How to Make Your Own Dog Food

By now, most of us pet owners know store bought pet food is not as healthy for our pets as the companies that make the food would like us to believe. For that reason, more and more people are turning to homemade pet food to keep their dogs or cats happy and well fed. While making your own pet food can be a bit pricy, it can be well worth it to make sure you know what your pets are actually eating. In this article, we’re going to stick to talking about dogs and their every day nutritional needs. Fear not though. We’ve got an article coming up on how to make homemade dog treats, how to make cat food and how to make cat treats. For now, though, let’s start with the pooches.

image source: curvygirlguide.com

image source: curvygirlguide.com

How to Make Your Own Dog Food: Ingredients

First and foremost, let’s talk about what you can’t put in your dog’s dish. Dogs can’t eat everything humans can eat and some of the things you eat could cause serious illness in your dogs so it’s important to be careful. You should not make homemade dog food that includes:

  • Chocolate
  • Dairy products
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Onion
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raisins

Perhaps surprisingly to some, dogs should also not have raw meat. Salmonella and e.coli can have a negative impact on your dog’s health just as it could our own. Any meat you feed your dog should be cooked properly – just like you were cooking it for yourself. Bacon is okay for your dog but only in small doses. In other words, for a treat every now and again bacon can be okay (although consider one of the healthy homemade dog treats we’re going to talk about in a moment) but if given to your dog on a regular basis can cause pancreatitis.

So that that we have talked about what you shouldn’t use to make your own dog food, let’s talk about what you can use. There are lots of options out there. I’m going to give you three easy recipes for making your own dog food in the next section but don’t be afraid to get creative and try out your own recipes. You just need to make sure your dog is getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs to be healthy. Healthy homemade dog food should contain a protein source and a carbohydrate source as well as vitamins and other nutrients that your dog needs as well as a little bit of fat. Some great combinations you could try out include:

  • Beef for protein with potatoes for the carbs
  • Lamb for protein with rice for the carbs
  • Chicken for protein with pasta for the carbs

You could, of course, mix and match, throwing in a few extra healthy for dogs vegetables to get the additional vitamin content you need. It’s also a good idea to learn a few different recipes and rotate them so your dog doesn’t get bored of eating the same thing all the time. This also gives you the chance to figure out what meals your dog enjoys the most and come up with other, similar recipes to keep them happy.

One final note before we get to the recipes. I’m going to bold this bit because it’s important. Make sure you add healthy oils (like fish oil) and ground egg shells to anything meal you make for your dog. Egg shells must be finely ground up. They offer your dog calcium and are an important part of any meal plan you make for your dog. Oils offer the fatty acids your dog needs, making them another important part of any recipe. I didn’t include them in the recipes below because they should automatically be a part of any meal you plan to make for your furry friend.

My girl, De, and her destroyed tennis ball.

My girl, De, and her destroyed tennis ball.

Recipes for Making Your Own Dog Food

As I mentioned above, you can try experimenting with a few different recipes to see what your dog likes best. My dog, De Niro, particularly likes these recipes so I thought I’d share them. I give them to her three days out of every week and use my own recipes the rest of the time.

Recipe 1: Turkey Dinner for Dogs

This is a fairly quick, simple recipe that your dog will love. It’s also a very well rounded recipe that offers most of what your dog needs to be healthy and strong. To make this one, you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 6 cups water
  • chicken hearts and livers (I only use a few)
  • 8 oz. frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots (often available together in 16 oz. bags)
  • table salt (just a small pinch will do)
  • Dutch oven (large)

Step One: Puree your frozen vegetables and place them aside to be used later in the recipe.
Step Two: Toss your turkey, hearts, livers, water and rice into the Dutch oven.
Step Three: Stir the ingredients until the turkey has broken up completely and is spread throughout the mixture.
Step Four: Bring to a boil and then turn the heat back.
Step Five: Allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes.
Step Six: Mix in the frozen veggies and combine well.
Step Seven: Cook for 5 minutes.
Step Eight: Remove from heat and allow the food to cool.
Step Nine: Refrigerate until the food is ready to be used.

Recipe 2: A Little Bit of Everything

This is my girl’s absolute favorite. It’s the only recipe I make to freeze so she knows when dinner time comes and I head to the fridge, she’s in for a treat. There is nothing cuter than my big German Shepard/Doberman mix jumping around excited like she’s still a puppy. With that said, this one does take a little while to make but it’s well worth it. To make this one, you’ll need:

  • 2 chicken leg quarters
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, dried and chopped
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli, chopped and thawed
  • 15 oz. canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • ½ cup fish oil
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • *½ cup celery and cauliflower, steamed and chopped
  • *½ cup peas, steamed
  • large pot
  • large skillet
  • large mixing bowl

*optional

Step One: Puree your spinach, broccoli, beans, carrots, blueberries, celery, cauliflower and peas then set aside to use later.
Step Two: Put your chicken legs in your pot and cover with water. Make sure you add enough water so the legs are covered completely and there is an additional inch of water on top.
Step Three: Bring the legs to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover your pot and allow to simmer for 40 minutes.
Step Four: Remove the legs from the pot, leaving the water in the pot after the 40 minutes of simmering is over. Set them aside.
Step Five: Stir the brown rice into the liquid you cooked the chicken in.
Step Six: Bring the rice and broth to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover the rice and allow it to simmer for roughly 40-50 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Step Seven: By now, the chicken legs should have cooled. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken legs and chop up the meat.  Set the meat in a bowl.
Step Eight: Drain your rice and pour the rice into the bowl with the chicken. Set this bowl aside.
Step Nine: Add your ground beef to a heated skillet. Cook it through. When it’s done, it should be brown and crumbly.  This should take about 7-10 minutes.
Step Ten: Drain your beef of grease. I like to empty it onto a clean paper towel and then pat it with a second paper towel to make sure most of the grease is gone.
Step Eleven: Add the beef to the chicken and rice and mix in all remaining ingredients, making sure everything is combined well.

This recipe makes a large amount of food that can be frozen and thawed overnight in the fridge when needed. Store it in plastic containers but make sure you label and date each container so you know when it was made.

Recipe 3: Meatloaf for your Dog

I absolutely love this recipe and my girl goes crazy for it. It’s fairly easy to make, can be stored and served as needed. To make meatloaf for your dog, you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef
  • 6 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5 carrots, grated
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices plain white bread, pieced
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 4 medium sized potatoes, boiled and cubed
  • fish oil
  • large roasting pan
  • large mixing bowl

Step One: Preheat your over to 350º
Step Two: Add your oil to your roasting pan and set it aside. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan.
Step Three: Mix the ground beef and vegetables together with your tomato paste, eggs, apple, bread, oats and wheat germ in a large mixing bowl. Make sure you’ve finely chopped all of your vegetables to ensure your dog is getting the most out of them. I puree them but that is your call. Cut up a few extra potatoes, carrots and celery for our next step.
Step Four: Divide the mixture into four equal parts. Form each separate part into its own loaf.
Step Five: Place your loaves into the pan you oiled earlier. Add the spare veggies you chopped up in step three around the loaves.
Step Six: Cover your pan and allow your loaves to cook for 80 minutes or until the temperature inside the loaves is 175º. If you’re not using a meat thermometer, just ensure the meat is cooked through all the way.
Step Seven: Leave loaves to cool. When ready to eat, you should only give your dog 1/3 of a loaf.

Making Your Own Pet Food: An Important Warning

A big part of the reason pet owners begin making their own pet food is ensuring the food they give their pet is as healthy as possible. With that said, dietary needs can vary from pet to pet, depending on breed, size and any special health considerations. Before you start feeding your dog or cat homemade food, you should first check with your vet and make sure the diet you have planned will offer your pet what it needs. In addition, it is recommended that you take your pet for checkups with the vet twice a year to make sure the new diet is working out okay. As your pet ages, their dietary needs will probably change and you may have to offer supplements or alter your diet plan to meet those needs. Regular checkups will help ensure you know when and if that’s necessary.