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The latest edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Association features a study of homemade recipes for maintenance diets for dogs. The results are dismal. It demonstrates how difficult this process really is and how important extensive research is needed to create a balanced homemade diet.

The Study Recipes

The researchers analyzed 200 homemade recipes. 67% of the recipes were from two veterinary textbooks and nine pet care books. Four of these sources were authored by board certified veterinary nutritionists. The other 33% of the recipes were obtained from 23 different websites. 64.5% of the recipes were written by veterinarians and 35.5% of the recipes were authored by non-veterinarians.

The Findings

Of the 200 recipes, only nine recipes met or exceeded the National Research Council’s (NRC) Recommended Allowances or Minimum Requirements for all essential daily nutrients. Nine recipes exceeded the nutrient minimums established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). All but one of those recipes meeting the NRC or AAFCO standards was authored by a non-veterinarian.

95% of recipes authored by both veterinarians and non-veterinarians were deficient for at least one nutrient and 85% had multiple deficiencies. The most common deficiencies were zinc, choline (a vitamin-like nutrient), vitamin D, vitamin E, copper, calcium and EPA/DHA (omega-3 fatty acids). In some of the deficient diets, deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin E and choline were less than 50% of the NRC Recommended Allowances.

Nine recipes exceeded the NRC Safe Upper Limit for vitamin D, and six recipes exceed the Safe Upper Limit for EPA/DHA. 6.5% of the recipes included garlic or onions, which are considered toxic to dogs because of their potential to cause the destruction of red blood cells and lead to anemia.

92% of the recipes were vague and required one or more assumptions on the part of the owner concerning actual ingredients, preparation method or supplements. 29% of the recipes did not even include necessary supplements. 85.5% of the recipes did not include feeding instructions.

Not Surprised

The findings in this study verify my observations when I started my research on homemade diets. The lack of attention to detail by veterinarians, even those who are board certified in nutrition, and non-veterinarians may have serious long term problems for those wishing to feed quality homemade diets. We are already beginning to see an increase in puppies and dogs with osteoporosis presenting in veterinary hospitals.

The upside of the study is that it verified that recipes analyzed by available databases of human foods (providing that specific preparation was followed) were consistent with the chemical analysis of randomly chosen recipes. This means that if an author of a homemade recipe can provide a USDA database comparison of their recipe compared to NRC and AAFCO requirements for all essential nutrients (42 for dogs and 44 for cats) then the recipe is probably adequate.

The researchers of the study suggest that recipes include a safety margin of quantity of nutrients to allow for individual difference in digestibility and absorption of nutrients. Such recipes should exceed both NRC and AAFCO for all nutrients without exceeding the Safe Upper Limits. Table 1 is an example of the type of information that an author, or commercial food manufacturer for that matter, should be able to provide.

The amino acid taurine and the essential fat arachadonic acid should be included for cats. They should also specify the supplement brands that will provide the necessary levels of nutrients. If they are unable to provide all of this information, keep searching.

ingredients in pet food, homemade dog food, homemade cat food

Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Thinkstock

Comments  8

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  • Proof Vets Are Clueless
    06/06/2013 01:07pm

    This study is proof that many veterinarians, including the sainted "board certified veterinary nutritionists" are clueless about companion animal nutrition. Their vet school education in that arena is pretty much dismal. The solution, however, is not to give up and feed the junk food sold in vets' waiting rooms. It is to improve the recipes for home prepared meals consisting of fresh raw meats and vegetables.

  • Onions/Garlic
    06/06/2013 06:38pm

    "garlic or onions, which are considered toxic to dogs because of their potential to cause the destruction of red blood cells and lead to anemia."

    It is my understanding that onions and garlic and also very, very bad for kitties. Aren't they bad for the kidneys?

  • 06/07/2013 12:04pm

    Garlic in moderation is a healthful ingredient in dog food.

  • 06/06/2013 11:20pm

    Any chance for people getting their hands/eyes on those recipes that did pass?

  • 06/07/2013 12:09pm

    Here they are:

    10. Kelly NC, Wills JM. BSAVA manual of companion animal nutrition
    & feeding. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1996;38–41.
    11. Remillard RL, Crane SW. Small animal clinical nutrition: making
    pet foods at home. In: Hand M, Thatcher C, Remillard R,
    eds. Small animal clinical nutrition. 5th ed. Topeka, Kan: Mark
    Morris Institute, 2010;215.
    12. Moore A. Meaty meals; fish and fowl; vegetarian meals. In: Real
    food for dogs: 50 vet-approved recipes for a healthier dog. North
    Adams, Mass: Storey Publishing, 2001;25–52.
    13. Weiskopf J. Basic recipes for dogs. In: Pet food nation: the smart,
    easy, and healthy way to feed your pet now. New York: HarperCollins,
    2007;116–120.
    14. Brown S. Chapter 6: Building beef and chicken ABC recipes,
    step-by-step. In: Unlocking the canine ancestral diet: healthier
    dog food the ABC way. Wenatchee, Wash: Dogwise Publishing,
    2009;57–81.
    15. Olson L. Chapter 8: feeding homemade diets the easy way. In:
    Raw and natural nutrition for dogs: the definitive guide to homemade
    meals. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, 2010;57–64.
    16. Strombeck DR. Chapter 5: feeding a normal dog or cat. In:
    Home-prepared dog and cat diets. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University
    Press, 1999;82–103.
    17. Gillespie C, Sampson S, Orlean S. Meals, light meals, and
    snacks. In: Throw me a bone: 50 healthy, canine taste-tested recipes
    for snacks, meals, and treats. New York: Simon & Schuster,
    2003;45–79.
    18. Alinovi C, Thixton S. Dog food recipes. In: Dinner PAWsible.
    Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform,
    2011;71–113.
    19. Anne J, Straus M, Messonier S. Meaty meals, lighter meals. In:
    The healthy dog cookbook: 50 nutritious and delicious recipes
    your dog will love. 3rd ed. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications,
    2008;46–100.
    20. Schenck P. Section 2: home-prepared diets. In: Home-prepared
    dog and cat diets. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010;281–316.
    21. Healthy home made dog food recipes. Available at: www.
    healthyhomemadedogfoodrecipes.com. Accessed Mar 13, 2012.
    22. Alley L. Natural home and garden fine dining: homemade pet
    food recipes for dogs and cats. Available at: www.naturalhomeandgarden.
    com/pets/fine-dining-homemade-pet-food-recipesdog-
    food-recipes-cat-food-recipes.aspx?page=2#ixzz1xiTIsvur.
    Accessed Jul 12, 2012.
    23. Loving pets. Homemade dog food recipes. Available at:www.
    lovingpetsproducts.com/homemade-dog-food-recipes/. Accessed
    Jul 12, 2012.
    24. American Preppers Network. Home prepared canned dog food.
    Available at: www.americanpreppersnetwork.com/2012/04/
    canning-homemade-dog-food-recipe-and-instructions.html.
    Accessed Jul 7, 2012.
    25. Anton Joseph Productions LLC. Cooking with Anton. Pets.
    Available at: www.cookingwithanton.com/pets.html. Accessed
    Mar 18,2012.
    26. Jones A. How to make a balanced meal for your dog at home. Available
    at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFBPqIeoK5M&feature
    =related. Accessed Mar 18, 2012.
    27. Allaboutpuppycare.com. Easy to make dog food, homemade
    dog food. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6sBoW13
    9Sc&feature=related. Accessed Mar 18, 2012.
    28. Just Food for Dogs. Just food for dogs—recipes. Available at:
    www.justfoodfordogs.com. Accessed Jul 12, 2012.
    29. Colley A. Home made dog food treat recipes. Available at: www.
    moneycrashers.com/homemade-dog-food-treat-recipes. Accessed
    Jul 12, 2012.
    30. Simply Pets.com. Dog meal recipes. Available at: www.simplypets.
    com/pet-recipes/Dog/Meal/336. Accessed Jul 13, 2012.
    31. Schenberg P. Dog nutrition advice. Available at: www.dog-nutritionadvice.
    com/elimination-diet.html. Accessed Apr 12, 2012.
    32. Golden Retriever Magic Bullet. Making your own dog food.
    Available at: www.golden-retriever-magic.com/making-yourown-
    dog-food.html. Accessed Jul 12, 2012.
    33. I-Love-Dogs.com. Dog food recipes. Available at: www.i-lovedogs.
    com/dog-food-recipes. Accessed Jul 21, 2012.
    34. Spector D. Home-cooked diet recipes. Available at: www.halopets.
    com/resources/homemade-pet-food-recipes.html. Accessed Feb
    12, 2010.
    35. Homemade Dog Food Recipes, Reviews, Ratings, Comparisons.
    Lady and Lola’s dog food recipe. Available at: www.recipe4
    gourmetdogs.com/2008/12/homemade-dog-food-recipe. Acccessed
    Jul 12, 2012.
    36. Terrifaj P. Home cooking: the alternative to pet food. Available at:
    www.foundersvet.com/home_cooking.htm. Accessed Jul 2, 2012.
    37. Easy Dog Recipes.com. Home-cooked dog food. Available at:
    www.easydogrecipes.com/Home-cooked-dog-food.html. Accessed
    Jul 7, 2012.
    38. TwoJunes. TwoJunes home made dog food recipe. Available
    at: www.cookingupastory.com/twojunes-homemade-dog-foodrecipe.
    Accessed Jun 9, 2012.
    39. Lang E. Homemade dog food: recipe and cost. Available at:
    www.wisebread.com/homemade-dog-food-recipe-and-cost. Accessed
    Jul 7, 2012.
    40. Fox M. Dr. Michael Fox’s homemade ‘natural’ food for dogs.
    Available at: www.twobitdog.com/DrFox/Dr-Fox-Homemade-
    Dog-Food. Accessed Jul 9, 2012.
    41. Ray R. Pooch fave recipes. Available at: www.rachaelray.com/
    pets/recipes.php. Accessed Mar 13, 2012.
    42. Remmillard RL. Sample pet food recipes—MSPCA-Angell.
    Available at: support.mspca.org/site/DocServer/. Accessed Mar
    7, 2012.
    43. Food.com. Homemade pet food recipes. Available at:www.food.
    com/recipe/. Accessed Mar 7, 2012.
    44. Bark bark I’m Hungry. Dog food recipes: entrees. Available at:
    www.barkbarkimhungry.com. Accessed Jul 7, 2012.
    45. Path2HealthyLiving.com. Basic dog food recipe. Available at:
    www.path2healthyliving.com/PetHealthBasicDogFoodRecipe.
    html. Accessed Mar 14, 2012.
    46. Dog Training Central. Homemade dog food recipes. Available
    at:www.dog-obedience-training-review.com/homemade-dogfood-
    recipes.html. Accessed Jan 2, 2012

  • 06/07/2013 03:16pm

    thank you

  • 06/08/2013 12:43pm

    I would also like to see the Journal of the American Veterinary Association do a comprehensive examination (or study) of commercial pet food formulas. Does this exist? Is it enough simply to have AAFCO approval of pet foods to show they provide an appropriate balance of nutrients? It's known that when commercial pet food manufactures use "premixes" of synthetic vitamins and minerals there are often excesses and/or deficiencies of some nutrients. Let's not forget this.

    Homemade diets should be improved from this information in this article; but it shouldn't be reason to dismiss them. I've seem some really bad recipes for homemade diets for cats (either raw or cooked), and some really good ones. On a couple sites with good recipes it seems that a lot of effort is put into some of these diets. An example is where I've seen much discussion about trying to find the best source for iodine for cats; giving an appropriate amount of this essential nutrient while not giving them too much (too much - or too little - can cause harm.

    Home-prepared diets can be the one of the best for companion animal, but we do need to be sure these diets are balanced to provide all (but not too much, not too little) of the nutrients for cats and dogs....But then again, cats and dogs are so adaptable.

  • 06/08/2013 04:17pm

    Having such a study would be a waste of time. Largely, only the commercial pet food companies fund these studies (and fund the salaries of the board certified veterinary nutritionists who conduct such studies, through grants to their schools), so any such reports would be result-oriented to please those companies. Why else would otherwise intelligent nutritionists publicly state that they prefer corn-based and meat by-product kibble over fresh meats and vegetables?

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