Homemade puppy food - what you need to know

Three puppies eating from three bowls
(Image credit: Getty)

Going down the homemade puppy route is one option some puppy owners will consider when welcoming a new canine into their home. Making home cooked meals for a pup allows you to track exactly what is entering their digestive system and could save some money this way.

It’s easy enough to get your hands on some of the best puppy food and there are some excellent brands out there to choose from. However, it can be a real challenge in the grocery store trying to read through the fine print on ingredients and nutritional value of packaged food. If you’ve got the time to prepare homemade puppy food for your four-legged friend and have consulted your vet on putting your pooch on a homemade diet then there is no reason you shouldn’t be getting your apron on and ready to cook up a nutritional storm for your pup.

Puppies have specific dietary requirements to meet when they are growing such as consuming adequate volumes of vitamins, minerals and calories. Therefore, the food you make for your puppy should be complete and balanced and make your efforts worthwhile. Below, we run through the benefits of homemade puppy food, key ingredients to include in your pup’s bowl, with input from vet Dr Joanna Woodnutt, and a couple of recipes to get you started…

Do vets recommend homemade puppy food?

If you are thinking about putting your little one on a homemade puppy food diet, you really should consult your vet first. As Dr Joanna Woodnutt, a qualified vet said it's really not recommended to home-cook for a puppy. 

Nutrition is never more essential than when your puppy is still growing, as the balance of nutrients needs to be perfect for optimum growth. She provides scientific research as her evidence, "Unfortunately, home cooking is very unlikely to get these nutrients correctly balanced. One study showed that 95% of homemade dog food recipes didn’t provide the correct nutrients for adult dogs – and since puppies require more nutrients, it stands to reason that none of these recipes would be suitable for puppies either. This study found that every single diet they tested was deficient in nutrients."

Woodnutt shares that it’s not a good idea to make your own food for a puppy due to the risk of nutritional deficiencies, which can and do cause lasting clinical problems or even require euthanasia. Instead, feeding a food specially formulated for growth (i.e designed for puppies) is recommended – using a large-breed version if your dog is expected to be large is also important.

If you really want to cook food for your puppy at home, make sure it’s never more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie allowance to ensure you aren’t unbalancing their main diet. Don’t forget that 10% is for everything outside of your dog’s usual food – that means if you’re using training treats or dental sticks, they're also included in the 10% and reduce the amount of homecooked food you can feed your dog further.

She adds, "If pet parents REALLY REALLY want to feed homecooked food, they need to work one-on-one with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure their food is safe and correctly balanced."

Is homemade puppy food healthy?

Homemade puppy food can absolutely be healthy, but it does require a great deal of thought to ensure it contains everything your fur baby needs to grow up big and strong, including plenty of calories to fuel their body’s development. 

One of the biggest mistakes new pet parents make is not understanding that a puppy’s dietary requirements are very different to an adult dog’s. Alongside ensuring they get the right amount of vitamins and minerals, the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content also needs to be correctly balanced.

To ensure your puppy is getting everything they need in the correct ratios, we recommend working with your vet, who will be able to design a healthy diet that will meet the needs of your growing fur baby. They’ll also be able to offer advice and guidance on when to start transitioning your pup over to homemade dog food recipes to meet their adult nutritional requirements.

How to prepare homemade puppy food

The team at PetCareRx advises that all pet parents follow these nutritional guidelines when preparing meals for their puppy:

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IngredientApproximate balanceOptions
Protein40%-80%Boneless chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, pork, or duck; deboned fish, especially salmon; and eggs which can be cooked with their crushed shells included for extra calcium. Organ meats are very healthy as well but typically should not make up more than 15% of the diet.
Fruits and veggies5%-10%Carrots, blueberries, peas, and more. But steer clear of anything poisonous for dogs.
Fiber-rich carbohydrates20%-60%Potatoes, both sweet and regular; brown, jasmine, or white rice; peas; lentils; and oatmeal or barley in smaller amounts.
Fat5%-15%Poultry skin; rendered poultry fat from cooking; safflower, canola, or soybean oil; or ground flax seeds or flax oil.
Vitamins and mineralsVariableConsider a puppy supplement with plenty of calcium for your growing dog. Consult your veterinarian for recommended brands and dosage.

When it comes to preparing food, we recommend you set aside a day every month (or a half day once a week if you prefer) and prepare your puppy’s meals in bulk. You can then portion out the meals into containers and freeze them, so that you’ve always got a good supply of pre-prepared meals on hand. 

Puppy food can last for several months in the freezer and for up to five days in the refrigerator. If you’re unsure about what an appropriate portion size is for your growing pup, speak to your vet who will be able to advise you. 

Homemade puppy food recipes

If you're looking for some delicious and nutritious homemade puppy food recipes to get you started, here's three of our favorites...

1. Healthy puppy food 

Dog looking at ingredients for homemade puppy food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs ground turkey (or any protein)
  • 1 cup uncooked millet (or any other whole grain: quinoa, rice, pasta)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut oil
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
  • 1 squash, shredded
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • A Tbsp. of Calcium powder

Directions:

  1. Bring  1 cup of the whole grain to a boil in a pot of water. I overcook it so that it’s soft and easily digestible. Drain.
  2. While that’s boiling, shred/chop the veggies.
  3. Cook ground turkey with olive oil and drain excess juices.
  4. Mix everything! No need to cook the veggies. The cooked turkey and whole grain will warm them up a bit.
  5. Store in Tupperware or ziplock bags and freeze.

Recipe courtesy of patchpuppy.com

2. Chicken and brown rice puppy food

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup UNCOOKED brown rice
  • 2 peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
  • 2 carrots (chopped)
  • 8 ounces frozen peas
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fish oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon iodized salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1.5 cups water

Directions:

  1. Set your slow cooker to low
  2. Add all the ingredients
  3. Cook for 5-6 hours

3. Banana carob oat cake

Peanut butter and sliced banana on a plate

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup carob chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a nonstick spray, coat an 8-inch cake pan and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, mix the bananas, 3 tablespoons honey, egg, and water until combined.Then, stir in the flour, baking powder, and oats.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the carob chips on top. Use a fork to slightly mix in the carob chips in a marbling fashion; the chips should be slightly visible on the surface.
  4. Bake the cake for 1 hour. Check and bake for an additional 15 minutes if you insert a toothpick and it does not come out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before transferring it to a rack to cool completely.
  5. As the cake is cooling on the rack, mix the peanut butter and remaining honey in a bowl until thoroughly incorporated to create the frosting. Using a spoon or spatula, spread the peanut butter frosting over the cake.

Recipe courtesy of patchpuppy.com

Kathryn Rosenberg
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.