Homemade Diets

by Dawn

Homemade Diets: Are they for the Dogs?
Has it become a battle day after day to get your diabetic dog to eat? Does he turn his nose up at the kibble or canned food you give him? Not to worry, you can "dress up" your current food and make your own homemade diet. Although it is more work than putting canned/dry food into a bowl, it does have its benefits. My diabetic dog became a very picky eater and I often found it difficult to find a diet in the pet food store that would suite her diabetic needs. Often times, store bought diets have added by-products or sugar based substances, that could easily make a diabetic dog sick. A homemade diet can be adjusted to fit your dog's needs and it can also assure you that your dog is eating healthy. There are a few things worth considering when using homemade diets:
  1. Ask your vet first. Some vets don't like the idea of homemade diets and often times they prefer you to purchase their expensive, name brand, diets. Go to your vet well prepared with a list of information about why a homemade diet will work best for you and your dog. Always be sure to inform your vet of your dog's new diet and ask for suggestions.
  2. You will need a good multi vitamin to add to your homemade food. Make sure you understand your dogs nutrition requirements and that your new homemade diet will supply their needs. There are many vitamins that come in powder form you that you can mix in to your homemade diet, making this process easier for the pet owner.
  3. Add a digestive enzyme. Digestive enzymes help your dog to digest their food. They also take some of the pressure of the pancreas, which is already stressed from diabetes. Some multivitamins have a digestive enzyme added to them, so always be sure to read the label.
  4. Know your dog's recommended caloric intake. Taking into account your dog's current weight and their recommend weight will help you make adjustments for your homemade diet. There are many references that will give you guidelines for caloric requirements for dogs. Below is an example. Always keep in mind that there are many factors that will affect your dog's recommended caloric intake. Take into account your dog's age, health, exercise and metabolism levels to help you establish a proper diet.
Caloric Requirements for Dogs
Weight of Dog
in Pounds
in Summer
in Winter*
Calories for
Growing Puppies**
2 120 180 200
5 250 375 400
10 420 630 700
20 700 1,050 1,200
30 930 1,400 1,400
50 1,350 2,000 2,000
70 1,680 2,500 2,500
100 2,400 3,600 3,600
*Only for dogs living outdoors more than 50% of the time.
**Puppies are considered to be growing until they reach adulthood, or at about 9 to 18 months, depending on breed.

I know these sounds like a lot of work that is why I use a combination of dry kibble with homemade food. I believe it is worth the effort because I get the benefit of adding vitamins and digestive enzymes to a food that I am certain my dog will eat on a daily basis. Although I mix my homemade diet with a store bought kibble, you can easily make a purely homemade diet for your dog. Here are some basic ingredients that will help get you started.
  1. You will need a source of protein. Protein is one of the major sources of energy for your dog. Think of it as a building block for your dog's body. Protein helps is to repair body tissue and promote muscle growth. Lean meat is one of the best forms of protein, so you will want to get the leanest meat available to you. Here is a list of commonly added ingredients that are a good source of protein.

    Protein Source Serving Size Calories
    Chicken Breast 4 oz 120
    Turkey Breast 3 oz 88
    Beef 80% 3 oz 231
    Salmon 3 oz 180
  2. Vegetables are not only a good source of vitamins and minerals, but they also help keep blood sugar stable. A dog cannot digest vegetables, so you must grind them up. I use a small electric chopper. Fruits are good choices for treats. But, don't include them with the main meal, as fruits can ferment in your dog's stomach when combined with meats, grains and vegetables. Here are a couple of examples of fruits and vegetables that are safe for your dog. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of fiber.

    Fruit or Vegetable Serving Size Calories Glycemic Index *
    Green Beans 1 cup 41 15
    Broccoli 1 cup 35 15
    Pumpkin canned 1 cup 83 6
    Summer Squash 1 cup 20 15
    Cucumber ½ cup 7 15
    Apple 1 med. Skin on 72 38
    Pear 1 med skin on 98 38
  3. Fiber prevents both diarrhea and constipation and improves colon health. Nothing is worse that a dog that keeps begging. Fiber will also help your dog feel fuller for a longer period of time and also fuels the body so they can enjoy life and stay young. Grain is also a good source of fiber and carbohydrates. This is where things can get tricky. Carbohydrates break down in the digestive track and make a form of glucose. It is important to note that meats, fruits, vegetables and grains are all sources of carbohydrates and it is important for you to know how many carbohydrates your dog is ingesting, especially if they are diabetic. Home testing your dog's blood glucose is a great tool when starting your dog on a homemade diet. All dogs react differently to diets and it is very important to know your dog's reactions to different ingredients. Home testing your dog's blood sugar can give you assurance that your dog is safe.

    Grain Serving Size Calories Glycemic Index *
    White Rice ½ cup 133 72
    Brown Rice ½ cup 110 51
    Oatmeal 1 cup 166 49
    Steel Oats ¼ cup 150  
I have found the benefits of using homemade diets. Although it took me a bit of research and experimenting, I now find it a joy knowing that my dogs are receiving the best diet I can give them. I have found some of the best information from reading forums and made many friends with people who share similar stories. Always remember that there is never a stupid question and you are not alone.

*The glycemic index (GI) is a scale from 1 to 100 that measures how quickly carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose. The original purpose for the glycemic index was to help diabetics keep their blood sugar under control.