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Can You Prepare a Nutritionally Adequate Home-Made Diet for Your Dog?

Are you feeding your dog a homemade diet? Many pet owners have elected this option so, if you are, you are not alone. There are lots of reasons people decide to prepare their dog’s food at home; many of them are valid reasons. But how sure are you that the diet you are preparing for your dog is providing your dog with all of the nutrients he needs?

A recently completed study collected 200 recipes from textbooks, pet care books, and various websites. These recipes were evaluated for nutritional adequacy and balance. Because previous studies have shown that many home-prepared diets are not nutritionally balanced and may lead to detrimental effects when fed for extended periods of time, this study intended to be the first large scale study to evaluate published recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs. To date, it is largest ever evaluation of homemade recipes for canine maintenance. The results of the study were presented at the 2016 AAVN Clinical Nutrition and Research Symposium. (Source: Evaluation of published recipes for home-prepared canine maintenance diets. Stockman, J, Fascetti AJ, Kass PH, Larsen, JA. University of California, Davis)

Here are the results of the study:

●       Of the 200 recipes evaluated, 129 were written by veterinarians and 71 were written by non-veterinarians.

●       Computer software was used to assess all 200 recipes, while laboratory methods were used to analyze 15 of the diets prepared as directed by the recipes. Computer-based analysis was found to be highly predictive of nutritional inadequacies as measured and compared to laboratory analysis of the 15 selected diets.

●       Nutritional profiles of each diet evaluated were compared with the National Research Council (NRC) recommended allowances and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) minimum nutrient concentrations for adult dogs.

●       92% of the recipes contained incomplete instructions that required assumptions to be made by the owners.

●       Only three recipes met or exceeded the NRC recommended allowances and an additional 2 met or exceeded the NRC minimum requirements. All five of these recipes were written by veterinarians.

●       Only nine recipes met or exceeded the AAFCO profiles. Eight of the nine were written by veterinarians.

●       A whopping 95% of the analyzed recipes contained at least one essential nutrient deficiency. Many of them contained more than one deficiency.

●       Zinc, choline, copper, EPA + DHA, and calcium deficiencies were the most commonly identified inadequacies.

●       Periodic ingredient and/or recipe rotation was not shown to be an effective means of balancing the overall diet because so many contained similar deficiencies.

●       Four recipes evaluated were written by board-certified veterinary nutritionists. All four met or exceeded the AAFCO nutrient profiles for canine maintenance.

Does this mean that a home-cooked diet for your dog is ill-advised? No, not necessarily. It does mean, however, that choosing a generic recipe from a book, a magazine, or a website is not the best choice. Veterinarians, pet experts and pet owners alike, based on the results of this survey, may find preparing a nutritionally adequate diet challenging. Working with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist is your best option should you elect to feed a home-made diet.

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