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Homemade Dog Food

WebMD provides information on homemade dog food nutritional needs and supplementation, storage, recipe tips, and cost.

Homemade Dog Food: Balanced Nutrition continued...

Although owners can find abundant recipes for homemade dog food on the Internet and in books, “I would really encourage pet owners to take those recipes to their veterinarian and ask if the veterinarian could help them figure out if it’s balanced,” Abood says.

“Furthermore, owners doing homemade diets should have their pet and the diet evaluated at least two times a year.” Owners should also remember that dogs in different life stages or with medical disorders may have very different dietary needs than a normal, healthy adult dog.

Owners can also seek out a reputable veterinary nutritionist to help them create a balanced diet, Kirk says. Often, these experts can be found through a nearby veterinary school, or may be available to consult with your regular veterinarian via telephone or the Internet.

For pet owners who want to find dog food recipes online, Kirk and Abood suggest web sites that are operated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists. But owners will have to purchase the recipes or supplements required to balance the diets.


Homemade Dog Food: Supplementation

Do dogs eating homemade dog food need supplementation to ensure that they’re getting adequate nutrients? Abood and Kirk say yes.

They say nutritional deficiencies can lead to health problems. “Calcium is probably the most common deficiency in a homemade diet that isn’t professionally balanced,” Kirk says. When dogs don’t get enough calcium, they’re prone to a condition called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, which can cause soft bones and fractures, she says.

Abood has seen such effects on young dogs eating unbalanced homemade diets. “We see problems with their bone growth -- either they’re obviously not growing normally, so you see bent limbs, or they’re actually bent and bowed,” she says. “It can also be severe enough that we see broken bones.”

“If you correct the diet, you sometimes can correct the actual problem with the growth,” Abood adds.

Besides calcium, other vitamins and minerals are important, too, including magnesium, iron, and zinc, Abood says. “You need to have those covered, and it’s very challenging.”

Pet owners should ask their veterinarians for advice on supplementation.

Homemade Dog Food: Time and Cost

Of course, it’s more time-consuming to cook than to buy pet food at the store. As for cost, “much depends on the size of the animal,” Abood says.

Big dogs, for instance, Saint Bernards and Rottweilers, are costlier to feed than small breeds.

“If they have a dog that’s over 50 or 60 lbs. -- and they have two of them -- absolutely, the cost is going to be more, relative to the owner that has two miniature poodles or a Yorkie,” Abood says.

It's also important that owners remember to stay diligent and strictly adhere to the recommended dietary formula. Many owners, over time, will make small adjustments to the diet because of the ease of cooking or cost of ingredients, a phenomenon called “recipe drift”. You shouldn't make these changes without consulting a veterinarian, as they might lead to malnourishment.

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