Frequent dog food recalls have resulted in many dog parents switching to home-cooked meals, which they think are healthier and safer. However, the task of creating a complete and balanced diet that is appropriate for your pet’s life stage or health status is not as simple as it may seem. You will need to work with a pet nutritionist or your veterinarian to create the ration or recipe that will meet your pet’s daily nutritional needs adequately.
Dogs have unique needs when it comes to their nutrition. They require essential nutrients (proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals) in specific amounts in order to thrive. These essential nutrients should be incorporated into the dog’s food in proper proportions to ensure that the diet is complete and balanced. Giving homemade pet food just for the sake of avoiding problems associated with commercial pet foods without any regard to the specific dietary needs of your pet can have undesirable consequences down the road. Pet dogs that are not consuming a life stage-appropriate, complete and balanced diet, can eventually develop nutritional deficiencies and medical conditions that can mean expensive veterinary bills and possibly permanent defects.
While the practice of giving homemade pet food is now very common, there are common mistakes shared by pet owners that should best be avoided. Let’s check them out:
Home-cooked dog meals may not be nutritionally balanced
With a dog’s unique requirements for specific essential nutrients, there is a need for each nutrient to be incorporated in certain ratios. Therefore, if you have a puppy and an adult dog, you can’t give them both the same home-cooked meal. You have to formulate a complete and balanced ration for each of your pet because they don’t belong to the same life stage. Puppies have a higher need for protein and calories to meet their body’s needs for growth and development. On the other hand, adult dogs won’t need as many calories as puppies. Dogs are omnivores, which means they will need both plant and animal-based ingredients in their meal. This can be a problem with pet owners who are vegans because they tend to influence their pet’s diet with their dietary choices, and this can have disastrous results down the road.
Ingredients used are deficient in essential nutrients
Dogs need protein from meat, dairy, eggs, or marine life, fat from animal or plant sources, and carbohydrates from grains, fruits, or vegetables. They also have specific requirements for calcium and phosphorus, essential fatty acids, fiber, and micro-nutrients, such as zinc, copper, choline, etc. Dogs that are diagnosed with certain health issues may also need a special diet to meet their needs for specific nutrients.
Adding a multivitamin to cover any gaps
Evaluation of home-prepared diets have shown most of them to be low in some nutrients and adequate or high in others. Multivitamins are not created equally, thus the big question is-- which multivitamin should you use and with which diet? Even throwing in an all-purpose multivitamin formulated especially for dogs is not a guarantee because they vary greatly in the amount and type of nutrients that are included. Also, pet owners should keep in mind that most dog multivitamins are formulated to supplement commercial dog food, which means they are unlikely to provide adequate supplementation to provide what’s lacking in a homemade diet.
Using a lot of fresh veggies
The role of plant-based ingredients in the canine diet has been a juicy topic for discussion. Some experts believe that adding fruits and vegetables is inappropriate because dogs are carnivores. On the other hand, there are those that believe veggies and fruits are excellent sources of essential nutrients as well as phytochemicals that support pet health. Dogs are not like cats who are obligate or true carnivores. The digestive system of dogs has evolved to be more accommodating. But the question is how much and what type of vegetables can you add to your pet’s diet. Knowing which fruits and vegetables should be avoided, which ones are to be used in moderation, and what are well-tolerated by dogs is very important.
Feeding raw diets without observing the necessary precautions
Many pet owners believe that placing their dogs on a raw diet regimen is a way to mimic the dietary habits of the dogs’ wild ancestors as closely as possible. However, there are specific principles that pet owners should follow when feeding raw food diets to dogs. A raw food diet has its benefits but there are drawbacks as well such as illness from bacteria or choke from bone fragments. Also, it may not be suitable for all dogs.
Feeding dogs of all ages a similar diet
This practice can have negative effects down the road because dogs of different ages vary in their nutritional requirements. For example, giant-breed puppies need a special diet that would prevent them from growing too fast as it can affect the growth and development of their bones. Puppies, adults, and senior dogs all differ in their needs for specific nutrients and calories. This is a particularly important reason why it’s not a good idea to feed the same diet to dogs of varying ages. So, before making home-cooked food for your dog, you should consider the age, breed, and size of the dog.
What is the best homemade food for dogs?
The best homemade food is the one that can meet all the nutritional needs of your dog. Every meal has to contain the following ingredients but the ratios differ according to the breed / age of your dog:
- High-quality protein such as meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs
- Fat such as meat or oil
- Carbs such as grains or vegetables
- Calcium source such as dairy
- Essential fatty acids such as egg yolks or oatmeal
Do vets recommend homemade dog food?
Veterinarians may recommend homemade dog food as long as it’s a complete and balanced ration that will meet the dog’s specific needs for specific nutrients and calories. Experts highly recommend consulting a board-certified pet nutritionist or a veterinarian before starting your dog on a home-made diet.
How many cups of homemade food should I feed my dog?
The amount of homemade food that you can give to your dog depends to a large extent on several important factors such as: the type of food, the number of meals per day, body weight, metabolic rate, calorie needs, amount of exercise, and health status.
What is a good filler for homemade dog food?
Vegetables are the best fillers such as broccoli, green beans, spinach, cucumber, kale. You can roast or steam it in chicken or meat broth depending on your dog’s taste.
Can dogs eat scrambled eggs?
Yes, dogs can eat scrambled, or boiled eggs. The point here is that eggs must be cooked, as raw or undercooked eggs can be a source of Salmonella and other harmful bacteria.
What is the healthiest food to feed your dog?
The healthiest food is the well-balanced food that contains all the vitamins, minerals, and elements that your dog needs.
Is it better to cook food for your dog?
If you are able to cook well-balanced meals that will meet all the nutritional needs of your dog, consult your veterinarian before starting!
Can I cook raw frozen dog food?
Of course, cooking is the best method to eliminate the bacteria responsible for most foodborne illnesses which present in raw frozen food.
Is it bad to microwave dog food?
There is a debate around microwaving foods. Some researches said yes, it is bad as microwaving can break the enzymes in the food in addition to losing most of its nutrients. Others said that it is okay to microwave the food with the avoidance of using plastic containers, instead you can use ceramic or glass.
Is cooked or raw meat better for dogs?
Both offer benefits and disadvantages. While meat is an excellent source of protein, cooking may remove some of the nutritional benefits and may affect its digestibility. On the other hand, the practice of feeding raw meat continues to be a public health concern mainly because of the potential contamination with pathogens that can be harmful to both animals and humans. Taking time to learn and understand the specific nutritional needs of dogs on a scientific level and consulting experts (veterinarians, pet nutritionists) can go a long way in determining which is better for your pet dog -- cooked or raw meat.
Do dogs prefer cold or warm food?
Most dogs prefer food that is served at room temperature or slightly above. If homemade pet food has been refrigerated, submerge the container in warm water for several minutes. Heating brings out the flavor and enhances the aroma and palatability of the pet food.
Can dogs eat cooked meat every day?
Yes, if it is not old, moldy, spoiled, raw, or undercooked.