It comes in a bag, it's hard and dry, and it stinks…
Kinda sounds like processed breakfast cereal, right? 😉
Except it's what your dog is probably eating for breakfast — processed dog food.
We try so hard to avoid boxed, processed food for the human members of our families… So why do we still feed our dogs the pets' equivalent of boxed, processed food?
It's cheaper, right?
We know that cheap, processed food wreaks havoc in our human bodies. It causes inflammation, compromises our immune systems, and leads to obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more.
Did you know processed dog food is doing the exact. same. things. in your dog's body?
Why We Switched To Homemade Dog Food…
I had been taking pains to feed my family the best organic, local, Real Foods we could afford for years before I switched to homemade dog food. Truthfully, the conviction was there long before I actually did it.
Our Boston terrier/chihuahua mix Betsy is a beloved member of our family. She's like a third child to my husband and me. We want her with us as long as possible, and we want her to be the healthiest she can be for as long as she lives (she's 8 years old already).
About 2 years ago, we noticed that Betsy was shedding more than usual. She had a loose tooth. And her breath was really stinky. Worst of all, she had fleas for the first time ever!
I took her in to see the vet… and the results weren't good.
We had a flea-infested, overweight, balding dog with halitosis… great. 🙁
Here's the thing — I was buying a “natural”, “healthy” dry food (specifically this one). I truly thought I was feeding Betsy a healthy dog food.
I told our vet that I wanted to make Betsy's food from then on, and surprisingly, she was 100% supportive! She said, “We love it when pet parents want to go the extra mile for their puppy's diet. What you make her at home is so much better for her than the junk in the bag. Let's figure out a good recipe, okay?”
Carefully Choose Ingredients For Your Homemade Dog Food
Our vet and I discussed the science of feeding dogs — specifically an older dog with a weight issue and some obvious nutrient deficiencies.
She explained that, while dogs need lots of protein, they also need healthy carbohydrates (something that an all-raw diet often lacks), fat, and fat-soluble vitamins.
We started Betsy on a grain-free diet at first, mainly because she needed to lose weight. Our original homemade recipe included a base of sweet potatoes/butternut squash and ground turkey — with beef liver, green beans, and blueberries mixed in.
Dogs Need Healthy Carbs
Betsy's food was not low-carb because I used butternut squash or sweet potatoes or pumpkin. I also added in frozen blueberries for the antioxidants, vitamins, and extra boost of low-glycemic carbs.
Now that we have 2 dogs (we added Willow in 2015) and Betsy lost the weight, it's much more economical to use soaked rice, but I still mix it up with the sweet potatoes now and then.
If your dog needs to be on a grain-free diet because of weight or food allergies, diced sweet potato/butternut squash/pumpkin are much-loved by our furry friends!
Use either rice OR sweet potato/butternut squash/pumpkin. There's no need to use rice with sweet potato/butternut squash/pumpkin.
Dogs Need Fruits & Veggies, Too
While your dog doesn't need to choke down a big salad everyday, it's still vital to her health to eat a few well-chosen veggies. I use a variety of frozen vegetables because it's the easiest and most economical way for me to make sure Betsy and Willow are eating their vegetables. (Veggies for dogs = fiber for healthy poops and fat-soluble vitamins.)
I buy frozen California Medley veggies (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli). Three 12-ounce bags is the perfect amount for this homemade dog food recipe.
If you can't find the California Medley or you want to mix it up a bit, combine any or all of these vegetables, either fresh or frozen, to equal 5 cups:
- green beans
Fruits contain vitamins, antioxidants, and valuable fiber for our pups. So I like to add 12 ounces (or 1-1/2 cups) to each batch of food. I choose one of the following, fresh or frozen, and stir it in after cooking:
- diced apple (but not the seeds)
Although I have never given these fruits to my dogs, they are also acceptable fruit add-ins for your homemade dog food:
- fresh pineapple (with all spines and skin removed)
- mango (without the pit)
- watermelon (rind and seeds removed)
- peaches (pit removed)
Dogs Need Healthy Fat & Fat-Soluble Vitamins
The veggies and fruit you add to your homemade dog food recipe provide fat-soluble vitamins. However, those vitamins require fat in order to be absorbed.
Per my vet's recommendation (and I probably would've done it anyway), I add coconut oil to our homemade dog food.
Coconut oil is one of those foods that is just as beneficial for dogs as it is for humans! The saturated fat in coconut oil is awesome for your dog's energy levels. In older dogs, this is a plus because coconut oil helps keep their metabolism going strong.
Coconut oil also gives dogs a shiny, healthy coat! We noticed that Betsy's black coat was shinier than ever after she'd been eating her homemade food for about a month!
And I truly believe that the same anti-fungal/antibacterial qualities that coconut oil provides for humans are provided for dogs as well. Since transitioning to a homemade diet, our dogs have not needed to be wormed and have not gotten sick at all!
To provide our dogs with more fat-soluble vitamins, iron, and B vitamins, I add beef or chicken liver when I can. Dogs love their organ meats too — so if you find yourself with some extra heart or tongue or liver that you don't want to eat, don't throw it out! Just add it to your homemade dog food! (Check out 7 reasons why I love liver.)
I also add a few tablespoons of ground flax seed to our recipe for extra Omega 3s.
Most pet owners know that some foods should never be fed to dogs, but just in case…
Do NOT Add These Foods To Your Homemade Dog Food
- anything with chocolate or cacao
- onions or leeks
- anything with xylitol
- macadamia nuts
- garlic (unless directed by your vet) and other allums
- brewer's yeast
- raw bread dough
We switched to homemade dog food, and we've never looked back! I've been making variations of this recipe, and just recently, I figured out how easy it is to make dog food in the Instant Pot!
Are you ready for homemade dog food in the Instant Pot?!
Makes 16 cups of homemade dog food.
- 3 cups white basmati rice
- 3 cups water
- about 3 tablespoons whey or raw apple cider vinegar
- 3 pounds ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, venison, or bison)
- 1 pound pastured beef or chicken livers (optional, but preferred)
- 36 ounces various fresh or frozen veggies
- 1-1/2 cups bananas or blueberries (optional)
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil
- 6 tablespoons ground flax seed
- Several hours before you want to make the dog food, soak the rice in water with whey or apple cider vinegar.
- Strain, measuring the amount of water left after soaking.
- Set aside.
- Press the Saute button on the Instant Pot.
- Add the ground meat and break it up and the liver, if using.
- Cook the meat and liver until they are about half-way browned. You don't want them to brown completely because you still have to cook the rice and veggies in the Instant Pot, and the meat will burn if fully cooked.
- Once the meat and liver are half-way browned, add the soaked rice and water, according to the directions in this post.
- Stir the meat, rice, and cooking water together.
- Add the veggies on top, but do not mix in.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot, making sure it is locked and the vent is sealed.
- Change the setting to Manual and adjust the time to 12 minutes.
- When the Instant Pot beeps, carefully turn the vent to release the pressure. You may want to place a towel over the steam to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering steam.
- Open the Instant Pot and add the fruit (if using) and the coconut oil.
- Stir everything together, mixing completely.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freezer for up to 3 months.
The change in Betsy's health was radical.
Within a month, Betsy was shedding less and her coat was shinier than ever. She lost the weight. Bit by bit, her smelly breath improved. The loose tooth eventually fell out on its own, but she hasn't had any more loose teeth in the past 2 years, even though she's at a time in her life when tooth decay and loss are common.
We even noticed that the slight waddle she had when she walked (likely due to stiff, aging joints) went away!
The most amazing thing? We live in an area where fleas and ticks are really common during the summer. Betsy and Willow are outside, exploring, running through our woods, and following deer trails daily from May to October. Yet, we've never found a flea or tick on either of them since switching to homemade dog food!
We don't use any flea/tick treatments, collars, drops, or even essential oils on our dogs. My theory is that the girls are so healthy, they are naturally repelling pesky fleas and ticks with their body chemistry.
Reducing Food Waste With Homemade Dog Food
Do you cut cauliflower and broccoli off the stalk and throw the stalks away? Did you know you can cut up those stalks and add them to your homemade dog food in the Instant Pot?!
Yep! It's true! Making homemade dog food can stretch your food dollars even further by making sure not even a stem goes into the garbage or compost. Not to mention, dog food in the Instant Pot is more nutritious because nutrients are exposed to heat for less time!
Other foods you can add to your dog food that might normally go to waste?
- carrot tops
- beet greens
- Brussels sprout tops
- diced cabbage cores
- over-ripe bananas
- bruised or mushy fruit (as long as it's dog-safe)
- clabber (Strain the whey to use for your own soaking, then add the clabber to your dog food after cooking for a probiotic boost!)
What About The Cost?
I admit it: homemade dog food is more expensive than the cheap kibble from the store.
It's not full of fillers, CAFO animal body parts, or cheap grains. Those are the ingredients that make processed dog food so cheap.
Homemade dog food is, however, less expensive than many brands of organic, grain-free, or even Paleo dog foods. As I mentioned, I was feeding our dogs a reputable brand of healthy dog food. I was spending about $30 per month on that dog food.
I spend about $40 per month on ingredients for our homemade dog food in the Instant Pot. (We don't use grass-fed meat for the dogs yet, because it's just not in the budget. Hey, we do the best we can, right? 😉 )
The extra cost in money and time is so worth it because we have happy, healthy dogs who will likely be with us for years to come!
When Making The Switch…
It is much better on your dog's digestion to make a switch to homemade food gradually, especially if your dog is currently eating commercial food.
Mix 1 part homemade food with 4 parts of your pet's current food. Over the course of up to 2 weeks, gradually increase the amount of homemade food, while gradually decreasing the amount of commercial food.
Your pet is more likely to accept his homemade food when introduced this way. And you're less likely to be cleaning up messes from your dog's upset stomach.
Have you ever thought about switching to homemade dog food? What do you think about making dog food in the Instant Pot?
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