Has feeding homemade dog food improved the health of my dogs? If you want the short answer, it is a resounding YES! It has been 3 years since I decided to start making my own dog food… wow, time flies! I thought it was well past time to update everyone on how choosing a high quality dog food has helped my pets become healthier overall.
Just a quick disclaimer: I worked with my veterinarian and did a mountain of research before I decided on a diet that was right for my pets. I encourage you all to talk with your vet before trying home cooked dog food, or at the very least read Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
I didn’t know my dogs were overweight until I looked back at some old pictures. I can’t guarantee that your pets will slim down on a home cooked diet. No matter what you feed them, if you overfeed them, they’re still going to be fat. However, part of creating a dog food recipe is determining how many calories your pets should be eating. A combination of reduced caloric intake and eating only fresh whole foods have slimmed my guys down considerably.
Read this article for more tips on keeping the pounds off of your pet.
Shiny and Lustrous Coat
I get tons of comments on how my dog’s coats are shiny, soft, and healthy looking. They don’t stink. I’m serious! I don’t give them a bath more than a few times a year (except Sara, because she has a white coat).
Allergies and Ear Infections No More
Gatsby used to have recurring ear infections and allergy symptoms (itchy paws, etc). About 6 months into feeding quality foods they stopped… Completely. I can’t think of any other reason, other than the change in diet, why they went away. Sara came into our lives after I was already feeding homemade food. She has never been sick or to the vet’s office for any reasons other than for an annual visit.
My dogs are now ages 3, 4 and (almost) 5. They still have loads of energy and haven’t showed any signs of starting to slow down.
Things I Do Differently Now
Calcium is still vital to a dog’s health, but I have changed the way that my dogs receive calcium. I save up my discarded eggshells and grind them in a coffee grinder until they are a powder. It sounds gross, but they don’t seem to mind! I use 1 tsp per pound of meat and mix it in after cooking. Dietary bone meal has recently been shown to be too high in phosphorus to be as effective and the amount of calcium in plain yogurt isn’t enough to satisfy your pet’s daily requirements.
At first, I thought I would never go back to dry dog food, but now I keep a bag of high quality kibble in the cupboard. Why? Mostly because it is convenient. If I run out of food in the fridge and don’t have time to make more, my guys are very happy to eat kibble with a little bit of hot water mixed in. I’ll sometimes sprinkle a few pieces over the homemade dog food as a treat, like croutons!
I also have been adding digestive enzymes for dogs to my homemade pet food a few minutes before I serve it. Digestive enzymes help to break down food so that your dog is extracting as many nutrients as possible from the whole foods you are giving them.
Lastly, I have recently (within the past month) starting pureeing the vegetables that I put into the food. This is also to help them digest all the available nutrients in the veggies without having to cook them too long. Cooking vegetables for long period of time reduces the available nutrients in the food.
It may seem like a lot of work to make your own dog food, but honestly it takes me about an hour to cook a week’s worth of food for 3 medium sized dogs. The work is mostly front loaded. Once you’ve done your research and put together a recipe, it becomes part of your routine. Now my husband wants me to start cooking his dinner too… in his dreams 🙂
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