animals. However, I have been doing a lot of research into healthy diets for dogs since one of my my dogs was diagnosed with a heart condition. My larger dog is overweight @ 85lbs. Vet recommended 1000kcal per day. I feed twice daily. I looked up kcal for your dog and if normal weight he/she should have around 2000kcal per day. Your diet with peas is around 950kcal and with carrots 919kcal. Also, I recommend that you do some research. Your diet is only 44% animal protein. It should be > then 50%. Fish should be fed about twice a week. I have found that chicken along with 10% organ meat is the most economical. Bread is safe in moderation as a snack not as part of a balance diet. Egg shells need to be ground into powder and, I could be wrong, but I think your dog may need more then 1 shell. I encourage you to look at other vegetables. Also, the sodium count is very high and you will need other supplements if you choose to feed an all homemade diet. Good luck to you and your dog.

  4. Having used a Holistic Veterinarian from Port Moody, B.C. Canada, she recommends in her recipes at least 600 grams of cooked meat, approximately 150 grams of boiled organ meat like chicken gizzards, cut up a bit after cooked, 300 grams at least of steamed & cut up vegetables, either Romain lettuce or zucchini or Bok Choy. To this recipe add only 1 half cup to one cup of a medium or short white plain rice, rinsed off then cooked. Brown rice is hard for a dog s stomach to break down. Do not use minute rice or Jasmine etc. You can buy a multiple vitamin & mineral powder supplement to add to one meal per day, also a oil, such as Grizzly Jointaid-Hip and Joint for dogs, has Krill oil etc in it. My dog is 85 pounds I add this oil, only one pump to each of her meals, so twice a day, am & supper time. Egg shells washed & dried in low temperature over then grinned to powder can be added to food for calcium. Also raw chicken backs with neck once or twice a week is great with skin on. Bones are soft, give only raw , not frozen!! Not cooked!! Raw turkey necks whole are so nutritious for your dog, do not cut up into pieces. Same with lamb femurs, raw only. Boiled only till cooked, chicken hearts are great in small amounts, not everyday to give to your dog as a treat or add in small amounts to meal. Chicken gizzards are also very good, just boil til cooked & add to meal. I save the broth & add some to dogs meal, she loves it!

  5. I have a diabetic dog who has been very picky about what he eats lately. We usually make his food. He loves peas, carrots, cauliflower,broccoli, chicken,liver,beef, salmon and salmon. He won’t eat canned or dry store bought food anymore.Could you suggest some recipes and Email them to me. Thanks K.McCullah

  6. I started my newly adopted shelter dog on grain-free dog food. Then both the shelter manager and veterinarian told me that grain-free may be a contributing factor to heart disease. So I intend to add whole grains to my dogs diet. What does your latest research show? In this article, you suggest that dogs don’t need grains. Will this article be updated to address this concern?

    • It is too simplistic to say “grain free diets” may contribute to heart disease. They are looking at many factors, including the possibility that it is the presence of certain ingredients, such as legumes, present in many grain free foods, that is causing an interaction such that taurine is either not being produced by the dog’s system or not being absorbed. So just adding grain will not solve the problem, IF there even is a problem. There are several articles in the archives on this site. I’d encourage you to go read them.

  7. We have started using a raw diet for my 60 lb American Pit. He would not eat the commercial dog food anymore. We use 10 lbs ground beef, 18 boiled eggs with shells broken up and 5 cups cooked white rice. To this concoction we put a supplement for dogs called Dynovite which has the homemade dog food recipe on their site for vitamins and minerals. Could you confirm that we are doing the right thing by feeding this raw diet. Thank you in advance. I have a very active dog. And before this he had weekly ear problems. Since this diet, he has not had 1 ear problem and he has no problem devouring this food!

  8. I make food 3 hard boiled eggs: day1cup veggies,rice white or brown-3cups, salmon, tuna or sardines 1/2 cup/ day.
    He was intolerant of chicken, turkey,lamb, and he tolerates a bit of ground beef and beef soup bones.I feed him omega 3, and vitamin supplements. I always add a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil when It’s served.. He eats 3cups twice/ day.

  9. Why do all these articles insist that organ meats are necessary? Because Dalmatians can be urate stone formers most of us don’t feed any high purine foods – and all organ meats are high purine foods. Many of us have fed raw diets with great success for many years without ever adding organ meats. I do feed lots of eggs however.

    • Because they have nutrients not found in muscle meats that your dog needs to be healthy. In the wild animals will eat organ meats before muscle meats for this reason. If you need to avoid them you should purchase a good supplement.

  10. I’m so happy to see the trend towards the more responsible and educated feeding of pets. One key point I need to make specific to this article: I didn’t even get through the entire article before I found errors…..when talking about organs, heart is not considered an organ…..it’s considered muscle meat. Same with necks…they are absolutely not organs but are part of the bone/RMB component of a raw diet. Muscle meats include the obvious, but lung, heart, tongue are also part of the meaty component. Organs are liver, kidney, sweetbreads (Thymus), brain.

    Completely agree that no one recipe fits all (our one Frenchie was extremely uncomfortable and gassy when given veggies, particularly cauliflower, in the evening, while our other was completely fine with it). Also, rotating and varying the protiens is key…as any one meat-type will have different nutritional balances than another, and serving a variety ensues that all bases are covered.

    We’ve been raw feeding our dogs for 6+ years now using various canine-nutritionist guides and the results have been transformative.

    • My vet said that feeding raw meats is NOT good and she is seeing more and more cases of Salmonella. She said to think of it as if you were going to eat it. Would you eat raw meats? It was first thought that because they ate raw in the Wild it was ok however as she put it out dogs are domesticated and they should never eat raw meats.

  11. How safe is it to feed raw ground beef and raw organ meat from the grocery store to my dog? Is there anything i can do to it to make sure it has nothing in it that can make him sick? I am feeding my dog cooked ground beef 85% with carrots, kale, and rice, but am no hearing that he might need more balance.

  12. I am still feeding my dogs dog food but less because he’s overweight. I want to add fresh fruit and vegetables to it so he seem full. How much should I add. His a Havanese/Beagle mix, weighs 26 lbs.

  13. 4. Can dogs eat avocado?

    Parts of the avocado tree and fruit contain a natural antifungal agent called persin, which is hazardous to dogs when consumed in great enough quantities. Needless to say the pit or seed of an avocado should not be given to a dog; aside from the natural toxins it contains, it can cause intestinal blockages. However, it’s safe for dogs to eat the green, fruit part of an avocado in small amounts.

  14. I give my dogs marrow and soft bone material daily. I have two setters, one 40 the other 50 lbs. I pull the marrow from chicken bones and I also chop up the soft round ends of the bones for them. How much of this marrow and bone material should I give them daily? I would say they are getting about a teaspoon to a tablespoon per day. They also get a teaspoon of powdered eggshells daily.

  15. Been making my dogs homemade food for only 3 weeks. I need recipes that ensure I’m giving them all the things they need.. Please, help..

  16. I give liver mostly, liver l read has mostly all nutrition dogs need also ground turkey. I’m afraid of giving chicken bones because of split ing. Broccoli, coliflower, spinach, yams, berries medaly which has 3 flavors. Skippy and Molly loves loves .

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