Dog Lifestyle, Pet Health, Pet Recipes

Commercial Dog Food vs Homemade Dog Food

It is so easy to pop open a can, tear open a bag but what is the best for my dog commercial dog food or homemade dog food?

Golden dog holding a bunch of carrots in his mouth.

I have been trying to determine which dog food homemade vs commercial dog food is the best dog food for my dog. With that goal, I have been swapping store bought natural dog food brands for years in the hopes that just one will be loved by my dog since unfortunately I do not have the skills of a professional dog food taster (yet!)

My search was for a food that was not only loved by my girls for its flavor but loved by their body and assisted with maintaining a healthy dog weight, allergies and itching, since many common ailments can also be managed with natural dog food choices.

Alas, this has not been the case. The store-bought natural foods I have tried, and their ingredients and texture, have never met her needs, especially as she ages no matter how much I feed her. As I considered it further it made perfect sense. Why should a pre-made, shelf stable product, even if a natural dog food, satisfy her needs? I would not eat prepackaged commercial foods as my staple and our pet friends do not need to either.

The Issue With Commercial Dog Food

Careless dietary choices, according to, Patrick Maheny, a veterinarian, veterinary nutritionist and certified veterinarian acupuncturist, can expose pets to many of the same health issues and problems pet owners experience with human foods if they aren’t thoughtful about what goes in their bodies: Heart disease, cancer, obesity, circulatory and digestion issues, diabetes, exposure to toxins and overall poor health can all arise when exposed to a commercial diet.

Unless you select a commercial pet food packed with nutritional value and of the highest quality avoiding these nasties and impurities is near impossible. However, at the same time, even if you do select the highest grade commercial pet foods, it can be difficult to find, keep fresh and finance.

Dog viewed from above eating at the table in a yellow bowl with a fork and knife.
Commercial dog food is convenient and easy but not always the healthiest choice.

Lucky for us there is an easy answer. Normally, we would be concerned with the time commitment. But there is a handy solution, homemade dog food in the Instant Pot!

Yes, the same Instant Pot that may have been a gift and collects dust in your cabinet. It is time to dust it off. With the Instant Pot, these healthy dog food recipes couldn’t be easier (unless, you got your dog to make them) or you ordered a dog food subscription service, which may be a viable option.

The Dog Ancestral Diet

A dog ancestral diet is the study of what dogs ate in the past to direct us to what dog’s meals should be now. As with people, if we look at what our ancestors ate, we can typically get to the correct food choices. With the four basics of fat, carbohydrates, vegetables, and meat you can create an easy and delicious healthy meal for your dog. You can add variety or just stick to the basics. The Dogs, Ancestral diet included 56% protein, 25-30% Fat and 14% carbohydrates. 

Image infographic of a dog ancestral diet split between protein, fat and carbs.
Typical ancestral diet

However, we also know that your canine companion eats vegetables. The great debate as to whether dogs are omnivores or carnivores continues, but as Dr. Chris Bessent, a DVM, points out, the most likely is that dogs are scavenger carnivores, while cats are true carnivores.

A scavenger is an animal who will sort through discarded material or eat dead carcasses to take advantage of what it finds. This does make sense, when you consider all of the support she provides in the article that indicates that the anatomy of a dog leans towards them being carnivores, such as teeth size and digestive tract characteristics.

However, what was also typically found in ancestral times was that dogs were forced to hunt for their food, when they ate their prey it also included minced plant based ingredients in the stomach of prey. Which is why some, consider that a close look at the anatomy, behavior and feeding preferences of dogs shows that they are actually omnivorous — able to eat and remain healthy with a mix of both animal and plant foodstuffs.

Accordingly, if we stick to these common-sense guidelines that made up the ancestral diet and add some select plant based items, we can ensure that our dogs will have delicious and healthy homemade meals that can be be flexible enough to address health concerns

The Benefits of the Homemade Pet Food Option

New cooking options such as the Instant Pot make cooking your best friends’ meal even easier and fresher and allows you to address any health issues adjust your dog’s meals based on their activity level and address the needs of any picky eaters. A homemade diet is arguably the better option for your furry family member to ensure that he gets a quality, balanced diet packed with essential nutrients.

Homemade pet food especially pet food made in the instant pot is fast, easy, and you can pull meat or frozen produce direct out of the freezer and have them cooking prior to thawing first.  Additionally homemade pet food benefits include:

  • Dog food can be fresh and organic
  • Dog food can be prepared in large batches for ease and efficiency
  • Dog food recipe can be adjusted based on your particular dogs nutritional needs
  • Dog food recipe can be adjusted to address any health needs
Brown Dog with floppy ears with sunlight coming from behind eating dog food from a bowl.

I recently tried some variations keeping with the standard ancestral guidelines, while adding some plant-based additions for vitamins and minerals that I considered likely would have also been present.

Homemade Dog Food Ingredient Options

There are so many dog food ingredient options to add to your homemade dog food to add nutrients and mirror the ancestral diet.


Beef gelatin. Gelatin is an amazing source of collagen and adds additional protein. As we discuss in our article on making your own healthy hemp infused bone broth, collagen, is an important addition to your pet’s wellness routine.

Complex Carbohydrates

There is a slight debate regarding quinoa and its use in pet food. I cannot resist the added protein of this complex carbohydrate and believe that with a soak and rinse that it is a great grain and a good idea to add to your pets food.

I prefer complex carbs since they pack in more nutrients than simple carbohydrates. They are higher in fiber and digest more slowly lowering the glycemic index (as we discuss in our article on the benefits of Honey for Dogs the GI is important.) This also makes them more filling, which means they are a good option for weight control.

Some examples, from Everyday Health, of complex carbohydrates that can be used for your pet food are:

  • Whole wheat breads, pastas, and flour
  • Brown and wild rice
  • Barley
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Corn

Healthy Fats

I also added healthy fat. I love coconut oil. Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties, but it also helps guard against antibacterial, antiviral and anti fungal infections and it helps maintain healthy skin, coat and digestive system.

Golden dog looking into camera holding a bunch of carrots with long stems in its mouth.

Ultimately, I try to select oils that can withstand heat and are not from plant based seeds. Good options include, Avocado oil, Butter, Coconut Oil, Duck Fat, Ghee, Lard, Olive oil, Peanut oil, Tallow, Sesame oil, Flax oil, Walnut oil, Almond oil, Macadamia nut oil. Dr. Cate is the premier most expert on healthy oils, and there is no reason why her healthy oil guidance should not be applicable to dogs, especially if you are cooking your pet’s food on high heat. 

Omega 3 oils are also extremely beneficial to your dog. Oils that are found in fish and sardines are beneficial, especially to senior dogs.

Meat and Protein

You can use high quality organic or grass fed meat products if they are available as your meat or protein component in your homemade dog food. This can be wild meats like boar, venison or elk or store bought grass fed organic beef or chicken.

Don’t forget healthy options like sardines and other fish which are cost effective and healthy for dog.

Easy Homemade Dog Food Recipe

Here is one of the basic homemade dog food recipes that I tried which was loved by all three of our dogs. I am lucky to have a plentiful source of organic vegetables, a dog food testers other than me!

I was also lucky to have a source of wild boar meat. You may be able to procure from local farms or butchers but if you cannot find a local butcher, try organic or try some organic organ meats which are packed with vitamins and minerals.

Healthy Dog Food Recipe

2 Cups sweet potato

2 Cups organic new potato

4 organic carrots

1 cup of peas

½ an organic cabbage chipped finely

1 pound of wild boar sausage or other organic meat or muscle meat or chicken breast

2 cups of quinoa or brown rice

1 tbsp of organic beef gelatin

½ cup coconut oil

4 cups of water

You can adjust ingredients and re-balance your dog’s homemade food as needed with what you have on hand to make an easy homemade dog food.

The slow cooker can also substitute for the Instant Pot, however, if you have an Instant Pot sitting around, this is by far the most perfect use I have found for it. You should also consult your vet regarding adding supplements to address any dog health conditions. As you make your own food you will have to ensure that your pet is still getting all of the vitamins and minerals she needs in her homemade diet.

Either way, it still looks a whole lot healthier than what was on the ingredients list of my last all-natural dog food. I don’t think that there can be any dispute over whether homemade dog food is better for your dog than commercial dog dry food and is best for your dog.

Pug at the table eating Sushi from a white plate sitting beside a cactus plant.
While sushi may not be the ideal option, homemade dog food can be a great option for all dogs especially senior dogs

The best homemade dog food is easy, efficient and healthy. Don’t forget to share this with other pet owners that may have an Instant Pot getting dust or are struggling with store bought natural pet foods.

If you are considering a food upgrade for your dog’s diet consider homemade dog food for your dog’s health. If you are concerned about meeting your dog’s nutritional needs and balancing vitamins, minerals and fatty acids with protein and carbohydrates you can also seek out additional recipes from vet nutritionist, Angela Gertino in DIY Dog Food: Make Fresh and Healthy Dog Food at Home. Homemade Dog Food Recipe Guide and Cookbook.

Recipe for homemade dog food to make in an Insta pot.
dog food recipe

Quick Pet Food Glossary

Raw Diet.

A dog diet that is uncooked and fed to dogs without cooking. Several dog subscription services have a raw food diet option.

Pet Food Recalls.

When pet food companies determine there is contamination or labeling issue with their pet food offering and they notify the public regarding the danger. Pet food recalls can be hard to determine I recommend Susan Thixson, a pet food activist, Truth About Pet Food site which consistently updates and notifies for any pet food safety issues and pet food recalls and contains a wealth of information about your dog’s nutritional needs.

Dry Dog Food. 

Highly processed food that is dried by high heat which is thought by some to reduce nutrition.

Find more pet food terms and information about dog food in Motherpuppin’ Adorable: What to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s available on Amazon.  

Homemade Dog Food FAQs

What homemade food is good for dogs?

Ultimately the homemade food you choose for your dog will depend on your dog’s food tolerances, allergies and what they like! A mix of protein in the form of healthy organic meat, organic vegetables and carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, rice or more will be great. Some ingredient options for making homemade dog food include:
-A can of sardines or cooked salmon
-Mixed vegetables raw or steamed.
-Cottage cheese or yogurt.
-Leafy greens such as kale or spinach

What fruits and veggies can I add to my dog’s food?

You can add many fruits and veggies to your dog’s food like blueberries, squash, sweet potato (even in the air fryer), carrots, russet potatoes, tomatoes and more.

What are good fillers for homemade dog food?

You want to add healthiest nutritionally dense foods to your homemade dog food so you should not really want to add fillers but items like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, quinoa are all good to add and will be filling.

What vegetables do dogs like most?

What vegetable your dog likes most will depend on your dog and their particular preference but in general carrots, tomatoes (chopped finely), asparagus, celery are all good choices that dogs like if chopped finely enough.

Learn about some dog treat recipes in our Best CBD Dog Treat Recipes