Are you frustrated with repeated recalls of commercial dog food? Have you lost confidence in the quality of commercial dog food after 8,500 pets died from pet food melamine contamination in 2007? You are not alone. More and more dog owners prepare homemade diets for their dogs. Many considering homemade ask us about the costs of homemade diets. The truthful answer is it depends and is dependent on the ingredient desires of the dog owner.
Let me say right off that homemade dog food will never compete on price with dry, kibbled food. A 50lb dog can be fed for 13 to 40 cents per day on dry food. But if you think that dry food contains a real chicken breast or lean ground beef or leg of lamb, you are wishful thinking. If it did it would be much more expensive. It is made with slaughterhouse scraps. Homemade food is not.
Meat is the most expensive ingredient in homemade food. Including organic, range free or locally grown choices can increase the cost even more. Choosing hypoallergenic meats like bison, venison, duck and salmon will also increase the price. But there are ways to minimize the costs. Retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club, etc. allow owners to by bulk amounts at discounted prices. Purchasing a freezer to take advantage of these sales is a quick return on investment.
I personally, rotate between chicken breast and pork tenderloin for $1.99 or less per pound. 250-300lbs in the freezer lasts about 4-5 months for my 65lb dog and my son’s two 30lb dogs. Virtually all grocery chains list their weekly meat sales online so it is easy to time purchases based on this information .
Carbohydrates and Oils
Shopping for carbohydrates and oils in the same way as meat can substantially reduce the cost of these ingredients. Rice, potatoes, pasta, barley, oatmeal can be purchased very reasonably. Bulk quantities of un-washed couscous and quinoa can make these pricier carbohydrates more reasonable.
Well formulated homemade diets use concentrated sources of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats in order to reduce the total fat content of these diets. Canola and corn oil are the richest sources of preformed omega-3 and omega-6. These oils are readily available and not expensive. Buying larger containers can save even more.
All homemade diets need vitamin and mineral supplements. It is impossible to formulate a diet that meets all 42 daily nutrient required in the dog diet using food alone without exceeding their calorie requirements by 50%. Prices for vitamins and minerals vary dramatically. Again discount outlets or online merchants can yield large discounts. Unfortunately, these are formulated for humans. They typically exceed safe limits for some vitamins and are inadequate for many minerals.
Preferable are all-in-one supplements specifically formulated for the needs of canines fed homemade food. These are not available in stores but can be found online.
Carefully formulated homemade diets do not need added fruits and vegetables . They do make great zero or low calorie, healthy treats.
Shopping like I indicated above allows me to make chicken breast or pork tenderloin and macaroni for my 3 dogs for $2.34 per dog per day. As I mentioned this is more than kibbled food. But the cost of premium canned food that my 65lb dog was on before I adopted her was $5.85 per day. Her homemade diet is less than half of her former diet and she is much healthier. And I control the quality of the ingredients and do not worry about “what’s in the food” or ”will it be recalled”.
If the veterinary savings by feeding homemade are factored in, it turns out to be a real bargain and becomes even more competitive with commercial dry food.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN