Psst Are you a brand, artist, shelter, or dog looking to get on Dogly?
One of the easiest parts of putting together homemade cooked or raw dog food is sourcing good protein and fats to optimize your dog's diet.
Most homemade dog food diets are rich in protein and fat, and meeting these macronutrient requirements is typically easy.
Protein: simple, good sources for your dog
It's so easy to find protein from good sources in creating homemade raw or cooked dog food. The best protein sources are chicken, turkey, beef, lamb -and eggs are the gold standard when it comes to complete and digestible protein.
Eggs are an excellent source. If you're feeding raw egg and your dog isn't tolerating it well, try hard-boiled.
Dairy is also a source of protein, but obviously should not be as much a part of your dog food recipes. It just doesn't have the same nutrient profile and doesn't make as many of our dogs' nutrient requirements available as meat protein does.
All of these options deliver essential amino acids
So important in key body functions: protein synthesis, tissue repair, and nutrient absorption. Some may also help prevent muscle loss, support recovery after surgery, and athletic-level activity. You can see why they matter so much in a dog's diet (as well as our own).
Note on plant-based sources
Plant-based sources can deliver protein, and can be useful if needed for a special health condition restricting meat or other non-plant protein in dog foods. Important to note: the digestibility is much much lower than meat proteins, although cooking can increase the digestibility and availability of all the nutrients.
Not everyone likes to hear this but digestibility can be increased for all these options if cooked lightly and not overcooked.
Fat: how to think about good sources for your dog
Although fat may have taken on a less than positive connotation in human diet talk, it's a valuable component in your dog's food (and ours!). As we know from the previous guide about your dog's energy needs, fat serves a major role to provide energy. Fat also helps the body meet nutrient requirements by making it possible to absorb fat soluble vitamins like A, D, and E as well as delivering essential fatty acids.
Fats in your protein sources...
Whether you're formulating for adult dog food or you're feeding a puppy or a senior dog, as you choose your protein and fat sources, the type of fats you include are going to be dependent on the protein sources you pick.
Give me an example
All your protein sources already have varying amounts and types of fat. Since you don't want to end up with too much fat, you'll want to keep the right balance with your choices. For example, you'll want to keep in mind that ground beef has more fat than other meats - 80/20 ground beef contains more fat than, say, top round beef, and obviously more than 95% lean ground beef. Chicken breasts are lower in fat than chicken thighs, for another example.
What are good fats for your dog?
Dog owners often ask me about "good fats" for their dogs, with the follow-up question, "Where can I find them?"
Essential fatty acids are key to a healthy dog - and a complete and balanced diet. They're fundamental to the structure of every cell wall our dogs (and we) have, an energy source, and critical to keeping every system in our bodies running well.
The star we frequently talk about is Omega 3s: they help keep the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system working for optimal health - and typically much harder to get in commercial pet foods. (Human diets also tend to be much lower in Omega 3s vs Omega 6s.) You can find Omega 3s for your dog's food in fish, fish oils, dark meat of poultry, and brain.
Omega 6 is another essential fatty acid needed in your dog's diet. It tends to be more prevalent in common protein sourcing vs Omega 3 (as well as in commercial pet food). Good sources for Omega 6s for your dog's food are eggs, organs, and poultry.
Other fat sources - saturated fats
Coconut oil is another good source of fat for your dog, as well as dairy. Sometimes, for very active dogs, I'll use the actual straight fat such as duck fat, a favorite for this purpose (which of course, includes other nutrients as well).
Bonus: all these protein & fat sources have other nutrients as well
The happy fact about all these things we're looking at for protein and fat is they have other nutrients in them as well! Beef, for one example, has zinc.
As we get more into hands-on formulating, knowing which nutrients come from where will come easily when we start playing with different foods. You'll quickly get a good sense of which foods have the highest-value nutrients and how all the pieces come together to give our dogs the best balanced dog food for their best health.
Don't be surprised if you find new secrets from good pet nutrition influencing your choices for healthier foods and energy for yourself. I always find that when I get smarter so my dog eats better, I eat better!
(And if you'd like to watch me take you through this protein & fat sourcing guide for more context, you can see it in the video below.)
Next up in the Home Cooking Channel on Dogly
Now that you understand the good proteins and fats in dog food, go back to the beginning of Home Cooking Basics and learn why cooking your dog's food is actually a good thing in the step-by-step guide here.
Or hop over to the Home Cooking Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion and start any of the other step-by-step guides in Home Cooking Basics or Recipes.
If you ever need more personalized nutrition guidance, please reach out!