In and earlier blog I featured a story of an English Bulldog that was admitted to an emergency referral veterinary hospital in congestive heart failure. The reason for the heart failure was a lack of the amino acid taurine in his diet. His owners had been feeding a vegan, hypoallergenic recipe that they found on the internet for the previous two years.
I recently talked to an emergency hospital veterinarian who said she was seeing an increasing number of puppies that were suffering skeletal problems due to inadequate homemade diets. The puppies are so calcium depleted that their bones are like rubber and they cannot play, walk or even eat. The condition called osteomalacia is so severe in many of her cases, that she has been forced to recommend euthanasia to alleviate suffering that can’t be reversed by calcium supplementation. It is simply too late to overcome the months of calcium deficiency.
The massive pet food recalls for melamine contamination in 2007 frightened many pet owners from commercial pet food. They reasoned that any homemade preparations they fed would certainly be safer than the commercial products. Since then large numbers of recipe books for homemade dog food continue to be published yearly. The internet is clogged with the same types of recipes. As a result, in the last few years more and more veterinarians are seeing health problems related to homemade diets. Studies have confirmed 95% of homemade recipes are nutritionally inadequate, especially those offered by non-veterinarians. And like the Bulldog mentioned above, it generally takes years of malnutrition before the problem is evident, which in many cases, may be too late.
Pet owners further believe that a variety of foods will fill all the nutritional needs of dogs. So like they feed themselves, they can use a variety from the food pyramid and things should be fine. After all, we are told and believe that so many vegetable are “rich” in certain nutrients. I have had conversations with dog owners who insist that kale with their chicken and rice base homemade dog food provides all the necessary calcium because MD’s say kale is rich in calcium. Rich is a comparative term, rich compared to what?
For instance it would take 18 cups of cooked kale or 19 cups of chopped raw kale per 1000 calories (homemade diets are formulated based on the nutrient requirement for 1000 calories and dogs are then fed the appropriate number of calories for their ideal weight) of food per day to meet a dog’s calcium needs.
The same is said for spinach which is rich in iron. 9 cups of cooked or 28 cups of raw spinach will certainly deliver the daily amount of iron needed daily, if your dog can eat that much.
For liver which is thought to be the richest source of iron, homemade dog food would require 6 ½ cooked ounces per day. Unfortunately this would also add levels of vitamin A that can be toxic to the liver.
Rich does not mean adequate or even close to adequate, it only means more than something else.
You might say well that is ridiculous and adding a variety of foods rich in nutrients reduces the amount of each nutrient and would result in a healthy diet.
- But how much of each do you add?
- Do you know the contents of every nutrient for every food so you know how to portion the various ingredients?
- How much spinach to how much liver?
- Do you know what the contents of the varieties of foods you choose as substitutes?
Your dog may not show any symptoms now but what about years from now when nutrient deficiencies begin to appear if you guessed wrong about the amount of ingredients?
Formulating a healthy homemade dog food diet is not easy, only by knowing that all 42 nutrients are present in the correct amounts can you be sure of long term healthy diet. The recipes you select should spell out that information – if they don’t you are simply left to guess.
Don’t let your dog be a victim of an accelerating epidemic trend.
Last week I shared my fears of a coming health epidemic among dogs as a result of unhealthy homemade dog food diets. Despite the best intentions to offer their dogs the best dog food, owners are unwittingly depriving their dogs of vital nutrition. We have been told that a variety of wholesome foods rich in various nutrients will make yourself and your dog healthy. But variety and “rich in” is not the same as adequate or sufficient. In fact, it isn’t even close. But an even greater epidemic threat is not from those feeding entirely unhealthy homemade dog food, but from those feeding unhealthy hybrid homemade diets.
What is Hybrid Homemade Dog Food?
Hybrid homemade dog food is a combination of homemade ingredients and commercial dog food. Most dog owners that feed this way, supplement a basic meat and carbohydrate diet (chicken breast and rice) with small amounts of dry or canned commercial dog food. Others follow a program suggested by a celebrity veterinarian and feed exclusively commercial dog food part of the week and any combination of people food the rest of the week. The belief in these approaches is that the commercial food will provide the nutritional needs not met by the people food.
How Do They Make Dog Food?
Commercial dog food is required to be formulated in a specific way. It must be made so that when a dog is fed its needed number of calories it will also receive its daily requirement for all 42 necessary nutrients. The food is not super fortified. Unless the dog eats its entire calorie allotment it will not get the necessary amounts of essential amino acids, fats, vitamins and minerals. I hope you see the problem.
If a dog is fed mainly chicken and rice, the small amount of supplemented commercial food will not fill the nutritional void. The diets are deficient in vitamins and minerals. These dogs may develop osteoporosis due to inadequate dietary calcium, possible muscle wasting due to inadequate amino acids and eventually poor immune response with susceptibility to infections and decreased skin and fur quality.
Feeding adequate amounts of commercial dog food and supplementing with people food is equally unhealthy. If a dog receives the proper amount of calories of commercial dog food, it will receive all of the necessary nutrients. If people food is added then excess calories are added to the diet. This promotes weight gain and the many medical problems associated with the overweight or obese condition.
What is the Best Homemade Dog Food?
As you can see from these two blogs, feeding healthy homemade dog food is not easy. Dog owners need recipe and supplement recommendations from veterinarians that can offer proof that their formulas meet the necessary daily nutrient requirements. As mentioned in the previous post 95% of all homemade recipes online and in popular books are nutritionally inadequate. Your dog deserves better than just being another statistical casualty of unhealthy homemade. The link below can help you provide your dog with not only completely balanced homemade dog food but a diet formulated to maximize the health and prolong the life of your dog.