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How to Safely Prepare and Keep Your Homemade Dog Food

Posted by Dr Sam, On 9 Jan, 2024 | Updated On 10 Jan, 2024 No Comments »

Learn about potential dangers in your dog's homemade food. From bacteria growth to safe cooking methods, ensure your pet's health with proper handling tips

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Study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 1 out of 6 Americans (that is about 48 million) get sick every year from foodborne diseases. And about 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 died. Like human, pets are susceptible to this infection as well.

Food-borne disease is resulted from eating contaminated food. Contaminated food contains harmful substances not initially present in it. So what are the stuffs that make your foods become poison?  

Types of Food Hazards

Food hazard is any substance in food that can cause disease or harm. Food hazards are classified into four categories:

  1. Chemical hazards
  2. Biological hazards
  3. Physical hazards
  4. Allergens

Some illnesses are caused by substances that are natural components of foods other than contaminants. These could be plant toxins like the chemicals in poisonous mushrooms and specific natural food components that cause some people and pet allergies.

This article is about biological hazards and how to prevent them in your homemade dog food.

Biological Hazards in Food

Biological hazards occur when food is contaminated by micro-organisms. Microorganism is a very tiny organism that is not visible by naked eyes. Disease-causing micro-organism is called pathogen.

Biological hazard is the most dangerous because food contaminated by pathogen will still be looking and tasting good. Food-borne disease are caused by these types of microorganisms:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Parasites

Most food-borne diseases are caused by bacteria and measures taken to protect food from bacteria also help prevent the other three kinds of microorganisms.

Conditions in Favor of Micro-Organisms

Conditions that encourage the growth of these micro-organisms are:

1. Temperature – Pathogens flourish best at warm temperature. Temperature from 40°F (4°C) to 140°F (60°C) advance the growth of disease-causing bacteria. This temperature range is called the Food Danger Zone.

2. Moisture – Pathogens require water to take in food. Dry foods do not support bacterial growth. Well salted food and food with high sugar content are somewhat safe. This is because salt and sugar weaken bacteria to use the moisture.

3. Acidity or Alkalinity – Disease-causing bacteria grow well in a neutral environment. Neutral medium is neither acidic nor alkaline. The acidity or alkalinity of a material is measured by a scale called pH. Completely strong acid has pH of 0 and completely strong alkaline has pH of 14. A pure water is
neutral and has a pH of 7.

4. Oxygen – Aerobic bacteria require oxygen to grow. Anaerobic bacteria grow only in the absence of air. Canned foods are at the risk of anaerobic bacteria. Facultative bacteria grow in the presence or absence of air. Most bacteria in food that cause disease are facultative.

5. Time – Bacteria need time to firstly adjust to their new environment before flourishing whenever they are newly introduced. This time is called the lag phase. Lag phase is usually about 1 hour if other conditions are favorable. This delay in time makes it possible for you and your dog to have foods safe at normal room temperature for short periods before eating or processing them. Temperature is the only condition we have highest control over.

Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs)

Foods that are good mediums for the growth of disease-causing micro-organisms are called potentially hazardous foods (PHFs). These foods are also called Temperature/Time Control for Safety (TCS) foods.

PHFs include:

  1. Food derived from or food containing products from animals. These include meat, dairy products, fish, poultry, shellfish and eggs.
  2. Raw seed buds.
  3. Cooked or parboiled foods derived from plants. These includes cooked vegetables, cooked pasta, cooked rice, and tofu.
  4. Sliced melons and tomatoes.
  5. Food item mixed/covered with oil (because oil seals the food from the air, fostering the growth of anaerobic bacteria, as explained above).

Non Potentially Hazardous Food are:

  1. Dried or dehydrated foods.
  2. Foods that are strongly acidic.
  3. Commercially processed foods that are still in their original sealed containers.

Guides against Pathogen – Temperature/Time Control for Safety (TCS)

As it is mentioned above, out of all the conditions that favors disease-causing bacteria, temperature is the only one we have main control over. The control principles is called Temperature/Time Control for Safety.
The principles are:

  1. Don’t keep food item at normal room temperature longer than 1 hour.
  2. Keeping food below 40°F (4°C) or above 140°F (60°C) stops the growth of bacteria.
  3. Cooking food at temperature of 170°F (77°C) or higher for at least 30 seconds kills disease-causing bacteria. You can also sanitize your kitchen equipment and utensils by heat at this temperature.
  4. Thorough hygiene and preparation methods along with adequate storage and cooking of homemade diets are important in the prevention of foodborne illness.

Safe Cooking Method

The safest cooking method for making your dog food in your kitchen is to cook her food at temperature of 170°F (77°C) and above. For this reason, Moist-Heat cooking method is the best. Moist-heat methods are those in which the heat is conducted to the food product by water or water-based liquids such as
broth, stock and sauces, or by steam. The method includes:

  1. Boiling – cooking at 212°F (100°C)
  2. Simmering – cooking at 185°F to 205°F (85°C to 96°C)
  3. Poach – cooking at 160°F to 180°F (71°C–82°C)

How to Keep Your Homemade Dog Food Safe

If your dog doesn’t take her daily food portion at once or you cook your dog food in bulk, follow this preservation procedure to keep the food safe against biological hazards.

  1. Don’t keep food item at normal room temperature longer than 1 hour
  2. Use ice-water baths to bring down the temperature of the hot food fast. Never place hot food directly off the stove into a refrigerator.
  3. Stir food as it is cooling to redistribute the heat and help it cool more quickly.
  4. Put each daily portion separately in an air-tight container. Get Air-Tight Containers from Amazon.
  5. Put them in a refrigerator and keep below 40°F (4°C).
  6. Do not keep your homemade dog food for more than 7 days.
  7. Do not crowd the refrigerator. Leave space around the container so cold air can circulate.
  8. Keep refrigerator doors closed except when removing or putting in items.
  9. Keep refrigerator clean.
  10. Keep cooked and raw items separately, if possible.
  11. If cooked and raw foods must be kept in the same fridge, keep cooked foods above raw foods.
  12. When bringing food out of refrigeration, do not bring out more than the portion your dog need at a time.
  13. Thaw and warm in a microwave oven and make sure your dog eat the meal portion within 1 hour of taking it out of the fridge.

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