Homemade Food for Dogs - Yay or Nay?

There are a lot of ads on Facebook these days for homemade cooked meals for dogs shipped to your door, much like the services of HelloFresh and Blue Apron for humans. And, while we in the veterinary community will need more time to examine this new trend, we can weigh in on human food for dogs and, even more specifically, whether cooking for your dogs is healthy. On the whole, the idea of cooking fresh turkey and/or veggies sounds much better than a processed alternative but, when it comes to dog nutrition, it’s not quite as simple as that. And that’s why we’ve taken the opportunity with this blog post to examine the benefits and drawbacks of home cooking for your dog.

Benefits of Homemade Food for Dogs

Dog food recalls are a fairly common occurrence, so we understand the concern surrounding it. But it’s also important not to fall victim to fear mongering, as most dog foods are strictly monitored for safety and nutrients. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, there are benefits to cooking homemade food for your dogs, and we list some of those below:

  • You have more control over the ingredients

  • If your dog has allergies, you can cook without including the offending foods

  • You can cook with fresh, nutritious, and high-quality ingredients

The Risks Associated With Homemade Dog Food

Even with the best of intentions, your homemade meals will often fall woefully short of the essential daily nutrients dogs need, and the food will often be prepared in the wrong manner as well

  • It’s time consuming, as many families will tell you that taking the time to cook fresh food for humans regularly is challenging enough

  • Even if you rotate recipes - as some theorize will help in providing all the nutrients dogs need - studies have found that there is little likelihood that dogs’ nutritional requirements will be met

  • Nutrition deficiency or an excess of certain ingredients can cause diseases, malnutrition, obesity, or in the worst cases - death

Enlisting the Help of a Veterinary Nutritionist

If you’re fully dedicated to the idea of serving your dog homemade food, we in the veterinary community highly recommend going with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure you’re meeting the requirements to keep your beloved pet healthy. Your veterinarian can give you a referral, or you can find one on your own by consulting the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN). The nutritionist will factor in several crucial statistics - such as your dog’s weight, age, and any health issues - when designing recipes that are custom-made to suit your dog’s needs.   

As Jennifer Larsen, DVM, MS, Ph.D. has noted, “Each of the 40 essential nutrients required by dogs has a specific role in the body. When they are provided in inadequate concentrations, the function is not optimal and suffering may result.” The results can be devastating. Larsen goes on to note, “Similarly, nutrient excesses can also cause illness. While the impact of any unbalanced diet may be mild and not even noticed or attributed to the diet by the owner, these problems can also be very severe, and pets do not always survive.” It’s easy to think that you can experiment in the kitchen but, even with the best of intentions, this can be a harmful way choice for you and your pet.

Foods You Should Never Feed a Dog

Any article on dog food should always include a list of human foods that are toxic to animals. Some of these will get your dog mildly sick while others can cause death, so being aware of these items is crucial to keeping your dog healthy. Below is a list of human foods that, according to the ASPCA, are potentially toxic to dogs:

  • Alcohol - alcoholic beverages and foods containing alcohol
  • Avocados
  • Chocolate (particularly baking chocolate), coffee and caffeine
  • Citrus Coconut and coconut oil (in large amounts)
  • Grapes and raisins Macadamia nuts
  • Milk and dairy Nuts Onions, garlic, and chives
  • Raw/undercooked meat, bones, and eggs
  • Yeast dough
  • Xylitol (such as that found in gum) Salt and salty snack foods

On the other hand, Medical News Today lists the following human foods as being okay to serve dogs in moderation:

  • Carrots

  • Apples

  • White rice (only in small amounts, especially for dogs with diabetes)

  • Fish

  • Chicken

  • Peanut butter (if free of xylitol)

  • Plain popcorn

  • Pork

  • Turkey

  • Blueberries

  • Bananas

  • Cucumbers

  • Green beans

  • Watermelon

We know you want the best for your dog, so contact us today to get your dog on the path to good nutrition and, in turn, a healthy and happy life.

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