With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart: Homemade Dog Food

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Homemade Dog Food

Yea, I know, it sounds crazy to make homemade dog food!
But I learned, it doesn't take as much effort as I thought.

chicken/oatmeal/carrot/vegetable oil
A few months ago my miniature Schnauzer had his teeth cleaned and needed six extractions.
I thought because of his missing teeth he would not be able to eat dry kibble as before. At Raiders recheck, the vet told me missing teeth would not cause problems for him and indeed, he chews dry kibble without any problem.  During his two week recuperation, however, I did lots or research on making homemade dog food. 

I read many articles on-line and books from the library. Finding lots of strongly held opinions on the topic of pet food, I was thrilled to read
Feed Your Pet Right
The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog or Cat
by Marion Nestle
Malden C. Nesheim
Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, NY 10020
Copyright 2010

Marion Nestle, a human nutrition expert, is the author of three prize-winning books about human food issues, including "What to Eat." Nestle has a doctorate in molecular biology and a master's degree in public nutrition.

Malden C. Nesheim is an animal nutrition expert and co-author of "Nutrition of the Chicken." He is provost emeritus and professor of nutrition emeritus at Cornell University, and he has a doctorate in nutrition and a master's degree in animal nutrition.

Chapter 21, The Home Cooked, was exactly the information I was looking for. The fundamental principles of nutrition: balance, variety and moderation are discussed in providing complete and well-balanced diets for dogs and cats.

I was surprised to learn making Raider's food was not expensive, complicated or all that time consuming. And, he LOVES it!
The most important piece of equipment is a kitchen scale. A food processor and measuring cups and spoons and you are ready to begin.

We have simplified the process by placing a rectangular plastic container on the scale and taring it; then adding the correct amount of cooked grain.  Tare; add the correct amount of cooked protein.  Tare; add the vegetables.  Remove the container from the scale and stir in the fat and supplements.
I smooth the mixture evenly with a spatula and slice into correct number of portions.  If the mixture is a little too crumbly, stir in some water or liquid from cooking the protein.
Cover and refrigerate portions for a day or two of meals; freeze the rest.

For the first few weeks, Raiders entire diet was homemade.  Gradually I added kibble and currently am feeding him half kibble and half homemade.  He has never been happier about his meals!

I had his veterinarian take a look at the formula I have been following and she approved.

The following is a page from Feed Your Pet Right.
I usually triple the quantities, divide into individual portions, refrigerate a two-day amount and freeze the rest.  Then, for each of Raiders three daily meals, I stir together the homemade dog food with equal amounts of dry kibble.

We keep an eye on Raider's weight and adjust portions if needed.
Chart Source: from Chapter 21, page 257 of Feed Your Pet Right, The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat

The above chart is the guide I am using to prepare food for Raider, adjusting the quantities since he weighs less than 40 pounds. 

Cook the ingredients separately and then mix them together.If you have a small dog, you can cut the food into small pieces or give it a spin in a food processor.  Add the vitamin/mineral supplement just before serving.

Because foods contain different nutrients and in different proportions, it is important, just as it is in our human diets, to vary the foods frequently.

And, keep portions in balance, adjusting to your pets caloric needs.  
Chicken thighs, pasta and carrots

Making homemade dog food has been a learning process but I want to share a few notes I've learned along the way.
The photos below were taken when I was making smaller amounts and measuring individually.  By using a larger container and using the tare option on the scale, I don't dirty so many bowls.

Here are some of my notes so far:
Cooked Grains:
1 cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal made with 1 3/4 cups water yields almost 2 cups cooked oatmeal
4-oz cooked oatmeal = 1/2 cup

1 cup rice made with 2 cups water yields about 3 1/2-cups cooked rice
4-oz cooked rice = a little less than 1 cup

Cooked Meats:
1 average-sized chicken leg (baked then skin removed) yields a little over 2-oz
2-oz finely chopped chicken = about 1/2-cup

1 medium scrubbed, unpeeled cooked carrot yields a little less than 1/2 cup cooked carrot or 2.9-oz
1-oz cooked carrot = little less than 1/4 cup cooked carrot or 3 Tbs.
per above guide, Raider needs 1/2-oz vegetable per day, or 1 1/2 Tbs.

The food in the photo above was made from
2-oz (1/2 cup) cooked chicken
4-oz (1/2 cup) cooked oatmeal
1/2-oz cooked carrot
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Dicalcium Phosphate (bone meal) and Potassium Chloride (salt substitute) are important supplements needed in homemade dog food.  I purchased them online.
 ground beef, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and peas
Beef fat skimmed from the liquid drained from the browned ground beef 

People Food that is Dangerous for Pets
Source: ASPCA

You have probably heard that chocolate, grapes and raisins are harmful to dogs, but there are many other people foods that need to be avoided as well.

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine: These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.

Avocado The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins: Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones: Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Onions, Garlic, Chives: These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.

Milk: Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Further reading:


Tori Leslie said...

That little schnauzer is one lucky pup!!

Cattails said...

You are a very good mom to Raider. So glad that he is liking his new food.

Deb said...

He'll be so much healthier for it, Lorraine. I have been cooking for Kane for 13 years. I don't stick to a chart anymore. I just make sure he gets what he needs now. He still likes to steal some dry cat food once in awhile and we let him. Doesn't hurt. He's heading into his 15th year now. Deb

Debby Ray said...

That looks good enough to eat myself...lucky doggie!!

Ann Thompson said...

Raider is a lucky dog to have a mom who cares about him so much.

Lee Ann L. said...

I am wanting to go to homemade food for my cats when my Chessie is gone. I think Gracie would benefit from it due to allergies. (We are currently feeding them Grain free cat foods).

I also think Abby Gail would benefit as she is half wild anyway.

I am glad to hear that it isn't hard to do because it is intimidating to even think about.

Brandi said...

You care so much for your sweet pup! I know Raider is really enjoying his home cooked meals!

Romilda Gareth said...



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