Dogs have been our faithful companions for thousands of years. We’ve shared our shelter…. our affection…. and our families. And up until recently….we’ve always shared our food.
However, the practice of giving our dogs the food we eat has changed over time.
Today…over 95% of dogs in America…. are fed a commercial dry dog food. …..95% is a big number.
Recently, some pet food companies have started to offer some “balanced” and “nutritious” meal options for our dogs. Mostly though…. we are left to figure out dog nutrition on our own.
Is making a fresh made dog food from scratch for your dog even cost effective?
Fresh made meals? Sounds like a big hassle…doesn’t it?
Well it can be easier than you think. I’ll show you why it’s a great time to move your dog away from that sack of old dry feed. By the end of this article…. you’ll feel confident on how to surprise your pooch…. by introducing her to all-natural homemade food…. that you can add to her dinner.
There are also some fantastic companies….who will make and ship “fresh-made” meals for your dog. These new fresh meal options are not heavily processed doggy dinners. They hold up to strict USDA human food standards but are formulated and cooked (not processed and canned) for dogs. This is a great choice if you don’t have the desire... the time…. or the expertise to do it yourself.
Dogs versus Wolves
Dogs fall under the genus Canis which categorizes them as carnivores – yet most veterinarians and dog nutritionists consider them to be omnivores.
Sure, dogs and wolves are related – but scientists believe that dogs and wolves both evolved from a common ancestor around 9,000 to 34,000 years ago. Over that time they both have evolved immensely. In the wild, wolves show a preference for a carnivorous diet but they also eat vegetation and will eat the contents of their herbivorous preys stomachs. Yummy!
So for our dogs dinner menu…it’s a huge debate: all meat, some meat, or no meat diet.
In that great debate is the point that dogs have carnivores teeth which pushes many folks to believe that an all meal diet is best for dogs. I mean, they do have a mouth full of sharp pointy teeth made for chomping, ripping, cracking, and tearing; not flat teeth like cows for chewing and grinding vegetation.
Why Dogs Love Us and Our Food
Here’s the reality…..
The fact is: dogs live with humans on every continent. Right now, just like thousands of year ago, kept dogs will end up eating the same diet as their human companions.
A person living by the shore will be sharing their fish and shellfish diet with their pet. Vegan pet parents and Cultures with little or no meat will give their dogs a meat-less meal based on the food available.
Another difference between domesticated dogs and wolves is that a dog’s digestive system has evolved (unlike wolves) so they now can digest larger amounts of carbohydrates more easily.
Part of the dogs ability to stick around all these years is their flexibilty to adapt to many types of human diets. I do think though they prefer to have a meat (high protein) based diet – but one that is balanced with carbs and fat.
In America, somewhere down the road of sharing “our” food with dogs – the myth was created that “what we ate” was not healthy for our canine friends.
I guess, that this idea would be true if all you ate was a bunch of highly processed foods with nothing natural in your diet. Sadly, this IS the way many Americans choose to eat. Eating Natural food is essential good health…same for your dog!
Check with your Vet – Dog Diet advice
Please consult with your dog’s veterinarian before you start changing his diet. Especially if there are medical or behavioral issues going on with your pet. There are a lot of mixed messages regarding what foods are healthy for your dog.
Nutrition focused on a dogs health.… is quite different than what humans need. A well-balanced diet for your companion will depend a lot on his health…. breed…. age….size….and digestive quirks. Also some dogs have food allergies.
The big push today in pet supply lines is the focus on “grain free” products. Those are flooding the market. The story from the commercial dog food producers is to imply that these starches are bad for your pet. This is not necessarily true.
What is true is that this is a way to charge far more money for a designer dog food mix. A recent NY Times study in 2018 shows a “grain free” diet in dogs can lead to an increase in heart disease. So once again proper nutrition comes back to a balanced diet.
The key to a healthy diet (for dogs – just like people) requires a “nutritious and well-balanced” menu of fresh foods.
Most pet parents who make homemade food for their pet usually get high scores for fresh and nutritious. But they fall short on being balanced.
Meaning, homemade dog food can lack essential vitamins and minerals your dog needs (like calcium, magnesium, and potassium)
Your Cheat Sheet For Homemade Dog Food
Not everything that is all-natural will be a healthy option for your furry friend.
General health feeding tips you also are probably aware of include: no processed foods, no sugar, no salt or heavy spices, no gum, no caffeine, no alcohol.
I’m sure you already this one… your dog can never have chocolate. Most chocolate toxicity cases though are due to accidents when candy is left unattended. Like at Halloween.
Top fresh things you should never feed to your dog include:
- Grapes (and raisins) – Toxic -These can lead to kidney failure in dogs. Even small amounts can be dangerous.
- Bones – Dogs aren’t wild animals anymore. Bones can splinter and cause injury plus they’re hard to digest. They can break their teeth.
- Macadamia Nuts – Will make your dog ill- don’t give them human treats (like cookies) where nut content may exist.
- Onions – Both cooked and raw forms are bad for your dogs digestive system and can affect red blood cell count.
- Avocados – These contain persin (a natural fungicide formed in the fruit) – Dogs are allergic to it (some people too).
- Milk – Dogs mostly lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose – too much will result in an upset tummy and diarrhea.
A dog’s digestive system is different from ours. So nutritional needs are different as well.
Here’s a baseline for any standard homemade dog food that you can experiment with. Frankly, dog nutritionists can’t agree on the exact ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in a recommended diet.
Here’s a general guide that most veterinarians and nutritionists would agree on for a healthy adult dog.
- Protein 18% – 25% – Commonly made up of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, seafood, some beans, fish meal, and eggs
- Fat 10% – 20% – Most likely from chicken or pork fat, cottonseed oil, flax seed oil, fish oil, soybean oil, etc.
- Carbohydrates 20% – 70% – From brown rice, potatoes and sweet potato, oats, millet, vegetables like peas and carrots.
When you feed your dog a homemade meal…. you must cook the grains, beans, and vegetable first. Dogs have a tough time digesting some vegetables…. and many pet parents really cook them down…. or even puree them when added to their kibble.
Commercial Dog Food
Many commercial dog foods may contain meat by-products, meal, soy, and excessive corn or wheat as fillers. Really, think about it…they are trying to sell you a 12, 18, or 30 lb bag of chow. Many pet food companies….try to include as many of these fillers in their products to tip the scale.
The commercial dog food industry is expected to top $23 billion by 2022.
- Propylene glycol – preservative used in rawhide and dog food. This is also used as a component in antifreeze.
- Dyes – Unnecessary toxic additions added for more “eye appeal” to pet parents.
- Sodium Nitrate – preservative and food coloring….produces nitrosimines (carcinogenic compounds) in your dog’s body.
- BHT, BHA – chemical preservatives shown to cause damage to animals in laboratory testing
- Ethoxyquin – preservative used to prevent spoiling. Not approved for human consumption – USDA lists it as a pesticide.
- Corn Gluten Meal – by-product from starch or corn syrup manufacturing. All nutrition from original corn has been removed.
Make a meal for your Dog
Veterinarians and nutritionist agree that a well balanced, nutrient rich diet of fresh foods is excellent for the health of your dog. If that “well-balanced” is too vague…try a few recipes with just a few ingredients.
For a dog who is already on dry dog food it’s best to slowly introduce any new dietary change. Go slow and if there are medical conditions involved you should consult your vet first.
I start with a simple recipe of a poached chicken (1-cup of broth and meat-limit the skin) and simple cooked brown rice (two cups cooked). You can just do that to begin with.
Then I add a cup of cooked sweet potato or pumpkin.… and maybe some cooked peas or beans. I have my own hens so I also scramble up a few eggs to add to this. This picture to left of a batch I just made two days ago. It’s not very pretty I know, but to them its delish.
If you mix all of this together and give a few tablespoons (to start with) with is current food he’ll act like he’s getting a fantastic treat…because he is!
Start slow– your dog is not used to all this nutrient rich food at once. You can increase the ratio from there. I keep it in the fridge in mason jars and it will last a week or two.
Good luck and share your recipe if you come up with one that your dog friends love!
Feel free to leave comments below we’re always excited to hear your stories and feedback!