Healthy, Cheap, Homemade Dogfood

Recently we have looked closer at our dog’s food. We have two dogs, Toby and Bailey, who are about 60 lbs each. Bailey is getting older and thus has arthritis in her back knee, which significantly cuts into her ability to run after the tennis ball. She ignores it but limps most of the time, especially after a long play session or lake swimming.


Not too long ago, we were turned onto a sure-fire ‘cure’ to her arthritis in the form of homemade dog food packed full of nutrients that are supposed to help reverse the affects of arthritis. We had tried glucosamine and anti-inflammatory pills, to no avail, we thought it was worth a shot. It had to be healthier for the dogs than the bagged dry dog’s food anyway.

We’ve had the dogs on the food for over two weeks now and have been giving Bailey extra vitamin C to help her immune system and we’ve seen a lot of progress. Her limp is almost gone except for after play, in which case it is short-lived. Both dogs’ coats are shinier and they don’t seem to be shedding as much, however that might just be coincidence this time of year.

We are hoping for more progress and two extra-healthy dogs for the rest of their years. The food is also reasonable to make, only about $6 per batch, which lasts our two big dogs 7 days when mixed with a little dry dog food. We give each dog 3/4 of a Solo cup full of the homemade dogfood and top off the cup with the dry food, twice per day.

Here’s the recipe:


3 cups of uncooked brown rice
2 cups of uncooked barley
2 cups of chopped raw carrots
2 cups fresh chopped beet root
1 cup fresh chopped beet tops
1 cup fresh spinach chopped
2 cups chicken livers
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dry or fresh sage
12 cups of water


1. Combine ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil.
2. Simmer for 1 hour.  Keep pot covered, stirring every 15 minutes.
3. Add water as needed.

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27 thoughts on “Healthy, Cheap, Homemade Dogfood”

  1. Thanks for sharing this recipe. My dog has been showing early signs of arthritis and if there is a way to lessen the affects on her, I am ALL for it.

  2. Thanks Cheree, if you try out the recipe, let me know how it goes. I’m not sure how easy it is to get fresh beets in NC, but they are super cheap down here. I hate them personally, but it adds a nice color to the food and is supposed to be really good for the blood.

  3. Thanks for your comment Janet. I’ve looked into it and garlic has the same medicinal benefits to dogs as it does to humans to boost the immune system if given in controlled doses. This is a great website for info on both sides of the argument:

    The recipe here calls for just a few cloves for the whole batch, which is split between two large dogs over 5 days or so. In this case I don’t believe there is a danger, but rather a good little boost for them. Thanks again for your interest, and I’m sure the recipe works well without the garlic, if you choose to omit it. Take care!

  4. Haley, it depends what size dogs, how many you have and if you mix it with any dry dog food. When we first put our two 65lb dogs on this food we were able to feed the two of them with a batch that lasted for 3 days, feeding them once in the morning and once at dinner time. You’ll notice that the dogs will lose a little weight so be sure to add some oil or fat to the batch (we used sunflower oil). Once the dog’s arthritis cleared up (it took about 3-4 months), we started mixing it with an all-natural, grain-free dry dog food. Each batch of this food costs about $5-6, the beets being the most expensive at around $2.99 for three big ones.

  5. Thanks for the information. We have two 100+ lb Ridgbacks. I am definitely considering your recipe. However, I am wondering how long its shelf life is? Being home brewers, we have some pretty big pots and could make large batches easily. I suppose I could freeze portions . . . but I do also have limited freezer space. Do you have any more experiential knowledge about how long this stuff lasts – room temp, fridge temp, and freezer temp? I think I could do it, but probably would be lazy and stop doing it if I had to cook their food up more than maybe once a month.

  6. Rachel,

    I am with you on the laziness, which is why I started mixing it with all-natural dry dog food after the initial 6 months once we started seeing drastic improvements in the arthritis. From my experience, if it sits in the refrigerator for longer than 5 or 6 days it starts to sour and our dogs won’t eat it. We have frozen a batch when we went on vacation so it wasn’t wasted and it turned out fine when we thawed it out. Some of the nutrients may be lost if frozen, not sure though. As far as room temp goes, we’ve left the hot pot of food out over night for 12+ hours (we forgot about it) to cool and it was fine for the standard fridge time after that.

    We used a large pressure cooker pot first and then after that a large pot we also brew beer in. I’d make a couple large batches on a weekend and freeze it in tall vertical storage containers, they seem to help maximize space in the freezer. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  7. I read on another site that dogs should not have garlic. Have you heard anything about this one way or another?

  8. Actually, regarding the garlic debate. Garlic is part of the onion family. Dogs are not supposed to eat onions because it has a cumulative effect of causing canine anemia (excessive bleeding of wounds). I don’t know the ratio of whatever component of onions cause this relative to how much of that might also be in garlic, but I would advise against using it in this recipe as a precaution.

  9. Would love to try your recipe. I have two older Mastiff mixes and the dry food bill is eating me alive. I’d like to mix your recipe with the dry food. Right now they eat about 4-5 cups each a day of dry food. Ideally I’d like to feed them half dry and half your recipe. That means I would need about 5 cups a day of the recipe.
    How many cups do you get out of your recipe as presented? And would I just multiply the ingredients by the amount I need? Ie if your recipe makes 12 cups/ batch and I need 35 cups just multiply your ingredients by 3?
    Also I guess I should ask if you think a cup of your recipe equals a cup of a good premium dry food?
    Thanks for your recipe and any feedback.

  10. Hello there. Great questions but I’m sorry to report that 1cup of this home made dog food is much less dense than dry dog food but far richer in nutrients. Mixing this dog food with dry won’t really save you money especially with such big dogs but it will most likely save you on medical bills with them later since they are getting a lot of extra nutrients. However I will be adding a note to the recipe that vegetables can create alkaline urine so offsetting it with some vitamin C pills or powder is best.

  11. Hi David, You’ll need to give the dog about twice the portion that you normally feed them in dry dog food because there isn’t as much dense filler and fat. We ended up mixing some of their dry dog food in at about 50/50 ratio. With our dogs both being around 65lbs but one dog with a much higher metabolism than the other, it depended on the dog. Our “plump” dog got about 2 cups of homemade and the skinny dog about 3 cups (without dry food added). Hope this helps, but if you notice weight loss, which is common with homemade dogfood, you’ll want to up the portion.

  12. hi, just did the dog food for the first time. it was so easy, i want to try cat food too. do you have a recipe? i couldn’t find one on the site.

    Thank you

  13. Just wanted to say thanks for this great recipe! I have a great pyrenees with skin problems. She’s been eating only this food for about 3 months now. She gets a little over 6 cups a day. Still cheaper than what I was spending on taste of the wild(she used to eat 6 cups of dry plus a can of wet a day) . Her skin problems have gone and her coat looks amazing. I follow your recipe exactly though I add a little more livers and sometimes add chicken hearts if they are out of livers.

  14. I forgot to say I do add a multi vitamin a day as well. I did speak with a vet and they said the recipe was great, just recommended the added multi vitamin. Garlic included.

  15. I have 9 dogs all different breeds and ages and ranging from bad breath, licking, scratching and over weight, dry skin, among other heath issues. I can honestly say that adding the above recipe and tweaking the recipe. I have added 1 quart of homemade dog food twice a day to their dry dog food and helped all 9 of them. I also believe in holistic medication when possible. I mix essential oils to add to their cloth dog collars and I groom them and have not given any of them a bath in over a year. The only one that has had a bath is Broadie and he is a 11 1/2 months old is mixed pit/chocolate lab and his only bath has been kids pool during last summer of 2013 and Hardie a chi/schi/poodle mut with lots of fur and he has not been bathed in 6 months just brushed lots because he does not shed. He just matts like his grand pop. I have added parsley for bad breath, collards when I can not get spinach, pumpkin when I can not get carrots and sweet potatoes and some times apples for a special treat. I have also added other ingredients to make dog cookies and bake them for healthy treats.

  16. Hi, just made your recipe and after reading the reviews, I’m a bit confused. The recipe states beet root and I read in the reviews where you said beet juice would work. Which is it or which is better? I used 2 cups of beets chopped up, not beet juice.

  17. Hi Patricia. Beets are fine. If you don’t want to use the vegetable, you can use beet juice instead of part of the water. Hope that helps!

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