Feeding Homemade Dog Foods Things to consider


While the overwhelming majority of people feed their dogs commercial dog foods, over the last decade there has been a trend towards some people feeding a homemade diet.

Homemade Dog food

Some homemade dog food advocates believe that these diets are fresher and a good way to avoid contamination scares (although these can also be experienced with homemade diets, if adequate hygiene is not practiced), while others are just people who have a lot of time on their hands and a strong bond with their dog/s, and believe that taking the time to prepare meals for them is not only a way to ensure that they eat healthy but also to show affection.

If you're tempted to serve up homemade meals to your favourite furry friend, there are a number of factors to consider.

Ensuring Balanced Nutrition

The most common concern amongst dog nutritionists and veterinarians when it comes to homemade dog foods is balanced and adequate nutrition. Like humans, dogs have very specific nutritional requirements to grow, develop, function optimally and sustain good health. According to experts, the biggest challenge when feeding a homemade diet is adequately balancing foods to supply optimum nutrition.

Whether you get recipes from a book or the internet, it is always advisable to have them vetted by your dog's veterinarian or a dog nutritionist (if you have access to one) to ensure that they will adequately meet your dog's nutritional requirements. Always keep in mind that your dog's food should contain a source of carbohydrates and protein, a small amount of good fat and sufficient vitamins and minerals.

Examples of a home cooked diet could contain combinations of rice and lamb, chicken and pasta or beef and potatoes. Adding a serving of fruit and vegetables is also a good idea, although you should be careful to avoid foods that could be harmful to your dog like onions, garlic, raisings, grapes, currant, pits of fruit and veggies, chocolate and raw eggs or meat. All meat and eggs should be cooked to reduce risks of exposure to Salmonella and EColi.

If you do decide to go the homemade dog food route you should have you dog evaluated by a veterinarian at least twice a year to ensure that he/she is in good health. It is also important to bear in mind that dogs in different stages of life or those with medical disorders often have very different dietary requirements to normal, healthy adult dogs and this should be taken into account and discussed with a vet or dog nutritionist prior to embarking on a homemade diet regime.

Supplements

In general, dogs eating a high quality, scientifically formulated commercially manufactured dog foods do not generally require additional supplementation, those on a homemade diet do.

Calcium deficiencies are the most commonly seen results of homemade diets that are not professionally balanced. This poses a great risk to a dog's health as a calcium deficiency can lead to the development of a condition termed nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism which results in soft bones and fractures. Growth may also be affected due to a lack of calcium.

In addition to calcium, other minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium may also need to be supplemented as these play integral roles in many bodily functions.

You should however always seek advice from your vet before adding supplements to your dog's diet.

Costs and Time

It is obviously more time consuming to cook food for your dog than it is to purchase commercial dog foods and the cost will depend on the size of your dog. The bigger the dog, the more food they will require and the more expensive that will be.

If you feed a homemade diet you need to adhere to professionally formulated recipes and not "tweak" them to save time or money as changes can result in malnutrition in your dog. If you do need to make changes, consult your vet or a dog nutritionist before doing so.

Storage and Shelf Life

While commercially prepared dog foods have a long shelf life, fresh homemade dog foods don't. You will need to make a fresh batch every 2 to 3 days. Although it is possible to freeze portions and defrost them when necessary. Although, these should not be left in the freezer for too long before being used.

Homemade diets have both pros and cons. On the one hand they can be rewarding for you and your dog if professionally formulated, but on the other they do require a substantial investment of both time and finances and you will need to be extra vigilant to ensure that your dog is receiving adequate nutrition and his/her health is not being negatively affected in any way.