It’s a simple question, but there is no simple answer: What is the best food to feed your Weim? Quality, cost, availability, and time are all factors that play into the decision, and of course the needs of your individual dog.
This topic comes up so often that I wrote a long article on how to read dog food labels to help people make educated decisions on choosing a good brand of dry dog food. There are some great commercial foods out there and the quality improves all the time as people get more educated.
However, as we see more dog food recalls as well as growing interest in raising and rearing dogs more naturally, there are more people asking me about how to make your own dog food.
The beauty of feeding your Weimaraner raw or cooking your Weim’s meals yourself is that you know exactly what your dog is eating, and it is easy to make changes based on your dogs’ age, activity level and health status.
This article is for those that want to know how to make healthy dog food and are considering switching to a home cooked or raw diet for their Weimaraner.
Table of Contents – How To Make Your Own Dog Food
- Basic Principles On How to Make Your Own Dog Food
- What I Feed My Weimaraners
- Home Cooking For My Weimaraners
- How Much Raw Food I Feed My Weimaraners
- Cost of Feeding My Weimaraners A Raw Food Diet
- Final Thoughts on Feeding My Weimaraners
Basic Principles on How To Make Your Own Dog Food
One of the biggest hurdles people have when moving away from commercial dog food is overcoming the fear of introducing a nutritional imbalance in their dog’s diet. Over the years I’ve fed a lot of Weimaraners raw or home prepared diets, including a few litters. What I’ve done over the years and with different dogs have changed and evolved, but the basic principles of how to make your own dog food really do not change.
What Should be in Dog Food
- Animal Protein (Calcium and Phosphorous)
This should be about 50-75% of your dog’s diet. The most important thing to remember is that calcium to phosphorous (Ca:P) ratio must be correct.* This means that muscle meat (phosphorous) must be balanced with bone or a calcium supplemeht. The calcium:phosphorus ratio should be between 1:1 to 1.3:1; in other words, close to equal parts. Check your ratios here!
Veggies should be about 25-40% of your dog’s diet. Dogs cannot digest cellulose so veggies need to be cooked or pulped into a mush.
- Grains (Optional)
I don’t believe grains are necessary but some do well on it.
A Important Note About Calcium
[See Crash Course on Calcium by Mary Strauss. Includes info on calcium sources.]
By and large making your own dog food is easy and there is room for “error,” but you must understand the importance of calcium. Feeding meat only without calcium will eventually cause the body to pull calcium from your dog’s bones.
- If you are combining kibble and fresh foods, supplement with calcium if more than 1/4 of the diet is fresh, and balance the fresh food’s phosphorous.
- Do not add calcium to complete-and-balanced commercial diets.
- Do not over supplement puppies under 6 months old.
- High calcium foods like yogurt only balance themselves out, they will not supplement your dog’s fresh food diet.
- Be wary of doggy multivitamins and supplements as many of them are designed for dogs that are already getting calcium in their diet.
- Ground eggshells are an okay source of calcium. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground eggshell, per pound of fresh food. But really bones are better.
What I Feed My Weimaraners
When I first started, I appreciated seeing real recipes so am including them below for those that might benefit from seeing an example diet. My way is just one way, and I often throw in this, that, or the other into my dogs meals. This is not science, and I am not a veterinarian or nutritionist. This is just what I personally do for my dogs. Please remember that every dog is different. The beauty of home cooking is that it can be tailored to your dog.
I do not feed grain. I used to feed the Honest Kitchen products, but most of their formulas are about 50% grain or starch anyway, so dropping the Honest Kitchen simply made sense. (It’s also way more economical!)
Feeding grain is also just another step, and I’m all about making feeding as easy as possible. If I have some left over rice or oatmeal or whatever, sure, I’ll give it to the dog, so I’m not against it either. But it’s not something I feed regularly.
If I’m feeding a lot of dogs and need to keep costs down, sometimes kibble is in the mix, but as I’ll discuss below, I feed a fresh raw food diet at the same price as high end kibble, so I really don’t do this very often.
Raw Meaty Bones
Chicken backs are my dogs’ staple. They pretty much have the correct Ca:P ratio, and are way more economical than the pieces people eat, so this is a no-brainer.
If the pieces look “bonier” then I add some ground meat, usually some other protein source to give a bit of variety. Remember the Ca:P should be close equal (1:1 to 1.3:1) so it’s easy to use common sense. I’ve gotten backs that have been almost all bone and other times, nice amount of meat attached to it. If it looks about equal, you’re good.
For dogs that might have teeth issues or if you are uncomfortable feeding whole bones, you can grind these up bone and all. I usually grind when I am traveling just to make transport easier.
I also feed green tripe, which has a balanced Ca:P ratio, 1.3:1.
Variety is important due to the different amino acids in different types of meat — and different vitamins in various vegetables (see below) — but I do use poultry as a staple due to cost.
As much as budget allows, I am also able to obtain a variety of protein meat/bone blends from a local dog food co-op. Some of it is quite cheap, and others stuff is pretty expensive, but it’s worth throwing in what you can here and there when you can.
The dogs love the variety as well!
And don’t forget occasional organ meats. Organic is important here, especially with liver! The reason I like feeding chicken backs is because most of those organs are attached so I’m careful about where I get my chicken from. In fact, I’m pretty careful about feeding as organic and fresh as much as possible!
Vegetables in Raw Food Diets
I believe that dogs need to have small amounts of vegetables in their diets. Get organic if you can and wash thoroughly. In the wild, dogs would eat the stomach contents of their prey which would be filled with grasses and other greens. Greens have lots of vitamins and minerals your dogs need!
Raw pulverized vegetables have more vitamin and nutrients than cooked vegetables do, so it’s generally better to use raw. If you are in a pinch you can even buy a cold-pressed green vegetable drink (without fruit juice) and pour some in your dog’s food.
When pulping veggies, I use raw organic vegetables and pulverize them in
a food processor or my new favorite tool/toy, my Vitamix. I use a variety of vegetables such as lettuce, celery, carrots, zucchini, green beans etc.
Produce markets or farmers markets may give you the scraps that they throw away such as the bruised outer lettuce leaves or carrot tops if you ask!
When I teach people how to make dog food, I remind them that it’s so easy to go crazy on supplements, and this may or may not be a good thing. In general my thoughts on supplements is that if your Weims are on raw and are not getting something from their diet, I will try to get that something naturally in their food first. If that is not possible, then I will use supplements. Getting calcium from bones vs a bottle is a good example of this.
If you are feeding a cooked diet exclusively, I would definitely recommend a high quality multi-vitamin designed for dogs since cooking will destroy some vitamins and minerals, as well as enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
I recently attended a seminar on commercial diets compared to home-prepared options by Cornell Univesity Professor, Dr. Joseph Wakshlag DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVSMR who recommends Annamaet Enhance supplements for homemade dog food to cover any imbalances.
The only supplements I give my dogs on a regular basis is a high quality fish oil and a probiotic/digestive enzyme. Old dogs get a MSM and chondroitin supplement.
Cooking for My Weimaraners
Sometimes a dog may need a bland, cooked diet if he’s got an upset stomach or is just an older dog.
Before my two seniors passed (at over age 15), I started feeding them bone broth. In my experience it was a very soothing and healing food for them, so I will still occasionally make it for my younger dogs as well. In particular, starting a dog on bone broth when you are transitioning them from kibble is a great way to start a better diet.
To make doggy bone broth, I just throw chicken backs or necks plus muscle meat (about half the volume of the meaty bones) and water in a crock pot. Easy. Cook this down for 24 hours or until the bones become mush. You should literally be able to smush the bones down to harmless mash with a fork.
Skim the fat off the top if your broth is fatty and/or you are feeding a dog that has some tummy troubles, or if your dogs are seniors.
I then add vegetables to the broth and cook the veggies down. Dogs cannot digest the cellulose in vegetables so they should be ground to a pulp or cooked. Add rice or other grains if you wish.
That’s it! Just ladle it up and be sure you give your dog the broth as well, along with a good multi-vitamin to cover anything missing. (Cooking will destroy a lot of the good stuff!)
How Much Raw Food I Feed My Weimaraners
When my old dogs were active adults in their prime, my male ate about twice what my female did. I say “about” because I never measure so it’s just a guess. I’ve established a habit where I take a good look at the dogs while I am feeding them and I simply adjust up or down depending on how they look. You should be able to feel your Weim’s ribs when you lightly run your fingers down his side. Keeping your Weim lean is one of the best things you can do for his health!
That said, there is a rule of thumb for feeding raw meaty bones. For an adult, estimate 2% of your dog’s body weight daily as a starting point. Growing puppies will need about 10% of their body weight.
For an active adolescent/young Weimaraner or growing Weimaraner puppy (split into two meals)
- 1/2 cup rice (occasionally, or not at all)
- 1/4 cup pulped raw veggies
- 1/4 pound of green tripe (GREEN, not cleaned tripe sold in grocery stores)
- 1/4 pound raw ground beef (rotate with other types of muscle meat)
- 4-6 raw chicken backs depending on size (about 1.5 – 2 pounds)
- Supplements, usually a quality fish oil and probiotic
In the recipe above, you should substitute and rotate the ground beef with various protein sources such as lamb, fish, goat, rabbit, or even exotic meats like emu. These additions are more expensive but they are not the bulk of the diet and will supplement the main protein source. They also balance out the bone in the backs. You don’t need much.
As energy needs decline with age, just reduce amounts accordingly.
If you’re cooking, just feed the same amounts, except cooked. Well except the tripe, don’t cook green tripe! If you cook, add a multi-vitamin.
You can feed half raw and kibble or half cooked and kibble. (More work if you ask me!)
More recipes can be found on Whole Dog Journal’s site. (Shout out to Laura who shared her Weim’s recipes in that post!)
Cost of Feeding My Weimaraners a Raw Food Diet
Short version – Cost per dog per month raw ($135 per month) versus kibble ($66 to $145 per month)
Now here’s where it gets interesting! I have a great chicken supplier where I can purchase quality fresh chicken backs by the case for $.90 cents a pound. I remove the extra fat and skin so my cost is actually $1.25 per pound.
My dog food co-op’s other meat stuff can range from $3 to $5 per pound, closer to $5. Green tripe is delivered to my door and I have to pay for overnight shipping so it ends up being about $4 per pound.
So, 2 pounds of backs = $2.50, plus 1/4 pound of some other raw meat at $4 per pound = $1, plus $1 for tripe, for a grand total of $4.50 per day or $135 per month!
I did the calculations on a few different bags of dry dog food, and it ranged from $66 per month to $145 per month.
Hit me up if you wanna see my spreadsheet! (Yes, I’m that geeky!)
As far as books go, good places to start to learn how to make homemade dog food include, “New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats” by Richard Pitcairn, “Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats” by Kymythy Schultze, and “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals” by Lew Olson.
Recommended daily allowances can be found in the National Research Councils “Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs – A Science Based Guide” PDF.
There is also more information in the article, “Intro to Raw Feeding.”
Final Thoughts on Feeding My Weimaraners
I’ve done quite a bit of personal research on pet food and have been feeding raw for over 20 years now and am very happy with the results. I understand that this way of feeding is not for everyone, and it can be cost and time prohibitive.
But for those that have asked, or are just plain curious, I hope this article helps explain what I feed and why. Questions? Please post them below!
[Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and am only speaking from my personal experience. This article is for your information only. Any recommendations are to be used at your own risk.]
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Intro to Raw Feeding
How to get started feeding a raw, healthy diet to your dog with links to other sites for research and guidance.
How to Choose the Best Dry Dog Food
Let’s cut through the hype and go for the 80/20 rule here; you do not need to be a dog food expert to feed your dog a good quality, balanced and nutritious food!