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Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Another Danger of Homemade Dog Food

September 25, 2015 / (9) comments

I’ve always thought I walk a reasonable line when it comes to homemade dog food. For most owners, myself included, the convenience of having a reputable company design and manufacture a diet that meets all of my dog’s nutritional needs simply can’t be beat. But for those owners who are willing to go the extra mile for their pets, home cooked meals made according to recipes designed by veterinary nutritionists can be a nutritious and delicious option.


I’ve just run across an article that is making me question this line of thought, however.


Fifty-nine owners and their dogs who were prescribed homemade diets by the Clinical Nutrition Service, Teaching Veterinary Hospital of the College of Agrarian and Veterinarian Sciences, São Paulo State University were included in the study. The dogs were thoroughly evaluated and then...

…a nutritionally complete and balanced homemade diet was prescribed. The ingredients used in the recipes included cooked rice, potato, beef, chicken, bovine or chicken liver, carrots, green beans, fish oil supplements, salt, soyabean oil, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and dried yeast, as well as commercially available vitamin, mineral and amino acid supplements to fulfil minor nutrient requirements. Not all ingredients were used in all diets…


All owners received a written recipe that included the daily amounts of each one of the prescribed ingredients. The veterinary nutritionist carefully explained to owners the importance of following the recipe, the reasons for not changing the type or amount of each ingredient, the nutritional importance of each ingredient used, and details on how to prepare and feed the diet.

What could possibly go wrong?


Well… the scientists surveyed the owners about their experiences with the homemade diets. Some did not end up feeding the prescribed diets, but for the 46 who completed the study:

  • 30.4% admitted they had changed the recipe.
  • 40% did not adequately control the amount of provided ingredients.
  • 73.9% did not use the recommended amounts of soyabean oil and salt.
  • 28.3% did not use the vitamin, mineral, or amino acid supplements.


I find this last point the most shocking. Almost 30% of these owners who received in depth explanations as to the importance of following their recipes did not use their vitamin, mineral, or amino acid supplements AT ALL! Given enough time, these dogs could develop serious nutritional deficiencies.

So before you consider feeding your dog a homemade diet, have a heart-to-heart with yourself and honestly answer these two questions:

  1. Are you willing to take on the extra effort and expense needed to prepare your dog’s food from a recipe designed specifically to meet his or her particular needs (age, health status, etc.)?
  1. Will you follow that recipe and not make any changes to it unless you first consult with your dog’s nutritionist?



Dr. Jennifer Coates





Evaluation of the owner's perception in the use of homemade diets for the nutritional management of dogs. Oliveira MC, Brunetto MA, da Silva FL, Jeremias JT, Tortola L, Gomes MO, Carciofi AC. J Nutr Sci. 2014 Sep 25;3:e23.



Image: Thinkstock





Balanced Homemade Meals – I Sound Like a Broken Record


Why Your Homemade Dog Food is Not Good Enough

Comments  9

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  • Reasons
    09/26/2015 12:31am

    I'd love to hear the reasons that people didn't follow the recommended diet/recipe. Did Fido not like the original recipe? Did they thihk they were doing Fido a favor by adding more of what he/she likes?

    I confess to being downright shocked that almost 30% didn't give the necessary supplements. I wonder why they didn't.

  • 10/09/2015 09:21pm

    well i can tell you one reason may have been what they were told to add to the diet. no freaked dog needs soybean oil. in fact, soybeans is one of the things a lot of dogs are allergic to. right there it tells me that this diet is not something i would be feeding my dogs.

  • How do I find out
    10/09/2015 07:39pm

    How do I figure out what I should use to make our 12 year old female English Bull dog food. She has wheat glutton allergies. We have narrowed it down to that because every time we feed her food commercially made foods with grains she breaks out. SO we changed up her food but added canned Alpo dog food not thinking about it and she was breaking out again. Reading the can..wheat glutton... argggggg. and now she gets just dry no grain food. I would like to make her food at home with all the pet food being recalled. Also..can it also be something I can feed our female English Cocker and male Pom.. We will be waiting to hear from you soon.

  • 10/09/2015 08:34pm

    Your best option would be to get in touch with a veterinary nutritionist (check out petdiets.com and balanceit.com) who can design one or more diets to meet your dogs' specific needs. Good luck!

  • 10/09/2015 09:18pm

    i have fed my dogs raw for 14 yrs. i started due to the wheat/soy/corn allergies my one dog had. now i basically grind up a couple whole chickens (minus skin..too much fat in commercial birds) with the liver/etc and i throw in a handfull of frozen green beans to help keep the meat/bones go thru the grinder and freeze that for the week. i have 4, 12 pound dogs and 2 5 -6 pound chicken i buy at aldi' lasts me a week. there are lots of grain free kibbles out there if you must feed kibble..just go to a pet smart or some place like that (stay away from grocery store kibble and any of the fake prescription diets at the vets) and look at the better grain free food. fromm is one, blue buffalo (had some bad press but i think they are trying harder now). just look at the bag and make sure it says grain free.

  • Misleading title
    10/10/2015 04:52pm

    Great article, but the title is very misleading.
    If an owner happens to stray from the recipe or not include the vitamin/amino acid mix, it doesn't necessarily mean that the home prepared diet is "dangerous" or will lead to nutritional deficiencies/excesses.
    I'd rather have my dog or my patients eat a home prepared diet that is made with human-grade, whole-food ingredients just like I eat that isn't perfectly "nutritionally complete and balanced" than the feed-grade, processed options available commercially that can have chemical preservatives (some of which are carcinogenic), higher allowable levels of mold-based toxins, and ingredients that don't exist in nature.
    Dr. Patrick Mahaney (your fellow PetMD The Daily Vet writer).

  • 10/12/2015 02:41pm

    Homemade diets are a great option for some, especially dedicated owners, but I think this study shows just how hard it is for most people to consistently (or even inconsistently!) follow a recipe designed with their pet's best interests at heart.

  • Follow the money
    10/19/2015 03:14am

    It should be obvious that counting on pet owners to concoct a well-balanced home-prepared diet is difficult. And, it is obvious that if they won't follow the recipe carefully, they shouldn't be preparing their pets' food at all. But whenever I read articles by these "veterinary nutritionists", they always are slamming the raw diets and home-made diets in general. Never does this category of vets question the nutritional value of commercial kibble. Such veterinary journal articles cannot be found. It is almost as if, perhaps, their veterinary education had been financed by kibble manufacturers, or that their research has been funded by these kibble manufacturers.

    That kind of "following the money" tends to distort the common sense of otherwise presumably knowledgeable and well educated vets. For instance, I have read of "veterinary nutritionists" make such nonsensical statements like: "Some owners are concerned about using diets that contain any vegetable-based proteins, such as soybean or corn. These are NOT added as fillers and contain important nutrients. There is no reason why 'grain free' foods are better for either dogs or cats." And like: "... often by-product is as good, maybe even a better source of over-all nutrition ... better off eating by-product than chicken breast." And: "My preferred method of feeding presently is kibble."

    When I read this nonsense, and then observe that all of their "research" is aimed at steering pet owners away from raw or home-made diets and towards the junk food called kibble, I realize that these "veterinary nutritionists" probably are not in favor of pets getting their protein from fresh meats because they would be afraid of offending their sugar daddy funding sources from the junk food manufacturers. The bottom line is that advice from "veterinary nutritionists" should be taken with a giant grain of salt.

  • Interesting study but...
    10/19/2015 11:29am

    Interesting study but I have to agree with Dr Patrick Mahaney that the article title is misleading.
    I tailor home-prepared diets for dogs and all my clients are perfectly capable of following my recipes. Perhaps owners were not given an adequate support period to get into the new feeding routine?
    It's unfortunate because studies and articles like these create mistrust in a feeding method that can actually be extremely useful to some dogs (when done correct)

    Kristina Johansen
    (about me: http://elmoskitchen.com/dog-dietary-advisers/)