The Pros and Cons of Homemade Dog Food

Process of preparing bowls with natural raw pet dog food at home, preparation of healthy raw barf for cats dogs, with duck, turkey, offals, meat, vegetables, assorted food portions in containers

Key Points

  • A fresh, minimally processed diet is healthier than highly processed kibble for your dog.

  • Feeding puppies and young dogs a non-processed diet prevents risk factors for chronic intestinal problems.

  • There are several important factors to consider when deciding to feed homemade meals.

Everybody loves a homemade meal. It's tastier, healthier, and shows how much the cook cares about you. Your dog probably feels the same way.

Welcome to a guide on the pros and cons of homemade dog food. This article examines cost considerations, customization, food safety, nutritional balance, quality control, and the time and effort required to feed your best buddy homemade meals.

A fresh, minimally processed diet is healthier for your dog than a highly processed kibble. Feeding a non-processed diet with human food such as berries and meat protects dogs from ongoing tummy troubles throughout their life

A Finnish research team led by veterinarian Dr. Kristiina Vuori reports, "Especially raw bones and cartilage as well as leftovers and table scraps during puppyhood and adolescence, and berries during puppyhood were associated with less chronic enteropathy (CE). In contrast, feeding an ultra-processed carbohydrate-based diet, namely dry dog food or 'kibble' during puppyhood and adolescence, and rawhides during puppyhood were significant risk factors for CE later in life."

Cost Considerations

Cost is a significant factor when considering homemade dog food. There's a higher initial investment compared to buying commercial dog food. You must purchase ingredients and possibly kitchen equipment for preparing the meals. Over time, homemade dog food offers potential cost savings.

By preparing meals at home, you have better control over the ingredients and can choose more affordable options without compromising the quality. If your dog has specific dietary needs, such as allergies or sensitivities, commercial dog foods tailored to those requirements are often costlier than homemade alternatives.

Look for local farmers' markets or wholesale food suppliers to find high-quality ingredients at lower prices. Buying in bulk and freezing portions also reduces long-term costs.

Pros: Potential long-term cost savings, more control over ingredient quality

Cons: Initial higher investment required


One of the primary advantages of homemade dog food is the ability to customize meals to meet your dog's specific preferences and dietary needs. Unlike commercial dog food, with standardized ingredients, homemade meals allow you to tailor the recipes based on your dog's preferences.

You have complete control over the ingredients if your dog has allergies, sensitivities, or a specific health need. This allows you to avoid unnecessary ingredients and provide a safe and healthy meal. Picky eaters benefit from the personalized touch of homemade food because you can experiment with different flavors and textures until you find what they love.

Consider incorporating a variety of proteins, fiber sources, and vegetables to provide a well-rounded diet and keep mealtime exciting for your dog. Consult a professional pet dietician or veterinarian to ensure you meet all the necessary nutrient requirements for your dog's breed and size.

Pros: Tailored to meet individual preferences, can address allergies or sensitivities

Cons: Requires careful planning and knowledge of nutritional needs

A bowl of kibble sits next to a bowl of real food.

Food Safety

Food safety is a top priority when preparing homemade dog food. Proper hygiene and food handling practices are essential to prevent bacterial contamination or nutrient degradation. When handling raw meat or eggs, wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing the food to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Keep all surfaces and utensils clean and sanitized, and ensure proper cooking temperatures are reached to eliminate harmful bacteria. Use stainless steel or glass bowls instead of plastic because they're easier to clean and less likely to harbor bacteria. Invest in a meat thermometer to achieve proper cooking temperatures.

Pros: Control over food preparation process, minimize risks of contamination

Cons: Requires extra care and attention to hygiene

Nutritional Balance

Creating nutritionally balanced meals is essential when feeding your dog homemade food. Unlike commercial dog food, which must meet specific nutritional standards, achieving the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals in homemade meals is challenging.

Dogs require specific nutrients in different quantities based on age, breed, size, and activity level. Have a veterinarian or professional canine nutritionist guide you in formulating balanced recipes to meet your dog's needs. Supplementing your dog's homemade diet with high-quality, dog-safe multivitamins and mineral supplements ensures they receive the necessary nutrients to maintain their best health.

Pros: Ability to customize to meet specific nutritional needs, natural ingredients

Cons: May require professional guidance to ensure proper nutritional balance

Quality Control

Another advantage of homemade dog food is the ability to control the quality of ingredients. Commercial dog foods may contain additives, preservatives, or unknown ingredients that don't necessarily meet your standards. You can use high-quality, organic, and locally produced ingredients when preparing homemade meals.

Select meats, grains, vegetables, and fruits that align with your preferences and values. Consider replacing store-bought treats with homemade alternatives using quality ingredients to further guarantee the overall quality of your dog's diet.

Pros: Transparency and control over ingredient quality

Cons: Requires extra effort in ingredient sourcing and meal preparation

Time and Effort

You can't underestimate the time and effort to make homemade dog food. It involves careful meal planning, shopping for ingredients, food preparation, cooking, and portioning. Proper planning ensures the meal includes all necessary nutrients and proportions.

Shopping for ingredients requires more time than picking a bag or can of dog food off the store shelf — especially if you have to visit several stores or local farmers' markets to get what you need. Prepare large batches and freeze individual portions to save time and effort later.

Pros: Control over ingredients and portion sizes

Cons: Requires substantial time and effort in meal planning and preparation

Avoid Common Pitfalls

To avoid tummy upset when switching to any new diet, do it gradually over several days. When you reach half the new and half the previous diet stage, linger for a few days at this 50/50 mark to allow your dog's digestive system to get used to it. If anything goes wrong, swiftly switch back to the original diet. Getting the right recipe is more art than science, so trial and error is always a possibility.

If you're unsure how to begin preparing a homemade diet or prefer a commercial diet's convenience, there's another excellent option. Use a nutritionally balanced base diet and combine it with fresh raw ingredients, such as raw beef, chicken, eggs, fish, or another protein source you want to give your dog.

These mixes are an excellent in-between choice of a formulated base that provides all the balanced ingredients to meet nutrient profiles for dogs in a base mix while still feeding your dog a from-scratch menu made at home. Dr. Harvey's Canine Health Miracle Dog Food and The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Fruit and Veggie Base Mix are reputable brands that make homemade dog food easier.

Pros: Base diets offer an in-between choice while still feeding from-scratch meals

Cons: Switching to a new diet potentially causes an upset tummy, so proceed slowly over several days

Homemade at Its Best

Homemade dog food offers both advantages and challenges. Make an informed decision that suits your dog's specific circumstances. As USA Today reported in February 2023, a dry kibble diet is more likely to give dogs gastrointestinal issues than feeding non-processed food.

Consult a veterinarian or a professional canine nutritionist to ensure your homemade meals meet your dog's nutritional needs. Whether you feed your dog homemade or commercial dog food, always prioritize their health, happiness, and well-being. "Bone" appétit!

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