Are you ready to level up your dog’s health through home-cooked meals? Of course, you are. My goal is to help dog moms and dog dads gain confidence in the kitchen. This recipe will give you a solid foundation to get you started on the right foot.
The ratios above are your starting guideline. Adjustments can be made depending on your dog’s individual needs.
You may have seen variations of “ratio-recipes” but they either:
- Over simplify it, which leads to an unbalanced meal
- Add carbohydrates that aren’t needed.
- Don’t state ingredients sources for calcium, omega-3s, or vitamins and minerals.
- Focusing on a one size fits all approach which doesn’t work for dogs. Hello, that’s why we don’t feed kibble.
As a Certified Canine Nutritionist, I use formulation software to test and validate the foundation recipe.
So yes, it may intimidate you at first but trust me, it’s not that hard. It’s a recipe for success, and once you understand the WHY behind the core recipe, you’ll feel at ease that you’re feeding your dog correctly.
- These ratios are based on a goal to ensure you meet your dog’s nutritional needs based on AAFCO’s standards.
- The advice given is the closest I can get you to a nutritionally sound recipe without requiring you to use a spreadsheet or hire me to create a personalized formula.
- The formulas are for a healthy dog that isn’t suffering from any medical ailments.
Whole with Minimal Synthetics
There are two approaches when preparing your dog’s food.
- Ingredients will always be from whole foods and meals will be synthetic-free: Emphasis is placed on utilizing whole food sources to fill nutrient needs.
- Whole foods + synthetics approach: Supplements can be used to fill gaps in minerals and vitamins due to the inability to find whole food sources.
I advocate for using whole food sources first before turning to synthetic supplements for the following reasons:
- Whole food is more bio-available than synthetic sources.
- It isn’t easy to make mistakes when you use whole food sources as it relates to over-supplementation and causing vitamin and mineral toxicities.
That said, sometimes you can’t use whole food ingredients due to lack of access to it, budget, and allergies.
Batch versus Individual Meals
There are two ways in preparation
1. Batch cooking all of the ingredients at once and storing the food in individual servings.
- You might be able to save money because you buy ingredients in bulk. However, on the flip side, you need to buy or have the ingredients on hand at the time of meal prep.
- Save time through out the time you have food on hand.
- Meal prep time can be exhausting – taking three to five hours.
- You need to have freezer space to store all the food.
I used to cook meals this way. I would drive around town to buy all of my ingredients and then spend a night cooking, portioning it out, and then storing and freezing.
I found this method to be exhausting. Meal prep nights meant I would have to be in the kitchen all night.
2. Cooking the ingredients and keeping them in daily servings
I found this approach to be easier. It also allowed me to shop sales and store my ingredients instead of buying it all at once.
- It allowed me to take advantage of sales.
- It allowed me to break up my cooking nights. For example, if I went to Costco and bought 5 pounds of turkey. I could cook it that night, portion it out in daily servings and then pull it out when I needed it.
- More cooking nights but … I spend a lot of the week cooking anyway, so this wasn’t a big problem for me.
The Core Recipe For Home Cooked Meals
Knowing what ingredients to add, at which amounts, and how often to rotate them are the skills you need to learn this core recipe.
These “ratios” are starting guidelines to get you started.
55 to 60% Muscle Meat. Choose one protein for the meal. Rotate every day or every week
- Rotate your proteins. I change out a different protein every night of the week. You can rotate every two, three, four, five, six but no more than seven days (mix it up weekly)
- I feed red meat more frequently. I actually don’t feed chicken as the main protein since I use chicken feet and chicken hearts often.
- Feed eggs daily. I recommend pasture-raised eggs. They are higher in vitamin A, E, and omega-3s, as well as lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. They also help you fill your choline requirement daily. My 20-pound dogs eat half an egg, each meal or one egg a day. You can feed the eggs scrambled or hard-boiled.
10-15% Organ Muscle Meat. Rotate your variety monthly but always include heart in your meals.
Not to be confused with organ meat, “organ muscle meat” will be the other cuts of meat from the tongue, heart, and gizzards.
Organ muscle meat will have a different profile of nutrients from muscle meat which is why it’s beneficial to feed it.
For example, taurine comes from the heart. Most Asian markets will have chicken, duck, and pork hearts. I usually buy pork hearts and slice and dehydrate them to feed their daily heart intake as treats.
- You must NEVER FEED COOKED BONES. The compromise is to dehydrate them at home or buy them already dried. Or feed them raw.
- You can increase bone to 12% if their poops are solid enough. It should be like a cigar that can roll down a sloped sidewalk. You should be able to pick it up with ease. If it’s too hard, it will turn white the next day and you need to ease up on the bone.
- In a pinch, when you don’t have bone, you can use eggshell powder or seaweed calcium. Additional alternatives include bone meal or calcium carbonate.
8-10% Fish: Pick two and rotate monthly
- For example, I love to feed salmon and mackerel. Those are the two fish I feed most of the time, and occasionally, I’ll have access to capelin, smelt, sardines, or anchovies.
- I normally cook fish low and slow in a small amount of water and then include the water in their meal.
- 2.5% Blue mussels which are needed for manganese, oysters for zinc.
- You can get both of these ingredients from your local Asian market.
- You MUST cook them. Most blue mussels already come cooked.
- Cinnamon can be a replacement for manganese if your dog doesn’t have a palatability issue with cinnamon.
- 2.5% Oysters which are typically frozen and need to be cooked prior to feeding to eliminate the problem with thiaminase.
- If you are unable to find frozen oysters you can buy them canned. Some dogs react to canned foods. Typically they start itching between 30 minutes to 3 hours after they eat it so you will very quickly be able to tell.
- Zinc in it’s natural whole food form is up to 6.5 times more bioavailable than synthetic sources.
- If you cannot source oysters, you can use the amino acid chelated zinc supplement such as L-OptiZinc® in a 15 mg dose. Capsules are easy as you can break them apart. Small dogs need 1/2 a capsule. medium dogs one capsule and large and giant breeds might need two capsules.
4% Liver: Choose two and rotate monthly
- Liver is extremely high in Vitamin A.
- The copper yield in liver varies depending on the source.
- For example, I rotate my liver between beef, lamb and pork liver. I feed it for about 7 to 10 days and then switch to a different liver.
- Air-dried liver treats can be a substitute to cooked liver.
- The reason why I recommend only 4% liver is feeding more leads to higher levels of Vitamin A as well as possibly copper being fed.
High copper liver includes: beef, calf (veal), lamb, goat, goose
Mid-range copper liver includes: duck, deer
Low copper liver includes: pork, chicken, turkey,
6% Other secreting organs: Choose two and rotate monthly
- If you can source spleen – it’s great to feed as it has the highest level of iron
- Air-dried kidney or spleen can be a good substitute for cooked
- Fur is my preferred source of fiber. It also provides manganese. A small amount goes a long way. I can easily find fur through rabbit pelt or hairy cow ears. I cut off a portion the size of two thumbnails for my 20 pound dogs.
- Feathers are the other source of fiber but it’s typically more difficult to source feathers unless you have access to quail or pheasant.
- Vegetables can be added to meals but due to their alkalizing effect I keep vegetables at a minimum. If you must feed it, do so cooked or blended and focus on the low starch vegetables.
How Much To Feed Your Dog
- I could formulate a portion to your dog’s individual caloric needs but you can also safely estimate it to be between 2% (adult semi-active dog) to 4% (adult active dog) of their daily weight.
- You will have to monitor their body condition score regularly to know if you are feeding the correct amount.
- Low and slow. Cook your proteins, organ, fish, low and slow. I typically prefer you cook each ingredient separately as opposed to one batch since things like liver and spleen are in such small portions it’s hard to mix it so that it’s evenly distributed at feeding.
- NEVER, EVER cook bone. You can feed it raw, or in my case, I dehydrate it.
- Allowing for moisture loss during cooking
Putting It All Together In The Bowl
To save money, it’s been easier for me to purchase ingredients as I’m out and about doing my own grocery for my family and taking advantage of sales.
As such, I store all of the ingredients in individual servings and defrost the next day’s meals in the fridge.
I prepare their meals twice a day. Supplements are minimally used unless I was unable to source the whole food source.
Supplements To Add
- Calcium: When I don’t have bones. You can also use a base mix such as Raw Vibrance from Doctor Harveys. Or eggshell or seaweed calcium powder.
- Kelp: A trace amount of kelp goes a long way. A pinch is all you need. If you overfeed this – depending on the brand, you can easily be enter overfeeding a dangerous amount of Vitamin A and/or D.
- Vitamin E: If you are able to source bone marrow one to two times a week you won’t have to feed vitamin E supplements.
- Vitamin D: If you are feeding enough fish you won’t have to feed Vitamin D.
Know Function, Deficiencies and Excesses of Key Nutrients
The deficiencies for the commonly missed nutrient in home-cooked meals are as follows:
Function: Constituent of thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Thyroid hormones have an active role In thermoregulation, Intermediary metabolism, reproduction, growth and development, circulation and muscle function.
Deficiency: Goiter, fetal resorption, rough coat, enlarged thyroid glands, alopecia, apathy, lethargy
Excess: Similar to those caused by deficiency. Decreased appetite, listlessness, rough coat, decreased immunity, decreased weight gain, goiter, fever
Function: Component and activator of enzymes (glycosyl transferases) lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, bone development (organic matrix) reproduction, cell membrane integrity (mitochondria)
Deficiency: Impaired reproduction, fatty liver, crooked legs, decreased growth
Excess: Relatively nontoxic
Function: Calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, bone mineralization, bone resorption, insulin synthesis, immune function
Deficiency: Rickets, enlarged costochondral junctions, osteomalacia, osteoporosis
Excess: Hypercalcemia, calcinosis, anorexia, lameness
Function: Biologic antioxidant, membrane integrity through free radical scavenging.
Deficiency: Sterility (males) steatitis, dermatosis, immunodeficiency, anorexia, myopathy
Excess: Minimally toxic. Fat soluble vitamin antagonism, increased clotting time, (reversed with vitamin K).
Excess: Relatively nontoxic. Reported cases were because of consumption of pennies or zinc nuts
Function: Constituent or activator of 200 known enzymes (nucleic acid metabolism, protein synthesis carbohydrate metabolism, skin and wound healing, immune response, fetal development, growth rate
Deficiency: Anorexia, decreased growth, alopecia, parakeratosis, impaired reproduction, vomiting, hair depigmentation, conjunctivitis
Being familiar with the ailments lets you know if you’re over feeding or under feeding your dog.
Best Supplements To Add
- Milk Thistle: Liver support and detox.
- Quercetin: Nature’s Benedryl. Feed to dogs with yeast, allergies, IBD, and inflammation.
- Larch: Whole food pre-biotic
- Mushrooms: Helps the fight against cancer and reduces inflammation.
- Omega – 3s. I like to get keep my Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio in the 3:1 ratio or even 2:1 and that would mean I would have to feed almost double the amount of fish or just add an Omega 3 supplement. I NEVER advise omega-3 oil as it oxidizes and goes rancid but I do recommend Omega-3 powder.
Commercial Home Cooked Food
The fresh food movement is gaining in popularity and you can have home-cooked meals delivered to you from Just Food For Dogs, Nom Nom Now and The Farmer’s Dog to name a few.
I’ve tried all three brands and found the carb content to be high. All of the recipes I tried didn’t have fish or seafood. And energy can come from fat or carbs.
If you prefer to have meals cooked for you and delivered to your door, they are great options. I would suggest you:
- Add more fish
- Add more protein
Why I don’t Include Carbohydrates
Dogs do not need carbohydrates to survive. It’s not species-appropriate.
However, in some cases, you might need to add a small amount of cooked oatmeal if your dog needs to gain weight.
I never advocate for rice or grains in meals.
Another option is to add sweet potato or squash but the high level of fiber might cause problems for their stomach.
Remember to rotate and add variety. Don’t fall into the trap of only feeding chicken, or turkey, or pork. Dogs need to eat different proteins to be healthy.
You can very easily learn how to make your dog their own homemade meals and you’re also welcome to work with me on your first recipe.