Homemade dog food, Under the term “domestic or housewife, the dog” falls a heterogeneous set of nutritional modalities ranging from the exclusive use of table scraps, up to the use of finely elaborated rations to satisfy the dog’s nutritional needs.
As it is classically conceived, the home ration is composed of a “meat-rice-carrot” mixture, enriched with a drizzle of oil, occasionally with yolk, and sometimes with a specific vitamin-mineral supplement.
The various ingredients can naturally replace each other since their nutritional value is roughly equivalent. However, in order not to make mistakes, it is important to know well which foods are allowed and which ones to avoid, or to be administered sparingly.
Croquettes or Home Nutrition?
Note, however, that the dog is not a machine, but something much more complicated and close to perfection; consequently – within reasonable limits – he is perfectly capable of adapting his metabolism to the type of diet he receives. In other words, perfectly dosing individual nutrients is not as important as the detractors of home nutrition, as well as avid supporters of dog food, would have us believe.
Considering the objective difficulty in interpreting the pet food label, and above all in tracing the clear origin of the raw materials, there are still many people who prefer to opt for a home-style diet.
The widespread fear is that industrial products may contain substances harmful to the dog, such as additives (dyes, flavorings, etc.), poor quality raw materials, or substances added for fraudulent purposes (see melamine scandal).
Many owners of dogs and cats, therefore, eschew the idea of basing the feeding of their animals entirely on these “artificial” products, therefore devoid of any connotation that could make them authentic, natural, and “alive”. We must not forget the widespread and certainly not unfounded fear that the waste of slaughtering and cereals, not suitable for human consumption (entrails, bones, cartilages, rancid fats, sick parts, cereal products contaminated by mycotoxins, etc.), will come into somehow recycled in the production of pet food.
Ultimately, industrial dog food raises many doubts to the average consumer, even to the one who systematically uses it for reasons of time, practicality, and economy.
Importance of Transition
Before analyzing what to put and what not to put in the bowl, it is good to remember that the so-called transition rule must always be respected when administering food.
In practice, sudden food changes, which could cause the onset of gastrointestinal phenomena, must be avoided. Rather, the individual foods must be replaced gradually over a week, changing the old food with the new one by administering gradually and increasing doses of one and the other.
Humans love to diversify their diet, but this is not true for the dog and especially for its digestive system; therefore, by continuously varying the dog’s diet – without making the necessary transition phase – there is a risk of causing a digestive imbalance in the animal.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that the dog has very few taste buds, but an extremely developed sense of smell; consequently, the aroma of the food plays an important role in the choice of food, such that puppies that are weaned on home-made food will then have difficulty accepting industrial feed, and vice versa.
Recommended and Forbidden Foods
The so-called home diet essentially consists of the combination of meat + starch sources + vegetables, with the addition of any supplements (vegetable oils, vitamin supplements, bone meal, dietary yeast, etc.).
The preparation of a meal based on meat (beef, turkey, or chicken), well-cooked rice or pasta, vegetables (boiled carrots and zucchini), is certainly very demanding for the owner, but more appreciated by the dog than industrial foods.
As anticipated, the dog is an omnivorous animal with a predilection for meat, which must be administered in doses more or less equivalent to the starch source (rice or pasta), also considering its lipid content (fatty meats will be administered in doses lower).
Among the meat, raw pork must be avoided due to the risk of pseudorabies, lethal encephalitis caused by a virus to which humans are immune.
Fish is an important source of animal proteins and essential fats of the omega-3 series, especially EPA and DHA deficient in vegetable oils. It should be served cooked and without bones, very dangerous for the dog; alternatively, a complementary feed based on a fish meal can be used.
✓ Wet or dry?
The dog likes more wet food than a dry one, a hot ration than a cold one, and a dish rich in fat compared to one low in these nutrients.
✓ Milk, grains, fats and eggs
As an adult, the dog tolerates lactose with difficulty, so the administration of large doses of milk could induce the onset of diarrhea.
Even starches and carbohydrates, in general, are digested with some difficulty, so it is advisable to serve overcooked pasta and rice, without however exaggerating the quantities.
On the other hand, the dog tolerates fat very well, which represents the main energy source of the animal, especially if sedentary.
It should also be avoided the administration of cold or too hot foods from the fridge, that of raw eggs (due to the presence of avidin in the albumen, an antinutrient that can lead to vitamin deficiencies), or excessive or too frequent rations of the liver (food of which the dog is particularly greedy, but which in high doses can cause intoxication due to vitamin A overload).
The yolk or egg yolk, on the other hand, is also excellent raw, because it is rich in fats and vitamins, but without avidin.
As everyone or almost everyone knows, a delicacy to avoid is represented by chicken and rabbit bones, as well as pork ribs; either because of their small size or because of their reduced consistency, these bones can easily break into sharp and cutting segments, capable of suffocating the animal, obstructing the intestine or damaging the walls of the gastrointestinal tract.
After all, we must not forget that dogs have a great need to chew and that often their diet does not allow them to adequately satisfy this need. Therefore, from time to time, it is possible to let them have fun with an ox bone that they can gnaw on.
✓ Sweets and chocolate
To be banished in the bowl of your dog are also sweets, chocolate, aged cheeses, and sausages.
The leftovers of our food should never be given to the animal.
✓ Don’t give in to flattery
What is very important is that the owners do not allow themselves to be easily dissuaded from asking for extra food, as dogs would soon develop refined persuasive techniques that would be very difficult to resist. Giving in to such coaxing, however, would increase the risk of the animal becoming obese and suffering from diseases related to severe overweight.
✓ No to grapes and raisins
Although it is not clear why the dog’s ingestion of grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. Repeated episodes of vomiting and signs of hyperactivity are the first symptoms of this intoxication; after which, within a day, the dog becomes lethargic and depressed. The best prevention in this regard is to store grapes and raisins on shelves that are not accessible to the dog.
✓ No to alcohol
Of course, beer, spirits, wine, and spirits, in general, should not be given to the dog in any way.
In animals, alcohol causes severe problems for the dog, such as vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, coordination problems, breathing difficulties, and coma to death. In this regard, remember that the smaller the dog, the greater the harmful effect of alcohol (at the same dose administered).
✓ No to garlic and onions
The dog’s diet must be free of garlic and onions, which already in small doses hurt the health of circulating red blood cells. Therefore, the ingestion of these foods, directly or indirectly, risks causing real hemolytic anemia which in some cases can be fatal.
Signs of toxicity appear 1-4 days after onions are ingested; vomiting, diarrhea, and dark-colored urine are the main clinical signs. It should be noted that onion powder is very often present as a flavoring in baby food for humans, which must therefore be excluded from the dog’s diet, especially if sick.
✓ Yes to vegetables
The dog’s diet must not lack the right quantities of vegetables, unappetizing foods, but necessary for the vitamin-mineral supply and the regulation of its intestinal activity. To be digested, vegetables need to be cooked for a long time, which however disperses a large part of their vitamin content. For this reason, the cooking water – such as that of the ubiquitous boiled carrots – can be recovered to soften what is present in the dog’s bowl.
Given that the home ration is generally appreciated by the animal, which often leaves rice and vegetables in the dish, in the face of absolute rejection of vegetables, the specific integration of some mineral salts and vitamins may be necessary.