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Many dog owners wonder and worry about what they need to know when making homemade dog food recipes to ensure their dog's diet is balanced.
That's why I designed this six part series in the Home Cooking Channel on Dogly to help you see homemade dog food diet formulation in a clear, doable way, so you can plan and prepare a healthier diet for your dog.
Let's get started - going in with an open mind is recommended!
Science-based to include high quality ingredients + needed nutrients
In this series you'll learn to formulate homemade balanced recipes (cooked or raw) for your adult healthy dog using science-based nutrient guidelines. I want to remove the stress from feeding, show you how to trust the science, and help you enjoy life with your dog. And never worry about a deficiency again!
Knowing this perspective from the beginning helps set the tone for the entire Home Cooking Channel on the nutrition behind homemade food that fulfills your dog's nutritional needs. We're covering different approaches (from raw food to home cooked food) for diet formulation, including strengths and weaknesses of these approaches in creating a balanced diet.
What works for homemade raw dog food AND home-cooked dog food
The focus on formulating for nutrient requirements using high quality ingredients works for homemade raw dog food and just as well if you're cooking dog food. We do briefly touch on whether you should select a cooked or raw diet for your dog, but our nutrient-driven approach works for both. In the cases where something doesn't apply to both, I will call out differences so you can adjust.
We are focusing on building your dog's diet from the inside-out starting with the nutrients your dog needs rather than adhering to one of the name diets you might be familiar with if you feed raw. Why?
Let's take ratio diets as an example of how this somewhat nuanced perspective difference matters.
Ratio diets use the 80/10/10 framework (BARF & PMR also think similarly in 80/10/10) which means 80% raw meat, 10% OSO (liver + other secreting organs), and 10% raw bones. (It can get a little confusing measuring ratio with something like turkey neck, usually 50% bone & 50% muscle meat.)
There's nothing wrong with these methods - they're made up of high quality ingredients, but what they don't take into consideration is the complete nutrient needs of our dogs. Ratios don't always equal balance - you could have high quality ingredients and meet the 80/10/10 but lack critical nutrients.
Okay, but tell me more...
For more context, if you'd like to see a couple of examples of common ratio mixes, you can watch me walk through a couple common ration mixes in the accompanying video at the bottom of this guide that details how you can achieve ratio with great ingredients and fall short on needed nutrients. In these two example cases, the recipes are lacking in vitamin D, E, manganese, zinc, thiamine, and Omega 3s just to name a few - and likely too high in iron.
So, ratios don't give us the full story. You could try to balance over time but usually it's not adequate and hard to make sure all nutrients are absorbable, and tricky to manage it/measure it. The bottom line is even high quality dog food can be deficient.
That's why we're focusing on combining nutrients AND ingredients in the Home Cooking Channel. As you begin making dog food, we want high quality ingredients and we want the nutrients to be there.
Both raw & cooked foods bring benefits to your dog's bowl
Advantages to raw food for your dog
A raw food diet has many advantages - meaty bones for one (bones should never be cooked!). You might hear super passionate raw-feeders say cooked food loses nutrition in the cooking process and raw is the way dogs were supposed to eat.
Raw dog food does have genuine advantages:
- Raw food is naturally lower in histamine
- Raw food is easier to prepare
- And of course, there are the many benefits of raw bones!
Advantages to cooked food for your dog
Lightly cooked/steamed food has many advantages as well:
- More nutrition in less volume - for dogs who are picky eaters, it's often hard to get them to eat as much as you'd like. Cooked has the advantage of delivering more nutrition in smaller volume...helpful when a bulkier meal is just too much for a dog to eat so cooked becomes useful.
- Some dogs simply digest food better when it's cooked - whether older, or with health issues and compromised digestion, or just the way they are.
- Some foods like sweet potato have to be cooked. Others - most fruits & vegetables - are much more bioavailable to your dog when cooked or run through a food processor.
As we begin to create homemade meals, let's keep an open mind and maybe branch out if you've only been feeding one way!
Getting a start on recipe formulation
What you can expect as we get into each segment to create a homemade dog diet you can apply for your dog...
- Tools to use to manipulate the ingredients and nutrients to make each dog food recipe balanced.
- Consistent mindset as we go through every aspect of making your own dog food: to accomplish both high quality ingredients and nutrients. (You can still do ratio, we're just adding assurance on nutrients needed! We'll do both raw and cooked - I feed raw at home but you can do both!)
Next up in the Home Cooking Channel on Dogly
Now that you understand ingredients and nutrients in your dog's food, let's move on to understanding energy requirements for your dog in the next 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!