How to Prepare Home Cooked Food for Your Dog

Three Parts:Creating Nutritional BalanceMaking the FoodFeeding Your Dog

Your dog is a member of the family and you want him to eat just as well and healthily as you do. Don't make the mistake of assuming you can just feed your dog whatever you're eating, though. Dogs have different nutritional needs than people, so you'll need to understand what makes a balanced diet for your pet. Once you understand that nutritional balance, start making and feeding your dog delicious home-cooked meals.

Part 1
Creating Nutritional Balance

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    Understand the difference between the diet of your dog and a dog in the wild. Yes, wolves or wild dogs can survive in the wild without balanced meals. But, their average lifespan is considerably shorter. They also eat very differently than your dog is used to. While you might feed your dog pure protein, dogs in the wild eat organs like kidney, liver, brain, and the contents of the guts. This makes for a more complex nutrition than simply feeding meat (protein) and rice (carbohydrate) from the store.[1]
    • If you feed your dog an unbalanced home prepared diet, it can take years for the problems to appear. This is because it's the micro-nutrition (vitamins and minerals) that are probably lacking, instead of the calories.
    • For example, a dog might do fine for weeks or years, but some time later the dog may get a fractured leg because of long term calcium deficiency in his diet.[2]
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    Get professional help creating the diet. Unfortunately, you can't simply look at recipes that look tasty. Since there's no "one size fits all" option for canine nutrition, you'll need to feed a diet that's been designed for your individual dog by a doctor of animal nutrition.[3] For example, a growing puppy needs up to double the calories per pound of body weight of an adult, while a senior dog needs 20% less than an adult.[4]
    • Basic diets, even those designed by veterinarians, often lack nutrition. A study analyzed 200 recipes created by veterinarians. The majority of the recipes were deficient in at least one key area of nutrition.
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    Learn to correctly prepare the food. Once you've gotten a recipe specific to your dog, correctly process the food to maintain vitamins and minerals. Always be sure to follow the directions exactly. If the recipe states chicken plus the skin, then that's exactly what it means. Do not remove the skin since this could throw out the fat balance. You should also weigh the ingredients out carefully, using a kitchen scale rather than cups, which could vary.[5]
    • To preserve nutrients, don't over boil veggies. Instead, try to steam and serve them partially raw in order to preserve vitamins.[6]
    • Don't improvise or substitute ingredients. These can throw off the nutritional balance.[7]
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    Supplement the calcium in your dog's diet. Dogs have a very high requirement for calcium and while you could give your dog a bone, there are health risks. Bones can splinter, scratching the lining of the bowels and causing painful inflammation and septicaemia (blood infections). Instead, you can add calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, or eggshell crushed into a fine powder. 1 teaspoon is equal to around 2,200mg of calcium carbonate, and a 33 pound adult dog needs 1 gram a day (half a teaspoon).[8]
    • Bones can also knit together within the gut and cause blockages that need surgical removal. It's also very difficult to know when the dog has gotten enough calcium from the bones he does eat.

Part 2
Making the Food

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    Include protein. A 33 pound adult dog needs a minimum of 25 grams of pure protein a day.[9] This can include egg (which has a high amount of the essential amino acids required by dogs), followed by animal protein, such as meat from chicken, lamb, or turkey. High-quality vegetarian sources, like high-protein pulses, seeds, and eggs, can also supplement the diet. Try to make sure that a minimum 10% of your dog's diet is coming from quality protein (meat).[10]
    • Protein is made up of small building blocks called amino acids. There are 10 amino acids which dogs cannot make for themselves and must be supplied in their diet.
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    Add fats. A 33 pound adult dog (about the size of an average Staffordshire bull terrier) needs at least 14 grams of fat a day.[11] You can make sure your dog is getting fat in his diet by including meat or feeding chicken skin. It's recommended that a minimum 5% of your dog's diet comes from fats (by weight).[12]
    • Fat contains fat-soluble vitamins which are essential for good health. They also play a role in creating new cells proper cell functioning.
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    Include carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are where most of your dog's calories should come from. Specifically, half of your dog's diet should come from carbohydrates. An active 30 pound dog needs around 930 calories a day.[13] To make sure he's getting them, include wheat, rice, oats, and barley in his diet.
    • Carbohydrates provide energy (while some is given from protein and fat). They also give fiber for healthy gut function.
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    Include minerals. Dogs need calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, iron and copper to mention but a few. Mineral deficiencies can lead to a variety of problems, including weak bones prone to fracturing, anemia, or poor nerve conduction which can lead to seizures. Different foods contain varying degrees of minerals, especially fresh vegetables which require careful research to make sure your dog's diet is getting enough of each.[14] Try to include the following high-mineral vegetables in your dog's diet:
    • Green leafy vegetables (raw or cooked), such as spinach, kale, spring greens, brussel sprouts, Bok choy, and chard
    • Butternut squash (cooked)
    • Turnip (cooked)
    • Parsnip (cooked)
    • French beans (cooked)
    • Okra (cooked)
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    Add vitamins. Vitamins are an important part of your dog's diet. A vitamin deficiency can lead to problems like blindness, poor immune systems, skin lesions, and susceptibility to infections. Since vitamins are found in a varying degrees in several foods, offer a variety of vegetables. Green vegetables are generally a good source of vitamins and minerals, but some dogs don't like the taste and tend to leave them. Green vegetables can be served raw, but be aware there's a risk of the dog becoming flatulent.
    • Avoid overcooking vegetables since this will destroy the vitamin content.[15]
    • Vegetables that you wouldn't ordinarily eat raw yourself (like turnip, swede, parsnip, or potato for example) should always be cooked to prevent the risk of bowel obstruction and to make them digestible.

Part 3
Feeding Your Dog

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    Know how much to feed your dog. You'll need to research how many calories your dog actually needs to keep him from becoming overweight or losing weight. The calorie requirement for a dog isn't a linear arrangement. For example, a 40 pound dog doesn't need twice as many calories as a 20 pound dog just because he weighs twice as much.[16]
    • You can look up several charts for basic daily calorie requirements for dogs. That will give you a general idea of how many calories your dog needs based on his weight.[17]
    • Once you've found a general guideline for your dog's weight, take into consideration any lifestyle differences that require an adjustment (such as pregnancy, obesity, age of your dog, and whether your dog is neutered or spayed). For example, a 10 pound puppy under 4 months old needs 654 calories while an older neutered 10 pound dog only needs 349.[18]
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    Know which foods are toxic to dogs. Many people are familiar with the warning that chocolate is harmful to dogs. But, there are several other foods that are fine for people but toxic to dogs. When trying out a new recipe always double check that the ingredients are safe for your dog. Never feed your dog:[19]
    • Raisins
    • Grapes
    • Onions (including shallots and chives)
    • Garlic
    • Tomato
    • Chocolate
    • Avocado
    • Yeast dough
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Artificial sweeteners
    • Xylitol
    • Macadamia nuts
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    Have a backup plan if you run out of food. If you're cooking for your dog every 4 to 5 days, you probably won't experience major problems. But, you may occasionally run out of food or have a dog with a stomach ache, which requires a gentler diet. In both these cases, a home-prepared diet of chicken and rice is gentle on the bowels and serves as a short-term solution to when you run out of regular food. Avoid feeding a chicken and rice diet in the long term, since it's lacking in minerals and vitamins.
    • To prepare chicken and rice, use 1 cup of boiled chicken breast meat mixed with 2 to 3 cups of boiled white rice. Don't add fat or oil to the chicken.
    • Give a similar volume of food to what you'd normally give; use your judgement.[20] Typically this would be around 1 1/3 cups of chicken and rice per 10 pound body weight.


  • For convenience, cook up to one week's supply of your pet’s home cooked meals. Freeze the rest in daily portions separately for convenience.
  • Just remember to place next day’s food supply from the freezer to chiller compartment of your refrigerator for the next day’s meal. Place a note on your fridge to remind you to do so everyday.
  • Warm up the food to room temperature with some hot water. Then add necessary supplements such as vitamin C, flax oil, salmon oil, vitamin E etc.
  • Remember that some foods (such as grapes, raisins, chocolate, etc.) are poisonous to dogs, so check what foods you are using first.

Sources and Citations

  1. Small animal nutrition. Agar. Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann.
  2. Small animal nutrition. Agar. Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann.
  3. Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, a technical report issued by the National Research Council as part of its Animal Nutrition Series. (Relied upon by the FDA to assess pet food standards)
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Article Info

Categories: Dog Food Recipes