If you've followed my family's dog food journey over the past three+ years, you know that our homemade dog food recipe has evolved a great deal. I dare say it's finally at a point where it's nearly ideal and, thankfully, Titan and Sox seem to agree.
As I mentioned in my last post, making dog food isn't easy, especially these days with my husband away, but it's something I'm committed to doing for our dogs' sake. In trying to make it work, I found that desperation yields reinvention and reinvent I did when I decided to skip a time-consuming step in making it: I no longer boil the eggs and, instead, I blend raw eggs including their shells for this recipe. Following are the details; we'll start with the recipe and then I'll share some tips to make the process that much easier, especially for those that are new to the task:
To facilitate clean-up, I've started using a smaller stainless steel food pan (top left in photo) therefore I've halved the original recipe but the following can be made with 10 lbs of beef and by doubling all the other ingredients if you so choose.
5 lbs beef (85/15 or 90/10)
1/2 cup Dinovite (can add more if desired)
1/2 cup fish or coconut oil (good idea to vary these when possible)
1 can pumpkin
1 cup species-appropriate veggies* (optional)
*Blend whole raw eggs including shells and veggies (if using) in a food processor so that they are easier to incorporate and more gentle on your pets' tummies.
In the food pan, add beef, pour egg mixture, sprinkle Dinovite, oil, and pumpkin, then mix well (wearing gloves if you’re squeamish like me.)
Make meatballs in desired portion size, store
Meat & Eggs
Meat quality varies but keep in mind that human-grade meat is going to be higher quality than that which is used in making most commercial dog food. I encourage you to buy the best meat you can find/afford, but also keep in mind that, when you buy kibble, you’re inadvertently supporting animal cruelty and factory farming and the quality is animal-grade, which is a great deal lower than human-grade. For this reason, I wouldn’t get too caught up on sourcing meat because, sadly, it’s hard to find affordable humanely raised beef. You can, however, be aware of the eggs you buy, since high quality pasture-raised eggs are more accessible.
Do, however, pay attention to your dogs’ digestion and overall health and try making the recipe with beef purchased from different retailers. My dogs did not do well on Costco’s 80/20 ground beef but do very well on Whole Foods, Target, and other markets’ 85/15 and 90/10. I opt for the latter since Costco doesn’t sell less fatty ground beef. You can certainly try Costco to start with and see how your dogs do.
Dinovite is not optional. It is also not as expensive as it appears. We buy the giant dog box that’s said to last 90-days but it lasts us about 5-6 months because we’re only putting 1/2 cup in each batch. This recipe would need a multitude of additional ingredients if we were to eliminate the Dinovite. Don’t consider skipping Dinovite without first discussing alternatives with an expert in pet nutrition.
The oil you use must be species-appropriate, of course, but it’s nice to vary the source of omega 3s. You can use Lick-o-chops from the makers of Dinovite or you can simply use flax, olive, hemp, or coconut oil purchased from your grocery store. Consider your budget when making this decision. I’ve used oils that I find on sale, used up oils that I didn’t want to use for myself/my family, and I’ve skipped oil altogether to, instead, do fish oil pills if I could get a deal on those.
We did rice when we first started making our dogs' food but noticed that Sox (photographed above) got lots of fatty cysts on her belly, likely due to the sugar in rice. Rice makes the recipe more affordable but it also reduced, in my opinion, the overall healthiness of the recipe. Budget is important therefore consider yours. To mitigate some of the cost of removing rice from the recipe, we added a can of pumpkin per 5 lbs of beef, which adds fiber and other nutrients to the recipe with less sugar than rice would. We could technically add more if we needed to but this has been a good start for us for now.
Cuttings from our own meals are nice to save and make a good addition our dog food. They add new flavors and nutrients and prevent waste. We’ve used cauliflower stems, wilted spinach, baked sweet potatoes and/or their skins, carrot and cucumber peels, plus much more. Just make sure it’s species-appropriate and blend it in a food processor so that it’s digestible. Don’t do more than 1 cup blended to prevent gas or lose stool.
Our dogs are 50-60 lbs and currently eat about 1 cup twice per day
Radar weighted about 11 lbs when he was on ¼ cup twice per day
Start somewhere and adjust. This food is so nutrient-rich that even the smallest variation in portion size will show. You may have to add or subtract as little as 1/8 of a cup at one meal each day to get it right. Don’t be inflexible and pay attention to ensure the portion sizes are correct. Your dog’s demeanor, behavior, and weight will give you the insights you need to make necessary adjustments.
Transitioning from Kibble
We have always fasted for 24-hours before introducing raw food when transitioning from commercial kibble to this recipe. After 24-hours, we start introducing the meatballs in smaller portions and work our way to full portion within a week.
We keep the meatballs in plastic Tupperware. When we had the 4 dogs, we had one Tupperware per meal. Now, with two dogs, we use one Tupperware per day (two meals.) This helps keep things fresh. Beware of putting too many meatballs in a huge Tupperware because meatballs should be used or frozen within 3-4 days of making the mix or after having been defrosted. The best way to defrost is in the fridge but, keep in mind, that it takes a few days for the larger meatballs to defrost and plan accordingly. If you have to defrost a Tupperware-full on the counter, do so overnight so it doesn’t get too hot. Also, consider defrosting in the sink instead of the counter to avoid spillage and prevent counter-surfing.
I highly recommend you invest in a deep freezer or a second fridge if you have multiple dogs because this will eat up lots of room in your fridge/freezer. Plus, as a mostly vegetarian family, we prefer to keep meat away from our food.
DIY vs Raw Food Diet
Please know that this is a DIY dog food recipe that is mostly raw but it’s not considered true raw feeding. If you want to feed your pet a raw food diet, there are many excellent resources out there. I highly recommend you look into Dr. Karen Becker and Planet Paws to start your dog’s fully raw food journey.
Also, this recipe was originally taken from homemadedogfood.com and we’ve changed it over the years based on our dogs’ results. I encourage you to discuss the recipe, transitioning to raw and/or homemade, etc. with your veterinarian before you begin. If your vet discourages you from looking into either option, find a new vet unless your dog has a specific health concern that makes a change to homemade and/or raw unadvisable. Even then, I’d get a second opinion if you veterinarian insists that kibble is the only safe option.
Please note that I am not a veterinarian and do not have any certifications in dog nutrition. Please do not confuse my sharing this recipe with veterinary or nutritional advice.
The opinions, recipes, and experiences shared on this blog do not constitute the practice of medical or other professional health care or behavioral advice, diagnosis, prevention or treatment. Always talk to your veterinarian before considering alternative diets, supplements, etc.