Why Feed Homemade Dog Food?
Some owners elect to feed their dogs homemade meals. This may be recommended by the dog’s veterinarian to address specific medical conditions or dietary needs. Other people just like to cook for their dogs and for whatever reason feel that homemade food may be tastier and more nutritious than commercially produced products. Unfortunately, the average pet owner doesn’t realistically have the time, experience, patience, money or nutritional background necessary to make well-balanced, safe, completely nutritious food for their dogs.
Some Things to Think About…
Homemade dog food is rarely less expensive than commercial dog food. It needs to contain high-quality, digestible protein, carbohydrate and fat sources and soluble fiber. Homemade diets must be supplemented to have any chance of being balanced and complete. Mineral levels must be tightly balanced, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, iodine and chloride, among others. Selenium, manganese, sulfur, cobalt, molybdenum, fluorine, chromium, silicon, tin, nickel and/or vanadium are thought to be important in a dog’s diet. All canines have to get vitamins from their food, because their bodies can’t manufacture them in sufficient quantities to support their daily needs. Fat-soluable vitamins that are important for dogs include vitamin A/retinol, vitamin D and vitamin E/alpha-tocopherol. Important water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins (thiamine [B1], riboflavin [B2], niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine [B6], folacin, choline, biotin and cyanocobalamin [B12]) and vitamin C/ascorbic acid. One of the main problems with homemade diets is that there is no good way to evaluate their nutritional completeness and balance.
Raw diets and BARF (“bones and raw food”) diets have become increasingly popular in recent years. These involve feeding a combination of raw meat and bones, raw fruits and vegetables and sometimes grains. It can be tricky to make a raw diet for dogs that is balanced and complete, for all the reasons discussed above. In addition, raw meat and poultry can harbor salmonella and other bacteria that can infect people, dogs and other household pets. These products must be handled, stored and fed with a great deal of care and strict attention to hygiene. Some bones and raw meat contain infectious parasites. Bones can splinter, causing painful wounds and serious internal damage. Bones also can chip teeth and create life-threatening gastrointestinal blockages.
Anyone considering cooking for their dog or feeding it an exclusively raw diet should have a long talk with their veterinarian. Even most vets aren’t qualified to come up with a safe, nutritious, balanced homemade diet that is suitable to feed dogs exclusively over the long haul. Owners considering these options should consult with a veterinary nutrition specialist for more guidance.