Why Your Homemade Dog Food Is Not Good Enough

More on PawNation: Dogs, Nutrition

Do you cook for your dog? If so, how confident are you that the recipe(s) you use provide complete and balanced nutrition? The results of a study evaluating two hundred recipes obtained from 34 sources (veterinary textbooks, pet care books for owners, and websites) were published in the June 1, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA).

The results were disturbing:

"Most (184 [92%]) recipes contained vague or incomplete instructions that necessitated 1 or more assumptions for the ingredients, method of preparation, or supplement-type products.

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"Only 3 recipes provided all essential nutrients in concentrations meeting or exceeding the NRC [National Research Council] RA [recommended allowances], and another 2 recipes provided all essential nutrients in concentrations meeting or exceeding the NRC MR [minimum requirements]... Nine recipes provided all essential nutrients in concentrations exceeding the AAFCO [Association of American Feed Control Officials] nutrient profile minimums for adult dogs; 4 of these also met or exceeded the NRC RA or NRC MR... Overall, most (190/200 [95%]) recipes resulted in at least 1 essential nutrient at concentrations that did not meet NRC or AAFCO guidelines, and many (167 [83.5%]) recipes had multiple deficiencies.

"Some deficiencies were so severe that nutrient concentrations did not reach 50% of the NRC RA; these included diets deficient in vitamin D (97/102 [95.1%]), zinc (76/138 [55.1%]), choline (56/129 [43.4%]), and vitamin E (31/79 [39.2%]). Nine recipes surpassed the safe upper limit for vitamin D, and 6 surpassed the safe upper limit for the combination of EPA plus DHA [types of omega 3 fatty acids]."

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You'll hear many people who recommend home-prepared foods for dogs say that "slight" nutritional deficiencies in any one diet can be compensated for by rotating between several diets. On the surface, this claim makes sense, but the researchers took a closer look at this claim. They evaluated three recipe groups, each consisting of seven separate recipes, and found that nutritional problems would arise even if a dog ate all seven of the diets within the group.

"[M]any recipes had similar deficiencies, with 14 nutrients provided at inadequate concentrations in at least 50 recipes. Thus, even the use of a strategy for rotation among several recipes from multiple sources would be unlikely to provide a balanced diet."

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Recipes that were written by veterinarians had a lower number of deficiencies in comparison to those written by nonveterinarians. However, most of the recipes written by veterinarians were still deficient in at least one nutrient. The researchers only looked at four recipes written by board-certified veterinary nutritionists, but all four of these "were within the AAFCO-recommended ranges for an adult canine maintenance diet." Therefore, owners who want to ensure that their dog's home-prepared food is nutritionally complete and balanced should seek out the services of one of these specialists.

Your local veterinary college, Petdiets.com, and BalanceIt.com all provide access to board-certified veterinary nutritionists.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Evaluation of recipes of home-prepared maintenance diets for dogs. Stockman J, Fascetti AJ, Kass PH, Larsen JA. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2013 Jun 1;242(11):1500-5.

"Why Your Homemade Dog Food Is Not Good Enough" originally appeared on PetMD.com.

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Gary Alan

I would like to agree with jpruizjeanpierre. You nailed it! I just want to pose this question to dog owners who continue to feed their dogs commercialized dog food, "Which is more healthy, dog food that is processed, genetically engineered ingredients and artificially made nutrients, or dog food that contains fresh ingredient?" There's nothing more to say.

February 26 2014 at 12:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I found some great VET APPROVED dog food recipes here


February 06 2014 at 10:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bridgetod38's comment

Don't click on this link people. It require payment and this person is obviously getting paid per click. Shame on you!

February 10 2014 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Many of these comments show evidence of lazy reading. Nowhere in the article does it say "go buy commercial dog food," nowhere does it say "don't use homemade dog food." What it DOES say is that most of the dog food recipes available to the public are lacking in the nutritional value necessary for the good health of dogs. It's just plain misleading to post all these complaints about the commercial animal food industry and how they negligent they are. This article doesn't dispute that, so you're wasting your energy on criticizing this article for something it doesn't do. If you want to complain about anything, complain about it not including the few recipes the study did find to meet the established requirements for proper dog care.

January 15 2014 at 5:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to charlee2112's comment

I understand the strong comments that side with home cooking. I don't think this is due to lazy reading but a forceful reaction to the abuses of commercial dog food market that leads to deaths, diseases and shortened lifespan of our beloved pets.
Hopefully the FDA new regulation concerning dog food (http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/products/AnimalFoodFeeds/PetFood/default.htm) will significantly reduce the number causalities from commercial pet food that is simply unfit for animal consumption. Not to mention the dangers to pet owner who can be infected by their diseased pets.
What I find is lazy, is those of us who don't cook for our pets and believe in food labels on commercial pet food. Pet food recalls and deaths are only the tip of the iceberg.
A better title for this article would of been: " Why Your Homemade Dog Food MAY BE Not Good Enough" However, by varying the recipes ( like we do as humans) along with adding raw vegetables , fruits or natural sources of vitamins and minerals deficiencies are easily avoided.

January 31 2014 at 6:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Deborah Gates

Since I have been making my own dog food my dogs are much more active and do no leave food in their dish. They did not eat the bought dog food very well. I was throwing away more than they eat. They are much healthier and happier.
I was paying over $50.00 a bag for dog food and they would leave it in the pan and not eat it. After talking to my sister I tried making my own food and they love it!

January 13 2014 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Deborah Gates's comment
Felicia Mae Zurface

Are there any recipes you would recommend? We have a momma dog and 5 11 weeks old pups. Puppy Chow is getting expensive lol

February 09 2014 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here we go.. Another brainwashing article commissioned by NRC and commercial pet food industry! Just face the truth and answer yourself what your dog will pounce on -a raw or barely cooked piece of meat with bone or sitting next to it bowl full of dry kibbles (highly processed unnatural substance)? Nature will show :) All those commercial dog foods are nothing but money making industries. Hope ppl will be more educated about it.

December 28 2013 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well-balanced diet is really one of the best thing for dogs' health. I always give homemade dog food to my precious Sally. It is very important because I know that dogs can live longer with healthy diet. what should dogs eat is really very important question and the answer is obvious. Dogs should eat healthy food and healthy food is homemade food not over-processed commercial food. You can find all the benefits of homemade dog food in this website.

December 25 2013 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Commercial dog food is nothing but toxic garage. Years ago and I mean many years ago a dog could easily live to see the age of 16 or better. Now your lucky if your pet lives to the ripe old age of 9. My 9 year old lab had a liver ALT reading of 3400, I dumped the dog food and have been cooking for her and feeding her herbal supplements. Her liver reading is now down to 450, still too high but I am working on it. Oh, and she has slimmed down a little bit and has much more energy then she has had in a while.

December 01 2013 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is ridiculous. Just cause dog food is pumped full of synthetic vitamins that are exact to a ratio they came up with our dogs need does not make them complete!

Kibble is cooked till it is a dehydrated biscuit. Do wild dogs take multi vitamins? NO! Did God create multi vitamins? NO!

Just like for us humans the best way to get vitamins our bodies can actual use is by eating fresh vegetables, nuts, herbs ect. Same for dogs! Fresh foods contain vitamins!

I also find it funny how they admit 2 of the diets are balanced but don't share which ones. Should be entitled "Be sure to feed these 2 homemade diets for a balanced nutrition for your dog" No. "ITS ALL BAD... uhh accept these two, but thats still to risky !" Give me a break.

**************Everyone PLEASE if you just feed your dog a home prepared diet you WILL SEE how much healthier they are, the proof will be right in front of you!*******************

November 03 2013 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Another issue not addressed is the NRC nutrient requirements that home prepared pet foods were held to are based on commonly used commercial pet food ingredients - not whole food ingredients. This so called 'study' compared apples to oranges (actually apples to rotten oranges) - there is no comparison. Common ingredients used in many commercial pet foods violate federal food safety law. On the other hand, foods used in home prepared recipes are USDA inspected and approved. Trying to compare the two is absurd. Dr. Larsen - of this study - knew what she was doing. At the time of the study she was part owner in a pet food supplement company and is part owner of the software that analyzed the home prepared recipes.

October 10 2013 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great comment from jpruizjeanpierre! Of course it is in the best interest of the pet industry and vets to say that home cooking is bad for dogs. Homemade foods can meet and far exceed AAFCO standards and just because commercial pet foods meet these "standards" doesn't make them either safe or healthy. We who make our own foods for our dogs and cats and birds, are just as careful about the quality of the ingredients as for our dogs, cats and birds as we are for our human children. The article is completely self serving. Animals should eat real whole foods without chemicals and preservatives. Bagged and canned food is hurting our animals and has for a very long time. Feed fresh. Know the quality of the protein and all the ingredients you are using. Home made food can be very healthy and certainly better for your companions than what is sold as kibble or cans. Would you feed your kids Cheerios every day for every meal?

October 10 2013 at 1:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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