How to introduce home-cooked meals to your puppy

A good rule of thumb to understand quantities of food to be given to your dog is carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables in a 1:2:3 ratio topped up with a teaspoon of coconut oil/ghee/other fat source.

A healthy balanced diet is important to keep your puppy happy, healthy and fit. Whether given exclusively or along with some amount of kibble, freshly prepared food needs to be balanced well. Providing a disproportionate amount of ingredients can lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients, which then cause growth problems in young dogs. 

We strongly advise starting your dog on home-cooked meals only after 6-8 months of age, during which time we recommend giving them appropriate amounts of kibble. 

Here, we give you a quick overview of the ingredients that you can use to prepare fresh food for your dog. This diet can also be provided to street dogs that you may be feeding as well. 

  1. Proteins: Important for the formation and maintenance of cartilage, tendons and ligaments, proteins also improve the immune system and provide energy, healthy skin and nails and a shiny coat. You can feed your dog with eggs, chicken, fish (boneless/fillet) or any other meat without the bones. Alternatively, you can also provide small amounts of paneer, soya chunks and cooked lentils. 
  2. Carbohydrates: Offering a readily available source of energy, carbohydrates are an important aspect of your dog's diet. Healthy carbs include rice, oats, ragi, potatoes and sweet potatoes, cooked or boiled. We recommend avoiding wheat as many dogs are gluten intolerant. 
  3. Fats: A small percentage of the diet should include healthy fats. They are essential for improving the skin and coat, and helps regulate body temperature. Dogs can develop dry, itchy skin if their diet doesn't contain any fats. Common fat sources include coconut oil, ghee, sunflower oil and olive oil. Add 1-2 teaspoons of oil based on the size of your dog. 
  4. Vegetables: Dogs, as omnivores, can eat various foods, including vegetables. Carrots, beans, okra, beetroots, peas, sweet corn, broccoli and pumpkins are good sources of low-calorie fibre that can be added to balance out your dog's diet. If you're cooking meat, then add the vegetables in the last 10 minutes of cooking to get the maximum nutritional value out of it. 
  5. Spices: Most spices that we consume are harmful to your dog's health. However, a few have nutritional value and provide some benefits to feeding your dog. Adding a pinch of turmeric to your dog's food can boost metabolism, provide relief from arthritis, and promote brain health. Pepper can also be added in moderation - excess consumption can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrheoa. Cumin can be added in small amounts to boost immunity. Additionally, a small amount of ginger in their diet can aid digestion. 
  6. Other ingredients: A small amount of buttermilk or yoghurt can be provided to aid digestion. 

If you are a vegetarian family, it is still advisable to feed your dog at least 1 meal a day of kibble. Most kibbles have meat-based ingredients which are required for your dog's health. Suppose you are not comfortable with feeding meat-based kibble. In that case, there are few vegetarian or vegan options that provide a balanced diet to your pet - Pedigree Milk and Vegetables for Puppies, Pedigree 100% Vegetarian Adult Dog Food and V-Planet Regular Kibble for Small & Mini Breeds/Medium & Large Breeds. 

Some foods should be avoided as they could be toxic and lead to a lot of health issues to your puppy. 

  • Dry Fruits and Nuts: Raisins, almonds, macadamia nuts and currants can affect each dog differently. They all contain chemical compounds that are harmful for a dog's health. In the worst scenarios, it could lead to kidney failure. 

  • Chocolate: This is at the top of the list and for a good reason! Chocolate, whether it is white chocolate or dark chocolate, all contain theobromine. Your dog cannot metabolize theobromine effectively, resulting in vomiting, diarrhoea and, in serious cases, heart problems, tremors, seizures and death.

  • Sweets: As much as we might enjoy eating sweets, sweets shouldn't be fed to dogs. Candy, gum, peanut butter or baked products contain an ingredient called xylitol that can cause an insulin surge through your pooch's body, leading to a drop in blood sugar as well as liver failure. It can also lead to diabetes, dental cavities and joint problems due to weight gain. 

  • Salt: It's definitely not a good idea to share chips and pretzels with your dog. This also applies to home-cooked food that has been cooked for humans. Why? Because it contains salt. Salt and salty foods, in general, can cause your dog to get extremely thirsty, and you might also catch them urinating more than often. This can also lead to a condition called sodium ion poisoning. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, high temperature, tremors, seizures, and death.  

  • Avocado: Can avocado cause problems for my dog? Yes and no. Avocados contain persin that can be toxic if consumed in high amounts for your pet. Although most dogs are resistant to persin, they are not 100% safe for consumption. Persin is present in the fruit and the pits, leaves, seeds, and bark, making it potentially dangerous to your dog. 

  • Seeds of fruits: Fruits like apples, lemons, cherries, plums, and peaches contain seeds that dogs should not ingest as they can lead to intestinal problems. Most of these seeds contain cyanide, which can cause cardiac arrest in severe cases. 

  • Alcoholic beverages: We all know the effects of alcohol on us and it can have a similar effect on your pooch. Besides intoxicating them, alcohol can also lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing problems, coma and death. So from next time, keep your liquor far away from them! 

  • Coffee/Tea: Any beverage that contains caffeine can be fatal for your furry friend. Keep them away from coffee, tea, cocoa, colas and energy drinks because they could cause harm to your dog's heart. 

  • Yeast dough: If you've ever made bread from scratch or seen someone make it, then you know that the dough tends to rise before it's baked. And this is precisely what would happen in your dog's stomach if they ate it. A dog's stomach offers the optimum condition for rising dough, often resulting in a bloated stomach and releasing toxic levels of ethanol into their bloodstream. In severe cases, it can lead to alcohol toxicosis, requiring immediate medical attention. 

  • Lemon/Lime: We've all come across videos of Dogs vs Lemons, and while for us, it may seem like a funny prank, it is not suitable for dogs. Lemons/Lime or any citric fruit like grapes can cause digestive problems for your dog, as they all contain citric acid. Too much lemon juice can cause stomach problems, resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea. 

  • Plums: Dogs can consume plums, but only certain parts of them. The problem lies with the seeds and pits of the plum fruit. Your pup can consume the plum flesh, but make sure not to feed them seeds or the pits since they contain cyanide. Cyanide is poisonous for both humans and dogs and can cause serious digestive problems in your pet. 

  • Milk and Dairy Products: It may be tempting to share your ice cream with your dog, but milk and other dairy products like cheese and ice cream are a big no-no. Dogs aren't built to process milk products and lack the enzyme to break down milk sugar, causing them to vomit and develop gastrointestinal diseases. They can also trigger allergies in some dogs, making them itch.

  • Onions and garlic: No, onions and garlic are not only known to give you dragon breath, but they can be bad news for your dogs too. If consumed in high quantities, these food items can destroy your dog's red blood cells causing anaemia. If you notice signs of weakness, vomiting, and breathing problems in your dog, consult a veterinarian immediately. 

  • Grapes: Grapes are highly toxic, too, just like dry fruits and nuts. Therefore it's best if it's kept far away from your pet. Grape toxicity can lead to lethargy or weakness, dehydration, diarrhoea and kidney failure. Some dogs can suffer more severe reactions than others. 

Switching your dog's food all at once can cause a series of gastrointestinal problems like vomiting, diarrhoea and a decreased appetite. If you are planning on changing their diet, the transition you make to the new diet should be very gradual so that your dog's system gets enough time to get used to the change without causing any distress. Ideally, these transitions should happen over 7-8 days. You should gradually incorporate the new food during this transition period by mixing it with your dog's present diet. Here's how you should do it: 

  1. Day 1 and 2: Mix 20% of the new diet with 80% of the old diet.  
  2. Day 3-5: Add 50% of the new diet with 50% of the old diet. 
  3. Day 6 & 7: Add 75% of the new diet with 25% of the old diet. 
  4. Day 8: 100% new diet. 

The above-given switch works for most dogs. But some dogs tend to have a sensitive stomach, food allergies or other gastrointestinal issues. In such cases, this transition can take even longer. The key to an effective diet transition is to watch your dog's response. If at any point during the transition your dog displays concerning signs like diarrhoea, vomiting or changes in their appetite, it may mean that you should proceed more slowly. And if you think that the transition has been gradual, but your dog is still showing signs of discomfort, it is best to consult your veterinarian about the same.