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Homemade Dog Food Benefits and Dangers

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Dog owners can save money by making quality dog food from family meal leftovers (as long as the leftovers are not fried, or seasoned). Combined with nutritional ingredients, anyone can make healthy homemade dog food with a lot of benefits.

Some people need to save money on dog food in order to be able to keep their pets. A sad fact during the recession is that pet owners are being forced to give up family-member dogs because they can no longer afford to feed and care for their beloved companions.

chihuahua puppy eating from pink ceramic bowl

Making dog food at home may help save cash on feeding dogs while providing good healthy meals.

If a dog is fed quality foods, they will surely be healthier. This means less expensive trips to the vet, as well.

There are several things and benefits to consider when cooking and feeding dogs homemade food. It is important to be sure a home diet meets canine nutritional needs. It is vital to avoid foods poisonous to dogs.

Pet owners should consider their individual animals before picking recipes. For instance, some dogs do not process beef well, yet are fine with chicken or lamb. Some dogs want mainly beef.

Others need a vegetarian diet (please consult with a veterinarian first). Some dogs and puppies are also lactose intolerant, making dairy foods (such as cow’s milk and cheese) difficult to digest.

Dogs can even have allergies to some foods. An advantage to making homemade dog food is that these individual needs can be taken into consideration.

chihuahua eating from yellow bowl

Many Options Exist for Making Dog Food at Home

Some dog owners prefer to make all their own dog food from scratch. Others mix homemade dog food half and half with canned or dry commercial food.

Also available are freeze-dried meals, mixes, and supplements, but these can be expensive.

Some Ingredients to Mix and Match in Inventing Dog Food Recipes

Some good food choices to include in a home-cooking dog food diet include:

  • meat
  • eggs
  • canned fish with bone (jack mackerel, pink salmon, sardines)
  • finely ground eggshells (or another calcium supplement)
  • cooked brown pasta
  • cooked brown rice
  • cooked grains
  • cooked lentils
  • oatmeal
  • vegetables (no onions)
  • healthy table leftovers

Balanc It was created by a certified veterinary nutritionist. This site finds recipes based on your dog’s favorite ingredients.

Note: To make a larger batch of any recipe found or invented, the cook may simply increase ingredient amounts. While still warm, put the pet food into freezer containers (used plastic pre-made frosting containers are about the perfect ‘dog food can’ size) or durable freezer bags. Store any food not to be used within a few days in the freezer and thaw as needed.

A large cooking pot makes about 10 to 15  “cans” of doggy meals for a medium-sized dog.

chihuahua eating grapes

Dangers of Homemade Dog Food

Many people treat their dogs as if they were part of the family. However, when it comes to eating, a dog has special dietary needs that are different than their human counterparts.

To keep your dog healthy, there are 10 foods that should be avoided.

Meats. While meat in and of itself is a natural food for a dog to eat, there are special precautions that must be taken. Dogs should never be given meat that contains bones, as they will likely swallow them.

This alone can be a problem, obstructing the airway and choking the dog. In the digestive system, bones can cause lacerations, internal bleeding, and death.

Moreover, excessive fat in meat can cause pancreatitis in dogs. Finally, if you feed your dog liver, only give them small amounts of it as large amounts can provide toxic levels of Vitamin A.

Caffeinated Products. Products containing caffeine such as chocolate, coffee, and tea, should never be fed to dogs.

These foods contain chemicals such as theobromine which can be toxic to your furry friend.

Cat Food. This is a common issue, with many dogs actually preferring cat food over dog food. However, cat food does not have the same makeup as dog food, containing higher levels of protein and fat.

Over time, this will result in nutritional deficiencies and imbalances for your dog. If your dog seems to prefer the cat’s food dish over his own, feed them separately to avoid this issue.

Dairy Products. While many dogs can consume milk and other dairy products, some experience lactose intolerance, similar to some humans. If your dog suffers from diarrhea after eating dairy, either buy lactose-free products or avoid dairy altogether.

Grapes. Grapes can be deadly for dogs. Grapes and raisins have a toxin in them that can damage a dog’s kidneys. However, it is important to note that while you should never give grapes to your dog, grape seed extract has not been found to have a similar effect on canines.

Macadamia Nuts. Macadamia nuts contain a muscle and nervous system toxin lethal to dogs.

Sugary Foods. Just as you would not build your child’s diet around such products, neither should you feed these to your dog in great quantity. Dogs can suffer from many of the same health problems as humans when their diet contains large amounts of sugar, including obesity and even diabetes. Additionally, some sugar substitutes, such as xylitol (also known as Birch Sugar) can be deadly in dogs.

Avocados. Avocados contain persin, a toxic substance for many animals, dogs included. It is worth noting that all parts of the avocado plant contain this same substance, so you must exercise caution if growing these in your garden.

Onions and Baby Food. This may seem a strange grouping, but the problem with both onions and baby food is the same. Onions cause anemia in dogs in large quantities. Baby foods often contain onion powder and will cause the exact same problem.

Vomiting and a lack of energy are signs of anemia that should be looked for in a dog who has possibly consumed foods containing onions.

Fruits with Pits. Fruits such as peaches and plums should never be given to a dog. Most commonly, the pits in these fruits will cause obstruction of the digestive tract. However, the pits also contain small amounts of cyanide, a poison for both humans and dogs.

If you feel you must give your dog such fruits, remove the pits before handing them over to your pet.

Raw Protein Eggs, fish, and other meat should never be given to a dog in their raw forms. Just as in humans, uncooked proteins such as these can lead to food poisoning.

Additionally, eggs contain an enzyme that can block the absorption of B vitamins in your dog.

Raw fish may introduce a parasite into your dog’s system, a condition that can prove fatal if not corrected.

fawn chihuahua eating from purple dog bowl

More and more people consider their pets to be a member of the household. While this is fine most of the time, there can be problems with this idea when it comes to dietary needs.

Dogs are not humans, and they should not be fed as humans. While many human foods can be healthy for dogs with some preparation (meat, cooked fish), others should never be given (chocolate or avocados).

It is recommended that you consult a veterinarian before feeding your dog anything other than dog food, dog treats, and the occasional scrap of meat. By following these guidelines, you can assure a healthy, happy, and long-lived furry member of the family.

Cathy

blond woman holding white chihuahua

Cathy Bendzunas

Dog Blogger

I’m an avid dog lover and I’ve had many dogs throughout my life. When I rescued my first Chihuahua, I was hooked on the breed.

I have had dogs all my life and have trained as a dog groomer. I also have been a kennel worker, worked in a pet hotel through PetSmart, and still am a pet sitter.

Read my full bio on my About page

Karen Emmons

Saturday 8th of October 2022

Hi Cathy, Thank you for the information. I wasn't aware dogs should not eat avocados. I knew about onion, grapes, etc. also my friends feed their chihuahuas raw food. Do you think that's a good idea? Since I am new to your news letters, I wanted to ask you what kind of cancer you have as I have been battling Multiple Myeloma for the last 15 years and am finally in remission after 3 transplants. If you don't want to answer, I understand. Cancer is so stressful. I really enjoy your news letters. Thank you for the useful content and cute pictures. Lucy is a doll. Karen

Cathy

Tuesday 11th of October 2022

Hi Karen, I'm so sorry you have been dealing with cancer for 15 years! Cancer sucks. I don't mind talking about it at all. I have breast cancer HER2 is the type. It has also gone to some lymph nodes. As for raw food, I have mixed feelings about that. I know people who swear by it with their dogs but I worry about parasites and salmonella. So if I were to decide to do raw feeding, I would find a mentor who was very experienced with it to teach me how to do it properly.