Should You Make Your Own Dog Food?

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Doggone it, feeding Fido can be a tricky proposition. It costs a lot, and you're never quite sure what you pet is getting. Here's one controversial alternative.

Depending on the size of your dog, he may be eating you out of house and home. You can go with the store brands of dog food, inch your way up the ladder to the Purinas or Ken-L Rations, or go all the way to the top with the high-end brands. But there’s another way, if you’re crazy enough to try it: Make your own.

Will you save money on the food? Maybe, maybe not. In a provocative column at Bargaineering.com, the site points out that it takes time to make and prepare your own dog food, and it can sometimes be more expensive than the mass-produced dry dog food you can pick up in the store.

But if you’ve got the time and inclination, you may just make up for that by paying fewer veterinary bills. After all, human beings are always being urged to eat a more natural diet and lay off the processed foods, so it only makes sense that the same would be true for our canine friends.

Many owners are going this route, especially after so many dogs died from tainted food in 2007. Tom Burns of Bailey, Colo., began feeding his dogs a homemade diet when one of them became ill.

“The vet told us to use Science Diet, but after a month he wasn’t getting any better,” Burns says. That’s when he read the ingredients and thought he could develop a better recipe.

Now Burns’ three dogs subsist on a diet of ground turkey, potatoes, green beans, spinach, and garlic, combined with a homemade nutritional powder with such ingredients as kelp, bone meal, and calcium. (Recipes abound, from Buddy’s and Bubba’s Homemade Dog Food to Doggy Hamburger Helper.)

“It takes us about four hours to make it up. We do enough to last about 10 days,” Burns says. He estimates that the final cost is about $1.25 for the equivalent of a can – which compares favorably with higher-end store-bought versions that can run as high as $2 a can.

Many owners opt for the BARF diet. It may sound unappealing, but the acronym stands for “biologically appropriate raw food.” It’s based on the fact that dogs evolved eating raw foods, not cooked foods. But Burns offers a cautionary note: “If your dog is used to processed food, you’ve got to work them into it.”

Once you get them to raw foods, however, there is a plethora of goodies from which to choose:

  • Eggs and Meat: raw eggs, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, venison, turkey
  • Vegetables and grains: broccoli, carrots, romaine lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, summer squash, asparagus, rice, oatmeal, kale
  • Dairy: cottage cheese, plain yogurt
  • Fruit: bananas, mango, apples
  • Oils: olive oil, flax seed oil, safflower oil, hemp oil

On the other hand, there are also a host of foods to keep your dog away from. Some can even be fatal…

  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Macademia nuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Walnuts

Whether making your own dog food is really worth the trouble is up to you, but here’s one key ingredient: Consult your veterinarian first.

But Burns is a believer. The sick dog that first pushed him into homemade food lived to be 19½.

Stacy Johnson

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