November 1 is National Cook for Your Dog Day, and what better way to celebrate than a delicious home-cooked meal for your best furry friend?
There are many ways to cook for your dog, whether you bake a few special treats or commit to a new lifestyle of fresh food for every meal.
But before you get cooking in the kitchen, it’s important to make sure that your recipes are safe for dogs and meet their nutritional needs. Read on to learn more about your dog’s dietary needs and how to best cook for your pup.
Why You Should Cook for Your Dog
Cooking for your pup, whether for a special occasion or as a new diet plan, has many benefits. Similar to fast food for humans, many of the convenient kibbles and treats that we offer our dogs are filled with processed ingredients that don’t provide optimal nutrition.
With home cooking, you have control over what ingredients your dog eats and where they’re sourced from. You can fill your dog’s meals with fresh, whole ingredients that you can prepare yourself, so you know exactly what’s in their food through every step of the process.
Cooking your dog’s food also helps you better tailor the meals to their specific dietary needs. Whether they have allergies to certain ingredients or they’re on a strict calorie count, you can put together meals that give your dog what they need without reading dozens of food labels in the store.
5 Tips to Cook Safely for Your Dog
Ready to throw on your apron and get started in the kitchen? Check out these tips to help you cook safely for your dog.
1. Talk to Your Veterinarian
Before you make any changes to your dog’s diet or serve them something they’ve never tried before, always consult with your veterinarian first.
Your vet can tell you about the specific calorie intake your dog needs to maintain a healthy weight, and give you insight into any allergies they may have.
They’ll also be able to tell you what vitamins or nutrients your pup may be lacking in. This will help you choose which ingredients to use and whether to add any supplements to their diet.
2. Create Balanced Meals
Where many pet parents struggle with preparing a home-cooked meal for their dog is ensuring the meal is balanced.
Commercially prepared pet foods are legally required to contain all the vitamins and nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy. But it’s tough when you’re putting those meals together on your own to know whether they’re nutritionally balanced.
A typical recommendation for a dog’s meal is 40% protein, 50% vegetables, and 10% starch. But for a meal to truly be complete and balanced, it also needs to include all the fats, vitamins, and minerals that your dog’s body needs to function properly, as well as water.
A balanced meal gives your dog all six of the key nutrients (water, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fat, and protein) in the proportion that matches their age, breed, health needs, and activity level.
However, these key nutrients are more complex than they appear. There are different forms of carbohydrates, for example, and your dog needs a balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber to maintain a healthy diet.
There are also a wide variety of vitamins that your dog needs in their meals, including:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
The best way to know what a balanced meal should look like for your dog is to discuss a meal plan with your vet or a pet nutritionist.
3. Use Trusted, Vet-Approved Recipes
Once you have a better understanding of what a balanced meal looks like, and you’ve consulted with your vet or veterinary nutritionist for approved recipes, it’s important to stick to those recipes exactly.
Even if you’re just preparing a few tasty treats for your dog to have as a snack, following the recipe is crucial.
Recipes are specially designed to include ingredients that are safe for your pet to consume, in quantities that are ideal for your dog. Unlike human food recipes, there’s little room to experiment or improvise with things you have in your kitchen.
4. Use High-Quality Ingredients
The best part of cooking your dog’s food at home is controlling the quality of ingredients that go into it. When you prepare for a recipe, buy the best quality, whole ingredients that you can find – preferably organic and locally sourced.
If you choose to purchase certain ingredients online, always check where the ingredients are being sourced from and in what conditions. In addition, always use safe ingredients that you’ve verified are non-toxic for your dog in all of your recipes.
5. Never Change Your Dog’s Food All at Once
If you plan to switch your dog from commercial dog food to all home-cooked meals, never make that switch overnight. Changing your dog’s diet too quickly can lead to uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues.
Instead, start with a mix of both foods. At first, you’ll want a higher percentage of their current diet (typically 75-80%) than their new food (typically 20-25%). Over time, you can change these proportions to increase how much new food is in the meal versus old food.
Make these changes slowly, and always observe your dog’s reaction to the new food. Don’t change the proportions until you’re sure your dog has no adverse reactions.
DON’T Cook These Foods for Your Dog
There are tons of delicious, fresh ingredients that are safe and healthy for your dog to enjoy, but there are also a few that are toxic to your pup if added to your recipe. When you cook for your dog, always avoid:
- Almonds, macadamia nuts, and other nuts
- Grapes or raisins
- Onions and garlic
- Foods with high salt content
- Foods with high fat content
- Yeast dough
What Will You Make for National Cook for Your Dog Day?
National Cook for Your Dog Day is a great chance to spoil your pup with a homemade treat. Whether you prepare a batch of DIY treats for your next training session or prepare an entire meal for your dog, they’ll enjoy the thought and love that you put into it. Have a great time cooking for your furry friend!
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