When it comes to providing your dog with well-balanced, wholesome nutrition many dog owners worry that commercial dog foods simply aren’t enough. It is true that many commercial pet foods are made with low-quality ingredients and only meet the most basic nutritional needs for dogs, but that is not true of all dog foods. Still, many pet owners wonder whether it would be better for their dogs if they started making their own dog food at home. Homemade dog food has its pros and cons, as does any type of dog food, and it can be very challenging to create a well-balanced homemade dog food diet. If you are thinking about switching to a homemade dog food diet, take the time to learn the advantages and disadvantages of this decision – you should also learn how to do it properly before you decide whether it is really a good idea to make the switch.
Pros and Cons of Homemade Dog Food
As it has already been mentioned, there are both pros and cons associated with switching to a homemade dog food diet. Providing your dog with a high-quality, nutritious diet is the key to maintaining his health and wellness, so changing his diet is not a decision that should be made lightly. Below you will find a list of pros and cons associated with homemade dog food:
Pros of Homemade Dog Food
- Homemade dog food can be made fresh so that the ingredients retain their maximum nutritional value.
- If your dog suffers from food allergies, a homemade dog food diet may enable you to control his exposure to the offending ingredient.
- With homemade dog food you can control the ingredients, limiting your dog’s exposure to artificial preservatives, flavors, dyes, and hormones.
- A homemade dog food diet may be more cost-effective than certain specialty diets like raw food diets for dogs.
- Making your own dog food enables you to cater directly to your dog’s taste – this is especially beneficial if your dog is a picky eater.
- You can make homemade dog food using many of the ingredients you purchase for yourself and your family (ex: fresh meat, vegetables, eggs, etc.).
- Homemade dog food will always be fresh – this may make it more appealing and palatable for your dog.
Cons of Homemade Dog Food
- It can be difficult to strike the right balance of nutrients with a homemade dog food – you need to use a recipe approved by an animal nutritionist.
- Homemade dog food is typically made fresh so it has a shorter shelf-life than commercially prepared dog food.
- Making your own dog food might be more expensive than commercial dry dog food.
- There is a greater risk for your dog developing nutritional deficiencies on a homemade dog food diet if you don’t provide the right balance of nutrients.
- Homemade dog foods are often made raw which increases the risk for food-borne illness.
- Creating a nutritionally balanced homemade dog food requires a lot of research to make sure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met.
Addressing Common Myths and Misconceptions
Before deciding whether or not a homemade dog food diet is right for your pet, take the time to consider some common myths and misconceptions. Many dog owners believe that a homemade dog food diet will improve their dog’s nutrition, but they do not understand how difficult it is to create a well-balanced homemade dog food. Below you will find a list of several misconceptions regarding homemade dog foods:
1. Homemade dog food is easy – you just need to provide a variety of wholesome foods.
While it is true that wholesome, natural foods will provide your dog with the maximum degree of nutrition, striking the right balance of those nutrients can be fairly difficult. Commercial dog foods follow strict formulas to ensure that they meet the AAFCO requirements for balanced nutrition. When you make your own dog food at home you may not be using the ingredients in the right proportions to meet your dog’s nutritional needs.
2. Giving my dog a multivitamin will cover any gaps in his nutrition.
Many dog owners believe that giving their dog a multivitamin is enough to fill any nutritional gaps left by their homemade dog food recipes. While a multivitamin may help to supplement your dog’s nutrition, there are too many multivitamins out there so it can be difficult to choose the one that will provide the right balance of nutrients. Your dog’s nutritional needs vary depending on his size, age, breed and sex so the multivitamin that works for one dog might not work for another. Plus, the nutrients in multivitamins are less biologically valuable than the nutrients in fresh, wholesome foods.
3. My dog’s nutritional needs are similar to my own so I can just feed him what I eat.
In reality, dogs have very different nutritional needs than humans. Humans are omnivores and the average human diet is composed primarily of carbohydrates with some protein and fat. Dogs, on the other hand, are primarily carnivorous so they require a diet that is high in protein. In order to ensure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met, you need to learn what they are by speaking to an animal nutritionist or by doing your own research.
4. Adding yogurt to my dog’s homemade food will cover his needs for calcium.
Dogs actually require very high levels of calcium and adding yogurt to your homemade dog food recipe probably won’t cut it. Consider this – a 75-pound dog requires about 2,000mgs of calcium per day, or 14,000mgs per week. A diet of turkey, ground lamb, liver, sardines, brown rice, and squash provides about 1,750mgs of calcium. This means that you need to provide an additional 12,000mgs per week which equates to about 40 cups of yogurt – it is extremely unlikely that your dog will eat that much yogurt in a week and, even if he did, it would put him over his daily recommended calorie intake.
5. I should use a lot of vegetables in my homemade dog food so my dog gets the nutrients he needs.
Fresh vegetables are an important part of a homemade dog food diet, but they should not make up the majority of the formula. Protein is more important than carbohydrate for dogs and that protein should come from animal-based sources, not plant-based sources. There is a great deal of debate regarding how much carbohydrate a dog’s diet should include and certain vegetables are better than others for dogs. In fact, some vegetables (like nightshades including eggplant and tomatoes) actually interfere with your dog’s absorption of nutrients. Some vegetables are also too high in certain nutrients and others are too starchy.
6. Grains are always bad for dogs.
It is a very common misconception that all grains are bad for dogs because they are so high in carbohydrate. In reality, certain grains are a good source of dietary fiber for your dog and as long as they are whole grains and properly cooked, they have some nutritional value. If your dog suffers from a grain-related food allergy, however, it is true that grains are bad for him and should be avoided. For the most part, however, easily digestible whole grains can play an important role in a well-balanced homemade dog food diet.
7. The same homemade dog food diet can be used for puppies, adults and senior dogs.
The nutritional needs of dogs vary slightly in different life stages. Puppies, for example, require more protein and calcium to support the growth and development of their bones and joints. Senior dogs may require a lower calorie diet as their metabolism slows down to prevent them from gaining too much weight. Before you feed your dog a homemade dog food diet you need to make sure that it provides the right balance of nutrients for your dog according to his age and activity level. Working with an animal nutritionist will help to make sure that your homemade dog food is properly balanced.
8. A raw homemade dog food diet is better than a cooked diet.
Both raw food and cooked diets for dogs have their associated pros and cons. Raw food diets tend to preserve more of the natural nutrient content of the ingredients but it puts your dog at a greater risk for food-borne illness. Cooked dog foods might have a slightly lower nutritional value but they may also have a longer shelf-life and they are sometimes safer, especially for young dogs. Before you choose the type of homemade dog food diet you want to use, consult your veterinarian.
Now that you’ve learned the basics about homemade dog food diets you should have a better idea whether or not it is the right choice for your dog. If you do decide to make your own dog food at home, be sure to do your research to determine your dog’s individual nutritional needs and then select a recipe that will meet those needs. Ideally, you should use a recipe that has been created or approved by an animal nutritionist and you should follow the formula careful to prevent any nutritional deficiencies in your dog’s diet.