Homemade dog food seems like an unnecessary amount of work, no? But there are actually lots of good reasons to cook your pup’s meals. For one, there’s the benefit of knowing exactly what Winnie is eating. And, in certain cases, it could actually be the money-saving option. For instance, if she requires a special, expensive diet, DIY dog food could wind up costing less than packaged. And also…it’s honestly not that hard! Here are three easy-peasy homemade dog food recipes and everything you need to know before you hit the kitchen.
3 Homemade Dog Food Recipes That Are Easier Than You Think
First, The Foods Your Dog Should Never Eat
If you’re cooking for your dog, you should have a handle on what’s off the table. Foods like chocolate, grapes and raisins, avocado, onions, garlic and anything salty and/or seasoned could make your dog truly ill. ASPCA has a more comprehensive list of foods your dog should not eat, but if you’re unsure, you can always ask your vet.
Another thing to note is how your dog eats food. Can your dog handle chewing a big hunk of celery (which, spoiler alert, they can eat!)? Most dogs will require their food chopped to a size that doesn’t pose a choking hazard.
Second, The Foods Your Dog Can Eat
There are actually lots of yum, nutritious “human” foods your dog can eat in moderation. (Moderation is key. Overfeeding your dog any one ingredient can be harmful.)But foods like turkey, sweet potato, blueberries, strawberries, carrots, oatmeal and so many more are on the menu. Check out the American Kennel Club’s list and be sure to check with your vet before adding any ingredient to your dog’s diet. The American Kennel Club chief veterinary officer warns dog owners “that it is always a good idea to introduce a new food item slowly into a dog’s diet.” If your pup hasn’t had any of these foods before, prepare and add them incrementally to your dog’s current diet to see if she tolerates them. (Oh yeah, and not to pet the dog again but, talk to your vet first!).
Dog Nutrition 101
We wouldn’t let our 16-year-old drive without knowing the rules of the road, and we wouldn’t let you put on that chef’s hat without learning a little bit about your beloved pet’s dietary needs. According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, a dog’s nutrition should include:
Chicken, turkey, pheasant, beef, venison, rabbit, salmon—the amino acids in protein are essential to your dog’s life. And while it is technically possible for canines to get enough protein from vegetarian diets (supplemented with vitamin D), it is not recommended. TLDR: You can be a vegan; your dog should not.
Fat and fatty acid
Fats, which usually come alongside animal protein or oils, provide “the most concentrated source of energy” for dogs, according to the NRC. Fats also contain vital fatty acids (e.g. omega-3, 6), which, among other things, carry fat-soluble vitamins and help keep your pup’s coat and skin healthy. But most importantly, fat makes food taste better!
Yes, your dog can (and should!) eat carbs. As Dr. Katja Lang, DVM, has told us before, “Grains are a digestible source of carbohydrates and can offer important nutrients, such as fiber and essential fatty acids.” A dog with specific allergies or medical conditions might benefit from nixing grains, but this should be at the guidance of your veterinarian, not because you want Winnie to try Whole30.
Dogs need their organic compounds too! A balanced diet should provide all the vitamins—A, D, E, B6, et al.— your pup needs for her metabolic purposes. And excess amounts in the form of supplements can have adverse effects on your dog’s health, so be wary of snake oil ads.
Similar to vitamins, your dog needs inorganic compounds like calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth, as well as magnesium, potassium and sodium for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and cell signaling. Just like vitamins, there is such a thing as overdosing on a specific mineral. If you’re feeding your dog a well-rounded diet, there shouldn’t be a need to supplement with extra vitamins and minerals. (Talk to your vet, duh.)
Of course, things may vary from dog to dog. For example, a 12-pound adult dog has different needs than a 30-pound puppy. Your vet would know best, in this instance.
3 Homemade Dog Food Recipes
Ready to head to the kitchen? We've got three easy recipes that you can cook up along side your own dinner tonight.
1. Ground Turkey + Brown Rice + Baby Spinach + Carrots + Peas + Zucchini
Damn Delicious used the BalanceIT recipe generator, which calculates nutritional needs to cook up this particular concoction. This recipe is 50 percent protein, 25 percent veggies and 25 percent grains. Based on your dog's needs, you can easily adjust the ratios.
2. Salmon + Quinoa + Sweet Potato + Green Beans + Apple
And, just to prove how easy homemade dog food really is, we decided to create our own recipes with some of our favorite ingredients.
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds salmon fillet (boneless)
1 large sweet potato, shredded
2 cups green beans (canned or frozen)
¼ cup apple, cored and chopped
- In a large saucepan, cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add salmon until fully cooked (3 to 4 minutes on each side). Remove from heat, flake apart and double check for and remove any bones.
- Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sweat potatoes. Cook until soft.
- Stir in green beans, apple, flaked salmon and quinoa.
- Let cool completely.
3. Ground Chicken + Pumpkin + Barley + Blueberries + Corn
1 1/2 cups pearled barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds ground chicken
1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 small corn cob (fresh, shucked)
8 oz. canned pumpkin (no salt)
- Boil water in a pot. Add corn for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool before cutting kernels off the cob.
- In a large saucepan, cook barley according to package instructions; set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks.
- Stir in barley, pumpkin, corn and blueberries.
- Let cool completely.