This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.
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Imagine if you had to eat the same food every day of your life. Beyond being painfully dull, wouldn’t you question whether you’re getting a nutritionally complete and balanced diet? Welcome to a dog’s life. Long ago, before commercially produced dog food, dogs ate many of the same foods as humans. There’s a reason our dogs beg for our food — they’re meant to eat a variety. We’ve cooked up some tips on how to make dog food, nutrition guidelines, and our favorite homemade dog food recipes.
Homemade dog food can benefit your canine companion in several ways — especially if you have a pet who suffers from allergies, skin problems, or gastrointestinal sensitivity.
Highly-processed foods also lose nutritional value, whereas making dog food from scratch maintains more vital nutrients during the cooking process. With fresh food, you know exactly what your dog is getting versus reading the label and being confused by all the additives and preservatives.
Complete Nutrition From A Veterinarian
That said, homemade dog foods can require a significant amount of time and effort to get right. Homemade dog food needs to contain nutrients dogs need to be healthy. But those nutrients should be right amounts so as not to get too much or too little of any nutrient. A veterinary nutritionist has specialized training to help pet parents like yourself make nutritionally balanced meals for your dog. The recipes in this article have all been reviewed by our veterinary consultant with this goal in mind.
It’s a good idea to have the recipes in this article handy in case you run out of dog food. Treat your dog like any of your other family members by preparing nutritious food from trusted ingredients.
Like humans, every dog is different, so this is not a one-pup-fits-all rule. Serving size, your dog’s weight, health conditions, size, and activity level are all factors you should consider when determining what’s suitable for your dog.
However, in general, dogs need six basic nutrients to maintain a healthy, balanced diet: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. A mix of these nutrients provides energy for your dog’s body to metabolize and grow.
To ensure your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs, you may want to add a fully balanced nutrition blend, like one of these blends from Just Food For Dogs. And in addition to meals, you may also want to add a multivitamin like Zesty Paws Multivitamin Chews to ensure your pup gets the recommended balance of vitamins and minerals.
Check with your vet before adding any type of supplement to your dog’s diet because over-supplementation of vitamins and minerals can sometimes have serious health consequences in dogs.
Here are the benefits of the necessary nutrients and why it’s essential your pup has adequate amounts of each (listed in order of priority).
- Protein (chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish, and cooked eggs) – Helps with the growth and maintenance of cells, tissues, organs, antibodies, hormones, and enzymes.
- Fat (from oil and meat) – Assists with absorbing specific vitamins, protects and insulates internal organs, and promotes good skin and hair growth.
- Carbohydrates (rice, corn, and beans) – Keeps intestines healthy and supplies glucose to critical organs, including the brain.
- Minerals, including calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, etc. – Give dogs structurally sound bones and teeth, among other benefits.
- Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K – Promotes eye and skin health, immunity, and more.
Water accounts for 60-70% of a dog’s body weight, so it’s critical that your dog stays hydrated and eats a well-balanced diet. Dehydration can lead to some health issues, so give your dog access to plenty of clean, fresh drinking water throughout the day.
Before embarking on a homemade meal plan, consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s diet sufficiently meets all of his nutritional needs.
Low-Calorie Dog Food Recipes
The recipes listed below are low in calories but should be consumed in moderation (serving sides similar to what they currently eat). Work with your vet to ensure that the amount you feed matches your dog’s daily caloric needs.
In the age of UberEats, DoorDash, and having just about anything you wish delivered, you also have the option to buy fresh, natural dog food for doorstep delivery. It can be a huge time-saver and may be worth the cost after adding all the ingredients you’ll need to buy to cook a recipe.
The Farmer’s Dog ships frozen, allowing you to keep it on hand or serve it daily as a regular meal. This food is made with fresh, healthy, and easy-to-pronounce human-grade ingredients. And you can spend your time on more important things, like belly rubs and walks.
To jump to a recipe you’re interested in, click on the link below. We also have some yummy organic dog treat recipes and treats made with Thanksgiving leftovers. You may wish to have a collection of pet food recipes on-hand at all times, making a cookbook an excellent choice. Dinner PAWsible is one of our favorites.
- CBD-Infused Treats
- Beef Stew, Doggie Style
- Turkey, Rice, and Veggie Mix
- Easy Slow Cooker Beef & Rice Meal
- Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
- Grain-Free Chicken Jerky Strips
- Frozen Banana Treats
Note: The recipes below do not include serving size because portion sizes will vary depending on breed, weight, activity level, age, and the health of your dog. A recommendation is to feed your dog a comparable amount of ounces/cups to what you would usually feed in kibble BUT check with your vet to be certain.
You can purchase already-made CBD dog treats, but if you want to take a whack at making your own, here’s a recipe. Be sure to tell your vet that you’re adding CBD to your dog’s diet. Check with the manufacturer’s dosing guidelines of the CBD product you plan on giving your dog to verify you’re giving the proper amount.
- 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 Tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 apple, cored and grated
- 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/3 cup olive or coconut oil
- 1/2 cup water
- dash of sea salt
- 120 mg CBD oil
Total: Makes 24 treats
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a dog cookie baking tray with coconut oil.
- Core and grate the apples, then peel and grate the carrots.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the gluten-free flour, oats, and coconut sugar. In another medium-sized bowl, beat the egg. Then, add coconut oil, water, and grated apples and carrots.
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients bowl; mix thoroughly. Finally, add CBD oil and mix once more.
- Using a Tbsp measuring spoon, portion the dog biscuits and press them into the dog treat baking pan.
- Bake for 32-37 minutes or until the biscuits are firm and golden-brown on the outside.
- Store in an air-tight container.
Recipe from: Truth Theory
This recipe is loaded with iron from fresh protein and can be stored in your fridge for most of the week (or frozen and heated up later).
- 1 pound of beef stew meat
- 1 small sweet potato
- 1/2 cup of carrots, diced
- 1/2 cup of green beans, diced
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
Total: Makes approx. 4 cups (32 fluid ounces)
Nutritional Info (per 1 cup serving):
- Calories: 301
- Protein: 36.7 g
- Fat: 8.4 g
- Carbs: 17.4 g
- Minerals & Vitamins: Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium
- Cook the sweet potato in a microwave for 5 to 8 minutes until firm but tender. Set aside.
- Slice the beef into small chunks about the size of a nickel.
- Cook the beef stew pieces in a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until well-done.
- Remove the beef chunks from the pan, reserving the drippings.
- Dice the sweet potato.
- Heat the drippings over medium-low heat. Slowly add flour and water into the drippings while whisking to create a thick gravy.
- Add the meat, sweet potato, carrots, and green beans into the gravy and stir to coat.
- Cook until the carrots are tender — about 10 minutes.
- Let it cool and serve.
- Store remaining stew in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Recipe from: Money Crashers
This is an excellent, low-calorie, and low-fat recipe for pooches who may need to keep the pounds off. With a good balance of lean animal protein, healthy carbs, and veggies, it yields 12 cups of dog food and can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- 6 cups water
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 2 cups uncooked brown rice
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 (16 ounces) package of frozen broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower
Total: Makes approx. 12 cups (96 fluid ounces)
Nutritional Info (per 1 cup serving):
- Calories: 97
- Protein: 11 g
- Fat: 4.3 g
- Carbs: 4.7 g
- Minerals & Vitamins: Iron, Potassium
- Place the water, ground turkey, rice, and rosemary into a large Dutch oven.
- Stir until the ground turkey is broken up and evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the frozen vegetables and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and cool.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe from: Allrecipes
We love this recipe for its nutritional value, quick prep time (10 minutes), and easy crockpot cooking. It yields 12 cups and, like the beef stew, can be frozen for future feedings.
- 2 ½ pounds of ground beef
- 1 ½ cups uncooked brown rice
- 1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups chopped butternut squash
- 1 ½ cup diced carrots
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 4 cups of water
Total: Makes approx. 12 cups (or 88 fluid ounces)
Nutritional Info (per 1 cup serving):
- Calories: 400
- Protein: 39.1g
- Fat: 7g
- Carbs: 44.2 g
- Minerals & Vitamins: Iron, Potassium, Calcium
- Stir in all ingredients with 4 cups of water in a slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 5 to 6 hours or high heat for 2 to 3 hours.
- Stir as needed and cool to room temperature.
Recipe from: Damn Delicious
Are you looking for a doggie digestive aid? Pumpkin is easy on sour stomachs and can help alleviate your dog’s digestive issues. These homemade dog biscuits are a great way to introduce an all-natural tummy aid into your pup’s diet.
- 1 can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup oats (optional if your dog is on a grain-free diet, sub an extra 1/4 cup grain-free flour)
- 3 cups whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, or gluten-free flour
- 3 tablespoons of peanut butter (make sure it’s xylitol free)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Total: Makes approx. 24 treats
Nutritional Info (per 1 biscuit serving):
- Calories: 27
- Protein: 1.3 g
- Fat: 1.5g
- Carbs: 2.8 g
- Minerals & Vitamins: Vitamin D, Iron
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, and cinnamon.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and peanut butter until combined. Stir wet ingredients into dry.
- Pour a floured surface and roll the dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut out using a cookie cutter.
- The dough will be a little sticky; add a dusting of flour to your hands and the rolling pin to help. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.
- Place on cooling racks and let cool thoroughly. They will harden as they cool.
Recipe from: My Baking Addiction
Don’t trust store-bought rawhides, which often have a ton of additives and preservatives? Homemade chicken jerky strips are a perfect replacement. This grain-free recipe is a much healthier alternative and very easy to make. Store them in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks (if they last that long!).
- 2 to 4 boneless, 3-oz skinless chicken breasts
- Total: Makes approx. 10-20 strips
Nutritional Info (per 1 stick serving):
- Calories: 33
- Protein: 7.8 g
- Fat: >1g
- Carbs: 0 g
- Minerals & Vitamins: Vitamin D, Potassium
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Trim all excess fat off the chicken breasts.
- Cut into 1/8 inch thick strips using a paring knife.
- Bake for 2 hours on a baking sheet until the strips are dry and hard.
- Cool completely before presenting to your pup.
Recipe from: Top Dog Tips
After a long walk in the hot sun, what pooch wouldn’t want a refreshingly cool treat? We love this simple recipe – yogurt, banana, and peanut butter. It’s a frozen smoothie for your dog. Need we say more?
- 4 cups plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (make sure it’s xylitol free)
- 3 ripe bananas, peeled & mashed
Total: Makes approx. 8 1-oz treats
Nutritional Info (per 1 treat serving):
- Calories: 150
- Protein: 8.5 g
- Fat: 3.7 g
- Carbs: 19.5 g
- Minerals & Vitamins: Calcium, Potassium, Iron
- Blend all ingredients into a puree.
- Pour into 4-ounce plastic cups (ice trays or toddler popsicle trays work well).
- Freeze until firm.
- Can keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe from: Dr. Marty
It’s important not to stray from homemade dog food recipes or substitute ingredients as you might for yourself and your family. Dogs have different nutritional needs that require cooking recipes exactly as instructed. Be sure to cook all animal products thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria and cook all grains, beans, and starchy vegetables to make them easier for your pup to digest.
When in doubt, an excellent resource is Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative by Donald R. Strombeck, DVM, Ph.D., a long-time expert in veterinary medicine. First published in 1999, the book is considered by many pet nutritionists to be the Bible of healthy homemade pet nutrition. For even more cooking options, be sure to check out Home Cooking for Your Dog: 75 Holistic Recipes for a Healthier Dog.
We strongly emphasize first discussing your dog’s specific nutritional needs with your vet as every pup is different. And remember that switching your dog’s food to homemade from kibble is a slow process, so patience is key.
Cooking For Canines: Online Help
There’s no shortage of homemade dog food recipes you can find online. We found this fun and informative video series that gives you weekly recipe tutorials, tips, and more. Check it out in case you want to subscribe through YouTube.
You might have heard of a raw diet fad, more commonly known as “BARF” (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). The basic idea is to feed your dog raw meats, grains, and veggies like his canine ancestors ate millions of years ago.
BARF has gained popularity among dog owners in recent years. However, the FDA and significant veterinary organizations advocate strongly against raw food diets for dogs. So, we suggest you speak with your vet before starting down this path. Learn more about the benefits and risks and get a raw dog food recipe to try at home in our raw dog food diets article.
As a dog owner, you’ve likely come across this essential list before, but it’s always good to have it on hand as a reminder, especially if you’re cooking dog food from scratch. The principal toxic foods include:
- Onions and garlic
- Grapes and raisins
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw bread dough
For a more extensive list, check out this article on foods not to feed dog.
Did you know that most pet insurance policies cover accidental injury and poisonings? Find out what else is commonly included in our pet insurance comparison.
If all that sounds like a lot of work, but you want your pup to experience homemade food with the convenience of having it delivered to your doorstep, give The Farmer’s Dog a shot. With The Farmer’s Dog, you can have natural, fresh dog food sent right to your house (we’re big fans and customers ourselves)!
While DIY dog food recipes can be fun to make and a healthy alternative to consuming canned food or kibble, they may still lack all the essential minerals and vitamins needed. In addition to The Farmer’s Dog fresh food, we encourage you to check out these other dog food delivery options that are specially formulated by dog nutritionists and shipped directly to you for your pup to enjoy. Also, visit our reviews of dog food for all types of diets, ages, and health concerns.Tagged With: DIY, Recipes, Reviewed By Dr. Pendergrass, DVM