Why would you want to feed your dog as you feed yourself or what does it mean? Take for instance that the average number of dog food manufacturers is about 50, but the number of dog food labels is somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000.

That said we can only picture the same food going into different colored, different named, different sized bags; but the bottom line is it’s all the same food. While one company may claim there food to be different than the other the food could very possibly be identical. So if you really want to know what you’re feeding your dog, you need to make it. A homemade diet is more likely to be nutritious and balanced for your individual companion as well as it is more likely to be free of by-products, chemical additives and rancidification. Rancidification is the decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids by hydrolysis or oxidation, or both. Hydrolysis will split fatty acid chains away from the glycerol backbone in glycerides. Oxidation primarily occurs with unsaturated fats by a free radical-mediated process. These chemical processes can generate highly reactive molecules in rancid foods and oils, which are responsible for producing unpleasant and noxious odors and flavors. These chemical processes may also destroy nutrients in food. Under some conditions, rancidity, and the destruction of vitamins, occurs very quickly.

Another clear advantage is the ability to formulate a balanced diet around a particular medical condition. So if you have an animal that will not eat a commercially formulated diet, homemade diets are good options. Making your own food for your dog can also help you avoid the possible contamination of commercial pet foods. In 2006 and 2007 Menu Foods, Inc. initiated a voluntary recall involving a large number of both dog and cat foods produced at its facilities in Emporia, Kansas, and Pennsauken, New Jersey. The products are sold by many different distributors under a number of different brand names in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Testing of the food revealed that some of the recalled pet food contained aminopterin, a product used to kill rats in some countries, but its use in the United States is prohibited by the federal government. Further testing is required to confirm if this contaminant is responsible for causing animals consuming the recalled pet foods to become ill or die. There are also clear problems with home-cooked pet foods. One of the biggest disadvantages is that homemade diets are often not balanced nutritionally, while commercial pet foods are thoroughly tested. Through careful examination and care in what goes into your “homemade diet” this can be avoided by following the steps laid in place further in this article. It is not advised that owners make the substitutions on their own rather they should consult their veterinarian to make the proper changes for their individual companion to avoid possible imbalances. The number one mistake made with “homemade diets” is calcium deficiency which may lead to rickets or other problems. But let’s not forget about the variety and freshness. Feeding a homemade diet can sometimes be cheaper than a commercial diet. I know of many kennel owners who purchase outdated frozen chicken and beef for as little as 10 cents a pound and formulate their own diets with this meat as the base. A homemade diet can also be a huge benefit in animals with food allergies or digestive disorders.

Some of the more common reasons to use homemade diets:

  1. They wish to use ingredients that are fresh, wild grown, organic or natural.
  2. They wish to avoid additives that are present in some commercial pet foods
  3. They wish to avoid contaminants thought to be present in prepared foods.
  4. They are concerned that the ingredient list is an indecipherable list of chemicals.
  5. They fear an ingredient in a commercial food, such as a “by-product”.
  6. They wish to maintain adequate food intake in finicky pet through exceptional palatability.
  7. They desire to personally cook for their pet
  8. The pet is addicted to table foods or single grocery item.
  9. They wish to feed major quantities of an ingredient not found in commercial pet foods.
  10. They hope to construct a nutritional profile for dietary management of disease for which no commercial food is available.
  11. They hope to restrict the allergens/causative substances during an elimination trial or for long-term feeding of animals with adverse reactions to food.
  12. They wish to support a sick or terminally ill animal through home cooking and hand feeding.
  13. They wish to provide food variety as a defense against malnutrition, or because of the popular idea that pets need variety.
  14. They wish to lower feeding costs by using significant quantities of table food and leftovers.
  15. They wish to feed a pet according to human nutritional guidelines (e.g., low fat, low cholesterol).

Ingredient Selection

When thinking about making ingredient selections for your pet consider the source of the three main energy sources in food such as protein, carbohydrates and fats. Next consider the amount trace minerals and supplementation so that you are neither deficient of, or in excess of the recommended levels. When considering protein it would be recommended that it be quality beef, buffalo, venison, chicken or fish. When considering carbohydrates, you’ll want to choose an easily digestible food such as rice, pasta, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Dogs lack the enzymes to digest cellulose (the outside covering of vegetables). So it is better to put it in a juicer or food processor. This releases all the important enzymes, anti-oxidants and minerals. Also keep in mind that dogs are unable to digest the outsides of the potatoes so removal of the skin of the potato is recommended. Fat sources can include fat that is encompassed within the meat or by addition of yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter or cooking oils. Trace minerals and supplementation can be added via capsules, using human grade components.

Lately the big choice is raw versus cooked meat; is there a difference? First let’s examine exactly what is meat? After an animal is slaughtered, blood circulation stops, and muscles exhaust their oxygen supply. Muscle can no longer use oxygen to generate ATP and turn to anaerobic glycolysis, a process that breaks down sugar without oxygen, to generate ATP from glycogen, a sugar stored in muscle. The breakdown of glycogen produces enough energy to contract the muscles, and also produces lactic acid. With no blood flow to carry the lactic acid away, the acid builds up in the muscle tissue. If the acid content is too high, the meat loses its water-binding ability and becomes pale and watery. If the acid is too low, the meat will be tough and dry. Lactic acid buildup also releases calcium, which causes muscle contraction. As glycogen supplies are depleted, ATP regeneration stops, and the actin and myosin remain locked in a permanent contraction called rigor mortis. Freezing the carcass too soon after death keeps the proteins all bunched together, resulting in very tough meat. Aging allows enzymes in the muscle cells to break down the overlapping proteins, which makes the meat tender.

Cooking makes meat safer, but if you overcook, you can destroy vitamins and enzymes necessary for digestion. Enzymes are extremely important for proper digestion. Lacking enzymes may lead to improper digestion which contributes to many illnesses especially vomiting, diarrhoea, arthritis, infections and food allergies. Your immune system needs all the help it can get. Your joints need what it takes to produce cartilage and joint fluid. Improper digestion can lead to severe food allergies because the proteins are not being broken down into simple amino acids. Instead we end up with chains of amino acids that appear to be foreign proteins to our immune system and they produce antibodies against them causing allergic reactions to the food. Digestive enzymes are an especially good idea if you have food allergies. These enzymes come from fruits, vegetables, and plant enzyme supplements. All three of these can improve your digestive process and eliminate problems. Also, if you overheat fat, you actually make it dangerous. Oxidized fat is considered carcinogenic.

When meat is cooked, individual protein molecules in raw meat are wound-up in coils, which are formed and held together by bonds. When meat is heated, the bonds break and the protein molecule unwinds. Heat also shrinks the muscle fibers both in diameter and in length as water is squeezed out and the protein molecules recombine, or coagulate. Because the natural structure of the protein changes, this process of breaking, unwinding, and coagulating is called denaturing. Protein is an essential part of our (living) body and there is a difference between protein that has been cooked and protein in its raw (living) form. We should realize that our companion animals’ body (which is made of some 100 trillion living cells) is composed of 15 percent protein, making protein the primary solid element in their body, and second only to water, which composes 70 percent of their body. Protein is composed of amino acids, and amino acids are made up of chains of atoms. These atoms that make up amino acids that make up protein literally become the building blocks for their body. One of the best-known studies of raw versus cooked foods with animals was a 10-year research project conducted by Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, using 900 cats. His study was published in 1946 in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery. Dr. Pottenger fed all 900 cats the same food, with the only difference being that one group received it raw, and while the others received it cooked.

The results dramatically revealed the advantages of raw foods over a cooked diet. Cats that were fed raw, living food produced healthy kittens year after year with no ill health or pre-mature deaths. But cats fed the same food, only cooked, developed heart disease, cancer, kidney and thyroid disease, pneumonia, paralysis, loss of teeth, arthritis, birthing difficulties, diminished sexual interest, diarrhea, irritability, liver problems and osteoporosis (the same diseases common in our human cooked-food culture). The first generation of kittens from cats fed cooked food were sick and abnormal, the second generation were often born diseased or dead, and by the third generation, the mothers were sterile.

Dr. Norman W. Walker, who lived to the age 118, emphasizes there is a difference between atoms that are alive and atoms that are dead. Dr. Walker says heat from cooking kills and changes the vibration of the atoms that compose amino acids that compose protein that compose our body. In a human body, Dr. Walker notes that within six minutes after death, our atoms change their vibration and are no longer in a live, organic form. So the difference between cooked and raw protein is the difference between the life and death of the atoms that make up 15 percent of our body.

Dr. Walker writes: "Just as life is dynamic, magnetic, and organic, so is death static, non-magnetic, and inorganic. It takes life to beget life, and this applies to the atoms in our food. When the atoms in amino acids are live, they can function efficiently. When they are destroyed by the killing of the animal and the cooking of the food, the vital factors involving the atoms in the functions of the amino acids are lost."

The concerns about eating raw meat include but are not limited to parasites such as Toxoplasmosis, Sarcocystis, Trichinella, Echinococcosis, Anisakis, Taenia, and other bradyzoites. Intestinal sarcocystosis can be prevented by thoroughly cooking or freezing meat to kill bradyzoites in the sarcocysts. Freezing at -4 and -20°C for 48 and 24 hours, respectively, also rendered bradyzoites in pork noninfectious 8. Whole carcasses of carnivores, intestines, or fecal sample possibly containing infective Echinococcus eggs can be decontaminated by deep-freezing at -70 to -80°C. Care should be taken that the effective temperature reaches all parts of the material and is maintained for at least 96 or 48 hours, respectively. The temperatures of household deep freezers are too high to inactivate eggs. Echinococcus eggs are killed within 5 min at -60 to -80°C and instantly at -100°C 9. Freezing at –4°F (–20°C) for at least 5 days will kill anisakid larvae, as will blast-freezing to –31°F (–35°C) 10. Echinococcosis cysts can be killed by freezing meat at less -18C for prolonged periods 11.

How Much should you feed your dog?

There are important considerations when starting a new diet. First, how much should you feed? This can be estimated by calories in the diet based on the ideal weight of your pet. The basic formula for determining your pet’s caloric needs starts with the formula for Resting Energy Requirement, 30(BWtkg) + 70. For example if your pet weighs 22 lbs, this is the same as 10 kg (achieved by dividing 22 by 2.2), so the Resting Energy Requirement for your pet would be (30 * 10 kg) + 70 or 370 kcal/day (kcal=Calories). Since we know that animals, just as people do, have different lifestyles or activity levels we must also take this into consideration by the Daily

Energy Requirements factor listed in the following tables:

Canine Maintenance Classification Factor for the Daily Energy Requirements
Neutered adult 1.6
Intact adult 1.8
Obese-prone 1.4
Weight Loss 1.0
Weight Gain 1.2-1.4
Light working canine 2
Moderate working canine 3
Heavy working canine 4-8

Feline Maintenance Classification Factor for the Daily Energy Requirements
Neutered adult 1.2
Intact adult 1.4
Obese-prone 1
Weight Loss 0.8
Weight Gain 1.2-1.4

By taking the DER factor and multiplying by the RER you can obtain your pet’s caloric needs on a daily basis. So using the previous example of a 10 kg dog that is a light working dog you would multiply 370 kcal/day by 2 and the total kcal/day for this dog would be 740 kcal/day. This calculation only gives us a baseline and should be monitored because just like us no one animal has the same internal metabolism to burn calories. Your pet may lose weight on this formula or gain weight on this formula because of their unique individual genetic structure. So this formula should be used as a starting point and is in no way set in stone, but it will give you a general idea of how much food your pet should be consuming on a daily basis.

You need to start the diet slowly; try one thing at a time and give it a day or two before making any additions or changes. You need to see how it agrees with their digestive system. If it creates a problem such as vomiting and diarrhoea then don’t use it. If you gave too much, try giving less. If it seems to agree with them, add another ingredient and repeat the process. Over a two to three week period you can have them on a full homemade diet. You can be continuously adding new things to the diet as long as you know they’re healthy. If they develop vomiting or diarrhoea, stop their food and restrict water for 24 hour. You can give your dog liquid Pepto-Bismol, two to three times a day. You will usually only need to use it the first day.

Your dog’s weight in pounds Amount of Liquid Pepto-Bismol
1-9 ½ teaspoon
10-19 1 teaspoon
20-39 2 teaspoon
20-39 1 teaspoon
Greater than 40 pounds 1 teaspoon

Only repeat if you have more diarrhea. If severe diarrhea occurs you may add Imodium to your treatment. Use the same dosage as you do for Pepto-Bismol, and you can use both of them together so if one doesn’t work, try the other. The most important thing to do is to stop food and limit water for a 24 hour period. After the 24 hour period, they can drink all the water they want and you can feed mashed potatoes or hard boiled egg whites or both. If everything is going well, you can reintroduce the regular food on the third or fourth day 12.

Vitamin and mineral content of the diets need to be accurately calculated and signs monitored. There can be severe consequences with not only deficiencies but also excess. To calculate the content of each ingredient, multiply the amount found in the ingredient by the amount of that specific ingredient being fed.

Required Mineral Daily Allowance Signs of Deficiency or Excess
Calcium 0.75 g Skeletal abnormalities nutritional
secondary hyperparathyroidism
Phosphorus 0.75 g Reduced weight gain; poor appetite
Magnesium 150 mg Reduced weight gain; irritability
Sodium 100 mg Increased heart rate and water intake
Potassium 1 g Poor growth in puppies
Chlorine 150 mg Reduced weight gain
Iron 7.5 mg Oxidative reactions leading to tissue and gastrointestinal reactions
Copper 1.5 mg Anemia;
Zinc 15 mg Vomiting; poor weight gain
Manganese 1.2 mg None reported
Selenium 90 ug Anorexia; muscular degeneration
Iodine 220 ug Excessive tearing; salivation; nasal
discharge;enlarged thyroid glands
Signs of Deficiency
Vitamin K 0.41 mg None reported
Vitamin B1 0.56 mg Failure to grow; weight loss
Riboflavin 1.3 mg Weight loss; muscular weakness
Vitamin B6 0.4 mg Impairment of motor control
and balance muscle weakness
Niacin 4 mg Bloody feces; convulsions
4 mg Erratic food intake; reduced antibody production; gastrointestinal symptoms
Vitamin B12 9 ug Appetite loss; anemia
Folic Acid 68 ug Weight loss; decreased hemoglobin
Choline 425 mg Decreased body weight; fatty liver


What else can you do to improve the health of your companion?

Recommended Supplements:

  1. Goat Yogurt – Probiotics are very important to maintaining the healthy bacteria in their intestinal tract. It is a good source of calcium, protein, phosphorus, riboflavin and potassium. Small dogs: one tablespoon per day; medium dog-one-half cup per day; large dog-one cup per day.
  2. Garlic – Raw garlic is better then cooked. Raw garlic has anti-fungal antibiotic and anti-viral effects which is lost when you cook it. Garlic also has the properties of being anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, lowers cholesterol, and protects the heart. Minced fresh garlic – small dog-one-fourth teaspoon: medium dog-one-half teaspoon; large dog-one teaspoon. Especially appetizing to your dog with pasta, rice and potatoes13.
  3. Olive Oil – This is one of the best anti-aging foods available. It is also one of the most beneficial fats your dog can consume. Dosages-small dog-1 teaspoon; medium dog-two teaspoons; large dog-one tablespoon. Especially good when mixed with pasta, garlic and salmon.
  4. Essential Fatty Acids – (MOST IMPORTANT FOOD ADDITIVES). Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils have been shown to have beneficial effects in many species including but not limited to humans, dogs, cats and birds. Omega-3’s have an anti-inflammatory effect whereas Omega-6’s have a pro-inflammatory effect13. The ratio of the two that you want for optimal health effects range from 5:1 to 10:1. As a dosage this corresponds to Omega-3 at around 440 mg/kg body weight is required to maximize plasma levels of DHA. Bauer et al. A ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids between 5:1 and 10:1 produces the least amount of pro-inflammatory compounds and the largest amount of less inflammatory eicosanoids. High ratios of omega-6: omega-3 (such as 50:1) will produce more inflammation 14. Essential fatty acids are important to every cell in your body. They especially enhance your immune system. They reduce the incidence of heart disease. They prevent hypertension. They are especially good for arthritis and skin problems. Proper Handling: Buy in a gel capsule in a dark bottle and keep refrigerated. Improperly Handling:Exposed to air, sunlight, or heat they will oxidize and can become mildly carcinogenic.
  • Flaxseed Oil
  • Fish Oil
  • Primrose Oil
  • Borage Oil

Three of the above four normally come in one gel capsule. This is a good way to get a broad range of essential fatty acids. I still recommend that you take all four, so one will be by itself.I especially like the idea of buying fresh flax seed and grinding it in a coffee grinder.Only grind enough for one week and refrigerate. Give small dogs one-half teaspoon and you can go up to a whole tablespoon for large dogs. Put it in all their main meals. It is exceptionally good as a source of flax seed oil and the fiber is extremely soothing to the intestinal tract. If your dog has a problem with loose stools, you can’t find a better supplement.

Dosage for gel caps: Small dogs (0-10pounds) one gel capsule per day; medium dogs (11-25pounds) one gel capsule twice a day; large dogs (25pounds. or greater) two gel capsules twice a day12.


It is recommended that you provide your pet with raw lamb shanks for your pet to chew on. Lamb shanks will keep your pets teeth clean. Normally lamb shanks are sold two at a time. Have the butcher cut them in half, so you would end up with four 4-5 inch bones. Give your pet one and freeze the other three. Pull one out of the freezer every month. With a bone your dog can shear a tooth so initially you might start off with greenies or rawhides that you buy in the pet store. Not all dogs will chew on greenies or raw hides, so you need to give them a lamb shank which almost certainly they will chew on. Your dog will rarely splinter a raw bone but they can splinter a cooked bone. If you see the bone splintering then throw it away. Start slowly by giving them their chewing times, 10 to 15 minutes. Take the bone away and refrigerate it and see what happens for the next day or two. If they do well, repeat the process. After your dog has chewed on this bone several times, you should end up with a shiny white bone that becomes a chew toy. You can give them a new bone every month or two. If you have more than one pet you need to be extremely careful. Bones are one item which dogs will definitely fight over. You may need to give them their individual chewing times in a room by themselves or in the backyard. It should also be emphasized that when it comes to a bone, dogs can become very territorial.


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  6. Schmid, R. Francis M. Pottenger, MD and "The Hazards of a Health Fetish". Avaiable at: https://www.realmilk.com. Accessed April 10, 2008.
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  10. Weir, E. Public Health, Sushi, nematodes and allergies. Can Med Assoc Journ. Feb 1, 2005; 172 (3).
  11. Kemp, C. Echinococcosis (Hydatid disease). Available at: www3.baylor.edu/~Charles_Kemp/echinococcosis.htm. Accessed Jan 23, 2008.
  12. Soltero, R, Stoffels, C. It’s Like a Miracle. Arctic Tern Publishing, 2007.
  13. Schoen, A; Wynn, S. Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine, Principles and Practice. Mosby, Inc. 1998.
  14. Vaughn, D; Reinhart, G. "Evaluation of Effects of Dietary n-6 to n-3 Fatty Acid Ratios on Leukotriene B Synthesis in Dog Skin and Neutrophils". Veterinary Dermatology 1994; 5(4):163-173.
  15. Feuer, D. Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs, Science-Based guide for Pet Owners. National Academy of Sciences, 2006.
  16. Nutrition Data. Available at: www.nutritiondata.com. Accessed Apr 10, 2008

By Michael R Soltero, DV