Like most people, you’ve probably considered making your own dog food or, at least, are familiar with the idea that doing so can be much healthier for your dog and not as difficult as many think. Well, we’re here to tell you why there’s no better time than right now to take that first step. As is the case with most life-changing actions, the difficult part is the initial leap. The reward? The life you change may be your beloved dog’s!
1. You probably have the time.
Making freshly prepared food, whether for yourself, your family or your dog, takes time. We understand how busy peoples’ lives can be, so it makes sense that the easy default is to purchase bags or cans of commercially made dog food. But if you’re one of the many people whose schedules have been upended—if not completely undone—by the pandemic, you may now find yourself with more free time to tackle aspirational cooking projects like baking bread or fermenting pickles or, yes, home-cooking your dog’s meals. Plus, you’re probably staying close to home, which allows you to both ease your dog into a new eating regime and observe her output (poop), that critical gauge for digestive health.
2. tools make cooking a breeze.
The variety of readily available kitchen tools (see our full list) and supplies makes canine meal prep easier. With the revolution in home cooking, there are more tech-driven devices and affordable chef-grade tools available now than ever before. Electric pressure cookers, sous vide equipment, food processors and digital scales have joined that old standby, the crockpot, in many kitchens. All of these tools make the job of food preparation easier, more precise and more efficient.
3. It can save you money.
If you’re feeding your dog generic kibble from Costco, it may be hard to beat what you spend on dog food. But if you’ve committed to premium kibble or one of the new freshly made, home-delivered meal solutions, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to lower spending on your dog’s food bill. And if you like to hunt for grocery-store bargains and/or have a vegetable garden, you’ll be surprised at just how much money you’ll be able to save.
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4. It’s better for your dog’s health and wellness.
Is fresh homemade food better for dogs? Well, it’s no secret that most processed pet food suffers from a variety of quality issues. No matter how much a company touts its product, factors inherent in the manufacturing of commercial dog food affect its quality.
Shelf life is a big one. Would you be comfortable feeding your human loved ones packaged food with an 18-month shelf life? Can you imagine what your health would be like if you only ate food from a bag or a can? Probably not very good. It’s the same for your dog. Fresh and lightly cooked is better than processed.
Another problem with commercial pet food is the way it’s made. In order to mass-produce it and meet federal safety requirements, ingredients are cooked at very high temperatures to kill bacteria and pathogens. But because this process neutralizes the ingredients’ natural goodness, including the vitamins and minerals that benefit your dog, manufacturers have to add in supplements to replace what has been lost. And we’ve not even touched upon questionable ingredients, dicey sourcing and profit-driven motives (pentobarbital anyone?). A balanced homemade dog food can be much better for your dog, period.
Big Benefits to Fresh Homemade Dog Food
• It’s more palatable; even the fussiest eaters will appreciate your efforts.
• You have control over what goes into each meal. You can include higher-quality ingredients (especially protein) as well as a greater variety of dog-safe fruits and vegetables.
• No stabilizers are needed, so your dog won’t be consuming synthetic preservatives.
Breaking Down Barriers to Home Cooking for Dogs
For years, veterinarians and certainly dog-food manufacturers have warned us about the dangers of homemade meals. Following are three of those warnings, and the reasons we don’t need to let them stop us from doing better by our dogs.
• Home-cooked meals aren’t nutritionally balanced and complete. We’re told that homemade meals can’t provide our dogs with all they need for good health and expose them to a host of potential nutritional deficiencies. While it’s true that dogs require a particular balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, a proper assessment of your dog’s health and specific nutritional requirements will give you the information you need. Work with a qualified veterinary or animal nutritionist to calculate the essential supplements needed or tap into the expertise reachable online. Fortunately, several all-in-one supplement solutions are now available, including Balance It® and Chef’s Canine Complete, and in Europe, Trovet Balance.
• It takes too much time to prepare their food. While there are many meal-specific recipes, you can achieve cost and time savings by cooking your dog’s food in quantity. A large batch can provide your dog with meals for a week or two, or even a month if you have a small dog. No matter the size of your dog, by cooking in batches and freezing what can’t be eaten in three or four days, you can save both time and money.
• Changing a dog’s diet is hazardous. Veterinarians have long cautioned against changing a dog’s diet, but that idea is evolving. Most dogs can tolerate some variety, or at least subtle variations. Introducing home-cooked components to your dog’s diet as toppers, a small secondary meal, or a combination of fresh food and kibble gives you a way to ease into a home-cooked regime. To keep your dog at her best weight, adjust quantities to account for the calories in the add-ons. Use our Quick Dog Feeding Calculators to figure out how many calories your dog requires.
Is fresh homemade dog food worth it? Cooking our dogs’ meals is one of the most meaningful actions we can take to benefit their health and well-being. Plus, it’s very satisfying. Unlike human family members, our dogs never complain that their food isn’t picture-perfect or that it’s overcooked or too bland. Rather, they appreciate the extra-fresh ingredients, care and love put into each bite!
For more in-depth information on home-cooking for your dog and some nutritionally balanced recipes, check out our articles on the subject.
Here’s a good place to start: Homemade Chicken Vegetable Dog Food Recipe