Finding dog food can be a nutritional minefield. Between filler-stuffed foods, processed ingredients, and diets that lag behind the research, it can be hard to find something good. And the price isn’t always an indication of quality either—some luxury-priced foods care more about marketing and trends than real nutrition. It might be tempting to ignore all the noise and jump straight into making meals for your dog yourself. And you wouldn’t be alone—if you search for homemade dog food recipes for dogs, hundreds of free recipes appear online.
But how do they measure up? And are homemade dog food recipes safe? This article will take you through some of the pros and cons of both.
At a Glance
Let’s look at the key points of each food.
- Usually fresh food
- Generally high cost
- No quality control
- Can be dangerous
- Store Bought
- Usually dry or canned
- Cost varies
- Processed for shelf stability
- Must meet minimum quality standards
- Might be less healthy but rarely is dangerous
Overview of Homemade Food:
If you want to try homemade food, there is no lack of resources out there. The problem is finding and following good resources. A 2017 study found that out of 80 homemade dog food diets, every single one introduced some nutrient deficiency, many of them quite serious. In addition, most owners didn’t always follow recipes exactly, and a small difference—like substituting sunflower oil for canola oil—could have a big health impact.
With this track record, it’s hard to argue that homemade dog foods are safer and healthier than store-bought foods. But there are some reasons to consider homemade as well. These recipes allow you to control ingredient quality completely, skipping the processed meat and veggies and putting in fresh foods. Dogs also often prefer flavorful, fresh foods to homemade recipes.
And in recent years, nutrient mixes have gone on the market that contains many of the amino acids, chelated minerals, and other nutrients that are most likely to be deficient in your food. Some owners may struggle to find foods that work with their dog’s health issues. If you do decide to introduce homemade meals into your dog’s diet, we strongly recommend consulting with a veterinary nutritionist or another expert to find a safe option for your dog.
- Greater control over ingredients
- Most recipes introduce nutrient deficiencies
- Can be dangerous
- No quality control or regulation
Overview of Store Bought Food:
Just as some homemade recipes might be better than others, store-bought food varies in quality. There’s a big difference between buying the cheapest kibble available and high-quality, research-driven food. However, the FDA regulates dog food in America, bringing all food up to a minimum safety standard. This means that even though some foods may be healthier or less healthy, you won’t find store-bought food that’s dangerous to the average dog.
Store-bought foods are also much more convenient to prepare and are widely available, with most stores having several brands and options at different price points. If you want to get the healthiest food for your dog, it’s important to do your research, but there are lots of options and choices. Look for foods that are made with meat as the first ingredient, whole grains, and at least 20% protein as a starting point for finding healthy food.
- Meets minimum health standards
- Convenient and widely available
- Lots of options and choices
- Processed for shelf-stability
- Quality varies widely
- May have unnecessary or less healthy ingredients
What are the Differences Between Them?
When it comes to flavor, fresh is usually best. Many dogs love fresh meat and veggies, and processed, shelf-stable food is hard to beat.
Nutrition & Safety
Edge: Store bought
Some store-bought food is better than others, but FDA regulation ensures that it is safe and meets minimum nutritional requirements. That’s not true of homemade food, and most recipes available don’t offer a balanced diet.
Edge: Store Bought
Homemade food can be time-consuming to make, even if you prepare it in batches. Store-bought food is already prepared so that you can serve it immediately.
Edge: Store Bought
Both homemade and store bought food can have a variety of price points, but store bought is usually cheaper. However, the healthiest store bought foods aren’t going to be the cheapest. It’s important to find a high-quality food that fits into your budget.
What Alternatives Are There?
If you are really fed up with store bought food, is there any alternative? Just a few years ago, you would have been out of options. But today, you can also look for fresh food subscriptions. These subscriptions make fresh food in small batches and deliver those foods right to your door. Unlike homemade food recipes, these fresh foods have the same FDA regulations as the foods on store shelves. Although they are more expensive than most dry or canned foods, fresh food subscriptions are a great alternative to store bought food that’s safer than homemade.
As you can see, store-bought food can be a pain, but that doesn’t mean that you should ditch it in favor of homemade food. Although it’s possible to make healthy homemade food, the risk is just too high without a trained professional vetting your recipes.
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