Make Homemade Dog Food with your Slow-Cooker

by Linsey Knerl on 20 February 2008 21 comments

Awhile back, I told you how we had gone the way of homemade dog food. It isn’t just that my beautiful pup is fast approaching 60 pounds and feeding him is a bit burdensome. I also love knowing exactly what is going into his food. Here is the slow-cooker technique my husband designed to keep fresh and healthy food going into the kibble bowl.

Most experts agree that your dog needs an adequate diet of meat or other digestible protein, vegetables, and grains. I’ve found that having a ratio of three equal parts of these works best:

Meat can be expensive enough without having to buy it to also feed your dog. We have found several good workarounds for this purpose. The majority of the meat we use is safe for human consumption, but not exactly tasty. By this, I mean that we utilize cuts that have been in the freezer too long or processed wild game meats, such as deer, that we just can’t use up. This is also a good opportunity to befriend your local butcher and find out what cuts go on sale during the week. Manager’s special items that you might not feed your friends (hindquarters or shanks) can make excellent dog food.

Veggies are the most fun to use up. We keep a scrap bowl on the counter for all fresh veggie scraps to go into. Nothing edible is wasted, and my kids have fun peeling carrots into the bowl or adding some scooped-out squash pulp. Anything that is edible and unspoiled is generally good for dogs to eat.

Carbs are necessary for a healthy and active dog. The most popular ingredients for making homemade dog food include brown rice, oats, millet, couscous, and barley. Rice works well for us, but may not be tolerated by some dogs. Stay away from hops for obvious reasons.

Starting with your meat, place it in the bottom of a large slow-cooker. Add your grains, veggies, and enough water to almost cover the food. Grains will expand during the cooking process, so don’t overfill your slow-cooker! If you need to add more water as it cooks, feel free to do so. As your meat cooks, extra juices will be added to the mixture.

Cook on low for 6-9 hours or until the meat is tender and falling off of any bones. (Warning: If you used any game meats or meat with freezer burn, this may smell unpleasant! I do my cooking overnight and spray lots of air freshener the next morning!) Remove the bones from the mixture with a slotted spoon. Large bones will now be soft, and if it is OK with your vet, can be saved for special treats. Make sure the entire mixture is mushed up and blended as well as possible, and allow it to cool. Portion out each serving in a plastic baggie or other storage container for freezing. If you plan on using it all up in the next two days, you may store the entire batch in a clean ice-cream pail in your fridge and scoop out what you need each meal.

As far as how much to feed your dog, that will depend on the size, age, activity level, and breed of your dog. Here is a rough guideline for a daily amount of homemade food per dog, per day. For dogs up to 10 pounds: 1- 1½ cups, 11-20 pounds: 2-3 cups, 21-40 pounds: 4 cups. For every additional 20 pounds, add 2 cups. Let your dog tell you if you’re feeding enough or too much! It is also important to make sure that you are giving your dog crunchy foods or treats to supplement their homemade meals. Good dental health is important!

 

(Note: Several common household foods may be dangerous to your dog in even small amounts. Others may just cause you some unpleasant stomach symptoms, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Items to avoid include onion, grapes, raisins, raw eggs, dairy products, avocado, broccoli, wild mushrooms, nutmeg, nuts, green potatoes, unripened tomatoes and foliage, excess salt, pits and seeds, raw salmon, large portions of liver, chocolate, rhubarb, and cassava root. Very small amounts of garlic can have health benefits, but it must be used with caution, and preferably with the supervision of your vet.)

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Myscha Theriault's picture

You know, your timing on this piece couldn't be better. Crockpots are right up my alley, and whatever we choose as we try to make the transition to the homemade food, it has to be EASY. For more than reasons than normal, we are short on time this year.

I also like that you provided a system that is easily interchangeable. As usual, you've kept my budget in mind.

Thanks, girl!

Linsey Knerl's picture

After trying a dozen different ways to make food, my hubby just got lazy (and genious) and threw everything in the slowcooker over night.  My pup loves it, and clean up is a breeze!

Guest's picture
Rose

We've been making our dog's food for a few years, but it has never occurred to me to use the slow-cooker. Thanks for this tip! This will make our lives even easier.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I am such a crock pot girl. So much so, it's of note and a source of amusement for many who know me. So for the life of me, I don't know why I didn't think of it before either.

Guess it just shows the value of an extra mind in the group to help problem solve. This has really motivated me to tackle this. I thought I had gone the extra mile in making the eco treats form the Eco Dog book I reviewed, but was honestly still strying to figure out where on Earth I was going to find the time and energy to do food on a regular basis.

Now, I just have to find my super affordable protein source. While I grew up in a hunting household, my husband and I just don't for whatever reason. I'm wondering if an affordable cut supplemented by peanut butter and perhaps flaxseed oil? Just as a way to stretch out the meat?

I'm SO OPEN to suggestions . . .

Catherine Shaffer's picture

Lindsey--if you are going to feed a home made diet to your dog, you should understand phosphorous-calcium balance. Here's a web site that takes a pretty critical look at home-made diets for pets: http://www.caberfeidh.com/NaturalDiet.htm

The money quote is here:  "The common practice of feeding meat without bones (or bone meal) is nutritionally disastrous for dogs and cats. The correct proportion of meat to bones or bone meal is also poorly understood by many people, and their reliance on recommendations made by people who themselves don't know what they are doing makes the problem worse."

Personally, I am very supportive of home-made raw diets. You just need to make sure that your dog's diet contains adequate quantities of bone or bone meal to balance the meat. My understanding that a diet high in meat and low in calcium will leech calcium out of the dog's bones and could cause rickets or other permanent bone malformities. 

I did a raw, home-made diet for about six years with my last dog, and she enjoyed excellent health and a long life. We didn't bother much with veggies, just gave her raw meaty bones, uncooked. She loved them. I would like to feed my current dogs the same way, but their consumption was 3-4 times each what the old dog was eating and it was putting us in the poor house. It is getting harder all the time to find waste meats or meat products, as the pet food industry takes them out of the food chain to make pet food to sell to us. With the rising cost of meat, I could hardly find anything that was less than $2/pound, and my dogs were going through 3-4 pounds per day each. *sigh* They loved it while it lasted, though. I think it is hard to save money with home made diets, but I enjoy sticking it tothe pet food industry. After all, we domesticated dogs for 10,000 years without Purina.

Catherine Shaffer

Wise Bread Contributor

Linsey Knerl's picture

You bring up a valid point, and one that we have researched.  We do include bones of some sort with each meat serving, along with egg shells with any egg serving.  They get cooked right along with the rest of the food.  I also know that if you cook the meat right on the bone, a fair amount of calcium, usually from marrow, will cook right into the rest of the meal.

I know that there has always been discussion about a RAW diet vs. cooked recipes.  We have had great results with the cooked diet.  I have heard that you should add some bone meal to your pup's diet, and I know that this can be purchased as a supplemental additive. 

Just as human diets have changed over the years (raw vs. cooked), domesticated dogs and cats have seen the same.  I'm not entirely convinced that raw materials would be as beneficial for todays puggles, golden doodles, and scnhoodles as it was for their wild ancestors.  This doesn't mean that it won't be good for them, or they won't enjoy it, but I personally don't eat raw.  I also don't know where the raw foods on the supply chain are coming from.  Homemade dog food came largely in response to fears of contimination.  Serving raw meats won't do anything to ease the fears of pet owners.

It's good to hear that you did well on the raw meat diet for your pups, and I still recommend some form of calcium.  Even our chickens get that in their diets!

Thanks!

 

 

Guest's picture
Courtney I

I was shocked when I saw a picture of puppies tearing at a chicken leg on our dog board. I asked a little about it, researched a bit, and we're going raw with our dogs after we run out of kibble.

We have been purchasing organic, high-end kibble and the occasional canned food, and we calculated that feeding raw will actually be cheaper. I had always assumed a raw diet would consist of (expensive) beef, but I was surprised to find that most people feed their dogs raw chicken legs (yes, including bones) as the bulk of their diet, then throw in veggies, occasional whole grains, and cold-pressed oil. I can get chicken legs for .70 per pound on sale, sometimes even less, and the veggies will be scraps and whatever is left over from dinner (excluding onions etc as specified above).

People who scoff at this should realize that kibble was not always in existence. What did people feed their dogs before kibble? Think about it.

Also, our puppy often has impacted anal glands and according to our vet, feeding dogs bones and raw meats often prevents this problem naturally, which is great.

I plan on thawing out meat for both our dinner and the dogs dinner at the same time. Let's face it, it doesn't take more time to throw a chicken leg and some veggies in a bowl than it does to pour in some kibble.

Catherine Shaffer's picture

Raw vs. cooked is a matter of preference. A lot of people are worried about food poisoning with raw foods, but dogs have a higher stomach acidity and don't suffer from salmonella and other infections that can be deadly in humans, and this was born out by our experience. There are people feeding their chihuahuas raw meat/bones diets! But cooked can be just as good. The important thing is to make sure you've got enough bone or bone meal. In order to get the right balance, it should look as though you are feeding them  mostly bones. You can also weigh the bones and meat to make sure you have the right ratio. A small but nonzero risk of raw bones and meat diets is an intestinal perforation. It's very are, but it can happen. I think it's worth the risk for the other health benefits, but some people wouldn't agree.

I think it's great that people are looking beyond commercial dog foods. For small, medium, or even normal large dogs, often times the cost is not very much. I found that for my guys (combined weight 250 pounds), even $.79/pound was too much, and I was literaly cleaning out the meat case in order to buy enough for one week. Our costs went way down when we switched back to kibble, alas. If I had more time to seek out sources of free meats like game processors, etc., and if I had a place to store all that meat, I would love to go back to a home made diet, but it's not practical for us right now.

Catherine Shaffer

Wise Bread Contributor

Guest's picture
Guest

this post is so wrong. and by no means would I ever take the chance that a bone may pierce the intestines and its a risk I was willing to take. mostly bones?? come on, you can feed your dog a balanced meal with rice, carrots, oatmeal, bone meal and ground meats like turkey, burger and other cuts of meat. throw in some fish oil on top for omega 3 and you got a balanced meal for a dog for life!

Linsey Knerl's picture

I never intended to get deep into a discussion of raw vs. cooked vs. commercial, but it is an interesting topic.  My main point was to just give those who are considering or already making their own cooked dog food a "hack" to do it better and faster with less mess.  Thanks for all the comments!

Guest's picture
cyndiann

One thing I want to address is that dogs not only don't need carbs, their digestive system can't process them so any carbs are a waste. Also, many allergies come from carbs as well.

And why throw away bones only to give a supplement? Feed them raw, not cooked. I feed about 80% meat and 20% bone and some of that meat is organ meat. Most is red meat like beef and pork and I belong to a co-op that orders together to save big. I also buy store mark downs and buy from wholesalers.

Some people feed vegetables but I don't. Some allergies can come from them as well, especially any that are high in carbs.

Guest's picture
Guest

It gets even better.. Save all the poultry and fish bones and put them in the crockpot with a little vinegar. Cooked for several hours, the bones will get soft and can be eaten by dogs safely. Be sure to test them before feeding. Should be able to be broken easily in the hand.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I have done this with really thick bones with lots of marrow.  I'll have to try this!  Thanks!

Guest's picture
Colleen

This is a great idea -- I'm sure my dog will love it!

Does anyone know of a good cat food recipe (crockpot or not)? I'd really like to get into cooking cat food, too.

Guest's picture
Coexist

Remember wild dogs & our ancestors dogs didn't live as long as ours do now. Bacteria never concerned me with raw diets, they have a shorter digestive tract.....but worms....ick!

Guest's picture
Guest

If you feed your dog raw foods, chicken and other meats your subjecting your dogs to all kinds of bad bacteria and this can kill them! raw chicken is not advisable, in fact serious sickness can be born from dogs eating it raw.
also brown rice is good for dogs in the home cooked meals as is oatmeal.yeah they say dogs ate raw meat in the old days..... well its not the old days now and there is some serious things a dog can get from raw meat !

Guest's picture
Guest

I feed my dogs kibble and make a a soft food out of brown rice, ground turkey and carrots. I think if you do your research and consult your vet making your own food is great. I worry about the bone piece. As my vet points out "bones are harder than teeth so to avoid broken teeth don't give bones" and bone splinters can cause internal damage. I will try the slow cooker recipe with boneless meat.

Guest's picture
Em

I have fed standard kibble, "the good stuff," homemade mixes like Lindsey's, commercial processed raw, home-processed raw, and finally, raw whole meat/bone chunks, pig feet, poultry necks, etc., with the occasional veggie (squash is a favorite), eggs with the shell, fish scraps and a fish oil supplement. I will *never* go back to including any quantity of grain-based food.

Here's the primary role of grain in a dog's diet: creating large, soft stools with the typical nauseating "dog poop" odor. The bone content of a raw-fed dog's diet naturally deodorizes the stools and makes them smaller, firmer, and easy to clean up.

A secondary role for grain - which is never a significant part of a wild carnivore's diet - is promoting cancer. Know what happens when your kibble-fed dog is diagnosed? They try to sell you a meat-based canned food - more expensive than raw meat and bones, by the way - that has been shown not to promote cancer growth, UNLIKE grain-based kibble. Anyone who has fed the same dog both diets knows a raw-fed dog is shinier, more energetic, and of perfect weight.

Forty thousand years is not enough for an obligate carnivore to evolve into the semi-herbivorous diet we now feed them.

Don't feed grain. Feed less bulk, and feed raw whole meaty bones. Tonging a couple of chicken pieces from the designated tub in the fridge is much easier than making and portioning a crockpot of wet food, and cheaper than a quality kibble. Large knuckle bones will keep the dog occupied for hours and clean its teeth (our dog has no tartar or other dental problems, ever, and goes to the vet only for checkups). Our dog is trained to eat messy bits on a tray, so we don't worry about spreading germs.

Whoever said their vet claims bones are harder than teeth? Get a new vet pronto.

Guest's picture
Em

As for splinters, *sigh* long chicken bones aren't appropriate for gulpers. We insured our dog chewed everything correctly as we introduced each new item, and checked her stools. There is never a bone fragment larger than the head of a pin. It's just not an issue.

Guest's picture
Guest

Great post! Can you comment on slow cooker food vs. raw food? I'm planning on adopting a French Bulldog and they apparently often have food allergies. A good number of site recommend a raw diet but I live in an apartment and can't be grinding and freezing huge amounts of raw ingredients. I thought that a slow cooker food might be a good option. If you have come across any information on slow cooker food for Frenchies I'd love to hear it. Thanks!

Guest's picture
Guest

Could you weigh in on supplement additions for dogs fed a homemade diet? I've heard that the addition of a supplement to fill gaps in calcium, omegas and other minerals is key. It may also be another scam to get people buying more unnecessary things. Advice is appreciated.