Best Homemade Dog Food

Fresh ingredients make quality homemade dog food recipes

We made the decision to make our own homemade dog food for Coco, our rescue dog. When she came to our house, she came with a goodie bag including a bag of dry Orijen dog food.

Knowing that Coco is a senior dog, I researched information about what old dogs should eat. We wanted her to have a healthy life not knowing what she had before she went into the shelter.

We read about the dog food recalls, contaminated dog food, and lawsuits alleging adulterated or contaminated dog foods. Even the makers of the Orijen dog food we received are party to a lawsuit. Their product allegedly contains heavy metals.

You may be wondering...

All manufactured dog food meets canine basic nutritional needs as defined by the government. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dog food manufacturers.

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It is a matter of quality.

Would you believe show dogs that appear at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show eat thousands of dollars worth of food a year?

They eat better than I do!

USA Today reports that,

"These are the best of the best the United States has to offer, according to the breeding standards set by the American Kennel Club and Westminster. Like highly specialized professional athletes, they need to perform on the biggest stage."

Both USA Today and BravoTV reported on what great food show dog eat. 

Introduction to Homemade Dog Food

Based on the research I did, we started making our own dog food.

Our goals are:

  • make balanced food
  • make high quality food
  • reduce the cost
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    keep the recipes simple
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    make large batches of food for a week

This strategy simplified the shopping and reduced the costs.

When compared to buying dog food, making your own is neither convenient or a time saver. And can be more expensive.

So far, I have made 5 batches of food for Coco. Each time, I am more efficient in preparing and cooking the food. So the time spent is shorter.

Homemade dog food containing shredded chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, sardines, green beans, and beef liver.

The 15-pound batch of homemade dog food contains shredded chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, sardines, and beef liver. Once mixed thoroughly, it will be placed in individual serving sized freezer bags in 1-pound sizes.

Our goal is to feed our dog 2 pounds of food a day, split between morning and late afternoon meals.

Proportionally, we feed Coco:

  • Protein 50-60{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}
  • Non-starchy vegetables 25-35{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}
  • Starchy vegetables 10-15{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

We decided to limit grains from Coco's diet because of her arthritis. We add white rice to every third batch of food we make. We opted to be safe even though there is no research to confirm grains have a role in causing canine arthritis.

Coco's foster mother noticed a big improvement in Coco's mobility and activity when she visited recently.

Tools Used to Make a Balanced Diet

First of all I am not a nutritionist or an expert in food science. But I looked for and read as much information about balanced dog food I could "stomach."

I found:

Your Dog's Nutritional Needs (National Research Council of the National Academies) - This is a science-based guide for pet owners. The guide discusses what and how much you should feed your dog to meet its nutritional needs.

USDA Food Composition Databases - This is a U.S. Department of Agricultural site with searchable databases. You can search for nutrients by food item, food group, or manufacturer's name. You can also generate lists of foods sorted by nutrient content.

Home Cooked Diets for Dogs - This Facebook group has extensive homemade dog food information.

Batch Size Calculator - The calculator converts percentages into weights. It is very helpful with creating recipes and determining the correct ratios. The following screenshot shows the amounts for a chicken recipe for Coco.

Online batch size calculator converts percentages into weights

Handy online tool to convert recipe percentages to weights when preparing homemade dog food.

Homemade Dog Food Recipes (non-recipes)

We don't use recipes as much as picking and choosing meal ingredients from our list of ingredients below.

We choose one protein, or a combination of several, and a variety of carbs from this list:


  • Beef, ground
  • Chicken, usually thighs and drum sticks
  • Turkey, ground (because turkey is lean, we add some dark chicken meat for fat)

Extra proteins

  • Liver, chicken or beef (5{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} of protein)
  • Salmon, canned (when not feeding sardines)
  • Sardines, canned (1 ounce per pound of other protein)
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    Eggs, no more than one a day

Carbohydrates, non-starchy vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Beans, green
Homemade dog food checklist for balancing nutritional requirements

Quick checklist for homemade dog food. Right click to save. Please share.

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

Carbohydrates, starchy vegetables

  • Carrots
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    Pumpkin, canned
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    Sweet potatoes

Carbohydrates, grains and legumes

We prefer to feed our dog very little grains or legumes. Grains include whole wheat, oatmeal, corn/cornmeal, rice, quinoa, and others. To date, we occasionally add rice and oatmeal to Coco's diet. We have yet to give her any legumes.

Calcium Supplementation for Dogs

Because we are preparing homemade dog food, it is important to add calcium to a dog's diet. Adding calcium counterbalances phosphorus in the food ingredients, primarily found in meat. 

Adult dogs should have between 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium per pound of food fed.​ 1000 mg equals about 1/2 teaspoon (tsp).

We prepare ground eggshells as the calcium supplement for Coco. 1/2 teaspoon of ground eggshell equals about 1000 mg. 

When not using eggshells, we add calcium using a seaweed/vegetable-based source. We prefer Animal Essentials Seaweed Calcium

Easy peasy, nice and simple. Mix and match to keep your pooch happy and healthy.

​Using a wide variety of ingredients over time will help provide a balanced diet for your dog.

And if your pooch is a bit overweight, then go easy on the starchy vegetables.

For additional information, I recommend the Whole Dog Journal.

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