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How Do I Make Homemade Pet Food? Learn About Ingredients, Cooking Conditions and More

Vets break down the key food groups that should comprise a pet’s diet

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If you’re one of the many pet parents who provide homemade meals for their pets, you should know how important it is to ensure your dog is getting all of the required nutrients for optimal health and wellness. There is no right or wrong way to give your pet their ideal diet, especially since every individual animal has different needs and preferences. Also, the pet food industry has progressed to the point where dog food is at an all-time high in terms of functionality and quality, so buying food off the shelf is perfectly safe and healthy. At the same time, some pet parents prefer to make some of their own food at home, and as long as it’s being cooked thoroughly, this is a viable option as well! Here’s what veterinarians want you to know about homemade pet food, how to make it and what ingredients you should include. 

Dogs need specific  nutrients included in homemade pet food 

Veterinarians say dogs need a balanced diet with sufficient protein for muscle maintenance, fats for energy and coat health, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The proteins should be high-quality (chicken, beef or fish), fats should offer essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus are needed for bone and metabolic health. 

There’s a common misconception that all human food is unhealthy for dogs. While this is not true of all human ingredients, dogs do have different specific needs. 

Related: Can Dogs Eat Ginger? Vets on What You Need to Know + Red Flag Foods to Avoid

“Unlike humans, dogs have a higher need for protein relative to their body weight and require specific nutrients like taurine for heart health, which humans do not need to the same extent,” says Dr. Kathryn Dench, Chief Scientific Advisor at Paw Origins

Dogs also need higher levels of vitamin D, which they cannot synthesize as naturally as humans.

What do vets think about homemade pet food? 

Two brown and white Cavalier King Charles dogs eating

The commercial pet food sector is, in a word, massive. Manufacturers are bringing veterinarians and pet nutrition experts on staff to create the best quality and most well-balanced diets to consumers, and the majority of the space is evolving toward the freshest ingredients as well as specialized foods made specifically for a plethora of health and wellness needs. Most vets will vouch for store-bought food as long as it is a trusted brand with proven benefits. 

“Feeding your dog homemade food can be beneficial if done correctly,” says Dr. Dench. “Benefits include complete control over ingredients, the ability to avoid allergens, and the potential for a fresher diet. However, risks include nutrient imbalances, potential contamination, and the time and effort required to prepare balanced meals. In my practice, I’ve observed that dogs on well-planned homemade diets can thrive, but those on poorly balanced homemade diets often suffer from deficiencies or excesses of certain nutrients.”

Grant Little, DVM, Veterinarian Expert at JustAnswer, adds that the decision whether to make homemade pet food really depends on your dog and what, if any, the underlying health concerns are. If you go the homemade route, he suggests working closely with a pet nutritionist so you can be sure your home-cooked meals are safe and effective and that you’re not ultimately doing your pup a disservice. 

Related: Can Dogs Have Blueberries? Vets Weigh In On What ‘People Food’ Is Safe For Dogs

Most manufacturers know which nutrients are required for dog health, so they make sure to include sufficient amounts in their recipes, but it’s also vital to include these elements in any homemade food you feed your dog, or mix your own cooking with store bought food so the two can complement one another and ensure maximum nutrients. 

How to make homemade pet food 

There are some vet-recommended homemade recipes you can try for your dog, but also be sure to avoid using spices, salt or artificial additives when preparing pet food at home. Despite the trend toward raw diets, Dr. Little notes the importance of not trying to provide a raw diet from home. It’s imperative that all meats are fully cooked to prevent bacterial infections, vegetables should be steamed or boiled to make them easily digestible, and bones must be fully removed to prevent choking.

To check off the main food groups, vets recommend boiled lean chicken breast, ground beef or turkey, cooked brown rice, steamed vegetables like carrots, spinach and peas, baked or grilled boneless fish and mashed sweet potatoes. 

Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM, shares his own homemade pet food recipe. He includes a pound of ground turkey; one to two eggs which provide additional amino acids and protein; one cup of sweet potato; one tablespoon of sunflower or coconut oil for additional balanced fat and necessary vitamins; grounded, oven-roasted egg shells for calcium; Omega 3 fatty acid supplement in the form of krill, fish or flax oil. Watch Dr. Jones’ video and get exact serving sizes below!

“Adding supplements like fish oil, a canine multivitamin, or a whole organ topper can help ensure nutrient completeness,” says Dr. Dench. 


For more stories about pet nutrition:

Can Dogs Eat Raw Carrots? Vets Reveal the Fruits and Veggies That Are Good for Pups

Can Dogs Eat Yogurt With Fruit? Not Always, Say Vets — Here’s What To Watch Out For

Can Dogs Eat White Chocolate? Vets Reveal What You Need to Know to Keep Pups Safe

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