Feeding a complete & balanced homecooked diet to a dog will help set him up for a long &  healthy life. When it comes to feeding a dog, there are a lot of factors to consider such as – daily caloric needs, nutritional requirements, balanced nutrients, digestibility & bioavailability  of the food fed, safe ingredients and understanding which supplements are necessary for  optimal growth & maintenance.

Dogs need to be fed a balanced diet at all their life stages. A balanced diet is one which  consists of all the essential nutrients needed for a dog’s optimal health and normal  physiological functioning of the body. Getting adequate amount of micronutrients (vitamins  & minerals) from diet can help prevent many acute & chronic conditions.

Balancing a diet involves evaluation & analysis of every single nutrient present in the  ingredients that form part of your dog’s diet. To ensure that your dog’s meals are completely balanced, it should be formulated by a Certified Nutritionist. An unbalanced diet  will lead to deficiencies over time and subsequent decline in health. 

If your dog’s diet is not formulated and balanced, you can follow the steps given below to  build a meal that covers as many essential nutrients in the diet as possible. 

Step One: Understand your dog’s caloric needs 

The amount of calories an adult dog needs will depend on age, metabolism, and activity level.  Most often dog parents overestimate their adult dog’s activity levels, and end up feeding  more. On the other hand, a puppy’s energy needs are underestimated. A puppy’s caloric  needs is often higher than his adult counterpart. You can use an online dog calorie calculator  to determine how many calories your dog needs each day. These calculators use a variable to  determine the final number depending on your dog’s activity level. So, make sure to input it accurately. The energy levels also change based on whether the dog is spayed/neutered or  not. Spayed/Neutered dogs have lower caloric needs than intact ones. 

Step Two: Select bioavailable ingredients 

In order to ensure highest uptake of nutrients from food, it is important to feed your dog  what he is meant to eat as part of his specie. Even though dogs can survive on a high carbs  diet, they need protein & fat as primary source of macronutrient. Plant proteins are not  bioavailable to dogs and they cannot absorb & assimilate the nutrients from plant sources as  effectively as animal sources. In order to feed a balanced diet and avoid deficiencies to build  up, feed at least one ruminant meat, one poultry source and any one type of fatty fish.  

Most common ruminant meat sources in India is Goat meat.
Poultry can be Chicken, Duck, Quail, Turkey etc.
Fatty fish sources are Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies etc 
Include a variety of vegetables. Complex carbs like oats, quinoa can also form a  beneficial part of the diet.

Step Three: Select the appropriate source of Calcium  

Calcium is the most important nutrient in your dog’s diet. Dogs need a sufficient amount of  Calcium for stronger bones, teeth, nails & coat. 

Raw meaty bones are the best source of Calcium for dogs. Poultry bones such as Feet,  Wings, and Necks are the safest choice of bones for your dog. Raw meaty bones are a rich  source of not only Calcium, but also Phosphorus & Magnesium. However, not all bones have  the same calcium content. For example. Turkey Necks have much more calcium than Chicken  Necks even though there is not much difference in their bone percentage.

You can also feed other sources of calcium like egg shell powder & calcium carbonate  supplements. But these sources lack Magnesium and can lead to deficiency over time.  Pumpkin seeds are a good source of Magnesium. So, if you choose to feed eggshell powder or calcium supplement to your dog, make sure you also add a Magnesium rich whole food to  balance the calcium in the diet.

Step Four: Add adequate amount of B-complex 

Dogs that are fed liver every day have sufficient source of B-complex Vitamins in their diet.  In absence of Liver, feed other Vitamin B rich ingredients such as leafy greens, eggs, peas,  or brewers yeast supplement. Vitamin B-12 is the most important vitamin of all for dogs. In  case of home-cooked vegetarian diets or diets without livers, an appropriate B-12  supplement should be added to your dog’s diet every day! 

Step Six: Feed colorful vegetables & fruits 

Phytonutrients are compounds that give vegetables & fruits their vibrant colors, distinct  tastes & smell. Phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anti-cancer  properties. Red ones (watermelon, cranberries, red bellpeppers) have antioxidative properties, orange & yellow (carrot, pumpkin, banana, yellow zucchini) are heart-protective and green ones (broccoli, spinach, kale, cabbage) have cancer blocking chemicals etc. While  prepping vegetables, make sure to boil & blend before feeding your dog. Feeding mashed &  blended vegetables will allow for optimal absorption of nutrients.

Step 7: Feed at least 50% diet as protein

While selecting the main ingredients in your dog’s diet, make sure you pick bioavailable  sources of protein. Dogs need sufficient amount of amino acids in their diet. Deficiency in  amino acids will lead to heart, liver and kidney disorders. Rich sources of amino acids for dogs  – animal protein sources (Chicken, Red meat, Organs, Fishes etc), Eggs, Paneer, Quinoa,  Peas etc. Animal sources of protein are bioavailable and should supply more than 50% calories  in your dog’s diet. 

Step 8: Add other beneficial Ingredients 

Adding the following ingredients in small quantity can prove beneficial to your dog’s health:

Pumpkin seeds – rich source of magnesium and fats 
Chia seeds – rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids 
Wheatgerm oil- rich source of Omega 6 and Vitamin E  
Turmeric powder – has anti-inflammatory properties 
Spirulina powder – has anti-oxidative & anti-inflammatory properties 
Kefir – is good for a balanced gut health in dogs 

The best way to make DIY efficient is to include a variety of ingredients and note down what  to feed your dog a week ahead. Switch up the ingredients in the next week and include at  least two to three new ingredients.