Are you tired of feeding your dog processed food? Do you have the time and desire to prepare complete and balanced meals for your furry friend? That's a great idea! Homemade dog food made with natural, high-quality ingredients such as meat and water will not only delight your dog's taste buds but also promote good health.
But be careful: when you cook homemade dog food, it is essential that you are guided by your veterinarian or an expert in animal nutrition. Homemade dog food should consist of 5 ingredients whose aim is to ensure the supply of sufficient energy, 10 essential amino acids, 3 essential fatty acids, 14 vitamins, 7 major minerals and several trace elements. It is not easy to correctly dose the different ingredients to compose a balanced meal.
Only a professional can guide you or offer you suggestions adapted to your particular dog, but our little methodological summary on homemade dog food will give you an idea of how to proceed!
A source of protein: meat or fish
These are the basic ingredients of any homemade dog food. Their function is first and foremost to provide digestible and quality proteins that allow the maintenance and renewal of your dog's organism.
The choice of meat or fish source will depend on the amount of starch (rice/potatoes/sweet potatoes etc.) added to adjust the energy content of the ration to meet your pet's energy needs.
All meats can be given, from chicken fillet to pieces of beef, pork, duck, lamb, rabbit or even guinea fowl, as long as they are introduced gradually to limit digestive upsets.
Is it necessary to cook the meat?
Depending on the quality of the meat, you can give it raw. But if you have doubts about its keeping quality, cook it lightly.
Do the same if your dog is sensitive or has more or less serious digestive problems, to facilitate its digestion and limit any bacterial contamination in a weakened digestive system.
For fish it is a little different: if you feed it only a few times a week or just a little every day, you can give it raw if it has the necessary sanitary quality, and after a good freezing for whole fish (beware of parasites!).
On the other hand, if fish represents the basic diet of your pet, cook it well before serving it to him. Why? Because raw fish contains an enzyme: thiaminase, which limits the absorption of an essential vitamin: vitamin B1 (or thiamine). In the medium to long term and with high doses of raw fish administered every day, there is a risk of deficiency. As heat destroys this enzyme, we will avoid this risk.
Related: Raw Diet For Puppies: Yes Or No?
How to determine the exact amount?
When preparing a ration of homemade dog food, two parameters must be taken into account:
- Your dog's protein requirement, which is determined especially by its size/breed/age/certain physiological factors (sterilization or not) or even its state of health or its level of activity.
- The amount of protein provided by the meat/fish source chosen. Often, fatty pieces of meat or fish provide LESS protein than lean pieces. Therefore, more must be given to meet the animal's protein needs while providing MORE energy: sometimes the ration is too rich... and it doesn't work.
What is the protein-calorie ratio?
The protein-calorie ratio makes it possible to evaluate the nutritional quality of a feed according to the element that provides energy. A quality food that mainly provides energy in the form of protein (and not carbohydrates) has a high protein-calorie ratio (around 100 or even more). The protein-calorie ratio corresponds to the ratio of the amount of protein in the food divided by the amount of calories provided by this food.
A few years ago, certain countries established a list of reference protein-to-calorie ratios for dogs. The minimum ratio required varies based on several animal-specific criteria.
Thus, if your dog weighs less than 22 pounds, its minimum protein-calorie ratio is 55, but if it is sterilized or not very active, it becomes 69. If it weighs more than 55 pounds: its basic protein-calorie ratio is 65 and 60 if it weighs between 22 and 55 pounds.
A source of vegetables
Vegetables in homemade dog food are the second main ingredient, as 5 to 10% of the dog's energy requirements must be provided in the form of vegetables. But these contributions can vary from 3% to more than 15% if necessary in certain situations.
Its main function is to provide useful fibers for the proper functioning of the digestive system by providing scarce or almost indigestible elements, as well as prebiotics. They also provide vitamins and even some antioxidants beneficial to your dog's health. The amount of vegetables to be provided depends on your dog's energy needs and his age, digestive capacity, appetite, daily physical activity, ideal weight, whether he is neutered or not, etc.
What kind of vegetables?
In homemade dog food we will opt for vegetables that are easy to obtain and digest well, such as very well cooked green beans (or simply drained if they are canned), well cooked carrots in chunks or even zucchini. You can also buy canned or frozen vegetables to make it easier. You can give a lot of vegetables to your furry without any problem. But for easier digestion, it is best to serve them well cooked or pureed.
- Cabbages and other vegetables of the same family should be given in moderation, as well as legumes (peas, lentils, etc.), otherwise they could cause digestive disorders.
- You can give him some tomato, but once again, you should cook it well and if possible without skin, which can irritate the digestive system.
- Leek is allowed from time to time, but being a very fibrous vegetable, it should not become the main vegetable in homemade dog food.
- Be careful with spinach, especially for dogs with delicate urinary system, as it is rich in oxalic acid. So we will give them in small quantities.
- In the case of a diabetes type pathology, sweet vegetables such as carrots or beets should be avoided.
- NEVER add avocado or macadamia nuts to homemade dog food: they are toxic for your pets.
A source of oil
Oil is the third ingredient needed when preparing a balanced homemade dog food. The main function of oil is to provide essential fatty acids from the omega-6 and omega-3 family. Meat contains some omega 6, but too little for the dog's needs. It is therefore necessary to supplement it. Thanks to oil, we can provide between 5 and 20% (most of the time around 10%) of the dog's energy needs.
It will not surprise you if we say that oil is a fatty product by nature and therefore very rich in energy. Whatever oil you choose for your homemade dog food, on average it will provide 9 kcal per gram, which makes life much easier when it comes to dosing! It is best to choose an oil rich in these two essential fatty acids: omega 6 and omega 3 with an optimal concentration between the two, if possible with a ratio between 1 and 5.
Which oil to give?
- Canola oil has an omega 6/omega 3 ratio of 2. Easy to obtain, it has a low odor and is therefore readily accepted by finicky dogs (and even cats!).
- Walnut oil can also be used in homemade dog food with a W6/W3 ratio of 4. However, it has a much stronger odor that may deter your pooch more easily.
- Isio 4 is a blend of several vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and grapeseed) often acclaimed, with its omega 6/omega 3 ratio of 4: it is perfectly suitable for homemade dog food.
- Giving a little fish oil a few times a week (salmon, herring, sardine, etc.) is always beneficial for any dog, by providing its omega 3 ratios in the form of EPA and DHA, which are not found in vegetable oils.
- Olive oil tastes very good (cats often like it very much), but it contains too few essential fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3) for homemade dog food. Since it is not very useful, it is not recommended. Likewise, sunflower oil and grapeseed oil are first and foremost extremely rich in omega 6 and almost nothing in omega 3. Therefore, we should avoid using them in homemade dog food.
Some recommendations on oils
To choose a quality oil when preparing homemade dog food, in addition to the composition and origin of the raw materials, the type of packaging should be taken into account. Opt for dark bottles and/or those that do not allow light to pass through, as well as small formats, which you will be able to consume quickly once opened.
- Never heat your oil!
- Be careful if you ever notice a change in color/odor (for vegetable oils, especially rapeseed oil: if it smells fishy, bad sign) or if your pet "accidentally" no longer wants it or it suddenly triggers digestive disorders (loose stools, diarrhea, gas, etc.). If you notice these signs, change the oil! It is quite possible that it has oxidized.
We also strongly recommend that you avoid bottles or other systems with a pump: this pump forces air directly into the product after each pressing, which oxidizes and deteriorates the oil very quickly.
A source of carbohydrates (starches)
The main purpose of the starch source (rice, oat flakes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.) is to supplement the homemade dog food with energy and limit the cost of your homemade dishes. It can also help regulate digestive transit if necessary for sensitive dogs.
It is quite possible to make homemade dog food without a starch source, therefore composed of meat/vegetables/an oil and a vitamin and mineral supplement. But the amount of meat to be provided to supplement your dog's energy needs will be higher, as will the amount of vitamin and mineral supplement (to adjust the mineral intake and calcium/phosphorus ratio of his ration, which should ideally be between 1 and 1.5). Therefore, the cost of the final ration will be even higher. That's all.
Although the dog often processes starch very well, well transformed and in small quantities, in homemade dog food we will always give preference to meat rather than starches. These, given in too large a quantity, can be the origin of many disorders, especially digestive ones.
From the choice of starch sources to the preparation: a few tips to prepare a good homemade food for dogs
- Starch sources (or starches) should be given very well cooked, processed or gelatinized to make them as digestible as possible for your dog. Rice or pasta looks like a paste? Better! Mashed sweet potato is so cooked and broken down that it makes you sick? That's exactly what we want!
- Never take for granted a homemade dog food that contains more starch than meat, it will never be the best or most suitable. Your dog is not a chicken ^^.
- There is no need to rinse rice porridge or pasta after boiling. However, you can drain them. Cooking water is not a problem. Erroneously it is often "said" that rice causes constipation. This is false. Well cooked rice is very digestible, it also contains very little fiber and therefore stimulates little digestive transit. The water in the rice instead can help to slow down the transit (but not the rice ^^).
- To save time, do not hesitate to use it as a source of starch in a mashed potato powder or rice/oats/millet flakes. They will be ready much faster.
- You can give your dog part of the rice ration in the form of brown rice, especially to provide fiber if he refuses to eat vegetables. But the amount of brown rice should never represent more than half of the rice. It is better to make 50% white rice/50% brown rice. We should avoid giving only brown rice, because the rice bran it contains is quite irritating to the intestine.
- If you give mashed potatoes, you can leave the potato skins on to provide a little fiber, as long as you wash them well. On the other hand, all green potatoes should be excluded! Even cooked, they can cause solanine poisoning to your dog.
Which supplement to choose?
This is the key ingredient in homemade dog food. On its own, it provides more than 50% of the macro and micronutrients essential for your dog. However, it is often forgotten or even neglected. Vitamin and mineral supplementation is vital to maintaining your pet's health. Meat/fish/fish/vegetables/oil and starch source are in fact very poor in calcium and lack certain vital minerals and vitamins or are present in too small quantities, such as iodine, zinc, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, vitamin A, vitamin K, B vitamins, etc. Therefore, it takes a product designed to provide everything you need in sufficient quantities.