The Benefits and Risks of Cooking For Your Dog

Despite being around for hundreds of years, fresh food for pets is all the rage today.  Pet stores now have freezers, there are a plethora of raw feeding groups on Facebook, and a library of cookbooks for pets that can be in your mailbox this week. 

But is this the right path for your dog?

As more dogs arrive at the vet with allergies, food sensitivities, digestive issues, skin ailments, and more, pet parents are beginning to trend away from kibble diets.  As humans, we’ve accepted that a diet of highly processed food - aka junk food or fast food - doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle.  So why has it taken this long for us to make the connection with our pets?  And what are our alternatives? Cooking for our dogs is the easiest solution for many pet parents.  We’re already cooking for ourselves, why not add dog food to the menu?  However, before you dust off your slow cooker, understand the benefits and risks so that your dog thrives on the fresh food diet that you’re cooking.

Benefits of cooking for your dog

Benefits of Cooking for Your Dog

If you’ve changed your diet for the better, then I’m certain that you can imagine the benefits that your dog will enjoy.  Bottom line is that feeding a diet of fresh food will leave your dog feeling fantastic.  The benefits include…

1 - fresh food is easier to digest

Kibble is cooked multiple times, taking out all of the moisture, which contributes to difficulty in digestion.  Unlike kibble, cooking for our dogs provides a moisture rich meal that is easier on the gut making the nutrients easier to absorb.  And, BONUS, when our dogs absorb more nutrients from their diet, they produce less waste.

2 - you can control ingredients when cooking for your dog

One challenge of feeding kibble is the inability to identify ingredients that may be contributing to an intolerance.  When we cook for our dogs, we know where the food comes from and we control all of the ingredients.  If something isn’t a good fit for our dog, we can adjust and adapt quickly.

3 - fresh food reduces inflammation

A high carb diet contributes to inflammation, which we can avoid when we cook for our dogs.  Decreased inflammation means better joint health, better gut health, reduced allergies, and an improved immune system.  

4 - fresh food supports better skin and coat health

Cooked food for dogs includes healthy oils, including Omega-3 fatty acids.  Essential fatty acids support brain health (great for puppies and senior dogs) and skin and coat health.  Many pet parents report shiny, healthier skin and coats once they switch their dogs to a fresh food diet.

5 - fewer trips to the veterinarian

Healthier dogs go to the vet less often.  According to, the top reasons pet parents visit the their veterinarian include allergies, ear infections, skin issues, digestive issues, and anal gland expression.  All of these can be alleviated by feeding our dogs fresh food.

Risks of cooking for your dog

Risks of Cooking for Your Dog

The benefits of cooking for our dogs are amazing and, as a person who feeds fresh food to five big dogs, I can attest to the fact that once I switched my dogs to a fresh food diet, I had no desire to go back to processed pet food.  However, there are some risks that should be considered before you toss out that bag of kibble.

1 - it’s challenging to formulate a nutritious cooked diet for dogs

There is a myth that cooking for dogs isn’t a good idea because the act of cooking kills all of the nutrients.  If this were true, how do humans thrive on a cooked diet?  Cooking does decrease the number of nutrients, but it doesn’t kill all of them.  But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves with this line of thinking. 

Do you know what nutrients your dog needs in their diet?

It’s a mistake to run to the grocery store to pick up a chicken, potatoes, and mixed vegetables and call this a balanced diet for dogs because it’s what commercial brands appear to be providing.  What this homemade meal is missing is a vitamin mix that adds nutrients our main ingredients are lacking.

This doesn’t mean that pet parents shouldn’t cook for their dogs. Instead, understand that it’s important that we educate ourselves on what our dogs need in their diet.  Nutrient deficiencies don’t show up right away and, for some dogs, by the time they do show up, a lot of damage has been done.   A great resource on cooking for dogs is Dr Judy Morgan, who has several cookbooks available and also shares recipes on her website.

2 - cooking for our dogs is a lot of work

Once you get a few nutritious recipes under your belt, cooking for your dog will be easier, but it is a lot of work.  With a kibble diet, we scoop the right amount into our dog’s dish and we’re done.  Cooking requires a few more steps, including continually educating ourselves on what our dogs need in their diet.  This isn’t the end of your plans to cook for your dog.  This simply means that now that you’ve taken on the responsibility of your dog’s nutritional needs, you’ll have to be responsible.

3 - cooking for our dogs can be expensive

Cooking for our dogs can be expensive because meat isn’t cheap.  However, have you looked at the cost of a bag of “quality kibble” or canned food recently?  If you’re not careful, you can squash your dreams of feeding fresh food before they get started.  Take the time to learn what you can feed, what you need to feed, and where to shop.  Think beyond the grocery store when looking for variety and bargains - ethnic markets, local farmer’s markets, co-ops, and grocery store outlets are a great place to start.

4 - some veterinarians aren’t onboard with cooking for dogs

In an abundance of caution, some veterinarians may steer you away from cooking for your dog out of concern that you won’t be able to meet your dog’s nutritional needs.  Don’t let this discourage you.  Instead, ask questions about balancing your dog’s diet, what foods to avoid, and inquire about any supplements your dog may need.  Showing your veterinarian that you’re dedicated to feeding a nutritious diet and open to learning will go a long way to getting them on your side.

Bottom Line of Cooking for Dogs

While cooking for dogs may not be for everyone, I believe that every dog can benefit from a diet of fresh food.  Take the time to educate yourself about what your dog needs, what you’ll need to cook the meals, and prepare yourself for a happier,  healthier dog.

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About Kimberly Gauthier

In addition to being one of FurSherpa experts, Kimberly Gauthier is a dog nutrition blog and owner of Keep the Tail Wagging®, Dog Mom Style, and Staying Home with Dogs.  Learn more about her HERE and connect with Kimberly on Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to her YouTube channel to learn more about raising dogs naturally.

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