Your favorite canine companion deserves the best. Dry kibble can get pretty old and boring, and jazzing up your dog’s food is a great way to treat your pup! Food (and cuddles) is a great way to show your dog some extra love, now make it homemade dog food and you’ve gone above and beyond!
It’s quite simple to make homemade dog food or even dog treats! Store-bought dog food provides a well-rounded meal for your pup but doesn’t offer much variability in taste or texture. Doing some home cooking for your pet can provide an exciting and delicious meal, full of varied foods and nutrition.
Perhaps you are exploring the possibility of cooking for your dog because commercial foods aren’t meeting your needs or living up to expectations.
You might be interested in making the switch to homemade food for one of the following reasons:
- Your dog has specific nutritional needs that aren’t being met with store-bought food
- Your dog is extremely picky
- You want to avoid animal products and feed your dog a vegan diet (yes, it’s possible!)
- You don’t have access to high-quality dog food
- You want to treat your pup to something extra tasty!
Follow us through this guide on how to feed your dog homemade dog food and find some great dog food recipes!
Homemade dog food compared to commercial dog food
If we know anything about dogs, it’s that most of them are big fans of food…of nearly any kind. Some crazy dogs even enjoy a nice rummage through the garbage. That considered, it doesn’t mean that your dog is completely satisfied with a bowl full of store-bought dog food. Imagine if you only had a bowl of dry pretzels to eat for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t take walking a mile in your dog’s paw prints to realize that eating dry food for every meal isn’t the bomb diggity. When it comes to dog food, homemade meals can provide the nutrient profile that’s necessary to give your dog a healthy life. A mindfully made dog food recipe can be easy, delicious, and fulfill your pet’s nutritional needs.
See the main difference between homemade dog food and store-bought kibble below:
Homemade dog food:
- Custom made
- Variable textures and tastes
- You know exactly what your dog is eating
Store-bought dog food:
- General contents
- One texture and one taste
- May contain preservatives and additives you aren’t aware of
Pet foods are specifically formulated to include all of your dog’s needs. Dry dog food from the store is a dependable way to keep your dog healthy and homemade dog food can take some work and extra thought. There are some important things to know and consider when it comes to crafting your dog’s meals.
Let’s work through some common questions when it comes to homemade dog food.
Is it cheaper to make your own dog food?
It’s possible to cut down on food costs for your pet when you feed your pup home-cooked meals. Especially if you are making the switch from expensive high-end dog food or lots of pricey canned dog food. You can take your dog’s diet from better to best in this way.
Also, a lot of the ingredients you will use are likely a part of your family’s diet – or at least they should be! Things like broccoli, ground turkey, and sweet potato are easy to acquire and also make a pretty tasty meal for humans!
The price of store-bought dog food varies greatly, and some high-end varieties go for double the cost of others.
On average, commercial dog food will run you about $3-6 a day to feed your dog.
Comparatively, homemade dog food on average will cost about $3-8 for a day of meals.
Naturally, the price of your homemade dog food will increase if you shop for organic ingredients. So, making your pet’s food at home doesn’t come out to be the cheapest option, but it is competitive to moderate to high-end dog food prices.
Is homemade food better for dogs?
Though dogs are our closest domestic companions and have evolved with humans over the centuries, they still have different nutritional needs than us. They are omnivores, meaning that they can eat a varied diet of both meat and plants. Dogs need this variety in their standard meals won’t be able to thrive on just meat alone.
The benefits of homemade dog food:
- It’s fresh and customizable
- It can be great for the picky pup that won’t eat kibble
- It’s a great way to supplement your dog’s diet
- It can add great variety to a meal plan
Homemade dog food can be a great way to provide for your pet with special nutritional needs, get creative in the kitchen, and treat your furry pal to the best. However, it will take a mindful approach to ensure your dog’s nutritional needs are met.
Enough with the appetizers, let’s get to the ground beef of it all: the recipes!
The Main Course
In this section, we’ll discuss the best way to feed your dog with home-cooked foods. However you decide to feed your dog, (supplementing dry kibble, special meals during the year, or a complete overhaul of their diet), there is a right way to go about it.
What is the best homemade food for dogs?
The best food, homemade dog variety, to feed your pet will be the kind that you enjoy making, your dog enjoys eating, and it meets all of their nutritional needs! Unless you’ve got a picky eater (looking at you Shih Tzu owners out there), they’re likely to enjoy anything you make.
So, it’s up to you to decide what and how to feed your dog. You can choose how many homemade meals to feed your dog per day. Most importantly, high quality and fresh ingredients are a must. Here are a few of the feeding options you have to use homemade dog food:
- Give your pet a homemade meal on special occasions like their birthday or holidays
- Make a home-cooked meal for your dog a few times a week
- Feed a homemade meal once a day and commercial food for your dog’s other meal
- Replace every meal with home-cooked food
Just like preparing food for your human pals, it’s important to keep things clean and fresh. You don’t want to risk feeding your dog poor quality ingredients or food that’s gone bad. Make sure your cooking environment is kept tidy by using the following guidelines:
- Always use clean equipment, utensils, and tools
- Keep your dog’s bowl clean in between feedings
- Store any leftovers in sealed containers in the fridge
- If you need to store food for longer than a few days, freeze it
Bottom line, if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t feed it to your dog!
There are some specifics you want to stick to when whipping up pet food in your kitchen. Let’s discuss the necessary components of the perfect homemade dog food combos.
The Perfect Equation
Homemade dog food for your pet needs to contain the right amount of nutrients for your dog. Dogs require lots of protein, fiber, and other nutrients to ensure optimal health and wellness. When you are making homemade pet food for your dog, be sure to include the following elements:
- High protein: meat like ground meat, eggs, fish, tofu, beans, or lentils
- Fat: vegetable or fish oils
- Carbohydrates with fiber: barley, oats, brown rice, whole-grain pasta
- Vitamins and minerals: vegetables or fruits
Protein is a critical component in a dog’s diet. Dogs require a much higher protein level than humans do, and this level varies based on the age of the dog.
- Puppies: need 20-25% of their calories to come from protein (about 29% of their body weight)
- Adult dogs: need 18% of their calories to come from protein
Dietary fats are essential for dogs. They help maintain good skin and fur condition and provide power and energy for cognitive functions. Fat is also necessary for a dog to be able to absorb other important nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K!
- Puppies/Nursing mothers: need about 25-50% of their calories to come from fat
- Adult dogs: need 5-20% of their calories to come from fat
Complex carbohydrates are very important in a healthy dog diet. These can come in the form of grains such as rice, quinoa, and starchy veggies. Carbohydrates are essential for energy and healthy digestion and are an especially important part of the diet for pregnant dogs.
How much should I feed my dog?
Now that you know what has to go into your dog’s bowl, time to figure out how much to feed them! Find out how much your dog weighs and follow this rule for deciding the quantity of food they’ll get:
- Puppies: Feed about 1000 calories per 10lbs of body weight per day
- Inactive adult dogs: Feed about 300 calories per 10lbs of body weight per day
- Active adult dogs: Feed about 400 calories per 10lbs of body weight per day
- Senior dogs: Feed about 330 calories per 10lbs of body weight per day
As you are making the switch to homemade dog food, carefully observe your dog for stomach issues and weight changes. If your healthy dog seems to be losing weight, you might not be feeding them enough. Likewise, if your healthy dog is starting to get a little chunky, you’re probably overfeeding.
If all these percentages and details are tricky for you to keep track of, visit The Bark to find an easy to use calculator on what your dog needs in a day! Comment name email and other info to get connected to more great details from The Bark.
Keep in mind:
Aside from the nutritional breakdown for each bowl you serve your dog, there are a few common-sense actions you don’t want to overlook.
A few important things to keep in mind when serving fresh food to your dog:
- Cool it down before serving!
- Store leftovers well
If your dog has special needs, like maybe they’re missing a lot of teeth, keep this in mind for the texture of the food you feed them. For tiny dogs, make sure the food size is small enough for their little mouths. You don’t want a little chihuahua struggling with big bites.
Now, onto the good stuff! See the recipes below for some easy homemade dog food!
Dog Food Recipes
There are a lot of dog food recipe resources out there! Visit the Canine Journal to get lots of dog food ideas and information. Enter your dog’s name, email (your email…not your dog’s), and start receiving fun tips on dog care and feeding.
Plenty of choices for ingredients and treats make homemade dog food a fun way to increase your dog’s exposure to tasty vegetables and other goods. Go for fresh ingredients and enjoy the process of cooking!
We’ll cover our favorite easy homemade dog food recipes below.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup of green beans
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup bone broth
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the veggies in 2 tablespoons of oil, then spread onto a baking pan. Roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
To a hot stockpot, add remaining olive oil and ground beef. Cook until brown, then add flour and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in the bone broth, whisking to avoid clumping. Scoop the roasted vegetables into the stockpot and mix it all. Drizzle in some more water or bone broth to achieve the consistency you want. Let it cool and serve it up!
DogFish Sushi Bowls
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked
- 1/2 block of cubed tofu
- 1 cup green beans
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 5 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- Dulse flakes or seaweed sheets
- Sauté up the tofu, green beans, and mushrooms for about 8-10 minutes Serve over rice with nutritional yeast and a hearty sprinkle of Dulles flakes, or torn seaweed sheets.
Barkin’ Stir Fry
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 lbs ground turkey
- 3 cups spinach, chopped
- 2 carrots
- 2 yellow squash
- 1/2 cup peas
Heat oil in a large pan and cook turkey until browned. To a food processor, add the carrots and squash. Pulse until shredded, then toss into the pan with the ground turkey and cook for 5 minutes or so until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Toss the rice in and you are ready to go!
Fruity Scoops – in the instant pot!
- 3lbs ground beef
- 4 cups of frozen vegetables
- 1 cup of frozen fruit
- 1 cup cooked barley or rice
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup broth
- 1 cup of water
Brown meat on the stove. To your instant pot add meat and, fruits and vegetables, and all other ingredients. Cook on high pressure for 7 minutes. Let cool and get to chomping.
Some people like to batch cook bulk meals to last them throughout the week. This is an easy way to have fresh dog food on hand and cut down on cooking time each day. Here are a few ideas to bulk cook ingredients to add to your homemade dog food recipes:
- Cook a huge pot of rice or barley
- Use a dehydrator to preserve fresh veggies like green beans and carrots
- Cut up bananas or apples into small chunks to freeze
- Dice up a bag of sweet potatoes and roast until soft, then store in the fridge
Say you’re on board with feeding your dog a homemade diet, but you don’t have the time to prepare it all. There are still options for you! Some fresh-dog food companies will deliver homemade food to your door. That’s a no-work solution to get some home cooking to your pup. Take a look at the brands below to explore their options:
- The Farmer’s Dog
- Nom Nom Now
- My Ollie
If you like to celebrate holiday throughout the year with festive feasts, don’t leave Fido out! It can be really easy to fill their bowl from the things you’re making for your table, or even make them some dog-specific festive goodies. Just make sure all the ingredients are dog safe!
See the examples below for ideas!
- Halloween: get spooky by adding roasted pumpkin seeds to their dish and cut apple slices to look like tiny ghosts.
- Thanksgiving meal: give your pet some roasted turkey, steamed carrots and peas, mashed potatoes.
- Winter holidays: decorate your dog’s dish with dried cranberries and shredded mint leaves.
- Spring-time: make a dog-friendly carrot cake!
- Valentine’s Day: Stir some beet powder into yogurt for a lovely pink drizzle.
When your dog’s birthday rolls around, throw a little pup party for her and her pals to show off your canine culinary skills! Some fun doggy cake recipes will be a big hit for dogs and owners alike.
There are a few other considerations when you decide to shift to homemade meals. If your pet has a health problem, you’ll certainly want to speak with a pet nutritionist or your veterinarian about any diet changes.
When you decide to go forward with changing up your dog’s diet to include homemade meals, make sure to progress gradually.
As discussed above, dogs have unique nutritional needs. If you decide to feed your dog a diet exclusively of home-cooked meals, you’ll also want to add in some supplements.
Discuss this decision with your vet, to make sure you are providing everything your pup needs in their dinner bowl!
Think about adding the following supplements to your dog’s diet:
- Calcium: one 600mg tablet per 15lbs of dog weight
- Multivitamin chews
Calcium is a very important component of a dog’s diet and one of the most common issues of homemade dog foods is not enough calcium! This important mineral ensures that dogs have good bone density, proper muscle action, can heal their wounds, and the heart functions well. To absorb calcium, dogs must also get adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Though vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin d are essential in a dog’s diet, it’s also important not to give a dog too much. Vitamin toxicity is possible when animals are fed an overload of specific vitamins and it can happen by accident. This is why it’s important to plan your homemade dog food well.
Some delicious additions you can add to your dog’s bowl can enhance the flavor and the nutrition in one go. Consider beefing up your pet’s meal with the following bonus ingredients:
- Bone broth: provides a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.
- Peanut butter: a good treat to provide fat and protein
- Coconut oil: a nice treat containing a good amount of medium-chain fatty acids. It also makes a great conditioner when applied directly onto your dog’s fur!
- Rosemary: a tasty herb and also good at extending the freshness of food
- Kelp: get that fishy taste without harming a fish.
- Eggshells: this one might surprise you, but eggshells are a great source of calcium for dogs! One egg a day is plenty.
Homemade treats are a great way to keep healthy options on hand for dogs. See below for some fun recipes that Fido will certainly love:
Sweet Potato Crispies
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Slice sweet potatoes very thin (a mandolin is helpful here!). Toss in coconut oil. In a food processor, pulse the cinnamon and rosemary until fine. Sprinkle the spices on the potato slices and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for 3 hours until dried and crispy. Store in the fridge for easy treats!
Spiced Squash Snackies
- 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 1.2 cup canned squash
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Vegetable broth as needed – maybe a few tablespoons
Preheat oven to 350degrees. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and drizzle in vegetable oil to create a stiff dough. Roll it out to 1/2” thick and use a fun cookie cutter to create cute shapes. Place onto a cookie sheet and bake about 40min, until brittle. Store in an airtight container for a few days, or fridge or freezer for longer.
Dehydrate or freeze-dry single-ingredient items for a simple minimalist treat option. The following foods work great for this:
- Sweet potato slices
- Banana slices
- Mango cubes
Dogs also enjoy little treats like frozen corn and peas. But be careful, as some dogs are sensitive to frozen foods (even in a tiny amount) and it might cause them tummy upset.
Get fancy with melting carob chips (a chocolate alternative that is dog-safe) to drizzle on top of treats or using dog safe sprinkles – recipe below!
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon beet powder
- 1/4 teaspoon barley grass powder
Divide the coconut shreds evenly into 3 jars Add each powder to a separate jar, close with a lid, and shake it up! You’ll have colorful doggy sprinkles to top your next birthday cake or festive dinner.
There’s a lot of things that dogs can eat, but some toxic foods are dangerous to dogs and should never be added to their meals.
Never feed your dog any of the following foods:
- Raisins or grapes
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw sweet potato
- Lots of garlic (a tiny amount is ok)
- Xylitol: This is found as a sweetener in some sugar-free items. It’s toxic to dogs, so check labels of things like peanut butter to make sure it’s safe.
Now, some other ingredients are ok to feed your dog, but not all pets will tolerate them well. So, if you decide to add any of the below to your dog’s dish, do so with small amounts to make sure they accept them well and don’t get sick.
Use caution when adding these ingredients to your dog’s food:
- Dairy: yogurt and cottage cheese
- Beans: may cause uncomfortable bloating and flatulence
- Soy: may cause tummy issues
The Last Bite
Are you ready to get cooking, yet? After this article, you should be full of culinary inspiration to get roasting and sautéing delicious meals for your dogs. Plan out your homemade meals well and have fun in the process.
You’ve probably already got some ingredients like ground meat and sweet potato in your fridge. So, pick a recipe and grab your apron. It’s time to be the best barkin’ chef in the house!