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Other than the BARF diet or bones and raw foods diet, there are options for dog owners that want to take careful care of ensuring that their pet gets a balanced diet. Often dog owners of pets with severe food allergies, diabetes or digestive problems find that is it too expensive or cost prohibitive to buy the specialty diets and food items on the market so they choose to make their own at home.
Making your own dog food at home really isn't all that difficult and can be a great activity for the whole family. Kids can get involved in measuring, mixing and even helping with the baking and cooking if they are old enough. Home made dog food can be cost saving especially if you have your own garden and are able to by the other ingredients in bulk lots as many stores now offer.
Before starting on a home made dog food project it is important to talk to your vet and to research some basic information on the types of foods that your dog will need in your formula. All dogs need meat for protein. There is no such thing as a vegetarian diet for dogs that will ensure a healthy, fit dog. Many of the vegetarian dog diets contain high levels of carbohydrates and very little protein that will lead to very serious health conditions as the dog ages. Dogs are omnivores by nature, which means that they will eat more than just meat, but they do need meat to stay healthy. Dogs will eat vegetables, fruits, cereals, dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese and of course meat in the form of beef, poultry, lamb, pork and fish. Products such as fish, poultry, pork and lamb must be carefully handled and properly processed to avoid bacterial and parasite problems. In addition in most home made foods fats, omega-3 and 6 oils, minerals, vitamins and supplements are typically added to ensure that the diet is balanced and complete.
It is important to avoid some common foods that can be harmful and even fatal to your dog. Large amounts of raw eggs, raw fish, tomatoes, mushrooms, chocolate, grapes or raisins, some nuts, onions, garlic and avocados should be avoided whenever preparing dog foods in the home. Even small amounts of some of these items can be very serious to dogs with sensitivities to these items.
Most people that make their own dog food have small to medium sized dogs, simply because it would be so time consuming to make food for large and giant breeds. Since there are no added preservatives in home made food except for natural ingredients the food only lasts a few days, although keeping it in the fridge or freezing can help extend the shelf-life considerably.
How Much Time Does This Take?
Once you have prepared a batch of home made dog food a time or two it takes not much more time than making a dinner for the family. Making up the cooked meat ahead of time, freezing and thawing when needed and then simply adding in the cereal, vegetables, oils and supplements will only take a few minutes, especially if you have a child or two to help with the mixing.
A simple home made dog food recipes consists of:
1 boiled chicken, meat removed from the bones
2 cups of cooked brown rice
2 cups of boiled vegetables (carrots, beans, peas, corn, etc)
1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth (water from the boiling process)
1/4 cup cottage cheese
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate. This will last 3-4 days in the fridge and then should be thrown out, so depending on the size of the dog you may wish to increase or decrease the proportions. In addition the dog should be getting a supplement that includes amino acids and fatty acids which your vet should be able to recommend. This supplement is added to the food just before feeding, not in the refrigerated batch. Warm food up to room temperature before feeding it to the dog.
In addition to basic foods such as boiled chicken or turkey chopped, cooked beef, hamburger, lamb or even cooked fish can be added. Although raw eggs are not ideal for dogs cooked eggs are a good source of protein however they should not make up most of the diet. Dairy should be limited to small amounts of yogurt or cottage cheese, there is no need to feed milk to a dog and cheese is very high in sodium and should be avoided.
There is often not much difference in the cost of home made dog food and good quality premium commercially available dog food. Dog's that require specialty diets are often easier to keep on home produced food, although this is a time commitment and routine that the owner must understand before getting into the process.
Most small to medium dogs on a well balanced home made dog food diet including supplements and vitamins as required can be fed for approximately $20 to $30 per month, provided that the meat is not always beef. Larger breeds may require closer to double this amount, and giant breeds will be even more. This is, however, not that much more expensive than paying $25-$30 dollars for a large bag of the premium dry kibble.
Deciding how much your time is worth in making the food has to balance with the needs of your dog. Since many owners just plan to make dog food every Sunday and Wednesday they are able to budget their time and spend 30 minutes in making enough food to do the rest of the week. Those dog owners with gardens may be able to find use for all their extra vegetables as well. Always take your dog into the vet for a complete check before switching to a home made diet and talk to your vet about what supplements to use in the food and at what rates. Any loss of weight, changes in energy or behaviors after changing foods should be reported to the vet and a follow up appointment scheduled if needed.
It is important to keep in mind that a home made dog food is not table scraps. Human food with salt, seasonings, and various cooking methods should not be fed to a dog as it will just lead to digestive problems and obesity as the dog ages.
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