You might not know that my grandparents have run an incredible dog rescue for more than 30 years. While that boggles my mind, it’s even crazier that they’ve been feeding a raw, homemade diet to the hundreds of pups that have come into their care instead of traditional dog food all this time. There are a ton of resources out there explaining why homemade dog food is preferable to other options, so we’ll link those below if you’d like to dig deeper. But anecdotally, my grandparents have proven again and again how the most messed-up, diseased, disordered pups can find a new lease on life with a change of diet.
So let me tell you a little story about our girl Leia. She’s an 8-year-old rescue mix Rick fell in love with at the Humane Society back when he lived with my brother. (We LOVE our rescues!) She still mostly lives at Alex’s house down the street with her best friend, black lab Vader. (He has a lot of feelings and Leia is basically his emotional support dog.) But she stays with us sometimes, too. It’s a non-traditional co-parenting situation in the best interest of the children!
Just like with humans, sometimes the easiest answer to a difficult health problem starts with diet.
Last summer, we were pouring money into this dog. She had horrible skin issues from seasonal allergies to potential food allergies we could never pinpoint. Her skin issues came and went, but when she had them she was so miserable. Always scratching herself raw and fussing and unable to get comfortable. We took her to the vet so many times, bought expensive medicated shampoos, bathed her every other day in that and a mixture of apple cider vinegar, got her allergy shots, gave her an appropriate dose of Benadryl every so often which made her very groggy, fed her expensive dog food and replaced her plastic cone a zillion times.
She’d get some relief but then it would come back. Nothing ever really worked for long.
All this time, she was eating the higher quality bagged dog food – the grain-free stuff around $45/bag. But even though it was better than some of the options with corn syrup and fillers, it still wasn’t cutting it. We hadn’t attempted the raw food diet before thinking it would be more expensive and too time-consuming, but we had to try. The vet bills were getting ridiculous and she was so uncomfortable.
We decided to try a modified version of the homemade dog food recipe my grandparents have been perfecting for 30 years. When they rescue pups who have skin irritation, kidney problems, etc., the first line of attack is to feed them this raw food diet. And wouldn’t you know it?! Within weeks of switching from pet store dog food to raw and homemade, Leia’s skin began to clear up. No itching, no excessive paw licking and she doesn’t stink! She doesn’t need frequent medicated baths anymore, and trust me when I say she’s just all-around in a better mood. I can see a marked difference in her energy levels, her coat and her teeth.
The only thing that’s kept her healthy consistently is this homemade dog food. Don’t get me wrong — she still gets snacks she’s not supposed to have, especially when she’s staying at Alex’s. The girl loves pizza crust and whatever she can swipe off a table. But at our house, it’s carrot sticks, pears and this homemade raw dog food.
Now that we’ve been feeding Leia homemade dog food for the past 6 months or so, everyone’s been asking for the recipe, so I decided to break with travel tradition since we’re stuck at home right now and share this peek at what goes on when we’re not traveling.
Healthy Homemade Dog Food Recipe – Raw & Grain Free
Makes ~56 cups or about a week of meals for an 80-lb. pup
- 5 pounds frozen veggies – carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, sweet potato
- 5 pounds of raw, fatty ground beef or chuck
- 12-18 raw eggs
- ¾ to 1 gallon of spring/filtered water
- 1/3 cup Alfalfa powder
- 1/3 cup Kelp powder
- ½ cup bone meal
- 1 squirt Alaska Salmon Oil
Homemade Dog Food Recipe Notes:
- Keep in mind, you always want more protein than vegetables in your recipe.
- Alfalfa, kelp and bone meal are great sources for vitamins and minerals dogs need, so don’t skip the additives.
- For dogs with cancer, you can also add cottage cheese and flax seed oil.
- Avoid corn! It’s a big cause of allergies in pets so skip it altogether. I look for a mix of peas and carrots or the California blend with carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. If you can’t find the blends, individual bags work and you can combine when you puree.
- DO NOT FEED DOGS: onions, garlic, grapes, nuts, mushrooms, leeks. If you are in doubt, check this list.
Kitchen Essentials You Need to Make Healthy Homemade Raw Dog Food:
- Big stock pot for mixing
- Blender or food processor (I find the blender much easier to use and clean)
- Measuring cups
- Individual serving storage bowls with lids (Plastic is cheaper to start but they don’t last forever in and out of the freezer. We prefer glass.)
- Potato Masher or Sturdy Wooden Spoon
For variety you can top with one of these at mealtime or offer as a snack between meals:
- Canned sardines
- Canned salmon
- Organ meat – chopped raw chicken liver/raw chicken hearts are super nutritious
- Chicken feet
- 5 pounds raw ground beef (70/30 or 80/20)
- 5 pounds frozen veggies (broccoli, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower)
- 3/4 - 1 gallon spring water
- 12-18 raw eggs
- 1/2 cup bone meal
- 1/3 cup Kelp Powder
- 1/3 cup Alfalfa Powder
- 1 squirt salmon oil
- Puree the vegetables in a food processor or blender to very pulverized consistency. Add water as you go to make a thin, soupy mixture. You don't want it too chunky; pups' systems don't break through the cell wall of the veggie so they need to be pretty churned up for best results.
- Put the veggie mixture in a stock pot or similar big container. Add the raw meat and mix well with a potato masher or sturdy wooden spoon, adding water to make it like thick chili.
- Add Alfalfa, kelp and bone meal powder to the mix.
- Add raw eggs to pot, with or without shells. If adding in whole, make sure to mash the shells up as small as possible. We do a few with shells and the rest without.
- Once mixed, spoon into individual containers. Leave some out for the next couple of days and freeze the rest. Don't forget to thaw the next day's meals as you go along.
- Before your pup digs in, add 1 squirt of Alaska Salmon Oil to the bowl. (Just one little pump will do it - you do not want to over-oil your dog's digestive system or you will find out why soon enough.)
- Do not warm or microwave! Remember, this is RAW food on purpose. It does not need to be cooked - dogs have very different digestive tracts than we do.
About Homemade Dog Food Recipes
Something interesting to note with this is everyone I know who feeds homemade dog food has their own variation, so this is not the be-all, end-all of homemade dog food recipes. It is, however, a great place to start if you want to get your pup on a healthier diet.
- Don’t be alarmed when your dog drinks less water from the bowl and has smaller poops. This is all normal.
- If they don’t eat it all in 20 minutes pick it up and refrigerate until the next meal. It’s true that dogs are more resistant to Salmonella and E. coli, but to be extra careful, always practice safe food handling and make sure they eat it all.
How much do I feed my dog?
There’s not a stock answer for this, as all dogs are different. Leia is about 80 lbs. and she gets two cups in the morning and two cups in the evening. I know a 100-lb. Great Pyrenees who gets 3 cups twice a day. For a 45 lb. pup, start with 1/2 cup in the morning and 1/2 and night. Itty bitty dogs could do with less.
A general rule is 2-3% of an adult dog’s body weight taking into account their activity level and life stage. Puppies might need more because they usually expend more energy. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Is homemade dog food more expensive than bagged dog food?
Well, it all depends on what you feed your dog now! The bargain basement stuff is definitely going to be cheaper than the raw food diet, but what we spend now on ground beef, frozen veggies and eggs is comparable to the big bags of fancy dry food from the pet store. And it’s saving us big in the long run on vet bills.
Do I need to wean my dog off the dry food?
No! The great thing about switching to fresh food is the dogs don’t need to gradually shift. You can go all in, all at once, unlike when you switch brands of processed dog food.
How long does it take to make this homemade dog food recipe?
Once you get the hang of it, it takes 15-20 minutes to whip up a batch and spoon it into containers. If you have a ton of pups like my grandparents, it’s probably easier to keep a couple days worth in a large container in the fridge vs. individual ones and just spoon it out as you go.
Links to additional information about healthy, homemade dog food:
- Dr. Ian Billinghurst – BARF diet
- So you wanna get your dog on a raw food diet? Outside Magazine
- The Raw Debate. Modern Dog Magazine
As I’ve said, we’re not dog nutritionists, so this is just one of many homemade dog food recipes out there. Your dog may need more or less meat or vegetables or supplements. It’s a process! Let us know of any tweaks that worked for you in the comments.
Thanks to my awesome grandma for sharing her expertise for this post! If you have more questions about homemade dog food recipes, please ask them below. I’ll run them by the experts and add them in.