Should I Feed My Dog Homemade Dinners? | Toronto Dog Walking

An increasing number of pet owners have resorted to cooking human-grade meals for their pets in the wake of health and safety concerns regarding commercial pet food.  For many pet owners, cooking their dogs’ food is an enjoyable experience that allows complete control over food quality, budget, and allergen elimination.  However, many veterinarians worry that homemade meals may leave dogs without balance in their diets.  

Making dog food at home can be an economical option in comparison to other high-quality diets, especially when seeking to feed a dog with special dietary needs.  Meals typically consist of chicken breast, ground beef, or fish (such as cooked, de-boned salmon) with rice, sweet potato, green beans, carrots, and the occasional liver or organ meat.  Dogs that are picky eaters rarely turn down a home cooked meal.  If allergies are an issue, a homemade diet can eliminate any risk of cross contamination from foods that may be processed in facilities where other allergens are present.  For dogs with special needs, such as poor dentition or jaw problems, homemade food may be necessary to meet the needs of these pups.  

When choosing to make meals from scratch for your pet, veterinarians recommend first meeting with a registered canine dietitian.  The macro-nutrient needs of dogs are vastly different from humans.  For instance, while a human diet should consist of roughly 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat (depending on age, activity level, and individual needs), a dog’s meal should approximately consist of 15% carbohydrates, 55% protein, and 30% fat.  Therefore, when cooking for your dog, it can be easy to bias his or her meals towards a human’s needs and inadvertently provide an improperly balanced diet.  Many canine dietitians also recommend multivitamin supplementation when providing home cooked meals, since it can be near impossible to provide the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals through whole-food sources. 

A second reason that veterinarians caution pet owners against cooking meals at home is because well-meaning owners can easily feed their pets toxic foods on accident.  Ingredients that are healthy for humans, such as grapes, onions, avocado, garlic, certain nuts, xylitol, mushrooms, stone fruit, rhubarb, and yeast can cause serious health problems in pets.  Dogs are also sensitive to fat, and too much can cause pancreatitis, which is a serious and sometimes fatal condition if left untreated.  When cooking at home, fat, carbohydrate, and protein ratios in a dog’s diet must be controlled with utmost vigilance.  

For pet owners, cooking meals at home can be time consuming and inconvenient.  Cooking a large batch of food at one time is practical, but is also limited to freezer space.  Most recipes should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than 5 – 6 days before eating, and if planning to board your dog or travel with him or her for an extended period of time, meal time can quickly become cumbersome.  However, pet owners who cook meals at home often report feeling a stronger bond with their pets, and enjoy the opportunity to cook for them with love.