Increasingly, homemade dog food is being considered by pet owners who are hoping to provide dogs with a more varied diet and a wider set of flavours. But while homemade dog treats and meals are often satisfying to make, the risks of producing your own dog food can outweigh any perceived benefits. Pet food needs to be created very carefully with a precise, balanced mix of nutrients.
The purpose of daily nutrients for dogs
According to the Pet Food Institute, there are more than 40 nutrients your dog needs every day to remain healthy.1 Each of these must be precisely balanced as too little or too much of a single nutrient can lead to malnutrition and poor health. The essential nutrients in your dog’s daily diet affect every part of their health as they:
A balanced nutritional formula
Essential nutrients fall into one of six families, which all play a vital role in your dog’s ongoing health:
The measurement of each nutrient is determined by factors such as age, breed, weight, lifestyle, sensitivities and health conditions, and will change over the course of a pet’s life.
Even a healthy, adult dog can experience multiple alterations in their nutritional needs, due to changing activity levels, whether they’re carrying a litter or even depending on their home setting. Dogs that live in an urban environment, for example, may have different needs to pets in more rural areas.
Can you make your own dog food?
Making your own dog food can be incredibly complex. Before you even start to make changes to your pet’s diet, it's important to talk to a veterinary nutritionist, who will calculate your dog's energy and nutrient requirements. Your dog's breed, age, weight, activity level, condition, health and living conditions will all be taken into account when developing your pet’s nutritional profile, and each nutritional need must be met precisely.
Once your pet’s nutritional requirements have been determined and a formulated diet has been provided by a veterinary nutritionist, you will need to invest in special equipment. This can include, but is not limited to, a high-end meat grinder, cleavers, knives, shears, bowls, scales, containers, gloves and chopping boards. To avoid bacterial contamination, strict hygiene standards must also be met throughout the preparation process.
Selecting the right ingredients to provide each nutrient can be difficult too. Your veterinary nutritionist will select specific ingredients so your dog gets the correct amount of each nutrient. Some ingredients that are nutritious for humans can be toxic for your dog. Onions, for example, are a great source of vitamins and potassium, both of which are important nutrients for pets, but are, in fact, toxic to dogs in any form.
Even with safe ingredients for dogs, people who are not used to making pet food are likely to find it difficult to extract the right nutrients in the right quantities, and there is a risk of overfeeding or malnutrition if not done correctly.
Although it may be easy to find homemade pet food recipes, it’s important to consider that, even with the right equipment and safe, nutritious ingredients, it can still be very difficult to create a complete and balanced diet at home. Before committing to making your own pet food, you should consult a veterinary nutritionist, who will have the scientific and nutritional knowledge to fully support your dog’s health and wellbeing through homemade diets.
Dogs aren’t like humans
When considering homemade food, it’s worth remembering that dogs are very different to humans, both nutritionally and in terms of our eating habits.
Taste is less important for dogs than it is for humans. Humans have around 9,000 taste buds, but dogs only have around 1,700, so their sense of taste is less developed.2
Humans chew and savour their food, but dogs bite and tear. This means they chew less and eat faster. Food spends less time on their palate.
Unlike humans, dogs do not require a varied diet. In fact, changing a dog's diet too quickly can cause an upset stomach. If you ever have to transition your pet onto a new diet, it's important to do so slowly and with a phased approach. Read our guide to find out more.
What matters most to a dog is the combination of the aroma, texture and temperature of their food, and the regularity and routine of eating. The appearance, colour and variety of food are unimportant to them, and there’s actually a risk of digestive problems if you change their diet too often.
Is homemade dog food right for my dog?
Your dog relies on you for their food and all the nutrients that keep them healthy, so it's important that you consider what’s right for them.
While homemade dog food can seem satisfying to prepare, it has to be made under strict hygiene conditions and in exactly the right quantities to be safe and nutritionally sufficient. Sourcing premium ingredients can be complicated and expensive too.
You may find that a pre-made and nutritionally balanced food, that’s been specially tailored to your dog’s age, size, breed and health condition, is an easier and better option for you and your dog. With Royal Canin, every nutrient is methodically researched by our scientists and expert pet nutritionists, and precisely adjusted to keep your dog at their best.
2 Everything you need to know about the role played by Nutrients for the health of Cats & Dogs, Pr Dominique Grandjean, 2006, Royal Canin SAS