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How to Cook a Balanced Diet for Your Dog

cooking dog balanced diet boulderholisticvet blog post

The pet food industry is fraught with controversy, conflicting information and constant recalls. It’s no surprise that many dog guardians want to prepare their pup’s diet in their own kitchen.

Unfortunately, the veterinary industry has made cooking a balanced diet seem like a complicated and unreachable goal. In this article, I want to give you a simple system to prepare home made diets that are safe and balanced.

What does a ‘balanced diet’ even mean?

The term balanced is open to interpretation and can vary amongst professionals in the dog care community. For most veterinarians, it is defined as a diet with adequate vitamin, mineral and other macronutrient content as outlined by AAFCO and/or the NRC.

If you research (aka Google) AAFCO or the NRC (National Research Council) you will see many professionals in the holistic dog community in opposition to their guidelines. Some complaints against these recommendations may be valid. We do need longer feeding trials and it would be ideal to have more studies. However, I think it is unwise to discount all the studies that have been done on canine nutrition to date. There are textbooks full of studies and data. Let’s not throw it all away!

How do I make sure my diet contains all the vitamins and minerals for my dog? There are two ways you can create a balanced home cooked diet for your dog. The hard way and the easy way.

Let’s start with the hard way. You could calculate the requirement for every vitamin and mineral based off of the number of calories you are feeding your dog. I have tried this using supplements I carry in my practice and it is very difficult. Most nutritional supplements are designed to be given with a balanced diet. As a result, you must give massive quantities to reach the minimum requirements. I have also tried the route of purchasing each vitamin and mineral separately and adding it to the food. Wow, that made food preparation time way too long!

Now for the easy way. There is a website called Balance It. I can’t say enough good things about this tool. I don’t have a relationship with this company. I am just a huge fan. It has made home cooking accessible for my own dog as well as many of my patients.

I am going to walk you through how I use their online calculator.

Step 1: Pick your ingredients.

This is a diet I use in my patients that are recovering from diarrhea or vomiting.

Step 2: Choose a protein and carbohydrate range.

When in doubt, start with the mid-range option.

Step 3: Choose ‘adjust to your dog for FREE’.

You can add how much your dog weighs and how many meals you want to batch cook together. I used my own dog’s weight of 14 lb. I like to cook for one week at a time.

Now you can select this diet based off of your dog’s weight.

Step 4: After you hit ‘View’ you can see the recipe it has generated for you.

It will also tell you how much of the Balance It powder you will need to add. I recommend that you order the supplement and try the recipe without the powder first. Feel free to make the first batch for your pup without any vitamins or minerals. Now you can head to the grocery store to get cooking!


Here are few tips and tricks.

  1. I recommend using a slow cooker. I usually add two cups of water for every cup of grain I add. This also allows you to add the oil after cooking so that it’s freshness is preserved. I cook for 8 hours on low. You can also cook for 4 hours on high.
  2. Don’t stress about weighing everything out the gram. For example, I would use a little more than a pound of chicken for the above recipe.
  3. It’s ok if it is not exactly perfect. It’s your kitchen, not a lab. Relax and enjoy nourishing your pup!

Food is love!

I can’t wait to hear how it goes! Leave a comment below or find me on Facebook!

Thank you for taking such wonderful care of your pet.

With love,

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8 thoughts on “How to Cook a Balanced Diet for Your Dog”

  1. I am researching homemade diet for a 12lb mix breed. I have been cooking for her due to GI issues which have completely resolved. However, she just had surgery to have bladder stones removed (13 of them in her tiny bladder so I need to try to find a health urinary diet to make for her. Welcome any information on specific foods to avoid or include.

    1. Hi Mary,

      I am SO sorry for this extremely delayed response!

      A non-kibble/canned or extra-moist diet will be a really good idea as it will add increased hydration into her daily diet, which is huge.

      What diet did your vet recommend based on the specific stones found? Did you start it, and how is she doing?

      Keep us posted!

  2. Hi, Dr Angie! Do you have any tips on doing the conversions? I was going to cook 7 days and freeze, and the quantities are so confusing I’m worried I’ll mess up the proportions.

    For example, 28.25 oz pan broiled turkey crumbles – how much raw to use? I read that meat shrinks by 25% so I was going to add 4.4cups of raw turkey to end up with 1.75lb cooked – does that sound correct?

    And 56 5/8 oz cooked tilapia – I have a huge bag of frozen and have no idea how many fillets to put in the pan to end up with the right amount to end up with 7c cooked

    Same with the spinach – I read that 11 c raw spinach equals 1 cup cooked – so by those calculations I would need to put 26 c fresh spinach in the pan to end up with 2 3/8 c – does that sound right to you?

    It is so confusing and I don’t want to end up making him sick. I chatted with balance it online but they just referred me to online conversion calculators and I would rather get the info from someone who has actually cooked their recipes. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer on the calculations!

    1. Hi Maureen,

      It can really get confusing! Once you get the final word on this information though, I hope it gets easier!

      Are you using the BalanceIt calculator for these final ratios/amounts? I would give BalanceIt a buzz, and ask them for answers to these final questions. Once you’ve gotten the verdict, will you can make the diet with confidence knowing that you’re including the proper amounts.

      Will you keep us posted on what they say? You are doing a great job!


      1. Yes, I did chat with BalanceIt and they told me to experiment – basically cook each ingredient individually, then & find out how much each ingredient shrinks by measuring it after I cook it. Then if I need more, cook more of that ingredient, or toss the excess if I ended up with too much. Fish shrinks when cooked, Oats expand, beef shrinks, rice expands, etc etc. This seems completely impractical. Especially with wanting to use several different recipes, multiply that x 10 ingredients each – it would take hours and hours of trial and error, and be very complicated. I was hoping to avoid that.

  3. Hi I just wanted to comment about using a slow cooker and balance it supplements. I was told that they do not recommend it cause they can not guarantee that it will be balanced if not cooked they way they recommend which is oven or pan . Dry heat only . So I would love to know if you know something I don’t about being able to use a slow cooked for the balance it diets.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Josie,

      Really good question.

      It is possible that slow cooking may effect some of the B vitamins. For a lot of folks, slow cookers are the primary way that home cooking for their pet is possible, so we completely understand their use in this situation. However, if you had any concern, it would absolutely not be wrong to stick with oven or pan cooking.

      I hope that this helps!


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