Is Your Homemade Food Balanced?
After years of counting calories, starting (and stopping) fad diets for myself, I began to see the importance a healthy, balanced diet for not only myself, but our dogs as well.
While processed foods are convenient and provide a balanced diet at an affordable price, fresh foods are healthier for dogs just as they've been proven healthier for us, compare an orange and whole wheat bagel over an egg McMuffin. A well planned and balanced diet can prevent many common health problems.
"What you’re providing is not just a breath of fresh air for people looking for transparency and sourcing issues, but you’re really providing an alternative in the marketplace for people who are seeking fresh food diets with all the guesswork taken out of it in terms of nutritionally balanced," says Karen Becker DVM
Cooking for our dogs isn’t the same as cooking for ourselves, so it’s important to avoid some of these common mistakes
Social Media Is Not Always Accurate
I've found social media to be helpful, speaking with other dog owners can be less intimidating than speaking with a veterinarian. These interactions helped guide me through the final realization that not all food recipes are balanced. A Board Certified Veterinarian Nutritionist is the single most important source of information for balancing meals.
Although gaining support and sharing stories in a social media group is important, remember that you’re more likely to be interacting with dog owners and not veterinarians. A person with a lot of experience feeding their dogs a home-cooked diet could have zero experience feeding dogs a balanced diet.
Using Untested Dog Food Recipes
Dr. Sarah Abood sees many well-meaning dog parents creating diets of only ground beef and rice or chicken and rice. You can find recipes for homemade dog food online, but not all are balanced and can be missing important nutrients like Omega-3, calcium and probiotics. There's a misconception that varying a dog’s meals (and the ingredients in those meals) will provide balance and proper nutrients over time, but this isn’t the case.
According to a study of 200 published recipes for dogs, only nine recipes met or exceeded the National Research Council’s (NRC) recommended allowances or minimum requirements for all essential daily nutrients for dogs.
This study shows the importance of working with your veterinarian when developing a homemade diet for your dog and taking recipes from qualified sources, as we've done.
Please, Please Read The Label
Deciding which brand of pet food to buy can be confusing, especially since hundreds of dog and cat food products are introduced annually. As you sort through various brands, look for a nutritional statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The AAFCO determines appropriate levels of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in growth and maintenance cat and dog foods and helps set the standards for the pet food industry.
Manufacturers frequently use terms like natural, organic, premium or gourmet to appeal to pet owners, complete and balanced are the terms pet owners should be most concerned about.
The statement "This recipe exceeds the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for canine adult maintenance" is the true tell of weather or not your dogs food is balanced.
Before a food can be marketed as “complete and balanced,” it must undergo a strict feeding trial under AAFCO guidelines or meet AAFCO nutrition levels.
Too Many or Not Enough Calories in Homemade Foods
Dog owners who feed commercially prepared dog foods simply read the back of their dog food bag and know roughly how much food their dog needs per day. Following homemade dog food recipes means you're not provided with such concise nutritional information.
It is this lack of nutritional information that often results in underfeeding dogs or overfeeding dogs when beginning a homemade dog food diet.
This can be avoided by selecting our recipes that do provide nutritional information by calculating this information precision.
A Well-Balanced Human Meal is NOT Right for a Dog
Human beings are omnivores. We thrive on a diet that consists of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These macronutrients are optimized to meet our needs in a well-balanced meal.
Dogs, however, are carnivorous scavengers depending on primarily animal protein, but able to process small quantities of processed grain, fruits, and vegetables.
The ratios of these macronutrients required by dogs are much different to the macronutrients required by humans because dogs are not omnivores.