HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE DOG FOOD: THE COMPLETE GUIDE
Tired of feeding your pooch dry dog food? Do you have a little spare time and want to learn how to feed your dog yourself by preparing them comprehensive meals, adapted to their needs? Great idea! Homemade dog food is high quality, rich in meat, has a high water content... all things which will delight your furry friend and do them lots of good!
Please note: You should always seek the advice of a veterinarian or animal nutritionist specialist before changing your dog's diet. Homemade dog food consists of 5 ingredients to ensure sufficient energy supply, 10 essential amino acids, 3 essential fatty acids, 14 vitamins, 7 major minerals, and several trace elements. It can be tricky to properly measure out the different ingredients to create a balanced meal. Only a professional can point you in the right direction or make suggestions tailored to your particular dog. However, here we give you a general overview of how to get started and what you need to create your own homemade dog food!
A Source of Protein: Meat or Fish
This is the basic ingredient. Its main role is to provide digestible, high-quality protein for maintaining and regenerating your dog's body. The choice of which source of meat or fish you use will depend on the amount of starch (rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.) you add to adjust the energy content of your homemade dog food, all in the name of meeting your dog's energy needs. Dogs can eat all types of meat, from chicken fillet to pieces of beef, pork, duck, lamb, rabbit. or even guinea fowl, so long as they're introduced into their diet gently to prevent digestive issues.
👉 Do I Have to Cook the Meat?
Depending on the quality of the meat you use, you can choose to give it to your dog raw. But if you have any concerns about the quality or cleanliness of the meat, cook it gently. You should also cook the meat if your dog is sensitive or has any digestive issues, to facilitate digestion and limit any bacterial contamination in their weakened digestive system.
For fish it's a little different: If you only give your dog fish occasionally during the week, or just a little bit every day, it can be given raw, provided it's sanitary. Make sure you freeze whole fish before giving them to your pet to avoid the risk of parasites. On the other hand, if fish is your pet's staple diet, cook it well before serving. Why? Because raw fish contains an enzyme called thiaminase, which limits the absorption of essential vitamin B1 (or thiamine). In the medium to long term, if high doses of raw fish are eaten every day, you run the risk of causing a deficiency in your pet. The heat destroys this enzyme, thus preventing the risk.
👉 How to Determine the Quantity?
There are two parameters to consider when it comes to determining the quantity of protein in your homemade dog food:
Your dog's protein requirement, which is determined by multiple factors such as their size, breed, age, certain physiological factors (sterilised or not), health condition, and activity level.
The amount of protein provided by the chosen source of meat or fish. Often, fatty cuts of meat or fish provide LESS protein than lean cuts. In this case, you'd need to give your pet more of the fatty meat in order to satisfy their protein requirements, which would then result in a meal that was too rich, as more fat equals more energy. And that just won't do!
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What is the PCR?
The Protein-Calorie Ratio (PCR) is an indicator which assesses the nutritional quality of food according to its energy source. The PCR is the ratio of the amount of protein in food divided by the number of calories provided by said food. High-quality food that primarily provides energy in the form of protein (not carbohydrates) has a high PCR (around 100, or even higher).
For dogs, a list of reference PCRs was established a few years ago. The minimum PCR for each dog depends on several criteria specific to the animal. For example, if your pooch weighs less than 10kg, their minimum PCR is 55, but, if they're sterilised or not very active, it goes up to 69. If your dog weighs more than 25kg, their basic PCR is 65, or 60 if they weigh between 10 and 25kg.
A Source of Vegetables
Vegetables are the second main ingredient in homemade dog food; between 5 and 10% of your dog's energy needs must be provided in the form of vegetables. However, this can vary from 3% to more than 15% if necessary in certain situations.
The primary role of vegetables in homemade dog food is to provide fibre, which is useful for the proper functioning of the digestive system, in the form of poorly digestible or even indigestible elements, as well as prebiotics. Vegetables also provide vitamins and some antioxidants which are beneficial to your dog's health. The quantity of vegetables required in your homemade dog food will depend on your dog's specific factors, such as their energy needs, age, digestive capacity, appetite, daily physical activity level, healthy weight, and whether or not they've been sterilised.
👉 What Type of Vegetables?
For homemade dog food, opt for vegetables that are easy to find and also easy to digest, such as well-cooked green beans (or just rinsed if tinned), and well-cooked pieces of carrot or courgette. You can even buy tinned or frozen vegetables to make your life easier. You can give your pet lots of vegetables with no negative side effects. But, to facilitate digestion, it's best to serve them either cooked or puréed.
Some things to note:
Cabbage and other vegetables from the same family should only be given in moderation, as well as legumes (peas, lentils, etc.), which can cause digestive disorders.
It's possible to give your pooch a little bit of tomato but, again, it should be served well cooked and, if possible, without the skin, which can irritate their digestive system.
Leeks are allowed from time to time but, being a very fibrous vegetable, it shouldn't be the main vegetable option provided.
Be careful with spinach as this is very rich in oxalic acid. It should only be given in small quantities.
If your pet suffers from diabetes, avoid sweet vegetables such as carrots or beetroots.
NEVER give your pet avocado or macadamia nuts: these are toxic to animals.
A Source of Oil
Oil is the third ingredient necessary for well-balanced homemade dog food. The primary role of oil is to provide essential Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Meat contains a little Omega-6 but not enough to satisfy your dog's needs. It's, therefore, necessary to supplement your homemade dog food. Oil can provide between 5 and 20% (usually around 10%) of your dog's daily energy requirements.
Oil is a naturally fatty product and therefore very high in energy. Whatever oil you choose, it will provide an average of 9kcal per gram. Which makes measuring a lot easier! It's better to choose an oil that's rich in these two essential fatty acids: Omega-6 and Omega-3, with an optimal concentration of the two and a ratio of between 1 and 5 if possible.
👉 Which Oil to Choose?
Rapeseed oil has an Omega 6/3 ratio of 2. It's easy to find, it has very little odour, and is therefore easily accepted by picky dogs (and even cats!).
Walnut oil can also be used in homemade dog food and has a W6/W3 ratio of 4. However, this has a much stronger smell that can put some dogs off more easily.
Isio 4 is a popular choice, a mixture of several vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed, and grape seed) with a perfectly suitable W6/W3 ratio of 4.
A little fish oil a few times a week (salmon, herring, sardine, etc.) is always beneficial for your dog. It can be used to supplement homemade dog food with Omega-3 in the form of EPA and DHA, which cannot be found in vegetable oils.
Olive oil tastes good (cats like it a lot!), but it doesn't contain enough essential fatty acids for homemade dog food. As such, we don't recommend using it.
Likewise, both sunflower oil and grape seed oil are extremely rich in Omega-6 but containing hardly any Omega-3. So, we would recommend avoiding these as well.
Some Recommendations for Using Oil
To choose a high-quality oil for your homemade dog food, in addition to the composition and origin of the raw material, the packaging should be taken into account. Opt for dark bottles that don't let much light in, and smaller sizes which will be consumed more quickly after opening.
Some other things to note:
Never heat your oil!
Watch out for any change in the colour and/or smell of your oil: for vegetable oils, especially rapeseed oil, if it smells like fish it's probably gone off. Or, for example, if your animal “suddenly” doesn't want it anymore or it triggers a digestive disorder (loose stool, diarrhoea, gas etc.). If you notice these signs, change the oil you're using in your homemade dog food! It may have become oxidised.
We strongly advise you to avoid bottles with a pump as these let air enter into the bottle to come into direct contact with the product, which quickly causes oxidation and deteriorates the oil.
A Source of Carbohydrates (Starch)
The main purpose of starch (rice, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.) is to supplement your homemade dog food with energy and to balance the cost of making your own homemade dog food. It's entirely possible to make homemade dog food without using any source of starch, that’s simply composed of meat, vegetables, oil, and a Vitamin/ Mineral Supplement (VMS). However, in this case, the amount of meat required to supplement your dog's energy needs will be greater. The amount of VMS used will also need to be higher to adjust the mineral intake and the calcium/phosphorus ratio of your homemade dog food, which should ideally be between 1 and 1.5. As such, the cost of this type of homemade dog food will be much higher. But that's the only downside!
Even if your dog enjoys the energy provided by well-processed, small quantities of starchy carbs, we always recommend you opt for meat over starch in homemade dog food. Too much starch is the cause of many health concerns, particularly digestive.
👉 Some Tips for Choosing and Preparing Your Carbohydrates
Starchy carbs should be very well cooked, processed, or gelatinous to make them as digestible as possible for your dog. Does it no longer resemble rice or pasta? All the better! Is your sweet potato so cooked and puréed that it disgusts you? That's exactly what your dog wants!
Never opt for homemade dog food (or any dog food) that contains more starch than meat: it will never be the best or most suitable option. Your dog is not a chicken!
There's no need to rinse your rice or pasta after cooking. You should drain it, however. It's often (mistakenly!) believed that rice causes constipation! This is incorrect. Well-cooked rice is very digestible. In fact, it contains very little fibre and therefore barely stimulates digestive transit. However, the cooking water can help to slow down digestive transit (but not the rice itself), hence the draining.
You can give your dog part of their rice ration in the form of whole-grain (brown) rice to provide them with fibre if they refuse to eat vegetables. However, the quantity of whole-grain rice should never represent more than half of their rice ration. It's best to aim for a ratio of 50/50 white and brown rice. Avoid only using brown rice in your homemade dog food, because it contains rice bran which can irritate the intestine.
If you use mashed potatoes in your homemade dog food, you can leave the skin on to provide a little extra fibre, provided you wash them well.
On the other hand, never give your pet green potatoes! Even cooked, these can be poisonous to your dog due to their solanine content.
Which Supplement to Choose?
Supplements are the key ingredient in any homemade dog food. On their own, they provide more than 50% of the macronutrients and micronutrients your dog needs. Yet they're often forgotten or even neglected. Vitamin/Mineral Supplements (or VMS to close friends) are vital for maintaining the good health of your pet. Meat, fish, vegetables, oil, and a source of starchy carbs are all very low in calcium and lack sufficient amounts of certain vital minerals and vitamins, such as iodine, zinc, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, vitamin A, vitamin K, B vitamins, etc. So, you need a product designed to supplement your homemade dog food with everything you need in the right quantities.
Some Tips and Tricks for Sprucing up Your Homemade Dog Food
👉 To Fortify the Digestive System
A few pieces of banana: these are a great source of prebiotics, but beware: bananas are very high in calories.
A little natural yoghurt
A little brewer's yeast: this is very useful, especially if your VMS doesn't contain Vit'i5.
👉 Tasty, Healthy Fruits
The ideal amount of fruit for your pet is 20g for small and medium dogs and 50g for large dogs. Here are some great healthy fruits that your pooch will love:
Blueberries - super antioxidant!
Apples - make sure to remove the pips!
Pears - make sure to remove the pips!
👉 For Hydration - Great for Summer!
Watermelon: 20 to 30g per 15kg bodyweight
Melon: 20 to 30g per 15kg bodyweight
Cucumber: 20 to 30g per 15kg bodyweight
👉 As a Treat
Add a little treat to your homemade dog food from time to time during the week!
A whole raw egg - without the shell, because it's very rich in calcium
A little tuna - no more than once a week, because it's very rich in heavy metals
PUBLISHED 11.12.2020 - HECTOR KITCHEN, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
By the Hector Kitchen medical and scientific team
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