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Q & A — Homemade Dog Food

I got a big bag of heart, liver, ground beef, pork, some bones (pork & beef I think) and lamb today for my chihuahua. I’ve never fed raw before to my dog, someone please tell me how to do this! I’m so lost as to what to add to it, do I need to cook it first? What about the portions? 

My chihuahua is a 8 lbs, 5 year old male with teeth problems.

Heart and the ground meats should comprise the majority of the meal—keep in mind that liver is an organ meat and should only be fed in moderation. So if your dog’s food is 60% meat and 40% assorted vegetables, the meat portion should be 85 – 90% heart / ground meat, and only 10 – 15% liver.

Unspoiled meat can be fed raw, and knuckle bones with marrow make delightful snacks and chew toys. Just remember that marrow is calorie rich and chihuahuas are super small, so if you give a large knuckle bone with a lot of marrow, cut down on the portion size for the other meals that day. Too much marrow can also have a laxative effect and result in loose stool or diarrhea depending on how your chi handles it.

So with that said, if you want to cook the meat that works too. For heart and liver, be sure to chop it into tiny little bite-sized pieces because heart and liver cooks up pretty tough and you don’t want to make it a choking hazard. Meat should comprise at least 50 – 60% of the food, and for the remaining portion you can include any combination of the following, just make sure that the meat to vegetable ratio stays at least 50% each, preferably 60% meat to 40% vegetables:

  • sweet potatoes (a way healthier option than regular potatoes)
  • peas (steam and mash them first to break the outer wall and make it easier for digestion)
  • eggs (you can even grind up the egg shells and add them for extra calcium—it makes the food a little gritty but my dogs never mind) 
  • green beans
  • super finely minced or grated garlic, 1 clove per half pound of meat
  • super finely diced mushrooms (portabella, porcini, etc.), need to be very small so they can break down and so it can be digested
  • 2 tablespoons of walnut or olive oil per pound of meat, added for essential omega fatty acids
  • bite-sized pieces of carrot
  • red / orange / green bell pepper, cut into small pieces
  • buckwheat (if you want to include a grain, buckwheat is a good alternative—it’s actually a seed and way better than using something like rice as filler)
  • broccoli

Many chihuahuas also love salad. Mine love fresh spinach, lettuce, thin sliced carrots and pieces of cucumber. Since it’s not high in calories, I let them enjoy it a couple times a month in addition to their regular food. There are a lot of other resources available too, but I hope that helps to get you started. Good luck!

Do you have to go to a special butcher to get the beef heart or just a grocery store butcher? Then how do you cook it?

For the beef heart, I’m able to order it directly at the grocery store—I just talk to the butcher at the counter and then put in an order for it, then they call me when it’s been delivered. As this point, I’ve ordered often enough that they usually have some on hand when I need to buy more. When ordering it, I get a whole heart, from grass-fed organic beef, so it weighs about 4 – 5 pounds in total and costs about $15. One heart is enough meat for about 5 – 6 weeks worth of food, i.e. two batches.

For cooking, I cut everything (esp. the heart) up into chihuahua bite-sized pieces and cook it in a large pot with enough water to have a thick stew-like consistency in the final product. You can also add some yogurt or salt-free chicken broth if you wish, just reduce the amount of water accordingly. Total time on the stove is about 45 minutes because I include buckwheat (a seed, not a grain) which needs some time to fully cook. 

The first 30 minutes or so is for the buckwheat, potatoes, and other vegetables to cook, then I add the meat and crack a few eggs directly into the mix in the last 15 minutes. When the meat is fully cooked and the potatoes / carrots are soft, the food is done. I portion it into containers, let them cool for a few hours on the counter, and then put one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. 

Total time, from preparation to finish, is usually about 1 hour 15 minutes – 1 hour 30 minutes. I cook roughly every 2.5 – 3 weeks for two dogs, each 5 – 6 lbs.