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)
Sign up today!
The Whole Dog Journal’s FREE E-Newsletter
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.
What veggies should you definitely include in your dog's diet? There are plenty of vegetables that are good for dogs.
All types of squash (pumpkin, zucchini, acorn, butternut)
Vegetables and Fruits That Benefit Dogs, But Are Not Essential
Green beans (when they're cooked)
Any edible berry
Any kind of melon
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:
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.