There is no question that opening a bag of dry dog food or a can of dog food is easier than cooking for your dog. The same is true of grabbing fast food compared to preparing a home-cooked meal. But most would agree that homemade dog food and homemade family meals are healthier choices.
But making homemade dog food does not have to be overwhelming. Healthy homemade can be made with only 3 key ingredients and supplements. Meat, carbohydrate and oils are all that are necessary for well formulated homemade dog food. The supplements necessary to make them nutritionally complete can also be simplified.
Boiling, baking and cooking in the crock pot certainly require less cooking supervision than other methods and are appropriate for most cuts of meat. Cooking until the internal temperature of the meat is 170oF will kill bacteria and generally tenderizes the meat adequately for fine shredding or flaking.
Dog owners preferring to feed raw meat homemade dog food do not face cooking time. Grinding is generally necessary in order to distribute it evenly with the other ingredients. Being careful to clean and disinfect preparation surfaces and utensils before and after use is essential when preparing raw diets. This does add more clean-up time than that necessary for cooked homemade diets.
Couscous, oatmeal and quinoa cook quickly. Couscous and quinoa are very easy to mix with the other ingredients with oatmeal being a little more difficult. Boiling potatoes and sweet potatoes and cooking rice, barley and macaroni and other grains require more time but only minor supervision. Finely dicing potatoes for even mixing can increase prep time.
Mixing the Ingredients
Even distribution of meats, carbohydrates, oils and supplements is essential if more than 1 pet is to be fed from one batch of food. Otherwise pets may get too much or too little of the ingredients. Using a counter top mixer can replace hand mixing to save time and effort. Pets fed individual recipes do not require fine shredding, grinding or flaking of meats and thorough mixing.
Balancing homemade diets with vitamins and minerals can be complicated. Virtually all homemade diets, cooked or raw, require salt, salt substitute, bone meal or a calcium/phosphorus source, vitamins and mineral pills or powders.
Most vitamin and mineral supplements are only available in tablet form and need to be ground. Simpler, is to find a homemade recipe source that also offers all-in-one supplements powders that are easily added to the recipes. This reduces the time and effort of recipe preparation.
Preparing 1 to 2 weeks of dog food on one day can also decrease the effort of homemade dog food. Allocations of food can be stored in plastic freezer bags or re-usable plastic containers for later use. This makes feeding homemade diets as easy as opening a bag of dry dog food.
Initially, feeding your dog homemade dog food can seem overwhelming. But as it becomes a normal part of your lifestyle, you will discover more efficient methods and ways to shop and prepare these diets. Eventually you will wonder why you fed your dog any other way. Bon Appetit!
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN