Beware of dog food recipes found in books or online

As a canine nutritionist, my job is to provide nutritional information for dog owners. I don’t promote any specific method of feeding although I do prefer home-prepared, raw or cooked, diets.

There are many advantages to preparing your dog’s food yourself not least because you know exactly what your dog is eating and can be assured of the foods provenance and quality.

Unfortunately what most don’t know is that home-prepared dog food recipes found in books or online are lacking in vital nutrients and are not safe for long term use. Plus, so many recipes share the same deficiencies so rotating between different homemade diets will not make up for the nutritional deficiencies.

Nutrition has many potentially significant impacts on health and wellbeing. Your dog might seem OK at first but he will not stay that way if you are feeding him a home-prepared diet without professional consultation.

This is one of the big reasons why so many vets are against home-prepared dog food – they are the ones who see the sad stories caused by an unbalanced diet.

For example, one sad case involves an eight-month old St Bernard puppy that became seriously ill after consuming an unbalanced homemade diet over a five-month period. The diet consisted of cooked meat and rice, raw apple, cooked broccoli, raw egg and a vitamin and mineral supplement.

The owners believed they were doing what was best for their much loved pup. Despite their well intentioned efforts the puppy began to experience painful shoulder joints and lameness in both front legs. A visit to their local vet diagnosed the puppy with osteochondritis dissecans, a disease that affects the cartilage surrounding various joints in a dog’s body.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were prescribed and the puppy was referred to the Foster Hospital at Tufts in the United States. The vets at Tufts noted generalized mild muscle wasting along with the shoulder pain and lameness.

Following the physical examination, the puppy developed partial seizures (later attributed to low calcium levels), a rapid heartbeat, and his body temperature rose to 39.4 degrees C.

A biochemical analysis revealed low levels of calcium, blood sodium, chloride ion, vitamin D and taurine as well as abnormally high blood phosphate levels. X-rays revealed widespread bone demineralization or loss of bone strength.

The veterinary team investigated the puppy’s diet by comparing the nutrients in the homemade diet with the dietary requirements for normal growth and determined that the puppy’s diet had, “multiple and substantial deficiencies, 50 percent below the minimum requirements set by the National Research Council (NRC) and American Association of Feed Control Officials. (AAFCO)”

Thankfully, the puppy was treated with medication, supplements and a nutritionally complete diet to resolve the dietary deficiencies and seizures. After three days of hospitalization he was released, his diet was improved at home and his biochemical levels were monitored for several weeks. His lameness was resolved but his early life deficiencies, caused by a well meaning but uneducated home-prepared diet means he may suffer from bone and joint problems for the rest of his life

Of all the home-prepared diets I have analysed for clients (and I have done A LOT), not one has met current recommended allowances as set by the National Research Council (NRC).

So whilst I always advocate a home-prepared diet over most commercial dog food it’s absolutely critical that the home-prepared diet is balanced and fully meets the needs of your individual dog. Without proper consultation most home-prepared diets just don’t cut it.

If you are already cooking for your dog, the best way to ensure that the diet is meeting all of your dogs nutritional needs is to get your recipe analysed by a qualified nutritionist.

If you would like to book your dog in for a consultation with us you can schedule an appointment via our website. We use a computer software to analyses your dog’s current home-prepared diet. The diet is then revised as necessary to meet NRC guidelines with consideration to your dog’s individual needs.

Or for more information you can send us an email. We will be happy to advice.

A proactive approach to your dogs diet can help identify and treat potential problems before they progress to serious health issues.

Learn more

Home-prepared dog diets

Does it really matter what we feed our dog?

Seizures and severe nutrient deficiencies in a puppy fed a homemade diet

Homemade dog food recipes can be risky business, study finds

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