Homemade Dog Food Vs Pre-Made Dog Food

Amy Thompson
Homemade Dog Food Vs Pre-Made Dog Food

Feeding your dog a better diet often leads to a raw dog food discussion. Raw food advocates agree that the best option is a whole food, meat-based diet. It tops kibble for nurturing and supporting dog health. But that raises another question.

Which is the better option: homemade raw dog food or store-bought, pre-made raw dog food?

Homemade Raw Dog Food

Making your own raw dog food is great because you control what your dog eats. This is helpful for dogs with food sensitivities or health issues. It's also cheaper than buying pre-made raw dog food from a store.

When making homemade raw dog food, it takes some planning. It’s more than tossing a chicken breast or feeding ground beef at every meal. Muscle meat alone doesn't have all the nutrients your dog needs for good health.

You'll need to feed bones and organ meat. You can also include fruits and vegetables. You’ll want to feed a fatty acid to keep your dog healthy.  

Basics Of Homemade Raw Dog Food

Here are things to keep in mind when putting together your own homemade dog food diet. Then you’ll be sure you’re not missing anything.

You’ll want to include the following:  

  • 50% muscle meat
  • 10-22% organ meat
  • 15% uncooked bone
  • 10-20% vegetables
  • 5% fruit
  • An essential fatty acid
  • Recreational bones 

It's best to avoid fish oil, which is very unstable and turns rancid fast. Instead, look for a sustainable source like green lipped mussel oil or land-grown phytoplankton.

Recreational bones are raw bones meant for chewing or gnawing over time. They’re not for eating. They're given to dogs to clean their teeth and satisfy their natural urge to chew. Examples include beef knuckle bones, femurs, and marrow bones.

Is A Homemade Raw Dog Food Balanced?

Yes, it is when you follow a recipe. But it isn’t necessary for balance in every meal. You can do this over time with variety. You want to switch up the types of meat and vegetables so your dog receives a broad spectrum of nutrients. Opt for high-quality, ethically sourced ingredients. Choose organic and non-GMO ingredients whenever possible. 

Homemade Raw Dog Food For Special Needs Dogs

A homemade dog food recipe is flexible. If your dog has health concerns, you can adapt a homemade recipe to fit his needs. You can add the benefits of specialty ingredients like dried seaweed, herbs, or bone broth . These will support ongoing health. You can adjust a homemade recipe for older dogs who may need lower protein levels. 

You can make fresh meals as needed. You can also prepare large batches and freeze them to feed later. Either way, your dog will be eating a nutritious homemade meal.

RELATED: Use a tasty, balanced recipe when preparing homemade dog food … 

The Convenience of Pre-Made Raw Dog Food

Some pet owners don’t like the idea of handling and preparing raw meats. Or time might be scarce. In both cases, store-bought, pre-made raw food is a good alternative. These products come in convenient forms like patties or nuggets. They formulate them with the proper balance of meat, organ and bone. Some have added fruits and vegetables, depending on your needs. They are balanced and ready to serve after thawing.

How To Manage Food Sensitivities With Pre-Made Raw Dog Food

If your dog has food sensitivities, you need to be diligent about ingredients. Most raw dog food companies are transparent about their ingredients. Pre-made raw dog foods use whole food ingredients. They have concise ingredient lists with few or no additives. Many include novel options like rabbit, venison, and pheasant. This makes them suitable for various dietary restrictions. A quick look should reveal whether your dog can eat the food or not.

Synthetic Ingredients In Pre-Made Raw Dog Food

You want a pre-made raw dog food that derives its nutrition from whole food ingredients. You don’t want it to rely on added synthetic vitamins, minerals, amino acids or supplements. These are usually listed towards the bottom half of the ingredient list. They read like a scientific journal. These are chemically-based and are hard for dogs to metabolize. That means they’re not efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body. Naturally-occurring vitamins found in plant ingredients are better.

Most synthetic vitamins come from China, which is another concern. Food and supplement regulations are often less stringent here. Packaging might state the food is sourced and made in the USA. However, companies don’t need to disclose the origin of the vitamin premixes they use. If the list includes synthetic vitamins, they are likely from China.

HPP In Pre-Made Raw Dog Food

One controversial aspect of some manufactured raw foods is high pressure pasteurization (HPP). It's intended to eliminate bacteria.

During HPP, food faces intense pressure similar to cooking. HPP expert George Flick at Virginia Tech University states:

Basically, the effect of high pressure on microorganisms and proteins/enzymes was observed to be similar to that of thermal processing.

Despite this, the dog food is still labeled as raw. And it still carries the higher price of raw dog food. 

HPP treats foods already packaged. This means there’s a risk of toxic chemicals migrating into the food. They can include phthalates, endocrine disruptors linked to thyroid and obesity issues. 

Veterinarians may recommend HPP for immune-compromised dogs. However, it’s safer to lightly cook your dog’s food and lose some nutrients instead. Unpasteurized raw dog food is only as risky as preparing your own meat for dinner. Good hygiene practices can make all the difference. This results in considerable benefits for your dog from raw dog food.

Cost Of Pre-Made Raw Dog Food

Higher cost of pre-made raw dog food discourages people. This is because raw dog food companies have many costs. They include sourcing, grinding, mixing, forming and packaging. This raises the price compared to doing these tasks yourself. A 13-lb box costs about $80-$90 and may only last a large dog a week. Many raw feeders believe the expense is justified. But it’s understandable that the higher price puts pre-made raw dog food out of reach for some budgets.

Quality Control Of Pre-Made Raw Dog Food

Another aspect of pre-made raw food is the issue of quality control. Manufacturers maintain strict cleanliness standards and batch testing. It can be challenging to maintain quality until it reaches you. It can undergo thawing and refreezing during transportation. This may not make the product unsafe, but it does increase the risk of bacterial growth or spoilage. Watch for bags that appear inflated or "puffy." This likely indicates the product underwent thawing and refreezing at some point.

Making the Right Choice for Your Dog

Both homemade and store-bought pre-made raw diets offer substantial benefits over traditional kibble. Your decision depends on several things. These include lifestyle, budget, and level of commitment to preparing meals.

Can't decide? Why not blend the two approaches? Use store-bought meals for convenience during busy times. Prepare homemade meals when you can. Even DIY raw feeding when you can, will significantly benefit your dog and your budget.

Even if you can't feed an all raw dog food diet consistently, your dog will still benefit from a few raw meals a week. You can prepare them at home or purchase them from a store. Remember, the only mistake when it comes to feeding your dog a raw dog food diet, is not feeding it at all.

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