Homemade Dog Food May Be Unsafe, Researchers Say

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Each time pet food or treats are recalled due to some contamination, we're more tempted to ditch commercial pet food and start making our own at home. But a new study says that's not a good idea. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, say that most homemade dog food recipes are not nutritionally complete.

The study, which appears in the June issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, says that of 200 dog food recipes analyzed, only nine contain enough of the nutrients that dogs require.

"Some of the deficiencies, particularly those related to choline, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin E, could result in significant health problems such as immune dysfunction, accumulation of fat in the liver and musculoskeletal abnormalities," said Jennifer Larsen, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis and lead author on the study.

In addition to the deficiencies in the food itself, 92 percent of the recipes contained instructions that were vague, forcing users to make assumptions about ingredients, or failed to include calorie information or take into account the size of the dog being fed. The recipes in the study include not just those written by amateurs, but also some published in textbooks, and even written by veterinarians.

"It is extremely difficult for the average pet owner - or even veterinarians - to come up with balanced recipes to create appropriate meals that are safe for long-term use," Larsen said.

So if commercial pet food is unsafe and homemade pet food is unsafe, what can you do? The study doesn't say that making your own pet food at home isn't an option; it says that you shouldn't assume any recipe you find is adequate, so be cautious about what you feed your dog.

"Homemade food is a great option for many pets, but we recommend that owners avoid general recipes from books and the Internet and instead consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist," Larsen said. "These specialists have advanced training in nutrition to help formulate customized and nutritionally appropriate recipes."

In the study, only four recipes were written by board-certified vets. All four contained acceptable nutrient profiles for adult dogs.


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Frank Weber

Ohio State University has a good website regarding home-made diets for pets. It can be found at http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/home-made-diets

November 05 2013 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is an utterly useless article as it does not provide the actual "four recipes .. written by board-certified vets ... [that] contained acceptable nutrient profiles for adult dogs."

October 26 2013 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim Bradley

I don't take the risk with commercial dog food. The ingredients used by many dog food companies are atrocious and can lead to cancer. I found all the recipes I use for homemade dog food at http://secretsofdogfood.net/ Homemade food is not only good for your dog but for your wallet. I've actually saved money in the log run.

October 11 2013 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am researching homemade options for two reasons. First, did anyone notice the latest and greatest price hike in pet foods and products about three months back? Across the entire industry prices rose another 1-3 dollars a bag while weight dropped by a half pound to 3pounds a bag. My premium easy to digest dog food started out at 8.99 for a 6 pound bag and over time it has become 12.99 for a 4.5 pound bag. I'm tired of it! I'm also tired of seeing my pups go out and graze on greens every opportunity they get- even if we're just slowing
down on our walk. Obviously they still aren't getting complete nutrition, even with the best that I can afford.

September 13 2013 at 8:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kate CVT

If you are so hell bent on being anti commercial dog food and insist on doing it yourself than do your dog a favor by speaking to a veterinary nutritionist and do it right. Veterinarians unlike people doctors are not in it for the money as people may believe. Raw diet is not the best thing for your dog. E-coli, salmonella and many parasites which can be fatal to your pets exist very heavily in raw food. Would you eat it raw or feed your children raw without speaking to an expert? Don't use the line that it's how wolves eat because the average life span of a wolf is only a couple of years and diet is a large contributor. There is a reason our pets are around for 10-15 years now instead of 5-7 a decade ago. Medicine is always changing and research is always discovering new information. There are plenty of commercially made pet foods that are good for your pets you just have to do your research. Just as we eat things like Taco Bell and Burger King you can feed that equivalent to your dog even if you are feeding a homemade diet if you aren't doing the proper research.

August 02 2013 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That'stotally ridiculous. The best food for dogs ever is NATURAL RAW FOOD, with natural nutrients vitamins, minerals, protein,fat, etc. You have to ask yourselves who finances (pays) all those "researchers", and the answer you'll come up with is: the huge transnational food factories such as Nestle, Hill's, Proplan, Eukanuba and others; their only interest is this one: P-R-O-F-I-T. But, don't beleive me. Do a Google search, for example: "raw+food+natural+dogs" and make your own conclusions. Cheers. Dr. Diaz, M.V. http://hermanoperro-hermanogato.blogspot.com

August 01 2013 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Marisa Murray

Deficiencies in pet diets are no different than deficiencies in human diets. Last time I checked few people eat a complete kibble out of a bag as their sole nutrition. Instead they meet their needs by eating a variety of foods and using additional supplements where needed. Pet food manufacturers and vets use scare tactics to prevent people from using a natural diet for their pets. Perhaps an educational approach about the dietary needs of canines and the foods that meet those requirements would be more helpful in preventing malnutrition. Feeding ONLY a single recipe with limited ingredients is source of most problems. Pets require variety to meet their nutritional needs just like their human counterparts.

August 01 2013 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Vets are no different than people doctors. They are taught very little about nutrition. Pet allergies, from the food they eat, keep vets in business with all the drugs and treatments they administer, when all the pet needs is different food.

July 17 2013 at 11:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

my dog died a few years back from the menu foods of canada subcontracting to china deal so now all my dog food has to be made in america and all ingredients have to be from america no china no canada no europe and youd be surprised how few dog foods there are to choose from

July 17 2013 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

lol you talk all that talk and I still don't know any more about what to feet my Dog you guys need to tell what foods in the store is best for our pet... Not a bunch of jebber jabber about what to not feed them ... no one is going to go to all that trouble to make dog food or or find a bunch of stuff to make their food .....

July 17 2013 at 7:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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