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How To Make Homemade Dog Food? Everything You Need To Know

Homemade dog food refers to meals prepared for dogs using regular, human-grade ingredients at home, as opposed to commercial dog food that is bought pre-packaged. It gives pet owners more control over what’s in their dog’s food, which can be particularly useful if their pet has specific dietary needs or allergies.

However, preparing homemade dog food requires a good understanding of canine nutrition to ensure your dog gets a balanced diet. To maintain health, dogs need a certain balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and specific vitamins and minerals.

What Do I Need To Make Homemade Dog Food?

Here are some basic materials you’ll need to prepare homemade dog food:

Cutting Board and Knife

You’ll need these for chopping vegetables and other ingredients.

EatNeat Kitchen Knife Set with Cutting Board
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Knife Block with Kitchen Knives Set with Chopping Board
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Large Pot or Slow Cooker

Depending on the recipe, you might cook the food on the stovetop in a large pot or a slow cooker.

IMUSA USA Blue 6-Quart Speckled Enamel Stock Pot with Lid
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Crock-Pot 7 Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker
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Stirring Spoon

To mix the ingredients while cooking, you will need stirring spoons.

Gold Espresso Spoons, Stainless Steel
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Mixing Spoon Cocktail Spoon Stainless Steel Bar Long Spoon
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Measuring Cups and Spoons

These will help ensure you’re using the right amounts of each ingredient.

Nesting Measure Cups with Stainless Steel Handle
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TILUCK Stainless Steel Measuring Cups & Spoons Set 
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Non-Stick Pan

To cook or brown certain ingredients before combining with others (for example, to brown the ground beef before combining with vegetables).

Utopia Kitchen Non-stick Frying Pan Set
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OXO Good Grips Pro 10″ Frying Pan Skillet
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Can Opener

If the recipe calls for canned ingredients

KitchenAid Classic Multifunction Can Opener
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Handheld Strong Heavy Duty Can Opener 
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Storage Containers

After you’ve cooked the food, you’ll need a way to store it. You can use fridge-safe containers for food within a few days and freezer-safe containers for the rest.

KEMETHY 40 Pcs Food Storage Containers with Lids
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Rubbermaid 42-Piece Food Storage Containers with Lids
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Remember, it’s essential to thoroughly clean all your utensils and work surfaces before and after preparing the dog food to prevent cross-contamination, especially if you’re working with raw meat. Also, store the dog food at the right temperature to keep it fresh and safe for your dog to eat.

These are the basic materials for most homemade dog food recipes. Depending on your specific recipe, you might need additional tools or appliances. Always read the recipe thoroughly before you start to ensure you have everything you need.

A Step-by-step Guide To Making Homemade Dog Food

Preparing homemade dog food can be a good way to ensure your dog gets a nutritious and balanced diet. However, consulting with your vet or a pet nutrition expert is important to ensure the diet meets your dog’s specific needs. Here’s a basic recipe you can start with:

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup peas, frozen or canned

Instructions

Prepare the Ingredients

Wash and chop the vegetables. Drain and rinse the kidney beans.

Cook the Ground Beef

In a non-stick pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink.

Cook the Rice

In the meantime, cook the rice in another pot according to the package instructions.

Combine the Ingredients

Combine the cooked ground beef, cooked rice, kidney beans, chopped butternut squash, chopped carrots, and peas in a large pot. Add water, if necessary, to cover the ingredients.

Cook the Mixture

Cook the mixture on medium heat until the carrots and squash are tender, about 15 minutes.

Cool Before Serving

Let the food cool down to a safe temperature before serving it to your dog. You can store the leftovers in the refrigerator for about five days or freeze them for up to three months. Be sure to use safe food handling practices to prevent foodborne illness.

To prepare your pet’s food, read our blog on how to make a dog’s food.

Remember, it’s important to consult a vet or a pet nutrition expert before switching your dog to a homemade diet. Dogs have specific nutritional needs; it is difficult to meet them with homemade food without careful planning and supplementation. This recipe is just a basic example and may need to be adjusted based on your dog’s health, age, size, and activity level.

How Long Does It Take To Prepare?

The time it takes to prepare homemade dog food can vary widely based on the recipe and your chosen cooking method. Here’s a rough estimate based on the recipe provided above.

Preparation

About 15 minutes. This includes washing and chopping the vegetables, opening and rinsing the beans, and preparing the ground beef.

Cooking

About 45 minutes. This includes browning the ground beef (about 10 minutes), cooking the rice (about 20-25 minutes, although this could be done simultaneously with the beef), and combining and cooking all the ingredients together (about 15 minutes).

Cooling

It takes about 15-30 minutes. You’ll need to let the food cool down before serving it to your dog to prevent burns.

So, you might need about 1.5 to 2 hours to prepare this meal. But remember that this recipe should make multiple meals for your dog, so you won’t have to do this daily. You can store the leftovers in the refrigerator for about five days or freeze them for up to three months.

Some pet owners prepare large batches of food at once and freeze it in meal-sized portions to save time. That way, depending on your storage space, you only have to go through the cooking process every few weeks or months. Remember to gradually thaw the frozen food in the fridge before serving.

It’s important to note that while making homemade dog food can be time-consuming, many pet owners find it worthwhile to have more control over their dog’s diet and to be able to tailor the food to their pet’s specific needs and preferences.

Other Homemade Dog Food Recipes

Homemade dog food can be a great way to ensure your pet gets quality ingredients. However, ensuring the meals you prepare are nutritionally balanced is essential. Always consult your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist before significantly changing your dog’s diet.

Here are a few balanced homemade dog food recipes:

Chicken and Vegetable Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of chicken (boneless, skinless thighs or breasts)
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup of peas (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup of carrots, diced
  • 4 cups of chicken broth (unsalted)

Instructions

  • Cook the brown rice according to the package instructions and set aside.
  • In a large pot, combine chicken pieces and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.
  • Add sweet potatoes and carrots to the pot. Continue simmering until they are soft.
  • Add peas and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. Once cooled, shred the chicken pieces.
  • Mix the shredded chicken with the rice and stew. Serve in appropriate portions based on your dog’s size.

Beef and Quinoa Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1 cup of green beans (chopped)
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup of carrots (shredded)
  • 3 cups of water or unsalted beef broth

Instructions

  • In a large pot, brown the ground beef.
  • Add water or beef broth to the pot.
  • Stir in quinoa, green beans, broccoli, and carrots.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let it cook until the quinoa is fully done and the vegetables are tender.
  • Allow the mixture to cool before serving.

Fish and Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of fish fillets (salmon, tilapia, or any other non-bony fish)
  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 1 cup of zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa or rice
  • 3 cups of water

Instructions

  • Bring water to a boil in a pot and cook the fish fillets until they’re easily flaked with a fork.
  • Add the pumpkin puree, peas, and zucchini. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the cooked quinoa or rice.
  • Allow the mixture to cool before serving.

Notes

  • Always remove any bones from meat or fish to prevent choking hazards.
  • Avoid foods toxic to dogs, like onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, chocolate, and anything with caffeine.
  • Adjust portion sizes based on your dog’s weight, age, and activity level. Overfeeding can lead to obesity.
  • Introduce new foods gradually to prevent digestive upset.
  • Always ensure your dog has access to fresh water.

Again, it’s important to consult a vet or pet nutritionist to ensure that the homemade meals meet all your dog’s dietary needs. They might recommend adding certain supplements or vitamins to ensure complete nutrition.

Pro Tips

Preparing homemade dog food can be a rewarding experience, but it does require some knowledge and care to ensure your dog’s diet remains balanced and nutritious. Here are some tips:

Consult with a Vet or Pet Nutrition Expert

Before you start, consult a professional to ensure your dog’s nutritional needs are met. They can help you develop or choose a recipe appropriate for your dog’s age, breed, size, and health status.

Use High-Quality Ingredients

Like humans, dogs benefit from high-quality, fresh ingredients. Use lean meats to limit fat intake, and thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables.

Balance the Diet

Dogs need a balanced diet, which includes protein (meat, dairy, eggs), carbohydrates (grains, beans), and fats (meat, oil), along with certain vitamins and minerals.

Safe Food Practices

Handle and prepare the food safely to prevent foodborne illnesses. This includes washing your hands and surfaces regularly, avoiding cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, cooking foods to the correct temperature, and storing them properly.

Use Appropriate Portions

Avoid overfeeding your dog by providing appropriate portions based on weight, age, and activity level.

Introduce New Foods Gradually

When you first start cooking for your dog, introduce new foods gradually to avoid digestive upset. Monitor your dog for any adverse reactions, like allergies.

Avoid Unsafe Foods

Certain foods are dangerous for dogs and should be avoided, including chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and foods sweetened with xylitol.

Prepare in Bulk

You can prepare more food and store it in the fridge or freezer to save time. Divide it into meal-sized portions before storing.

Rotate Recipes

Just like humans, dogs enjoy a variety of foods. Rotating recipes can also help ensure they get a range of nutrients.

Adjust as Needed

Monitor your dog’s health and adjust its diet as needed. If your dog starts gaining or losing weight or seems low on energy, consult your vet. The diet may need to be adjusted.

Remember, homemade diets require much more effort and planning than commercial diets. It’s more complex than feeding your dog what you eat. Dogs have different nutritional needs than humans, so what’s healthy for you might not be healthy for your dog. Always consult a vet or a pet nutrition expert before significantly changing your dog’s diet.

What To Do If The Tips Do Not Work?

If you’re finding it challenging to successfully prepare homemade dog food despite following the tips, or if your dog is not responding well to the homemade food (e.g., showing signs of poor health, digestion issues, loss of appetite), there are several steps you can take:

Consult a Veterinarian or Canine Nutritionist

If you haven’t already, seek professional advice. They can help you figure out what’s going wrong and provide guidance on how to fix it.

Consider Using Pre-Made Dog Food Mixes

Some companies offer pre-made mixes for homemade dog food where you must add meat. These can simplify the process and ensure nutritional balance.

Try Different Recipes

Your dog may just not like the specific recipes you’re trying. Experiment with different types of meat, vegetables, and grains to find a recipe your dog enjoys and tolerates well.

Re-Evaluate Your Dog’s Health

Sometimes, dietary issues can indicate underlying health problems. If your dog has persistent health issues despite your best efforts with their diet, a vet checkup could be in order.

Consider Commercial Dog Food

While homemade dog food can be a great option for some dogs, there are better choices for some dogs. Commercial dog foods are designed to be nutritionally complete and balanced, and many dogs thrive on them. A wide range of options are available, including premium and prescription diets, so you can likely find a commercial food that fits your dog’s needs.

Remember, the goal is to ensure your dog receives a balanced and nutritious diet that suits its needs. Consider other options if you’re having trouble achieving this with homemade food. What’s most important is your dog’s health and well-being.

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