I Ran Out Of Dog Food: What Can I Feed My Dog?

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Ran Out of Dog Food. What Can I Feed My Dog?One night I was stuck at home alone, without a car, and with two very hungry 70 pound boxers looking at me with those mournful “we haven’t eaten allll day” eyes. I hurried to the pantry only to find we were completely out of dry dog food and canned food!

This got me thinking. In times of desperation, what are the right kinds of foods to feed pups in a pinch? Let’s say you’re out of food and unable to get to the store, out of money, on the road, or worse, impacted by a natural disaster. Dogs still have to eat, right? So what do you do when there’s no dog food to be found?

We talked to Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD., DACVN*, and Associate Professor, Nutrition, with the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. If anyone knows what to whip up for a hungry pup, it’s Dr. Saker.

Packaged Dog Food Is Nutritionally Complete

Before you get cooking for your canine companions, an important note:

Good-quality commercial dog foods are nutritionally complete and balanced to provide the right amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals your dog requires.

The tips and recipes here will help you provide a healthy, dog-friendly meal “in a pinch”. These suggestions and meals, while all perfectly safe and healthy for your dog, are not 100% nutritionally complete and should not be fed for longer than 5-7 days – which should be enough time to get your dog back to their regularly scheduled feeding program.

How To Make Homemade Dog Food From Vet Korinn Saker

Life happens. And if you have a pup, chances are you’ll be stuck without dog food at least once in their lifetime. On those (hopefully rare) occasions, you can hit the pantry and freezer for kitchen staples to make healthy, temporary meals (and avoid starving-puppy eyes).

Essential Dog Food Prep Tips

  1. Offer a balance of lean protein and complex carbohydrates. A day without dog food isn’t an excuse to pig out on people food.
  2. Avoid giving dogs too much fat or sodium, which can trigger vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
  3. Consider your pet’s food allergies or chronic conditions such as renal, liver and heart disease, or pancreatitis which demand special low-fat diets

Dog Food Basics

  • Poultry – cooked, skinless and boneless
  • Beef (such as chop meat or beef cubes) – at least 80% lean and cooked
  • Canned meats and veggies – well-rinsed and drained to remove excess sodium
  • Keep it simple and lay off the salt and spices. Bland is better. You’re preparing food for a dog, not Gordon Ramsay. Your four-legged friend will not fling a frying pan at your head.

Raid Your Pantry For Added NutritionAssorted Colored Pasta Noodles

  • Canned vegetables like corn, beans, peas and carrots – well-rinsed and drained
  • Plain pasta – cooked
  • Plain, cooked rice, couscous or quinoa – avoid the flavored varieties which are loaded with sodium and spices that may upset your dog’s tummy
  • Plain, cooked oatmeal – not the sugary-flavored packets but the plain boring stuff we should all be eating
  • Canned chicken and fish packed in water – well-rinsed and drained
  • Cooked farina
  • High-fiber or multi-grain healthy cereals – avoid cereals with raisins or magically delicious kids cereals
  • Low-sodium vegetable, beef or chicken broth for flavor or to tempt a picky eater
  • Low-sodium, plain tomato sauce (no garlic or onions)
  • Honey – just a bit to tempt a picky eater

Fridge And Freezer Items

  • Cooked eggs (egg whites only for dogs with renal disease, please)
  • Boiled, baked or simply prepared poultry – skinless and boneless. Rotisserie chicken is fine, just remove skin and bones.
  • Cooked beef, at least 80% lean or trimmed of excess fat
  • Mild cheeses such as American or Colby

Fruits And Vegetables Are Great Too

  • Apples and pears – sliced
  • Bananas, peeled
  • Blueberries and strawberries
  • Cooked potatoes (any kind)Bowl of Strawberries
  • Cooked or raw carrots,
  • Cooked beans, peas, broccoli, corn

Foods To Avoid

Definitely avoid these foods and ingredients (check labels and packaging):

  • Breaded, fried, greasy, high-fat, salty and processed foods
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Bacon, cold cuts/deli meats which are high in sodium
  • Anything spicy or prepared in a spicy sauce
  • Milk

What About Just Using Another Dog’s Food?

Is it safe to borrow a cup or two of dog food from your neighbor? For a generally healthy adult dog, a temporary food substitution is fine but…

  • Consider your dog’s allergies or any chronic health conditions being managed by diet.
  • If the other dog is on a higher-fat food, cut the amount you’d normally feed in half and fill up the rest of the bowl with a carbohydrate such as cooked pasta or rice for bulk.

Signs To Watch For

Sudden changes in any pet’s diet can cause gastrointestinal distress.

Watch for:

If they’re not feeling well, switch to a very basic diet of boiled chicken and rice or oatmeal. Learn more about how to switch your dog’s food safely.

Ready To Get Cooking?

Here are a few tasty recipes from Dr. Saker’s canine kitchen. All recipes below will yield enough food for one day and are based on the daily nutritional requirements of a healthy, 40 pound adult dog. Adjust portions for smaller or larger dogs.

Always consult with your vet if you have any questions. Just don’t feed these substitute meals for longer than 1 week.

Chicken & Rice Bowl Recipe

  • 65 grams of cooked, white meat chicken
  • 1 large cooked egg
  • 2 cups of white rice
  • 1 cup high fiber cereal
  • 2-3 teaspoons canola oil which provides essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Serving size: Approx 6 cups (or 48 oz)

Brown RiceBeef & Rice Bowl Recipe

  • 94 grams of ground beef or cubed beef – at least 80% lean or more
  • 2-2.5 cups cooked rice
  • ½ cup of high fiber cereal
  • 2-3 teaspoons canola oil which provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Serving size: Approx 6 cups (or 48 oz)

Sausage Breakfast Recipe

  • 7 ounces sausage – not spicy – sweet sausage
  • 2 large cooked eggs
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 4 slices bread (white, wheat, grain, etc.)
  • 2 cups of chopped cooked potatoes

Serving size: Approx 6 cups (or 56 oz)

Peanut Butter Breakfast Scramble Recipe

  • ¾ large egg cooked
  • 4 cooked egg whites
  • 2.5 ounces peanut butter
  • 6 slices bread
  • 3 cups vegetables

Serving size: Approx 6 cups (or 56 oz)

Get Back To Normal Eating Habits

Remember, no matter how much your dog may dig this culinary adventure, don’t let them get used to it. (No matter how much they compliment your new recipes with kisses and wiggles!) Switch back to their nutritionally complete dog food as soon as you’re able for a happy, healthy pup with a full tummy!

We recommend signing up for a dog food delivery subscription so you’ll have food auto-shipped to your home on a regular basis and never have to worry about adding it to your grocery list. Many of our team members are big fans of the fresh, human-grade food (that is is delicious and balanced).

Special thanks to Dr. Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD., DACVN, for her contributions to this article. Dr. Saker can be contacted at kesaker at ncsu.edu.

*Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition

What have you fed your pup when you’ve run out of dog food?

About The Author:

Nicole Naviglia has been writing since she was 4 years old. Her first story was about her life in a Blue House filled with talking animals. Today, she writes for brands and blogs from home with her two canine assistants, Luna and Enzo. Nicole does all the talking.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Richard Gilmore
May 24, 2020 10:59 am

Last night for his dinner I boiled a cup of brown rice and mixed it with leftover plain hamburger meat with corn rinsed…and for this morning I just boiled some more of the brown rice and plain scrambled eggs I mixed it together eggs and rice is this good?

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 25, 2020 9:35 pm

Yes, this should be a fine substitute as long as there are no seasonings and it is not a long-term substitute for food.

Dee Germano
November 1, 2019 2:36 am

This is the dumbest most ignorant crap ive ever read the vet that suggested this in a pinch is a moron. Im sorry but we have put our pets through too much by our ignorance beginning with commercial dog food . “Balanced” they say BS I say. How on gods green earth can something be balanced and nutritional if it can sit in a bag on a shelf for 10 years. Its sad but most people dont use their heads.

May 29, 2020 11:54 pm
Reply to  Dee Germano

so what do you feed your dogs?

October 21, 2019 8:30 am

Once you have made up one of these recipes, how much do you feed your dog? I have 2 Westie, one is about 20 pounds & 12 years old, the puppy is 15 lbs. at 8 months.

Angela Baker
June 27, 2019 9:18 pm

Your sooo wrong on sooo many things! First of all commercial dry dog food is HORRIBLE for dogs..ALL OF IT..even the expensive kind, look below the ingredient “salt” ANYTHING below that is practically non existent in whatever brand it is. It’s also illegal for them to pretty pics if salmon, chicken, vegetables & fruits but they all do it anyway and scientists have PROVEN the heat process with chemicals they use now to actually make dry food CAUSES CANCER IN DOGS! More dogs than ever are getting Cancers and it’s because of commercial dog food! They’re also legally allowed to put other dead animals found on farm in dog food..dead cats, other dogs, horses, rats and even the word filth was mentioned..yes filth..I know it sounds insane I didnt believe it either til I did the research..so now I make my dogs food…and dont feed them tomato anything..it has a lot of citric acid.

February 8, 2020 6:59 pm
Reply to  Angela Baker

Dang, you really got the whole squad farming.

November 16, 2019 11:00 am
Reply to  Angela Baker

I’d really like to know what you feed them on a daily basis!

Ana Keinonen
August 6, 2019 2:57 pm
Reply to  Angela Baker

Thank you! Please tell me what kind of food do you feed your dogs? I spent lots of money in what is supposed to be “the healthiest organic kind of food veterinary suggested! It’s so expensive and I am getting to a point that I cannot effort to keep on buying it!
I’ll appreciate your opinion in this matter! Just want my best friend/companions to be healthy.
Thank you

November 19, 2019 6:16 am
Reply to  Ana Keinonen

I feed Nomnomnow. Its human grade, lightly cooked & delivered to my house for a very reasonable price. My 11 year old dog has been eating nomnomnow for the past 2 years and I swear she is aging in reverse. She was constantly sick when she used to eat dog food (a very expensive canned food at that) and the vet couldn’t figure out why. Since starting her on fresh human grade food all of her previous issues miraculously disappeared. There are actually quite a few fresh food delivery services available now, but this one is my favorite. The Farmer’s Dog is a close second. And I’m not affiliated with either company. I just want everyone to know dog food is slowly poisoning our dogs and there are much better options. Cooking for your dog is also easy & surprisingly affordable, if you have the time (I don’t). There are lots of dog food recipes available on the net, just Google it.

March 20, 2019 4:57 am

I feed my dogs a fish (salmon) based food to keep their skin healthy. I find with chicken, beef and pork they get itchy. I’ll stick to the fish over hotspots!

September 14, 2018 6:19 pm

I cannot believe that the responsible making of meals for my dog should last a limited amount of time.
Like everything else it has been a learning process and I continue to learn by reading all info such that has been written on line such as yours. I would like to hear from others about this.

August 21, 2018 9:35 pm

How about an alternate addition of pork with chicken and beef

Michelle Schenker
August 22, 2018 1:16 pm
Reply to  Alma

Cooked pork is ok for your dog so long as no seasonings, salt or pepper are added. It is also recommended that your portion size of pork be smaller than for chicken or beef since it is higher in fat which dogs have difficulty digesting.

Estelle Ludwig
June 19, 2018 7:10 am

I have been feeding my puppy people food for the past four year – since she came to me at four months old (lentils brown rice quinoa pumpkin sweet potatoes carrots kale broccoli cauliflower tomatoes green beans brussel sprouts red beans chickpeas apples straw/blue/raspberries banana avocado pineapples tofu ginger garlic peanut butter coconut oil olive oil sardines cod salmon rainbow trout eggs etc etc. I also add Vit b, probiotic and wheat grass…she is healthy vibrant and energetic. I will not feed my dog the commercial tinned food or kibbles! giving your dog people food turns out cheaper in any case.

Natalie lace
April 14, 2019 1:12 am
Reply to  Estelle Ludwig

I feed my dog people food also he is now 9 has no problems his hair and skiin are beautiful dog food is so bad for them

March 31, 2019 12:09 am
Reply to  Estelle Ludwig

Are there any dog foods which can stay out of the fridge for a week and are homemade??

December 17, 2018 11:42 am
Reply to  Estelle Ludwig

Do you feed the dog meat? They are supposed to have meat.

June 11, 2018 10:04 am

Make sure when you feed your dog peanut butter there’s no xylitol in it, it proves deadly for your canine friend!

May 15, 2018 3:55 pm

I can’t believe canola oil is recommended. It’s GMO and highly toxic! Would avoid it at any cost!

May 29, 2018 12:14 pm
Reply to  Marina

Define GMO, because every food you eat is GMO, that corn you eat and think is so called Organic is GMO. It looks nothing like it’s ancestor maize and has been selectively bred thus modifying its Genetic makeup.

May 14, 2018 8:09 pm

thank you so much for this article i been trying to convince my sister for months that she shouldn’t be feeding her dog hots dog or baloney this helped me prove my point

January 24, 2018 3:43 pm

I’m a little confused on the no garlic part. Why? I’ve been giving our rescues & personal pets garlic daily for decades, bc it works great as a supplement to flea prevention meds. Never had issues, and have had multiple vets either approve or suggest it. I am a wildlife rehabber as well, who specializes in neonatal rescues. Most of these are too young for the traditional flea meds, or the meds arent species appropriate. Garlic or a garlic supplement (which are even packaged & sold for pets) are a great alternative, since bathing &tweezing are generally the only option for flea infested wildlife rescues bnder 4 weeks old. I’m genuinly curious why your vet opposes it. Did i miss something, or get outdated info? Thanks!

Kimberly Alt
January 25, 2018 10:03 am
Reply to  Salome

Hi Salome, you are totally right, garlic is a great flea preventative. In this article, we say, “Garlic – While garlic can be okay for dogs in very small amounts (and even beneficial for flea treatment), larger amounts can be risky. Garlic is related to onions which is toxic for dogs so it may be best to just avoid it.” It’s when people give their dog too much garlic where it can get dangerous. It sounds like you are well-informed and the garlic has been beneficial for your dog!

September 9, 2020 7:15 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

Not trying to be difficult, but I did bring this subject up with my vet as a possible natural alternative flea treatment. I was told no, to never ever to give my girls garlic…

Stephanie Huffstutler
September 28, 2016 7:25 pm

I make homemade doggie cake/muffins.
Whole wheat flour
1tsp canola oil for fur
1 cup Cooked while what old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup 0% milk
1 1/2 shredded low fat skim cheese or 1 1/2 of your pups favorite veggies puree it or throw it all in a bowl and turn on the mixer. Spoon into your lightly oiled pan or muffins cups and add water if it gets too thick. Cook 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. And serve can be frozen. Ingredients have been approved by my vet. My dogs have allergies.

January 16, 2017 8:10 pm

How much whole wheat flour did you use?

February 20, 2020 9:28 pm
Reply to  Whitney

I still didn’t see how much flour goes in the recipe. Thanks.

Sadie Cornelius
September 29, 2016 10:34 am

Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

September 6, 2016 10:16 am

This happened this morning to me… woke up, out of food and no time to run to the store. She’s not really big, a little under 50 pounds and usually eats a cup of food in the morning and a cup in the evening. I tore up a whole wheat bagel and melted some peanut butter and poured it on top and made sure she had plenty of water. She’ll be fine for one meal. Don’t panic!

Sadie Cornelius
September 7, 2016 3:14 pm

Thanks for sharing your tip and glad that solution worked for your pup when you ran out of food!

Fred Hobbs
September 3, 2016 8:34 am

Please be careful and check your peanut butter label before giving some to your dog.

July 22, 2016 4:10 pm

My dog won’t touch any veggies unless I put a pinch of chicken or beef bullion on them. I’m not sure if he like the smell or taste of the bullion.