For the love of your pet: Preparing food for pets at home challenging

By John Beck
Jan. 3, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 2, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.

I am considering making my dog's food at home. I just don't like the idea of not really knowing what is in my pet's food. Even some of the more expensive foods I have found have some ingredients I can't pronounce. Do you think this is a good idea or do you have any advice?

A few of my clients are headed in the same direction as you. They want to give their pets the best cuts of meat and sometimes even want organic vegetables, too. Homemade diets can be a good idea if you have a lot of time and know what you are doing. You will have to devote some time and effort to the selection and preparation.

Making homemade dog food has special requirements and different nutritional needs for different sizes, ages and activity levels of your dog. It is going to be a little difficult to find the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and minerals to complete your pet's nutritional needs. This must be researched and understood completely before switching your dog to this type of food. Usually, a multi-vitamin is a necessity when giving your pet homemade food.

The food you prepare must be fresh. If you make large batches and freeze it, you must thaw it over 24 hours in the refrigerator. Once thawed, it will need to be used within 24-48 hours or thrown out. Keeping it longer than that or not thawing it properly will encourage bacterial growth that can give your pet an upset stomach.

When choosing your ingredients, you will want to choose lean cuts of meat and vegetables from an approved list for dogs and essential fats. Depending on your pet's digestive tract, some pets are very sensitive to fatty meats. Some have to be fed chicken breasts because the chicken thighs are too high in fat.

Skins, gristle and large chunks of fat should be removed before cooking. Low sodium seasonings and broths should be added to keep the food flavorful and moist. Some vegetables can be given raw, and some must be cooked. Essential fats like fish oils and flax seed oils will need to be added to help with coat and joint health.

If you think that this might be too time consuming for you, there are some frozen diets that are very close to organic with very little to no preservatives added. These are shipped frozen, and you have the option to feed them thawed and raw or skillet warmed.

Almost everything you will make will be on the softer side. A dog needs something hard to chew on to keep his/her teeth and gums healthy. You can bake some dog bones to add some crunch to your pet's diet. There are a couple of local stores that sell homemade/organic treats if you don't want to bake them yourself.

If you need more information about the right choices when selecting ingredients for your homemade diet or information about alternative (organic/frozen) diets, feel free to contact me.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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