It’s no secret in the health & wellness world that a quick way of transforming your diet is to eat fresh, homemade meals versus junk food or eating out. The reason this has such an impact on health is that low-quality nutrition and ingredients like preservatives and additives in commercial foods are harmful to your health. How many times have you had a bag of chips and felt pretty bloated and bad afterward? The same is true for your pet!
“Think of it as eating the same highly processed food for every meal, day after day, for years,” Joe Bartges, DVM, Ph.D., board-certified veterinary nutritionist and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition says.
Wow, that makes a lot of sense! According to Dr. Bartges there are many reasons why you might want to prepare vet-approved homemade food for your dog.
The simplest way to ensure your dog is eating well is to be confident that they are eating more natural, whole ingredients, and less processed foods. Even if commercial dog food brands advertise fresh meat proteins and high quality ingredients, their production methods mean the end product will not be as healthy as advertised. More dog owners are catching onto this fact, and feeding dogs human-quality food has risen in popularity along with our increased awareness for the benefits of eating clean ourselves.
Healthy, human-quality food has risen in popularity among pet parents who are becoming more aware of the importance of clean, natural food for their pets
If you're considering making a switch to a healthier homemade dog food, it's important to understand how to create nutritionally complete meals.
We've created the ultimate guide for home cooked, additive-free dog food. Keep scrollin' to learn about:
- Making nutritionally complete homemade dog meals
- The benefits of fresh, homemade pet food
- How to find the perfect vet-approved recipe for homemade dog food
- What ingredients to include
- Balancing your homemade dog food recipes with natural supplements
- What ingredients to avoid in homemade recipes
- How much homemade dog food you should feed your pup (bonus: dog food calorie calculator!)
- Making feeding fresh, home cooked food simple & easy
What are the benefits of fresh, homemade dog food?
We touched on this a bit before, but let's consider a more detailed breakdown of why you should consider homemade dog food for your furry friend
Preservative and additive-free
Avoiding ingredients that are potentially harmful to your pet's health
Clean, high-quality ingredients
Having more control over what goes into your pet’s meals means you can also avoid ingredients commonly triggering dog food allergies. Additionally, you're able to make sure you're making natural dog food or organic dog food for your precious pet.
Fresh cooked food is better for weight control since there are typically less high-calorie fillers
Soft shiny skin & coat
High heat processing can destroy natural oils and nutrients in commercial diets that are important for keeping your pup's coat soft and shiny. Gently cooked food, especially if you add natural supplements like Omega-3 fish oil, can keep your dog's coat in tip-top condition!
Many commercial diets contain ingredients such an gums and additives that can put a strain on your pet's digestive system over time. Human foods and homemade diets are easier to digest
You know your pets, you want to know they're eating natural and healthy! 📸 @frillymillytheboxer with mom
Making nutritionally complete homemade dog food
The simplest way to ensure your dog is eating well is to know what they’re eating, and choose high-quality fresh food. But it's also important to provide your dog with all the essential nutrients they need to thrive. Home cooked dog food is not always right for everyone, as it’s critical to understand what nutrients should and shouldn't be included which can take a significant amount of time. If you're ready for the challenge, the first step is to source vet-approved recipes for homemade food that are complete and balanced.
Why pick fresh, homemade dog food? Learn about the differences between kibble, raw food, and fresh pet meals.
How to find the perfect vet-approved recipe for your homemade dog food
It’s very important to understand: 1. How to balance the meals so that your dog is getting it’s essential diet components, and 2. What dogs should and should not eat.
If you’re considering switching your dog to a homemade diet, the best thing that you can do is consult a canine nutritionist or a holistic veterinarian with training in canine nutrition. They will guide you in creating recipes that will offer your dog a 100% nutritionally balanced diet.
Don’t forget that your dog’s nutritional needs are constantly changing. These needs are based on many factors, including age, weight, activity level, and health condition. As these variables change, your dog’s diet will need to change too.
For trusted information, reach out to a vet nutritionist from this list of board-certified vet nutritionists from ACVN. Look for veterinarians specialized in Small/Companion Animal Nutrition.
What should you include in home-cooked dog food?
Any food for your dog needs to include a source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Puppies have a higher requirement for protein in their meals, while 10-20% is sufficient for adult dogs depending on their breed and activity level. However, these compositions can change for your individual pet so it's best to check in with your vet before your embark on your home prepped dog food journey.
If you're making your dog's meals yourself, you have the freedom to purchase the freshest, highest-quality ingredients available. Make sure you weigh your dog frequently to verify he stays a healthy weight. Take your dog to the vet, vet nutritionist, or dog food advisor before starting their new diet so your vet can determine your dog's ideal weight and instruct you accordingly.
Quick Tip: Balanced home cooked food for dogs that is vet-approved needs to include
- Protein (specifically animal protein that comes from only high-quality meat cuts. Organs must be used in careful moderation)
Below is a quick list of superfood fresh ingredients included in all of Kafka's recipes that you can use as a guide to which vegetables and proteins to include in your dog's homemade diet.
- Sweet potatoes - these root veggies are packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants a high-quality carb for keeping your pup regular!
- Raw carrots are great for teeth and gum health as well as eyesight (thanks to those powerful beta-carotenes). Green beans can also be cooked lightly to add a crunch that your dog will love!
- Kale - including a type of fresh greens can help prevent cancer in pups. Kale is nutrient-dense and packs quite a punch in this department.
- Other Veggies - green beans
- Fresh, high-quality meat - Turkey, Lamb, and fish such as Rockfish, Salmon, and Cod are all great low-allergenic protein sources for home-cooked dog food. For ease and convenience, you can use ground beef and ground turkey when making your recipes.
- Source of Omega-3 & 6s - You can consider adding organic coconut oil, safflower/flaxseed oil and small amounts of olive oil to homemade diets
- A Vitamin and Mineral blend - it's important to cover your bases for any missing nutrients in fresh food by including a vitamin premix such as this one. Pro Tip - Ground eggshells are a great source of calcium for your pup
Superfood fresh ingredients can be incorporated into your pup's diet for a balanced, healthy meal
Balancing your homemade dog food with natural supplements
We get this question a lot from pet parents who are looking to make their pet food at home for a number of reasons. Let’s discuss supplements that you should be considering when making homemade food for your pet.
Start right with a nutritionally complete recipe
We always advise starting off homemade dog food from a nutritionally complete recipe as it’s essential your pet’s diet contains everything necessary, just like it’s important to balance our own diet! You can ensure your recipes for homemade dog food are complete by following only those developed by veterinary nutritionists, as they are vet-approved.
Start with a balanced and complete recipe to make sure your pup is getting all their essential nutrients
The best vitamin supplements for homemade dog food
In a 2013 study from the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, 200 homemade dog food recipes were evaluated. The recipes came from 34 different sources, including pet care books, websites, and even veterinary textbooks.
Researchers evaluated the ingredients used in these recipes and the instructions for preparing the food. They found that only 9 of the recipes provided the essential nutrients in adequate concentrations to meet the minimum standards set for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). And of those 9 recipes that met AAFCO minimum standards, only 5 recipes provided the essential nutrients in adequate concentrations set for adult dogs by the National Research Council.
This means that only 2.5% of the recipes out of 200 evaluated provided adequate nutrients for adult dogs according to the AAFCO and the NRC.
- Multivitamin supplements
- Hip and joint supplements
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
- Vitamins A & E
- Protein supplements
Let’s talk trace minerals
There are a few of the trace minerals important in your pup's diet:
- Calcium – Our recipes contain eggshell, loaded with 27 trace minerals!
- Potassium Citrate
- Sodium Phosphates
- Chelated Trace Elements
Essential fatty acids in cat and dog food
Both dogs and cats require omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet because they cannot produce these essential fatty acids on their own. For those of you interested in the scientific nitty-gritty, essential fatty acids and their numeric formulas are listed in the table below.
Deficiency of omega-6 fatty acids can cause skin and coat abnormalities, reproductive problems, and failure to thrive. The omega-3 essential fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6). EPA and DHA are found primarily in marine sources, including fish oil as well as phytoplankton and other marine plants.
Kafka’s Organic includes Omega-3 Fish Oil naturally derived from Anchovies, as well as Organic Flaxseed Oil rich in Omega-3 levels. Safflower Oil contains high levels of Omega-6 Oils.
What to avoid when making homemade dog food recipes
Feeding home-cooked food is great, but there are important aspects to avoid:
1. An unbalanced recipe
“Each of the ~40 essential nutrients required by dogs has a specific role in the body. When they are provided in inadequate concentrations, the function is not optimal and suffering may result,” explains Jennifer A. Larsen, DVM, MS, Ph.D., and Joe Bartges, DVM, Ph.D., board-certified veterinary nutritionists and diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition touch on the pros and cons of cooking for your dog.
“Similarly, nutrient excesses can also cause illness. While the impact of an unbalanced diet may be mild and not even noticed or attributed to the diet by the owner, these problems can also be very severe, and pets do not always survive.”
2. Unsafe or unhealthy ingredients
It’s absolutely critical to source only the highest-quality, human-grade ingredients when cooking for your dog (or cat). Food past expiry or low-quality meats filled with antibiotics are just as harmful for your pet as they can be for you.
Certain foods are dangerous for dogs, so you must avoid:
- Walnuts and Macadamia nuts
- Spices, such a cayenne, curry or paprika
- Raw yeast dough
Some ingredient should only be used on a limited basis:
- Added salt, since many canned ingredients already contain salt
- Dairy foods, since some dogs have difficulty digesting
- Cooking oils, such as canola oil
- Corn, since many dogs have difficulty digesting
Be careful of these:
- Human food leftovers- It’s really hard to avoid some of the ingredients dogs should not eat such as excess salt, seasonings, butter, and certain types of oils in your meals
- Fresh food only lasts about a week, so you need to carefully track the cook date
- Canned vegetables often contain lower nutrient counts than fresh
- Watch for bones and bone fragments in meat cuts
Be careful! Dog's can't eat everything humans can. Source: Paws Directory
3. Not using trusted sources for homemade dog food recipes
As with most things, you can find an abundance of information on the internet. It’s important to know who to trust. Often, we quickly pull up a recipe without fully vetting the source. When it comes to your dog’s home-cooked food meal plan, it’s essential to follow trusted recipes to ensure a properly balanced diet.
In addition, some recipes may not account for food that is harmful to pets.
Here’s an example - Cutting a leftover steak that’s been seasoned heavily and cooked in butter and sautéed onion may sound like a good addition to your pet’s plate. But, seasonings, onions, and dairy in excess are all harmful for dogs.
4. Not properly transitioning a dog’s diet
Just like with us humans, your pet’s digestive system needs a little bit of time to get used to a new diet. Follow this quick guide when transitioning your pet to home cooked fresh pet food meals (or any new diet):
- Day 1 & 2: 75% old food, 25% homemade
- Day 3 & 4: 50% old food, 50% homemade
- Day 5 & 6: 25% old food, 75% homemade
- Day 7: 100% fresh, human-grade homemade dog food meals
These measurements don’t need to be exact. Just guesstimate to the best of your ability.
If you’re making the decision to home cook food for your dog, make sure you’re doing it correctly by avoiding a few key mistakes.
How much homemade dog food should I feed my pup?
The question of feeding amounts can be a challenge for many pet owners when considering homemade food. Depending on the source of your recipe, you can use their guidelines in combination with your vet's advice for feeding recommendations. The best option is to follow your veterinary nutritionists' advice for feeding amounts if they created the recipes for your specific pup.
If you're considering fresh food, we’ve got you covered with our calorie calculator for dogs so you can easily create the perfect meal plan. Simply fill in your pet's weight, age range, and body condition for a guideline on how many calories and fresh food your pet needs each day.
Make sure you adjust the feeding amount to your dog’s activity level & body condition. Is your dog overweight? A slight calorie deficit will be needed to reach a healthy weight.
How much to feed when your pet with health issues
If your pet is experiencing health issues, consult your vet before determining their feeding plan. To make consultations easier, take your pet food recipe with you.
Is there an easier way? Learn more about how we’ve done the work for you!
We certainly agree it’s a lot of work to make sure your pet gets the right nutrition. It works for some people, but certainly not everyone. That’s why we developed Kafka’s Organic, fresh home-cooked dog food delivery service.
After being disappointed with the low-quality processed pet food in the marketplace, our #GirlBoss founder Sarah set out to create a convenient way to feed fresh, natural pet food made from healthy ingredients, without any preservatives or additives.
Fresh pet food meal delivery 🚚 – We make feeding human quality healthy pet food easy & convenient for you!
Countless hours of research and formulation later, we’ve developed naturally balanced & complete pet food recipes with all the nutritional goodness of home cooked food, without all the chemicals, fillers, byproducts, and heavy processing.
Kafka’s takes the questions and inconvenience out of feeding home cooked meals. Just throw your packs in the freezer, thaw for a few minutes when ready to feed, scoop, re-seal, throw it back in the fridge until the next meal!