Homemade Dog Food: Is It Right For Your Pup?

Four minutes
Aug 11, 2022

As a pet parent, you want the best for your furry family members. A dog’s diet is essential to their health and happiness. Naturally, that starts with feeding them healthy dog food. There are a number of ways to ensure a healthy diet, homemade dog food included. But is homemade food for you and your dog? Let’s dive in.

Can You Make Your Own Dog Food?

You can absolutely make your own dog food. Homemade food is one of the many options pet owners have to meet their dog’s needs. There is no evidence that fresh dog food is better than commercial dry food, but according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dogs can thrive on appropriately formulated home-cooked foods.3

Can Home-Cooked Dog Food Provide a Balanced Diet?

Homemade food can be a balanced diet for your dog, but you have to do it right. That’s why it’s essential to seek out a vet-approved recipe. An imbalanced homemade diet will often lead to nutritional problems.4

Recipes from the internet — including some written by veterinarians — are extremely unlikely to be balanced and nutritionally sufficient.5 Additionally, each dog’s nutritional requirements will depend on their age, size, health, and breed.4

It’s also important to know that not all dogs should have a homemade diet. According to the American Kennel Club’s chief veterinarian, puppies, pregnant dogs, and lactating dogs have specific dietary needs that may not be as easily addressed by homemade foods.6

Essential ingredients in a homemade dog food recipe

To meet official feed standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), homemade recipes should have all of the essential nutrients your dog needs. According to the AAFCO nutrient requirements for dogs, your dog’s diet needs:7

  • Protein: Dogs need protein that has 10 specific amino acids needed for energy production, and their diet should be made of at least 18% protein like poultry, beef, or fish.
  • Carbohydrates: Up to 50% of a dog’s diet should be made of carbohydrates like rice, pasta, or potatoes.
  • Fat and fatty acids: A balanced diet should include fatty acids to support cell function and a healthy skin and coat. At least 5.5% of your dog's diet should be made of fats and fatty acids like plant-based oils.
  • Fiber: Just like humans, dogs need fiber for their digestive health. Fiber should be at least 2.5% of your dog's diet. Vegetables like peas, carrots, and green beans are an excellent source.
  • Vitamins and minerals: While there is no specific percentage of your dog’s diet that should be made of vitamins and minerals, they are required for growth, maintenance, and other bodily functions. Talk with your vet or veterinary nutritionist to determine your dog’s unique needs.

Water is another essential — if not the most important — part of a balanced diet.4 While a homemade dog food may have more moisture than kibble, you’ll still need to keep fresh, clean water out at all times.

Potential Benefits of DIY Dog Food

Do-it-yourself dog food can be a great option for some pet parents. It’s often a popular choice for those who focus on pet holistic health practices. Just keep in mind that there is no evidence that homemade food is nutritionally better than kibble.

Some advantages of home-cooked foods may include:

  • Get quality food for less: Homemade dog food is often a more cost effective alternative to premium dog foods. Consider saving a few dollars by switching from premium or wet dog food.
  • Address food allergies: Some dogs can be allergic to different ingredients in commercially prepared foods. With a home-prepared diet, you’ll know exactly what foods your pup is eating.
  • Add whole foods: Home-prepared dog food is a great way to add fresh, whole foods to your dog’s day.

If you’re considering homemade-prepared foods over prescription food due to the cost, a MetLife Pet Insurance1 policy may be able to help cover your food expenses.2 Learn more about our dog insurance coverage.

Disadvantages of DIY Dog Food

Is homemade dog food better than the rest? Not always. It comes with its fair share of disadvantages, including:

  • More expensive than kibble: Your average dry food from the store is much more affordable than freshly prepared dog food. Keep your budget in mind if you’re thinking of switching.
  • Time-consuming: Homemade dog food is not as convenient. You’ll have to commit to a weekly schedule to shop for ingredients and prepare the recipe.
  • Not very flexible: You can’t really improvise with a home-cooked dog diet. Exact measurements and how you cook each ingredient matter. Substitutions aren’t an option either, even when you’re in a pinch. 
A food processor with ground homemade dog food.

How To Make Fresh Dog Food

There are a few general steps to making your own dog food:

  1. Get a vet-approved recipe.
  2. Purchase quality ingredients without any seasoning.
  3. Prepare a functional, toxic-free working space.
  4. Measure the ingredients using a kitchen scale, if possible.
  5. Fully cook ingredients according to the recipe.
  6. Mix ingredients together well in a food processor.
  7. Store properly in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days, or freeze and use within 2 months.

Homemade dog food resources

If you’re considering fresh dog food, here are a few helpful resources:

  • ACVN Diplomate Directory: The American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) has a directory of Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists®. Find a nutritionist in your area, or consult with one remotely.
  • Run by a veterinary nutritionist, BalanceIT is an online consulting service that can help you formulate a basic, nutritionally balanced diet. Remember to talk with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s routine.
  • ACVN Frequently Asked Questions: If you want to learn more about pet nutrition, this resource can help.

Don’t forget that your regular vet is an important resource in this process. They will understand your dog’s specific needs and will give the best recommendations. They may even have a veterinary nutritionist on staff or a professional referral.

Is Homemade Dog Food Right for You and Your Pup?

Whether or not homemade dog food is the right choice is between you, your dog, and your vet. Some dogs can thrive on homemade diets, while others should avoid them.

Take the time to carefully weigh your needs and expectations before switching from kibble. And remember that commercially prepared, fresh dog food is also an option.

Protect your Dog

Coverage in 3 Easy Steps

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3 “Overview of Nutrition: Small Animals,” Merck Veterinary Manual

4 “Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases of Small Animals,” Merck Veterinary Manual

5 “Cooking Up Trouble: Common Home Cooking Mistakes,” Cummins School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University

6 “Homemade Dog Food Recipes: Choosing Balanced Ingredients,” American Kennel Club 

7 “AAFCO Methods For Substantiating Nutritional Adequacy of Dog and Cat Foods,” Association of American Feed Control Officials


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