Frugal Living 

Make Your Own Dog Food

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Spilled Dog FoodSimplyForties made a comment in the forums about how she made her own dog food, an idea I had never considered. Naturally, I turned to the power of Google to help enlighten me how whether making our own dog food made sense. I know a lot of people that feed their dogs human food but we wanted to avoid that because it’s difficult to regulate nutrition through human food. With dog food, it’s a lot easier because you know almost exactly how much nutrition is in each serving.

Always consult your veterinarian before making your own dog food. You’ll want to be absolutely certain what you should and shouldn’t put into your food. Never put in onions, chocolate or grapes as each contain things that are dangerous for your dog. You might also want to talk to them to get a better sense of which supplements and vitamins you might want to include in your dog’s food.

Why Make Dog Food?

The main reason for making your own dog food isn’t because it’s cheaper, it’s because you can better control what your dog is eating. If your dog has allergies or other specific health needs, you can tailor the food so that it best fits your dog’s needs. Part of the appeal is also in the idea that you aren’t buying a mass produced product and making your own at home. The pros of making your own are much like making your own detergent, you’re not really saving money but you are producing a better product you know will fit your unique needs.

Why You Shouldn’t

It takes time to make and prepare and can sometimes be more expensive than the mass produced dry dog food you can pick up in the store. Just as a tailored diet is a benefit, you need to spend the time to learn what that tailored diet should include. Just giving your dog some scraps and expected the dog to be healthy and balanced is risky. Finally, you can be assured that nothing dangerous is knowingly put into manufactured dog food (one can never be sure though), whereas you could happily toss in some onions without knowing it’s bad for your dog.

Making Your Own Dog Food

Did you know that Allrecipes has a section just for homemade pet food? Yep! It contains a bunch of recipes you might want to check out.

Ingredients: All recipes will recommend that you have one type of meat, one or two types of vegetables, and one starch.

  • With meat, you can use the things you expected – chicken, turkey, beef, pork, etc. Many places do warn that you can use organ meats but not too many, no more than 10% of the meat, because they tend to be very high in various vitamins. For example, liver contains a lot of oil soluble vitamin A that can cause kidney stones.
  • For veggies, many places recommend tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and peas (ground up if possible). (Don’t use broccoli, it’s difficult to digest)
  • For starches, your options are usually potatoes and/or rice.

Cooking: Cooking is pretty straight forward. With the meat, you’ll want to remove all the bones and cut the meat down into smaller sizes. Then just cook it in the pan with some water or chicken broth. Avoid frying with too much oil, your dog won’t be able to tell it’s been toasted in some extra virgin olive oil. 🙂 As for the vegetables and starch, just steam or cook them as you probably would for yourself.

Add-Ins: Up until now it seems like everything seems a little boring and straight forward right? Well, you can always add in a bunch of supplements or vitamins, here are some ideas I found online:

  • Codliver or flaxseed oil in small amounts, gives them omega 3 and helps keep their coats shiny.
  • Eggshells can be crunched up to add some calcium.
  • Garlic (in small amounts!) can fight off tape worms and fleas

That’s it!

Feeding Time!

Here’s where it gets interesting. You can mix all of your cooked ingredients together or keep them separate and portion them out as you need them. As you’ll soon see, here’s one of the downsides of cooking your own dog food – you have to store it in the refrigerator! It also gets to be difficult deciding portion size but that’s where your vet can help you. The next time you go for a visit, ask about making your own food and how much your little guy will likely need. Another approach is to feed what you think is appropriate and monitor your dog’s weight and activity. If it begins to fall, feed a little more. If he or she becomes a little fatty, then feed less.

(Photo: madcitycat)

{ 21 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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21 Responses to “Make Your Own Dog Food”

  1. Knowing myself, if we stored it in the refrigerator, I’d have to be careful when reaching for a midnight snack, lest I fill up on eggshells and organ meats!

  2. Yana says:

    That’s nice that there’s an online reference for dog food recipes. I may use it if I ever feel the need to do that. I feed my dog Purina Dog Chow, meaning that is what is always available to her. But I give her Fresh Pet Select daily as a treat, and table scraps if I feel they are good enough for her. Often what we eat, I don’t consider good enough for the dog! I avoid giving her too much of anything, but she likes broccoli, salmon, chicken and bison. Sometimes we’ll give her a bit of rice with the meat. She would be happy to eat some beef if we ate that, but we’ve mostly given up beef since about a year ago. She doesn’t get sick often, but when she has been out of sorts I’ve scrambled an egg for her. She just had her 14th birthday on June 7th.

  3. Another reason why you shouldnt:
    You don’t own a dog. 😉

  4. lostAnnfound says:

    That would be great if you wanted to monitor what exactly your dog was eating. We opted to feed our dog (Skippy, a not quite 2 year old beagle/corgi mix) a premium dog food with Glucosamine and Chondroitin because his left front leg had a defective growth plate. If I buy it in the 35 pound bag the cost averages out to about 10 dollars a month as opposed to 12.50 by buying the smaller bag.

  5. jepoole17 says:

    Thanks for this article, I might look into making food for our Boston. While she’s willing and able to eat anything, she (and anyone in a room with her) does much better if she eats a dog food where lamb is the first/primary protein.

    Also, I heard somewhere that it’s recommended that dog owners avoid food with corn as one of the primary ingredients. I thought that there was a nutritional disadvantage to corn (over rice/potatoes/etc) and it may just be worth asking your vet about before trying to make your own puppy chow.

  6. mapgirl says:

    Dude. What’s wrong with your dog? I hope he’s ok because making your own dog food is crazy. A co-worker who trained dogs did the raw diet for her pets. Even uncooked food takes a lot of work.

  7. Red says:

    We have made our own food for our Golden for years. I can say, now that we have it down, we actually save money. Because she is getting quality food, rather than the mass produced kibble, she eats much less and we save on vet bills as an added bonus (she had a lot of stomach problems before we switched off of kibble). It actually doesn’t take a lot longer, just cook for her about twice a week while making dinner for the family. A pound of ground beef (in the micro to fry with the fat poured off), a can of veggies (usually peas and carrots or potatoes and green beans), and a portion of “ready bags” brown rice (steamed for a few minutes in the micro). She goes crazy for the stuff!!!

    Her coat is fluffier and shinier than it ever was with kibble and it is easy to keep her weight stable. Also a bonus, she does much less “business” to clean up after in the back yard.

    Also, for “homemade” cheap treats, try canned green beans! Very cheap and dogs go crazy for them! Plus they have almost no calories so you don’t have to worry about the dog getting chubby!

  8. StephaniePTY says:

    We had to make our own dog food for my dog after the “18 pack of hot dogs and whole loaf of bread” incident that I explained in the Personal Finance Hour episode about pets. 😉

    After they finally let us bring her home, we had to feed her cooked chicken and rice for a few weeks. It wasn’t so bad to do, but she hated it and it was really hard to get her to eat it… especially since we were trying to crush up her medication and get her to eat that with it.

    Making your own dog food might be the solution to a picky dog… or a picky dog might make it a nightmare! I’d like to try this again some day, but probably years down the line with a different dog. Hot-dogs-and-bread Dog is too unstable for food experimenting!

  9. Diane says:

    I’ve come to realize that making your own dog food and feeding raw is more common than I knew. I’ve never tried it myself.

    I feed a high quality food (Solid Gold). One recommendation I can make is that whether you make it yourself or buy commercial food you avoid foods which contain corn – which dogs do not digest easily.

    There are a number of websites to learn about making dog food and feeding raw.

  10. thomas says:

    Yeah, if I did this my wife would capitalize on it and politic for feeding the dog food scraps. I like my dog not knowing what people food is and not begging at the table.

  11. Please don’t use garlic in dog food. All plants of the Alliaceae family are toxic to dogs. Onions are LOTS more toxic than garlic, but garlic isn’t especially good for them, either. And the notion that it repels tapeworms is an old wives’ tale.

    Why do you think meat, vegetables, and starch are not human food? These are the basis of a healthy diet for people as well as for dogs. The issue is that most people don’t eat a healthy diet–we tend to eat junk food, and also some of the things we love (such as chocolate, onions & garlic) are toxic to dogs.

    I’ve found my dogs are much healthier when fed real food, as opposed to the ickum that comes out of a bag of kibble or a can of offal. Take a look at the ingredients in the stuff, and you’ll see why real food is better. It’s easy to cook dog food for a smaller breed, assuming you also use the kitchen to cook for yourself (if eating out is your thing, you’re not likely to take to cooking for the dog any more than you do cooking yourself). Preparing real food for a large dog is a ton of work. However, when you understand what’s in commercial feed, you may decide it’s worth it.

    Feeding real food does not cause your dog to beg at the table–dogs learn to beg when people slip them food from the dinner table. Real food does not make your dog picky; to the contrary, if you give the dog the wide variety of food you should, it makes the dog less picky and eliminates the problem you get with commercial food, which causes gastritis (diarrhea!) every time you switch brands.

    Broccoli will not hurt your dog but in fact is good for most dogs. Peas are high in starch and should be used as the vegetable portion only in a pinch; most of the time they should be regarded as starch. In addition to rice and potatoes, you also can feed sweet potatoes (most dogs love sweet potatoes), bread, pasta, or cooked oatmeal. Avoid corn; although it’s a major ingredient in many commercial dog foods, many dogs are allergic to it and for most dogs it’s close to indigestible.

    Vegetable offerings should be varied–try not to feed the same veggie all the time. The easiest way to prepare dog veggies I’ve found is to get the bags of frozen “Normandy Style” vegetables from Costco (contains cauliflower, broccoli, & carrots). Zap in the microwave just long enough to warm them (don’t cook them to sogginess). Then pulverize them in a food processor or blender.

    If you’re worried about whether your dog is getting balanced nutrition, toss in a doggy vitamin once a day. Trader Joe’s has the cheapest pet vitamins around, when they carry them (which isn’t often). Don’t substitute human vitamins: the proportions and ingredients are different. has a lot of information on dog foods in particular; if you prefer to use commercial food, it has a page describing the ingredients to avoid and why. And has a page ( listing foods that are toxic to dogs.

    In parting: it’s important to understand that you should NOT try to feed your cat a diet like this. Cats are not dogs. Their dietary needs are very different from dogs’ and humans: unlike dogs, they are obligatory carnivores and will not thrive on the meat/starch/vegetable routine.

  12. We switched to home cooking 6 years ago when our 16 year old cat developed kidney disease and instantly noticed better coat quality in both cat and dog.

    Our current dogs have been on home cooked food all their lives. An additional advantage to homemade diets is that our dogs are rather spoiled and will not eat things they find on the ground or drink out of the toilet. During busy seasons we supplement with human grade dog food or bake meal-sized biscuits.

    The thing about cats is that they need more meat in relation to their body weight than dogs, but they are smaller animals and so are not expensive to feed.

  13. We’ve been feeding our dogs “homemade” food since mid-March 2008. One of them got sick during the pet food recalls so we researched an alternative which is cooked. The main costs incurred in the recipe are the eggs and hamburger. We figured out the cost to be a little cheaper than kibble and we know what’s in their food. They are healthier – no barfing and their #2 has gone from 3-4 times per day down to 1 per day. When we rescued our second dog we fed him “fat balls” which is raw to help him gain weight. But we haven’t found a good recipe for the cats yet. If you’re interested, I’ve got the recipes on my blog.

  14. Cass says:

    We have often taken the “leftover” cuts of meat from the butcher when we pick up out butchered cow/pig and what not. Its not the organs and such but We use it as a treat to supplement the kibble and often the butcher gives it away to others doing the same thing if we dont take it home. You can cook it or feed it raw.

  15. mr man says:

    If you are looking for something healthy for your dog DON’T USE GARLIC OR ONIONS I know some treat sites tell you to but DON’T it can make your dogs RED BLOOD CELLS EXPLODE Im not exaggerating just search it

  16. Anonymous says:

    I have making my own dog food for years, i use chichen legs ,brown rice, barly, peas n carrots or green beans , sweet potatoes, mix vegs. i put in a microsafe bowl cook for 40 mins. i add the veggie after the meat n rice is cooked.let the heat cook the veggie. for cooking potatoes add to meat when cooking . i also add fish .

  17. C Bachman says:

    We have been making our own dog food for several years now. We started when the canned dog food companies had such a big recall due to toxins that actually killed many dogs. We do now feed canned dog food and crunchy dog food in the morning, in the evening my three babies get the homemade stuff. Chicken (no bones or skin, thigh meat) is the main meat we use and I only buy natural chicken with no additives, very common to find in CA. Ground beef and ground pork is also used, I buy only from Costco where the butcher grinds it at the store where I shop. We also give them, chopped green beans, brown rice and sweet potato or yam. I consulted with our vet as to the amount I should be giving them, none of my dogs are over weight and our Chow mix is 16 years old and got excellent test results from the vet just yesterday! SO, meat, green beans, brown rice and a little yam is the mix they like the best.

  18. Kristin says:

    Pumpkin is a great additive for naturally killing parasites. Actually it just paralyzes them and they get flushed out. Works on humans too 😉

  19. mbhunter says:

    We make our own dog food. We do it about once a month. It takes about three hours. My wife did the leg work to get information about supplements, caloric intake, whether the dog was neutered or not.

    This is how to do it correctly. It’s a lot more than just feeding the dogs table scraps and calling it dog food.

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