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What do vets say about homemade dog food?

Homemade dog food has become an increasingly popular option for many pet owners looking to provide their dogs with nutritious, wholesome meals. However, there are some important things to consider when choosing to feed your dog a homemade diet. Vets generally caution that homemade diets can lack complete nutrition if not properly formulated, but with the right ingredients and preparation, they can be a healthy option for many dogs. In this article, we’ll explore what veterinarians have to say about the pros and cons of homemade dog food, and provide tips on how to create balanced, vet-approved recipes.

The Potential Benefits of Homemade Dog Food

Many pet owners choose to make their own dog food because it gives them more control over the ingredients, allowing them to avoid fillers, preservatives, and other additives commonly found in commercial kibble. Here are some of the touted benefits of homemade dog food diets:

  • Avoidance of harmful ingredients – Homecooked meals allow you to steer clear of contaminants like aflatoxins from moldy grains, and carcinogens like heterocyclic amines that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures.
  • Increased palatability – Some dogs are picky eaters but show more interest in homemade food with recognizable, aromatic ingredients.
  • Customization for individual needs – Recipes can be tailored to dogs with allergies or intolerances, or altered life stage requirements.
  • Health benefits of fresh foods – Cooking at home allows for incorporation of fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables, which can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients.
  • Better digestion – Homemade food made with high-quality protein sources and limited processed carbs may improve digestion, stool quality, and energy levels for some dogs.

Many vets agree that well-formulated homemade food can provide these benefits over commercial dog food. However, they also emphasize homemade food should follow recipes developed alongside veterinary nutritionists or meet established nutritional guidelines.

Potential Risks of Incomplete Nutrition

While homemade dog food comes from a place of love and care, vets warn it can pose risks if owners do not properly formulate recipes. According to veterinary nutritionists, some of the biggest potential issues with homemade diets include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies – If recipes aren’t properly balanced, they may lack adequate levels of proteins, vitamins (like A, B, K, and E), minerals (like iron, calcium, and zinc), essential fatty acids, and more.
  • Nutrient excesses – Feeding too much of certain nutrients like calcium or vitamin D can also cause problems.
  • Incomplete proteins – Plant-based homemade recipes need a mix of ingredients to provide complete proteins with all essential amino acids.
  • Food-borne illness risks – Raw homemade diets without proper food handling precautions raise the risks of bacteria like salmonella and E. coli.

These issues are especially concerning for puppies, nursing dogs, and dogs with medical conditions, who have higher nutritional needs. That’s why vets urge careful recipe formulation and advise owners have their homemade meals periodically analyzed to confirm nutritional adequacy.

Tips for Creating Balanced Homemade Dog Food

To provide dogs with nutritionally complete homemade meals, most veterinarians provide recommendations like:

  • Consult with a vet nutritionist – They can help formulate recipes or approve cookbooks that meet all of a dog’s nutritional needs.
  • Model recipes after commercial diets – Look for homemade recipes that mimic AAFCO-approved dog foods.
  • Include key food groups – Well-balanced homemade diets include proteins, carbohydrates, fruits/veggies, calcium, essential fatty acids, and specific vitamins/minerals.
  • Vary ingredients – Rotating different protein, carb, fruit, and vegetable ingredients can help prevent nutritional imbalances.
  • Weigh portions carefully – Precise measurements ensure proper calorie and nutrient contents.
  • Supplement if needed – Additives like oils, vitamins, or calcium carbonate can fill nutritional gaps.
  • Have recipes assessed – Ask your vet to review recipes or have meals analyzed by a lab periodically.

Following recipes from reputable books and websites can make balancing homemade meals easier. Some good options recommended by vets include:

  • The Whole Pet Diet by Michelson Found Animals
  • Canine Nutrigenomics by Dr. Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure
  • Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn
  • The Forever Dog by Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker

Owners should also look into canine nutrition courses and consultations to learn how to appropriately formulate homemade recipes on their own.

Key Rules of Thumb from Veterinarians

To recap, here are some key rules of thumb from vets regarding homemade meals:

  • Have recipes assessed by a veterinary nutritionist before feeding long-term
  • Include at least one meal per week of commercial dog food to fill any nutritional gaps
  • Weigh ingredients precisely and prepare food safely to avoid food-borne illness
  • Watch your dog’s weight, energy, coat, appetite, and stool to ensure the diet is providing balanced nutrition
  • Consider shorter homemade diet trials for picky eaters before switching entirely
  • Supplement with oils, vitamins, minerals, or other additions if your vet determines it necessary
  • Monitor growing puppies closely to ensure adequate nutrition for proper development

Following these tips will help minimize risks and provide dogs with nutritious homemade meals approved by veterinary experts.

Vet-Approved Homemade Dog Food Recipes

To give you a better idea of what a properly balanced homemade dog food recipe contains, here are two vet-approved options to consider trying:

Veterinarian-Developed Chicken and Rice Recipe

This homemade recipe was formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists to meet all of an adult dog’s nutritional needs:

Ingredient Quantity
Skinless, boneless chicken breast 1 pound
Long grain white rice 2.5 cups cooked rice (approx 3/4 pound uncooked rice)
Carrots, peeled, diced 1 cup
Zucchini, diced 1 cup
Plant oil 1 Tbsp
Calcium carbonate 1 tsp
Iodized salt 1/4 tsp
Multi-vitamin/mineral supplement 1/2 Tbsp powdered

Cook the chicken breast until no longer pink and rice according to package directions. Steam or boil carrots and zucchini until soft. Allow chicken and rice to cool before mixing together with vegetables, oil, calcium carbonate and salt. Add vitamin supplement right before feeding. Portion into daily meals and refrigerate extras.

Balanced Turkey, Brown Rice, and Vegetable Recipe

Here is another homemade recipe from veterinary nutrition experts containing turkey, brown rice, and micronutrient-rich produce:

Ingredient Quantity
Ground turkey (93% lean) 1 pound
Brown rice 2 1/4 cups dry rice cooked in 4 1/2 cups water
Broccoli, chopped 1 cup
Carrots, shredded 1 cup
Plant oil 1 Tbsp
Bone meal 1 1/2 tsp
Iodized salt 1/4 tsp
Calcium carbonate 1 tsp
Multi-vitamin supplement 1/2 Tbsp powdered

Cook the ground turkey until browned and no longer pink. Steam broccoli and carrots until soft. Mix together with cooked brown rice, oil, bone meal, salt, and calcium carbonate once ingredients have cooled. Add vitamin powder right before serving. Portion out daily quantities and store unused portions in the refrigerator.


While homemade meals allow for control over ingredients, veterinarians caution that recipes can easily become nutritionally imbalanced without the right guidance. Working with veterinary nutrition experts to develop or analyze homemade recipes can help minimize these risks. With properly balanced ingredient amounts, inclusion of all key food groups, and safe preparation, homemade diets can potentially offer health benefits over conventional commercial dog foods in many cases. However, owners should follow veterinary guidelines closely, ideally consulting a vet nutritionist, to ensure homemade meals provide everything their dogs need for long-term health.