The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

DIY Dog Food to Cut Your Vet Bill

DIY dog food

A veterinarian friend once told me that “being a vet is a little like being a used car salesman. You spend half your time doing what you love, and the other half convincing people to let you.”

As the owner of an old pug and a new mortgage payment, I have a pretty good idea of what she means. If vet visits alone don’t drain your savings, the price of pet prescriptions surely will.

But according to Elinor Silverstein, a renowned cooking teacher and dog food chef, the solution is not in arguing the vet bill. The solution is raising a strong, healthy dog that doesn’t need as many vet visits in the first place. “People who feed their dog fresh, homemade food have healthier, more energetic dogs,” she says. “It’s that simple.”

Elinor, who double majored and minored in Biology/Pre-Med and Zoology/Pre-Vet, holds her popular dog food cooking classes throughout Southern California. “Classes fill up,” she says. “And I get a lot of repeat ‘students’ who stand up and talk about the tremendous changes they’ve seen in their dogs.”

The focus of Elinor’s teachings is not expensive organic ingredients, or strange imported supplements. Instead, she simply stresses fresh foods: meats, fruits, grains, and vegetables. While organic foods are almost always better, fresh foods, she says, are the real secret.

“Big, commercial brands are just looking to save money,” she says. “Do we even know what that food contains? It’s unbelievable how many dogs I see these days who have cancer at 4 or 5 years old. All because the food they’re eating lacks what they really need.”

Dogs that enter Elinor’s classes are often “exhausted, with dull coats.” Owners report everything from itching to pancreatitis. Yet every ailment has its’ culinary counterpart.

“I start each class with the basics,” she says, “then help owners cater their recipes to meet the needs of their dog.” Do you have a senior dog? Feed him less beef and more chicken. Does your dog have liver problems? Add a little parsley to his meal. Is he always scratching? Invest in fish oil. Are his joints out of whack? Cut the grains and up the veggies.

Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned is not in the recipes themselves, but in the realization that, in terms of food, dogs are not that different from humans. Granted, you won’t experience toxic shock when consuming a Hershey bar, but your dog shares the benefits of salmon’s Omega-3’s and the antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

In fact, Elinor’s teachings could also shed some light on your own dietary needs. “I show people how food can improve health, period. I often take one recipe and optimize its’ nutritional value both for them and their dog.” Her favorite? Meatloaf. While the “owner” version contains vitamin-packed onions that are dangerous for dogs, the “canine” version gets calcium-rich egg shells that would send their owner running.

Of course, making your own dog food is certainly more of a commitment than grabbing a bag of kibble from the local supermarket. You’ll be chopping, grinding, blending, baking, mixing and broiling. But with a little planning and the use of your freezer — Elinor makes up to three (3) month’s worth of dog food in one go — your canine companion can skip the incessant vet visits and start living the naturally healthy life that he deserves. And that’s a recipe we all can afford.



  • 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb whole ground chicken
  • 12 slices Ezekiel bread + brown rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup ground vegetables (carrots, green beans, peas)
  • 2 cloves garlic (check with your vet)
  • Thyme and ginger

Mix together into meatball sizes and bake in oven on 350 degree for 30 minutes, or until done. Or steam lightly in chicken broth in covered pan until done.

This recipe has about 30% protein and yields about 11 cups of food.

Find out more about how you can cut your vet bills in half by feeding your pets healthier diets on Elinor’s website,, or email her at info at thehealthydogandcat dot com.

Copyright 2009 Shoestring, LLC. Photo: iStock

  • Kidney Diet Guy

    Glad to see there’s some good sense here.

    Before dogs were domesticated I bet they didn’t just eat meat to the exclusion of everything else, because it just wasn’t available – unless they caught it.

    So it’s good to see that meat should be only 40% because too much meat will cause kidney problems, just as it does in humans.

  • James Orcutt

    I agree, homemade food is better than commercial dog foods. I am a pet lover also and I have dogs. Proud to say that I have healthy dogs!

  • red dog blue cat

    Okay.. so I have a new 8 1/2 week old chihuahua, and he is currently on Orijen kibble. However at the feed store where we buy it, they recently brought in some freezers with raw food and bones. I have heard DIY raw food is awesome for animals, but not too sure about frozen. They carry a brand called Red Dog Blue Cat. Is this going to be full nutrition for my growing puppy?

  • jvondap

    I am inspired by this post to prepare a homemade food for pet. I have this Japanese dog named Chibi. She’s already 1 year old and 5 months. She usually eats canned dog food but sometimes I observed that she doesn’t like to eat it. So from now on, I have decided to prepare a home made food for my Chibi.

  • Condo Blues

    My rescue dog used to power scratch bald spot into his fur. Turns out he was allergic to corn and wheat, which are common fillers in even higher-end dog food and treats. I switched him to a corn and wheat-free kibble made with human quality ingredients and he stopped power scratching. He improved mentally and physically. His coat is shiny because he eats kibble that contains fish and fish oils. The extra I pay for that brand of kibble, I save in vet bills. He’s very healthy. I also save money by baking him allergy free dog treats.

  • Shoestring Gumshoe

    My Doberman mix was diagnosed with aggressive oral melanoma at 12 1/2 yrs of age. I work with a vet, and she was given the best possible medical care. Even with that care available her oncologist gave her a prognosis of 3-6 months max at diagnosis. I learned of Elinor’s classes and immediately started soaking up EVERYTHING this woman has to offer! Our beloved Braden lived to be almost 15 – she passed away this past December. We miss her tremendously. I absolutely believe with 100% of my heart that the food I provided her through Elinor’s teachings and guidance extended her life (with quality of life, I might add) those additional 2 years. Both of our current dogs eat Elinor’s food – they are lean, healthy, glowing coats, compact poops :-), and you should see the happy dance I get every time I begin cooking for them. Somehow they know the difference.
    It’s a great feeling to know what is in their food, and that they will be healthier for my efforts. Thank you Elinor!

  • Jen

    If I had a dog that cute, I’d be making her homemade meals, too.

  • Louise Murray

    Hi! Veterinary internist here with my two cents. I am all for homemade food (feed my own cats homecooked)but it is essential that it be properly balanced by a veterinary nutritionist! Serious health problems can occur, including fragile bones that fracture spontaneously (many homemade dog diets are calcium deficient). Visit or for info.

  • Terri Graham

    Roxy looks like she belongs in Hollywood! What a beauty!

  • Printable Food Coupons

    I have a golden and siberian husky at my house. They also have some problem such allergic to wheat. So, I use a corn and mix with another. Finally they are fine. I can save my money from allergic treatment.

  • Ali Turega

    That pug is so cute!

    I think humans forget that their pet’s diet is as important as theirs.

    Although I don’t cover homemade meals, I’ve put some info together on cheap HEALTHY dog food on my website, too. It looks especially at the health impacts of feeding puppies and older dogs. Keep up the good work.

  • San Diego movers

    Feeding your pet people food will at least get them to eat on a regular basis. Would you want to eat kibble every day?

  • Laura Stone

    Also, if you’re going to do it, first make sure you’re safe with a decent pet insurance plan since problems can occur at first. Diarrhea, stomach issues, etc. So most will probably need to meet with the vet a couple of times before you get it right.

  • jen kezerian

    I love the comparison between the vet and the salesman. It’s so true.

  • RT

    Definitely, I liked the comparison with the vet and salesman, too. This is really funny and you are absolutely right.

    I must say that the food that is available in the supermarkets are mostly full of preservatives. These foods do not seems healthy for the dogs but there is no option or alternative.

    I just made a search in wikihow and thought of sharing here: Healthy dog food consists of ratio of 40% of meat, 10% grain and other carbohydrates and 50% vegg.. If you want to know the procedure than you can check the sites that are related.