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Imagine if you had to eat the same food every meal, every day of your life. Beyond being painfully dull, wouldn’t you question whether you’re getting a nutritionally balanced diet? Welcome to a dog’s life.
Long ago before commercially produced dog food, dogs ate a lot of the same foods as humans. There’s a reason our dogs beg for our food — they’re meant to eat a variety. Table scraps anyone?
We’ve cooked up some tips on how to make dog food, nutrition guidelines and our favorite homemade dog food recipes. We guarantee your pup will benefit from your efforts and could even improve behavioral problems that stem from dietary deficiencies.
Homemade dog food can benefit your canine companion in a number of ways — especially if you have a pet who suffers from allergies, gastrointestinal sensitivity or skin problems.
Highly-processed foods also tend to lose nutritional value, whereas making dog food from scratch maintains more of the 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 included additives and preservatives.
It’s also a good idea to have these recipes handy in case you happen to run out of dog food. Treat your dog as you would any of your other family members by preparing nutritious food from trusted ingredients.
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Just like humans, every dog is different, so this is not meant to be a one-pup-fits-all rule. Serving size, your pup’s weight, health conditions, size and activity level are all factors you should take into consideration when determining what’s right for your dog.
However, in general, there are six basic nutrients required for dogs 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. In addition to normal meals, you may also want to add a multivitamin like Zesty Paws Multivitamin Chews to make sure your pup is getting the recommended balance of vitamins and minerals.
Here are the benefits of the necessary nutrients and why it’s important your pup has adequate amounts of each (listed in order of priority).
- Protein (chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and cooked eggs) – Helps with growth and maintenance of cells, tissues, organs, antibodies, hormones and enzymes.
- Fat (from oil and meat) – Assists with the absorption of certain vitamins (see below), 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. – Gives dogs structurally sound bones and teeth, among other benefits.
- Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K – Promotes weight loss, eye and skin health, immunity and more.
Water accounts for 60-70% of dog’s body weight so it’s critical they stay hydrated in addition to eating a well-balanced diet. Dehydration can lead to a number of health issues so ensure they are drinking enough water throughout the day, too.
Before embarking on a homemade meal plan, consult with your veterinarian to make sure your dog’s diet sufficiently meets all its nutritional needs.
Low-Calorie Dog Food Recipes
A note about calories: all the recipes listed below are better for your dogs than canned dog food or kibble because they are made from natural ingredients with no additives or preservatives. That being said, they are relatively lower in calories as a result but should be consumed in moderation (serving sides similar to what they currently eat).
In the age of UberEats, DoorDash and having just about everything you can think of delivered, we are lucky enough to have the option to purchase fresh, natural dog food that can be shipped to our doorsteps. It can be a huge time-saver and may be worth the cost after you add up the prices of all the ingredients you’ll need to cook a recipe.
Pet Plate ships frozen so you can keep it for when you want to treat your pup or serve it every day as a part of regular meal time. No dog will complain about these tasty meals made with fresh and easy to pronounce human-grade ingredients. And you can spend your time on more important things, like belly rubs and walks!
We’ve written up some of our favorite dog food recipes to share with you. 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 also 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.
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 common 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.
A much healthier alternative to canned dog food, this recipe is loaded with iron from fresh protein and vitamins 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 (or 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 frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower
Total: Makes approx. 12 cups (or 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, its quick prep time (10 minutes) and the easy crockpot cooking. It yields 12, cups and, like the beef stew, can be frozen for future feedings.
- 2 ½ pounds ground beef
- 1 ½ cups uncooked brown rice
- 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups chopped butternut squash
- 1 ½ cups 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 crockpot.
- 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
- 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 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 onto a floured surface and roll dough out to 1/2″ thick. Cut out using 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 2 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 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 pooch.
Recipe from: Top Dog Tips
After a long walk in the hot sun, what pooch wouldn’t want a refreshing treat? We absolutely 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 pooch 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.
No, we’re not implying your new canine culinary skills will cause your pet to throw up. We’re referring to the raw diet fad, more affectionately known as “BARF” (which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). BARF has gained a lot of popularity among dog owners over the last few years. The basic idea is to feed your dog raw meats, grains and veggies just as his canine ancestors ate millions of years ago.
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.
Cooking For Canines: Online Help
There’s no shortage of homemade dog food recipes you can find online. We stumbled upon 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.
Most of all, have fun with your new status as your pup’s chef. We hope we’ve given you some good places to start and tasty recipes for your pooch to appreciate. Even if you’re not a master in the kitchen, homemade dog food sure beats every day of kibble!
What Foods Should Your Dog Never Eat?
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.
Tired Of Cooking?
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 Pet Plate a shot. With PetPlate, 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. So in addition to PetPlate, 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.
Do you have any homemade dog food recipes to recommend?
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