I understand that making your own dog food is a bit extreme. I’m okay with that. Don’t judge me.
The purpose of this post- and all my natural living posts, really- isn’t to try to convince or guilt people into doing things. The purpose is just to encourage others who may already be thinking about doing these things but have questions on getting started, and also to explain what works for me. I won’t be offended if you don’t buy into it all, or if you think I’m a total nutcase. Sometimes I think that too.
There are some important things to know before you get started. I have a lot of information and this is all a bit scattered, so bear with me here.
Why do it?
As I previously mentioned, I started doing this a little over a year ago after I discovered what kinds of things went into commercial dog food. I did it out of a love for cows and chickens as much as my own dogs. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on the why since my purpose is not to convince anyone, but if you are interested in researching, this is a good article to start with.
Good Dry Food
I started off by purchasing higher-quality dog food. I spent about 45 minutes in the Petco aisle reading every ingredient on every package of dog food, and comparing that to the price. Not all expensive dog foods are great. I have used a few different brands that I am happy with. As I read through the ingredients, I am looking for meat to be listed first. I’m checking to make sure there are real vegetables and fruits and very limited preservatives or artificial flavors or colors. I’m also making sure that fillers such as grain and corn don’t make up a large portion of the food. I think of this as upgrading their diet from the equivalent of fast food every day to Subway every day.
I still buy dry food, and my dogs eat it every day. I sprinkle a few pieces on top of the homemade stuff to make sure their teeth are chewing something hard. It’s also nice to have dry food on hand when the homemade stuff runs out, which happens regularly, or for when we travel.
Types of Diets
After I got them on good quality food, I started doing a LOT of research into homemaking food. There’s a lot to consider. There are a lot of different theories on what type of diet is best for dogs. You have to make sure you are providing well-balanced nutrition. I heard horror stories from people who tried home-making without fully doing their research.
There are as many opinions about what’s good for dogs as there are stars in the sky. Some people advocate for the Bones And Raw Food (BARF) diet. The thought is that our dogs’ ancestors, wild dogs, ate everything raw so that is how dogs should eat today. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but I hate handling raw meat and a diet called BARF just didn’t sound that appealing to me. So I moved on from that.
There is another camp that advocates dogs should not eat any types of grains. They believe all dogs should have completely grain-free diets because dogs can’t process grains and they are a common allergen. Grains are a common filler in dog food and are a relatively cheap way to make it last longer, so removing grains can significantly increase the cost. I do believe that some dogs have special dietary needs and therefore need special diets, but I decided to use grains in my food. I am careful to use only whole wheat grains.
Importance of Nutrition
Besides doing lots of online research, I purchased the book Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs And Cats. This book covers WAY more than just diet and offers many natural ways to care for your animals. It also gets into the nutritional balance you need to try to provide in your pet food. This was incredibly important to me, as the last thing I wanted to do was start a well-intentioned diet only to find I was depriving my dogs of some important thing they needed. If you want to get into homemaking dog food, feel free to use my experiences as a starting point, but please make sure you are actively researching exactly what your dog needs. To make sure my bases are covered, I make a supplement I mix in with the food. We’ll look at that next time.
Since the food I make is soft, I wanted to make sure I was giving my pups lots of chewing opportunities to keep their teeth strong. So, I buy these delicious looking things:
Bone Marrow bones. These are bones from cattle with bone marrow in the middle of them. My grocery store carries these, as do health food store and local butchers. The dogs like to lick out the sweet marrow and then chew on the bones. Pure calcium! I will not let them take the bones on the carpet until they are pretty well chewed- I learned this the hard way after I found blood on the carpet. Keep them on hard surfaces or outside.
Thought you weren’t supposed to give your dogs bones? Raw bones are fine, as long as they are a decent size and can’t be swallowed whole. You should not give your dogs cooked bones as they can easily splinter.
When you switch your dog’s diet, do it in stages. Don’t just do commercial food one day and then homemade food the next. Ease into it over a week or two. Gradually decrease the commercial food and increase the homemade food. Doing this prevented my dogs from getting sick. They were generally healthy before we switched and have not been sick at all for the past year. In fact, their bodies are leaner, their fur is shinier, and my dear sweet Turner has nearly stopped chewing on his paws for no reason.
Switching your furry friends’ diet is a big deal and should not be taken lightly. But with a little research and preparation it can have a ton of benefits!