Homemade Food, how to prepare? What are the advantages?

The Pet Owner’s Guide to Preparing Homemade Dog Food

Many pet owners are interested in learning how to prepare homemade meals for their dogs. Creating homemade dog food has its advantages for both you and your pooch. For one, cooking up a proper meal from scratch can cost you less than purchasing good quality commercial dog food.

You can easily add or remove ingredients to adjust the meal according to your dog’s needs, especially if they have specific allergies, dietary restrictions, or health requirements. Incorporating homemade meals into your dog’s regular commercial diet can add in some variety that they will surely enjoy. There is also a special sense of fulfillment experienced by dog owners who successfully feed their dogs their culinary creations.

However, trudging into this territory unprepared and ill-informed can be dangerous. Without the proper knowledge about canine nutrition and food safety, it can be easy to unknowingly include unsafe ingredients in your dog food, or to produce a nutritionally unbalanced meal that may ultimately cause your dog to get sick.

There are many homemade dog food recipes that you can find online, but the best ones to follow are vet approved and specifically tailored for your pooch. That is why while we are ready to give you an introductory overview about homemade dog food, we strongly advise that you consult with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist who will help you formulate the healthiest recipes for your four-legged best friend.

Determining Your Dog’s Nutritional Requirements

Your dog’s energy requirements are measured in Calories (kcal) and are used to assess how much is needed to maintain a healthy weight and carry out daily activities. Each dog’s caloric needs can vary according to many factors, including their age, breed, size, lifestyle, temperament, and environmental temperature. A general way to estimate your dog’s caloric needs is to follow the next steps as explained by the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.

First, calculate your dog’s resting energy requirements or RER. This is the energy they need to carry out normal physiological processes such as digestion, cardiovascular function, and respiration. RER can be computed by multiplying the dog’s body weight in kilograms raised to 0.75 by 70. In other words, RER (kcal/day) = (Body weight in kg)0.75 x 70. The RER that you get can then be plugged into the equations in the table below to give you an estimate of your pet’s daily energy requirement or DER, and thus how much they need to consume in a day, based on their life stage or body condition.

Life stage or body conditionEquation to calculate estimated DER (kcal/day)
0 to 4 months old puppy3.0 x RER
Over 4 months old puppy2.0 x RER
Intact adult1.8 x RER
Neutered adult1.6 x RER
Active, working dogs2.0 – 5.0 x RER
Inactive or obese prone dogs1.2 – 1.4 x RER
For weight loss1.0 x RER for ideal weight
For weight gain1.2 – 1.8 x RER for ideal weight


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The Five Essential Components

In formulating your homemade dog food, five major food components must be met: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

Carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your dog’s diet as they provide energy in the form of glucose to efficiently carry out bodily functions and physical activities. Each gram of carbs is equivalent to 3.5 kcal. Aim for a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 2:1 to 3:1. There are many good carbohydrate sources to choose from that are also fiber-rich and thus support digestive health, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, lentils, legumes, barley, and starchy vegetables such as potations, carrots, and squash.

Avoid cauliflower and broccoli as they can make your dog gassy and give them an upset stomach. Lastly, grains should be included in the diet because veterinarians have associated feeding dogs grain-free diet with a higher risk of getting heart disease known as taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dietary protein is important for muscle function, collagen and hormone production, synthesis of enzymes important for metabolic processes, and for supplying nitrogen that is needed for the synthesis of nonessential amino acids. Like carbs, proteins provide 3.5 kcal per gram. There are 10 essential amino acids that dogs need in their diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.

Good quality protein sources that contain high levels of essential amino acids include organ and muscle meats such as beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and fish, soybeans, and eggs. Adult dogs generally need at least 1 gram of protein per pound body weight, or 2.5 to 5.0 g protein per kg BW0.75 or around 6.5 g protein per 100 kcal.

Dietary fat makes food tastier for your dogs, facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and is also an important source of energy. Fat contributes around 8.5 kcal per gram. Most dogs, especially those that stay mostly indoors, do not need much fat in their diet, with puppies needing 8% fat in their diet and adults having a minimum requirement of 5%.

Giving too much fat can cause your dog to overeat, increasing their chances of becoming obese, and can also cause digestive problems. Dogs need linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acids (omega-3) in their diets, as these are considered essential fatty acids. Good sources of omega-6 fatty acid include the fats from meat sources, egg yolks, and vegetable oils, while omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish oils, canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil.

Vitamins and minerals are also important components in your dog’s diet and are needed for normal body functioning. The list is extensive under these two micronutrients, and while most can be found in various food ingredients, most vitamins are degraded upon cooking. Vets thus recommend giving a complete vitamin-mineral supplement, and to ensure that dogs get enough calcium and phosphorus. Sodium should be given at 25-50 mg/kg body weight per day.

Sample Recipe for an Adult Dog

Skinless chicken breast, roasted4 oz
Potatoes, cooked in skin, diced3 cups
Canola oil1 tbsp
Salt substitute (potassium chloride)½ tsp
Salt, iodized (sodium chloride)¾ tsp
Bone meal powder2 tsp
Multivitamins and mineral tablet for kids1 tablet
Zinc, 100 mg tablet½ tablet

The prepared recipe is equivalent to 611 g, 722 kcal, and 1.18 kcal/g diet.

This vet-recommended limited ingredient dog food recipe is taken from the book Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets, 2nd ed. by Patricia Schenck (2010), which has many more recipe ideas for dogs of different life stages and special conditions. Cooked homemade food is generally safer than raw dog food. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) especially discourages feeding raw animal-source protein because of the risks of bacterial contamination and public health concerns.

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