More and more dog lovers than ever before have decided to turn to homemade dog food diets—cooked or raw—as insurance against potential problems with commercial products. Is a homemade diet really the way to go?
Questions to ask when preparing home made dog food:
1.Dogs are carnivores right? So why do you add cooked rice to the dog food recipes?
A: Dogs are carnivores and do great on a meaty bone based dog food. Some dog owners add the rice or potatoes to help the transition to a homemade dog food easier for the dog digestion and the owners wallet. You can and should eliminate the rice or potatoes out of any of these recipes if you like..
2. “Fresh, wholesome foods will, over time, meet my dog’s needs if I vary the diet enough right?”
Fresh foods are indeed more nutritious and than highly processed ingredients. In addition, when an owner prepares food at home, she knows exactly what’s going into it. However, when analyzed, even diets based on wholesome, fresh ingredients can still come up low in various vitamins and minerals.
3: My dog has Health problems___________, which dog food recipe do you recommend?
A: Every day I receive many, many, many questions from dog owners about specific dog illnesses and they are very hard to answer. To be honest many go unanswered. While I have worked with animal nutrition full time for about 20 years I am still not a veterinarian and not licensed to answer medical questions.
However health is about prevention. If we do some research and figure out what are individual dogs need, we will prevent dog diseases and problems.
Bone up on your dog’s actual nutrient requirements by doing a bit of research; Read the latests dog food books and speak with nutritionists and vets (holistic, conventional and specialists). (See sidebar for a short “starter list” of online information sources.)
2. “A multivitamin added to the food will cover any gaps.”
The question here is this: Which multi, and with which diet? Any unsupplemented home-prepared diet will be low in some nutrients and adequate or high in others. But because there is no standard formulation for human multivitamins and they can vary greatly in what they include, just tossing one in the dish is not the answer.
Choosing an all-purpose multi made specifically for dogs doesn’t necessarily solve the problem either. These usually contain very low levels of nutrients because it’s assumed they will be added to commercial food, and so are unlikely to provide enough supplementation to round out a homemade diet. This is why “balanced” is not just a buzzword; it’s a valid and essential aspect of proper nutrition. Once you understand your dog’s nutritional needs, work out what her diet actually contains and then add what’s missing.
3. “I’m adding yogurt to my dog’s food daily so she’s getting enough calcium.”
Dogs require fairly high levels of calcium, and yogurt absolutely won’t cut it. Here’s a quick example: My own 75-pound dog has a daily requirement of 1,840 mgs of calcium, and since I use quite a bit of fiber in his diet in the form of brown rice, I want to offset any absorption issues and ensure that he gets about 2,000 mgs per day, or 14,000 mgs per week. His weekly diet alone—turkey, liver, sardines, brown rice, ground lamb and acorn squash—only provides 1,750 mgs. That means I need to add over 12,000 mgs of calcium; in other words, more than 40 cups of plain yogurt.
Calcium supplementation is always necessary unless you are feeding raw bones. I recommend using a commercial carbonate or citrate form of calcium, or an eggshell crushed into a fine powder—one teaspoon of this powder (about 5.5 grams) equals roughly 2,200 mgs of calcium carbonate. To use eggshells, rinse them well and then bake for about 10 minutes at 300 degrees; use a small grinder to make the powder. Bone meal can be used if there is also a need to add phosphorus, but many homemade diets supply plenty of this mineral.
4. “I eat carefully and read human nutrition books—I just follow similar principles with my dog.”
This is a very common assumption but unfortunately, it isn’t accurate. Current nutritional guidelines for humans—who are omnivores—emphasize foods and ratios that may not be ideal for dogs. Ensure dietary balance by aiming for about 30 to 35 percent of total calories from fats, 30 percent from protein and the balance from complex carbohydrates. (Percentages are guidelines, but are not as accurate as evaluating the gram content of a diet; this is another place where it pays to do the math.)