Some owners believe that creating a homemade dog food for your pet canine is better than letting it consume commercial dog food, noted Purina, a pet food company. Maybe you have seen homemade dog food recipes online, but is homemade the best diet for your dog? Dog nutrition is a tricky subject especially when making food for your pet, said Mary Kearl of AKC (American Kennel Club), a recognized and trusted expert in breed, health, and training information for dogs. Will homemade food meet your dog’s nutritional needs or will it fall short compared to conventional dog food?
Feeding Practices Among English-Speaking Populations
Sarah Dodd and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate provided an online questionnaire for dog and cat owners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US and compared the findings with data from nine peer-reviewed articles published in the last 10 years. In the present study, 78% of dogs and 90% were fed at least partially conventional food. Of those were fed with conventional diets, 86% of cats (versus 92% in 2015 and 99% in 2013) and 79% of dogs (versus 92% of 2015 and 92% of 2013) were fed this way every day. Moreover, 7% of dogs (versus 7% in 2015 and 10% in 2014) and 3.6% of cats were fed exclusively homemade diets
61% of dogs and 69% of cats were fed with conventional Keeble every day, while canned food was fed for 15% of dogs and 44% of cats. 8% of dogs and 18% of cats were fed prescription diets, which was less than 5% of those who were reportedly fed a prescription diet exclusively. Of the animals receiving REP (raw animal products), 89% of dogs and 87% of cats were fed a HM (homemade) RAP diet, unlike those that were fed with a commercial RAP diet (67% and 64%).
Few pet owners reported feeding their pet a RAP diet exclusively (9% of dogs and 6% of cats). Very few pets were fed with vegetarian foods, with only 22% of dogs and 4.7% of cats consuming this particular diet. Of these, 47% of dogs and 70% of cats were fed completely plant-based (vegan) foods. A smaller proportion of dogs (6.8%) and cats (15%) were fed plant-based diets exclusively.
The animals were also fed with treats (77% of dogs and 61% of cats). Feeding the animals with scraps was prevalent among 81% of dogs and 55% of cats. Homemade treats were occasionally given to 32% of dogs and 20.7% of cats, though owners never fed their dogs (39.5%) and cats (70.5%) with homemade treats.
Pet stores were the most popular location for purchasing pet food, representing 53% of 3,505 respondents, followed by supermarkets (31%), the manufacturer (14%), and from their veterinarian (10%). The respondents also bought pet food from farm or animal feed stores (4%), butchers (3%), and big-box stores (2%). The research showed a high prevalence of unconventional feeding practices, according to the authors. Hence, veterinary healthcare teams must be cognizant of the potential risks and benefits of unconventional feeding practices and educate owners to help them cater to their pets’ nutritional needs.
Should You Go For Homemade Dog Food?
There may be claims surrounding the benefits of homemade dog food, but there is currently no scientific evidence to support it. Jennifer A. Larsen, DVM, MS, Ph.D, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition warned to recognize fearmongering in the pet food industry, often driven by myths regarding ingredient quality.
Another board-certified veterinary nutritionist and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition Joe Bartges, DVM, Ph.D., said commercial food products are made to complete and balance your pet’s diet. Dr. Larsen and Dr. Bartges said they are countless reasons why you might want to cook homemade foods for your dog such as controlling its diet, addressing food intolerance issues, appeasing picky eaters, and more.
Still, it is better to have your dog’s diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist. If not, your dog may not get all the nutrients it needs to thrive and develop deficiencies, which could cause serious health complications. Further, unlike conventional dog food, homemade food is not regulated and does not follow the guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Homemade dog food recipes made from raw meat could put you and your pet at risk of contracting salmonella or listeria.
What Should I Do If Want to Prepare Homemade Dog Food?
1. Get Recipes From Trusted Sources
A veterinarian with board certification in veterinary nutrition or with a Ph.D. in animal nutrition and experience in creating pet diets ensures that your pet’s nutritional needs are met, stated Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN of Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, a provider of high-caliber, advanced, and specialty veterinary care to patients and a rich clinical learning environment for students.
Your veterinarian will use computer software to create the right mix of ingredients and supplements to formulate a diet for your dog. Consult your veterinary nutritionist if your pet has health issues. Be careful when getting recipes from online sources. Dr. Larsen stated, “There are many inadequate, and sometimes dangerous recipes, available to owners.” Avoid using recipes from self-proclaimed “nutrition experts” as they don’t have proper training when preparing specialized diets for pets, causing more harm than good.
Recipes from credible sources are precise. For example, a recipe from a trusted source might state “100 grams of boneless, skinless, baked chicken breast” versus a recipe that say “1 cup of chicken.” Dr. Larsen added, “Most general recipes provide vague instructions for ingredients or preparation. This leaves the owner to interpret what type of meat to use, or which supplement product to buy.”
2. Follow the Recipe
Follow the recipe down to the last letter. Substituting one meat for another can change the diet’s nutrient and calorie content.
3. Avoid Using Unsafe/Unhealthy Ingredients
Toxic ingredients like chocolate, avocado, grapes, onions, nuts, etc. should be avoided when preparing your dog’s food. While this is not an exhaustive list, it is recommended to be aware of which foods are safe to consume for dogs.
Homemade dog food can be healthy, albeit time-consuming. Owners are recommended to consult a veterinary nutritionist to help them formulate an individualized diet for your dog, rather than following a recipe from other sources, which may or not be credible.