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Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: November 25, 2018
Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide

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The phrase ‘dog food’ conjures an image of either dry kibble or wet canned food. Even if we find them distasteful, our dogs often lap them up as if it were their last meal. Due to busy schedules and a sometime difficulty to even feed ourselves properly, the convenience of commercial dog food is important. It allows us to get on with our day, but helps our dog to stay fed and maintains health. Commercial dog food is designed to provide a nutritionally complete diet for dog, but the standards for production vary according to the brand. This begs the question, is commercially produced dog food the best for our dogs?

AnimalWised looks into the benefits of homemade food for dogs so that we can ensure we are doing all we can to preserve their health and well-being. We will also provide some recipes for you to start making food for your dog.

You may also be interested in: Forbidden Foods for Guinea Pigs

Homemade dog food basic concepts

Dogs have less taste-buds than humans, but it is believed they can distinguish between sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors. This is supported by the fact that dogs have taste-buds on their larynx. It is believed these exist to protect the airway from harmful chemicals or substances which enter through the mouth[1]. They are also able to establish preferences for certain foods and aversions to others. This is why choosing a commercial brand for your dog can be a trial and error process.

Canines are omnivores, but they do have certain dietary requirements which need to be met. A balanced diet for dogs includes the 10 essential amino acids for dogs which are needed to be digested as dogs cannot synthesize them naturally. Even so-called non-essential amino acids might be needed for “full genetic potential for growth, development, reproduction, lactation, and resistance to metabolic and infectious diseases”[2].

A balanced diet for dogs will include a mixture of both animal and vegetable protein to guarantee the presence of all their required amino acids. If a dog does not receive these nutrients, they will develop health problems such as anemia or a compromised immune system.

Other nutrients are necessary to complete the nutritional profile of a dog's required diet. Whether homemade food or bought from a packet, they will need to include calcium, phosphorous, iron and vitamins to ensure an optimal state of health. As in humans, not every dog will have the exact same nutritional profile. Some may have certain deficiencies, food allergies or other dietary requirements. The diet of each particular dog will need to be adapted to their individual needs. The age and state of health is also important. For example, adolescent dogs and pregnant bitches will require more protein for growth and lactation, respectively.

Although dogs are technically optional omnivores, it is important to stress the importance of animal protein such as meat and fish in their diet. Canine nutrition experts suggest the vast majority of a dog's diet should derive from animal protein, with the remainder divided between vegetables and cereals. While dogs can survive on less animal protein, it is still believed that “high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets elicit lower glycemic responses” in dogs with diabetes and generally promotes better health[3].

Benefits of homemade food for dogs

After reviewing the general considerations we need to make when establishing a healthy diet for dogs, we need to apply them to homemade dog food. Ensuring a nutritionally complete diet for dogs means selecting the right ingredients (and avoiding the wrong ones). The main benefits are a happy and healthy dog, but here are some of the specific advantages of homemade dog food:

  • By selecting the ingredients ourselves, we can ensure we both use quality food and use it in the correct amounts specific to our dogs.
  • We can ensure all the essential amino acids which dogs cannot synthesize are present.
  • A homemade diet for dogs can be natural if we avoid using processed ingredients or those with additives and preservatives. This translates into a general improvement in a dog's well-being as well as helping to avoid health conditions related to eating processed food. While commercial food often adds nutritional supplements, it also contains artificial chemicals. The effects on dogs of these artificial chemicals are poorly studied.
  • By including fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, we offer a dish which is more appetizing to the dog.
  • Homemade food is often easier to digest than store bought produce. This means assimilation of nutrients can happen more efficiently and helps to avoid gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and diarrhea.
  • It allows us to establish a complete menu for our dog, but also has room for variation. This means the dog won't get bored of certain food and has a better quality of life.
  • Cooking homemade food helps to reinforce the psychological bond we have with our companion animals.
Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide - Benefits of homemade food for dogs

balanced diet for dogs by providing homemade food

In order for our animal to receive the benefits of homemade dog food, we need to remember each dog is an individual. We need to consider whether the dog is a puppy, pregnant, lactating, an older dog or if they have a disease. The size of the dog is also a factor as portion control is important. For example, puppies of larger breeds are benefited by food which supports slower growth. Whatever the case, you need to consult your veterinarian before changing a dog's diet. If not, we might end up causing more harm than good.

Here are some other considerations to make when providing a homemade diet for dogs:

  • A mother at time of delivery will need to eat 1.5 times her usual portion of food.
  • Growing animals require more protein and a higher amount of calories than adult dogs. This doesn't necessarily mean adult dogs develop problems from high protein diets, but high calorie food for dogs will likely result in obesity.
  • Puppies up to the age of 6 months require twice as many calories per kg of their weight as adult dogs.
  • Elderly dogs require fewer calories, approximately 30% less than young dogs. Additionally, it can be beneficial to include vitamins E and C as well as the mineral selenium. The later is due to its antioxidant effect.

We will also need to consider the level of physical activity in which our dogs engage. For example, working dogs and water dogs might need to consume higher amounts of fat to provide excess energy. Dogs which lead a more sedentary lifestyle need to control their intake otherwise health problems will develop.

Treats should never exceed 5 to 10% of a dog's recommended daily calories. If you need to provide positive reinforcement, you can use petting, toys and words of encouragement. For healthy dogs, you will need to get to know the animal and understand their fitness requirements, energy levels, activities, etc. Fortunately, getting to know your dog's personality is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of sharing our life with an animal.

Nutritional needs of dogs

In order for our dog to benefit from home-cooked and natural food, we can look at the approximate percentage of nutrients an adult dog needs to be healthy. These are:

  • 26 % proteins
  • 36 % carbohydrates
  • 38 % fats[4]

Of course these percentages are a general guideline and home cooking needs to be adapted to the morphology and lifestyle of the dog. As we said, dogs which perform little exercise will need less fat. In terms of daily portions for our dog, size is probably the best determiner. Some may need to eat only once a day while others may need two or three daily rations. This is because it is not good for a dog to eat too much in one sitting, so food may need to be distributed throughout the day. Clean and fresh water must also be in constant supply.

Healthy food for dogs

For humans, an abundant supply of veggies and low fat food is generally beneficial. For dogs, good quality proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals are what provide the benefits in homemade food for dogs. Here are some of the specific foods to include in your homemade recipes for dogs.

  • Among the animal proteins dogs can eat are beef, chicken, lamb and fish. Vegetables such as corn, soybeans and wheat can also be supplemented.
  • Corn also contains carbohydrates which might be included, as well as wheat, rice or oats. However, dogs need low-carbohydrate diets, so these are introduced more for their fiber content to facilitate intestinal transit. These can include beetroot, chicory, sweet potatoes and bran.
  • Lipids and fats in a dog's diet can be from animal or plant sources.
  • Vitamins and minerals will be present in different percentages in food. Even the same type of food can different according to source and production. Natural supplements of vitamins and minerals in homemade food for dogs can be beneficial for a longer life.
  • Certain veggies, fruit and eggs can also be introduced as supplements, but care needs to be taken.

Knowing what is good for our particular dog is not easy, The best thing to do is go to the veterinarian and have the dog examined for health problems and nutritional deficiencies. You can then discuss what is the best course of action when preparing your homemade dog food.

Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide - Healthy food for dogs

how to make homemade food for dogs

The benefits of making homemade food for dogs can be optimized by using the correct cooking methods. Meat, fish and poultry are recommended to be cooked to avoid the transmission of parasites. The way you cook them is important. If you fry the, you will add a lot of unnecessary oil ad unhealthy fat. If you boil the food, but through away the water, much of the nutrients can be leached and lost. Bones should be removed before cooking as cooked bones become brittle and can provide a serious choking hazard.

Some dog guardians will choose to provide a raw food diet for their dogs. Raw food diets (also known as the BARF diet) have become increasingly popular as they are believed to better mimic their diet in the wild. there is some evidence to support raw and fresh diets for dogs as having some benefit, but there is little to support it being better than cooked food[5]. We have more information if you are interested in the advantages and disadvantages of a raw food diet for dogs.

Dairy food such as milk and cheese contain lactose which the majority of dogs cannot digest well. This may not necessarily be life threatening, but it can result in diarrhea and other problems. There are other foodstuffs which should be avoided as they can cause harm to the dog. Toxic food for dogs includes:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Chocolate
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Raw eggs
  • Avocado
  • Grapes
  • Nuts

You need to be careful with the use of spices or herbs. generally, they are not needed. However, a little olive oil, turmeric, oregano, rosemary and thyme can all provide some benefit. Generally, the dog will not care about the flavor of these foodstuffs.

Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide - how to make homemade food for dogs

Recipes for homemade dog food

When making homemade food for dogs, you will want to strike a balance. While we love our dog dearly, we need to bear in mind that they will not have the same standards as humans. Buying fillet steak every day for your dog will not only be a waste of money, but it won't be as appreciated by your dog as you may think. Cheap cuts of offal are not only cheaper than other types of meat product, but they can also be very beneficial to our dogs.

Most important is to simply get a nutritionally complete diet with the right balance of ingredients. This needs to be combined with the right consideration of their age, weight, health status, etc. knowing the individual needs of a dog means you might need to adapt a recipe specifically for a dog. These recipes might be able to help you get the right balance:

Remember, if your dog is starting to show signs of illness or nutritional deficiency, you will need to take them to the vet. Making homemade food for your dog is not for everyone. It takes dedication and a lot of patience. If you don't have the time, then it is better to provide a high quality commercial feed than provide inadequate homemade food for your dog.

Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide - Recipes for homemade dog food

If you want to read similar articles to Benefits of Homemade Dog Food - Complete Nutrition Guide, we recommend you visit our Homemade diets category.

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