In an earlier blog I featured a story of an English Bulldog that was admitted to an emergency referral veterinary hospital in congestive heart failure. The reason for the heart failure was a lack of the amino acid taurine in his diet. His owners had been feeding a vegan, hypoallergenic recipe that they found on the internet for the previous two years.
I recently talked to an emergency hospital veterinarian who said she was seeing an increasing number of puppies that were suffering skeletal problems due to inadequate homemade diets. The puppies are so calcium depleted that their bones are like rubber and they cannot play, walk or even eat.
The condition called osteomalacia is so severe in many of her cases, that she has been forced to recommend euthanasia to alleviate suffering that can’t be reversed by calcium supplementation. It is simply too late to overcome the months of calcium deficiency.
The massive pet food recalls for melamine contamination in 2007 frightened many pet owners from commercial pet food. They reasoned that any homemade preparations they fed would certainly be safer than the commercial products. Since then large numbers of recipe books for homemade dog food continue to be published yearly.
The internet is clogged with the same types of recipes. As a result, in the last few years more and more veterinarians are seeing health problems related to homemade diets. Studies have confirmed 95%
of homemade recipes are nutritionally inadequate, especially those offered by
non-veterinarians. And like the Bulldog mentioned above, it generally takes years
of malnutrition before the problem is evident, which in many cases, may be too
Pet owners further believe that a variety of foods will fill all the nutritional needs of dogs. So like they feed themselves, they can use a variety from the food pyramid and things should be fine. After all, we are told and believe that so many vegetable are “rich” in certain nutrients. I have had conversations with dog owners who insist that kale with their chicken and rice base homemade dog food provides all the necessary calcium because MD’s say kale is rich in calcium. Rich is a comparative term, rich compared to what?
For instance it would take 18 cups of cooked kale or 19 cups of chopped raw kale
per 1000 calories (homemade diets are formulated based on the nutrient requirement
for 1000 calories and dogs are then fed the appropriate number of calories for
their ideal weight) of food per day to meet a dog’s calcium needs.
The same is said for spinach which is also rich in calcium. 9 cups of cooked or 28 cups of raw spinach will deliver the daily amount of calcium needed daily - if your dog can eat that much.
Rich does not mean adequate
or even close to adequate, it only means more than something else.
You might say well that is ridiculous and adding a variety of foods rich in nutrients reduces the amount of each nutrient and would result in a healthy diet.
But how much of each do you add?
Do you know the nutrient values for every food so you know how to portion the various ingredients?
How much spinach?
How much liver?
Do you know what the contents of the varieties of foods you choose as substitutes?
Your dog may not show any symptoms now but what about years from now when nutrient deficiencies begin to appear if you guessed wrong about the amount of ingredients?
Formulating a healthy homemade dog food diet is not easy, only by knowing that all 42 nutrients are present in the correct amounts can you be sure of long term healthy diet. The recipes you select should spell out that information – if they don’t you are simply left to guess.
Don’t let your dog be a victim of an accelerating trend.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN