If you are nervous about feeding your dog homemade food, you are not alone. Many dog owners have concerns about the time, cost, and consequences of not using the right ingredients to keep their furry friends healthy. In addition, most veterinarians disapprove of home cooking for dogs.
Eight years ago, I started cooking for my dogs to include quality ingredients in their diets and to help clients with dogs with health problems. Since then, many customers have raved about the effects of a homemade diet on their dog’s health. It’s definitely inspiring to watch scaly fur turn shiny and the pleasure dogs seem to get from better food.
In doing so, I found the slow cooker to be the perfect (and easiest) tool for making homemade dog food. Combining the ingredients in the stove and setting the time only takes a few minutes. This makes it attractive to those who shy away from home cooking because they find it too time consuming.
I started using ingredients listed on the label of a high quality canned food. I’ve also cooked chicken thighs and even whole young chickens, with most of the skin removed. After 14 to 16 hours in the slow cooker, chicken bones become soft and crumbly and are a great source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins, and healthy fats. (However, this does not apply to cooked beef bones, which should never be given to dogs.)
If your dog has no major medical problems and has tolerated food changes in the past, start the transition to home-cooked meals by preparing a small amount of low-fat food and gradually adding increasing amounts to its normal diet (25, 50) 75, then 100 percent over a period of four to seven days). I recommend low-fat meat or fish in combination with white or brown rice.
Because slow-cooked dog foods may contain more fat and vegetables than some commercially available foods, dogs have been known to have stomach or intestinal problems. Vomiting, indigestion, or gas are signs that a dog’s digestive tract is taking more time to adjust to the new ingredients. This can take days or even weeks.
Dogs with pancreatic problems need to have a low-fat, limited diet, and be very careful when switching over a long period of time. Also, keep in mind that dogs can be allergic to wheat, beef, and / or chicken. Signs that your dog is sensitive to the food include hives; excessive scratching; or red, itchy ears.
However, if your dog seems happy and has normal stools with the new homemade food, increase the amount over a week as mentioned earlier. Once you know that he can tolerate the new diet, cook a larger amount and divide it into daily servings. Keep the supply in the refrigerator for a week and freeze the rest in resealable freezer bags or other suitable container. Thaw before feeding, but to avoid spoilage, do not leave the food to sit longer than meals afterward and do not leave it at room temperature for hours (if your dog likes his food warm, it’s okay to take it before serving to heat up).
In the starter recipe provided here, the protein is higher (around 50% dry matter) and the fat is lower (around 10% dry matter) than in most recipes. This mixture provides around 70% moisture, 10 to 15% protein, 5 to 7% fat, and 5 to 7% carbohydrates, depending on how much fat there is in the meat and how much green beans and rice are used (or 40 to 50 % Protein, 20 to 25% fat and 25 to 30% carbohydrates by dry matter).
Starter Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Stew for Dogs
- 3/4 to 1 pound of diced, skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs or lean beef, turkey, or fish
- 1 to 3 ounces of chicken liver, hearts and gizzards or other animal liver.
- 1 or 2 whole eggs (source of healthy fat)
- 8 ounces of uncooked white or brown rice
- 16 ounces green beans (frozen or canned; if used canned, drain the liquid)
- Bone meal, 1 teaspoon (about 1,500 mg) per pound of meat *
* Not needed for the trial period or if the homemade food makes up less than 10% to 20% of the dog’s daily diet.
In a slow cooker, combine the chicken breasts, chicken livers, chicken hearts, stomachs, and eggs. Add the bone meal, rice, and green beans. Add water and stir. (The longer meat and vegetables are cooked, the more water it takes. For this basic starter recipe, you don’t need to completely cover the ingredients. Slow cooking of chicken and bones for 14 hours will take more water.) Cover and 4 to 8 Cook on low heat for hours until the breasts fall apart. Stir and add or drain water as needed for a drier or wetter stew. Allow the mixture to cool before feeding and refrigerating.
Yield: 7 to 8 cups (60 oz.)
Supplements (added separately or with each meal)
• Vitamin E: 2 IU per pound of dog daily.
• Sardines in water: a quarter to a can twice a week or one to three 1,200 mg fish oil capsules daily. (The dose is based on 10 to 30 mg / pound DHA and EPA).
Note: Due to the high protein content, this combination is not suitable for dogs with kidney failure. To decrease protein, double the amount of rice and green beans and / or use less meat (1/2 to 3/4 pounds).
Depending on the fat and moisture content of the food, most homemade lean meat diets are around 20 to 35 calories per ounce. To increase the calories, ditch some of the liquid from the stew or add healthy fat like olive or non-GMO canola oil. An 8-ounce serving of this chicken and vegetable stew has about 200 calories. After the transition period, I recommend feeding your dog roughly the same amount of homemade food as you would canned food.
In conclusion, when you cook for your dog, you can use the best ingredients available and mix them in whatever way best suits your dog’s needs. If you follow a basic formula of muscle meat, organ meat, bone or bone meal, and a variety of vegetables, your dog will thrive. Homemade dog food can also be used to add quality ingredients to a snack or canned food diet. Your dog will love the variety!