Home Cooking for Dogs 101

Written on 06/10/2024
Auntie M

Cooking for your dog is one of the absolute best things you can do for them. Eating whole, fresh, food is going to give them the best possible health for years to come. While every dog can benefit from a parent willing to cook, it is especially great for:

  • Picky Eaters
  • Dogs with Allergies
  • Overweight Dogs
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Senior Dogs
  • Dogs with Cancer
  • All Life Stages
  • Avoiding Recalls
  • Bonding with your Dog Even More

It used to be that telling someone you home cooked for your dog initiated an eye roll, or a convo about how you should just feed what's in the bag because it's "formulated" for dogs. However, nowadays, it's all the rage! I have to tell you, I'm not sure which one of those concerns me more…

Most home cooks that I meet, have found a recipe on the internet or are just cooking up the ol' chicken and rice and have a curious look on their faces as to why their dog "always seems hungry". Well, bad news, they probably are! If you're cooking up chicken breasts and white rice, you're doing a disservice to your dog, wasting your own time, and staring down the barrel at a future vet visit. Sure, that's still better than burnt up kibble...or is it? There is a reason for the "feed what's in the bag" argument, and it's along the lines of the ‘school lunch’. Is it processed, full of sugars, and carbs? Sure...but does it technically meet their daily dietary needs, sure does. Cringe at that for a moment, I will too...

This is why it's important to make sure IF we are going to cook, we are doing it right! Why waste all of that time in the kitchen just to have Pookie starving to death and missing out on his required calcium intake every day? Let's work smarter, not harder! Let's go over some basics so that you understand how my recipe was built and the importance of each part.

Ratios: It's more likely that you're feeding too little protein, and far too much grains. (if you're doing raw it's probably too much protein, minimal veg and no grain) My ideal ratio is around 60% protein, 30% fruits & veg, 10% rolled oats (or Quinoa). There are suitable variations of this, but the key is BALANCE. All of these categories are important in some form, even minimal. I have never used a recipe with zero grain that gave my dogs the sustenance and satiated feeling they needed.

Fat Ratios: I've seen a crazy amount of misinformation regarding fat content over the last year and it's extremely concerning as a canine nutritionist. Dogs require a specific amount of saturated fat, and unlike humans, it isn't harmful to them (within the proper ratios of course). I see "professionals" suggest skimming the fat off and I literally scream at the computer! Let me bust a MYTH: You DO NOT need to wash your meat. Why? It's an old school method (and if you want to, you can still) that is not really doing anything at all. You aren't going to wash uncooked fat off of the meat, because it is intertwined. You could cut off meat, but if you're buying large cuts of meat, I hope you have a method to calculate that fat percentage.

I cannot express to you how important it is that you

A.) Know what your fat ratio is in your protein. This is why I only recommend ground meat. You are getting multiple parts of the animal and a defined fat quotient. You can find butchers that grind it fresh, but wherever you get it, ground is best!

B.) Get a minimum of 7% if you have an active/adult dog. This level may vary depending on the recipe you choose, more meat, means leaner meat. This is why I urge you to stick to a recipe balanced by a professional! These are not easy calculations to make and most of us use computer programs and lab testing, feeding trials to ensure the nutrient content. I elaborate above under variations that can be safely made to my recipe with regards to fat conten. Chicken breasts are going to be far too lean to be your only protein source...and NO, you cannot just "add in coconut oil" to create your fat content.

I need to make sure you all hear me loud and clear on this one! Yes, there are some conditions where a lower fat is advised, but my recipe is well under that ratio already.

Minerals: This is where home cooking can get dangerous, and I want you all of take note of this at the very least. YOU MUST INCLUDE A MINERAL SUPPLEMENT WITH YOUR FOOD. There is unfortunately no possible way (a lot like humans) to compile a daily meal that contains all of the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs. Calcium being one of the most important, especially for growing pups. Now, that being said, there are a ton of products on the market claiming miracle properties. I prefer to use a mineral mix that is derived of all natural sources, like my Mineral Mix (avoiding bone meal and eggshells for the reasons listed above). Our bodies, and dogs, are better able to absorb the nutrients from whole sources rather than synthetic, giving them the best chance of optimal health. I know raw feeders will propose that organ meat can sub for these minerals, however I rarely see this done correctly (not that it can’t be) and the source of that organ meat, needs to be organic. Getting a liver from a non-organically raised animal is going to be full of toxins!

Now, there are a few things that can hinder mineral absorption, and I won't go into them all here, but malabsorption is a very common one. So the mineral mix you choose for those dogs will impact them greatly. My Mineral Mix is available in our shop and is indeed, from all natural sources! It also adds the proper amount of fiber and balances this recipe so that your dog's poops are easy to pick up and keeps those carpets clean!

Another very common issue when home cooking: I rarely see recipes with enough fiber content. This will lead to anal gland problems, digestive issues, and hungry hounds at your feet!

The Diference Between a "Balanced" Recipe and a Holistic One: With a sea of information and every individual posting a TikTok recipe, it's hard to know what constitutes a worthy recipe. Once veterinarians started recommending BalanceIt, most people felt rest assured that they had a safe website to trust. Unfortunately BalanceIt isn't giving you a nutritious balanced recipe, it's giving you a fresh version of kibble. (it's a holistic nutritionist's nightmare!) Most recipe suggestions give a protein that is too lean, a subpar oil to add fat content and table salt. BalanceIt doesn't even give a sliding bar for vegetation and their mineral supplement is fully synthetic. Not to mention over twice as expensive as the going rate (check out our cost comparison)! Plus, confusing measurements and single serving recipes. Ain't nobody got time for that!

I personally feel that if we are going to put all of this time and effort into making sure our dog's have the optimum nutrition, we need to make sure we have the best of the best. That is going to come from colorful veggies that are gently cooked (to aid in digestibility), balanced proteins, whole grains and a mineral supplement that does more than just check vitamin boxes. We are looking to provide a cornucopia of wellness in our dog's bowl, so don't settle for less!

One last thing, you’ll notice garlic is in my recipe and I’m sure most of you will scream, “but it’s on the poisonous list!”. I am well aware of that, however that came from a study where they fed whole heads of garlic to dogs and they got upset stomachs. I’m pretty sure anyone would get an upset tummy over that! Leave it out if you’re concerned, but every holistic vet recommends garlic, it’s natures antibiotic! Just make sure to crush it (I prefer a garlic press) 15 minutes before adding to the food to preserve the beneficial properties! It's not released until it's chopped or crushed and it's not heat safe until 15 minutes after.