5. “My dog had some loose stools, so cutting way down on fiber will correct that.”
Fiber is an important dietary component, and the type of fiber you use counts as much or more than the amount (fiber is commonly used to address both constipation and diarrhea problems).
If your dog has loose stools on a homemade diet, switch to bland meals or cut back on the amount of food by about 30 percent for a day or so, and watch for other symptoms that might indicate an illness or parasites. If the problem doesn’t clear up within a few days, consult your veterinarian.
6. “I use a lot of fresh veggies in my dog’s diet because they offer so many health benefits.”
Vegetables’ role in the canine diet has been a topic of considerable discussion. One school of thought holds that adding them is inappropriate, since dogs are carnivores and do not need plant matter. Others emphasize the need for both veggies and fruit to boost not only essential nutrients but also phytochemicals that may provide protection from disease.
Unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores (animals who must get their primary nutrition from meat), dogs’ systems are more accommodating, and vegetables offer a lot in the way of health benefits. But here again, we are faced with the all-important questions, “How much and what type?” Some vegetables have elements that may interfere with the absorption of minerals, and others, such as those in the nightshade family—tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants and peppers—contain solanine, an alkaloid that some theorize aggravates inflammation. Use veggies judiciously: Limit dark leafy greens—which contain high levels of oxalate and may contribute to bladder stones in dogs who are prone to them—and be conservative with nightshades. Green beans and carrots are usually safe bets, and pumpkin and sweet potatoes are well tolerated (unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are not in the nightshade family, but are high in calories and starch).
7. “Dogs don’t require carbs, and grains are bad for them.”
This is one of the most often-quoted—and misunderstood!—of all the ideas here. It seems to come from National Research Council studies, which conclude that dogs have no strict requirement for dietary carbohydrates. Briefly put, canines can metabolize adequate glucose (blood sugar) from a diet consisting of fat and protein alone.
All this means is that lack of carbohydrates will not lead to an identifiable deficiency in the way that a lack of Vitamin C in humans will produce scurvy. It does not, however, mean that a carb-free diet is a good idea. To complicate this issue, many people use the terms “carbohydrate” and “grain” interchangeably, thinking they’re following a no-carb diet because they have eliminated grains.
Complex carbohydrates provide energy and aid in healthy gastrointestinal function, and some portion of your dog’s homemade food should consist of brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, legumes (which also add protein) or starchy vegetables. Try to keep levels consistent so if need be, you can make adjustments.
8. “A raw diet is always superior to one that’s cooked—dogs fed raw do not get sick.”
Raw diets vary in type; some seek nutrient balance while others utilize a “prey model” approach, which mimics the diet of wolves or wild dogs as closely as possible. These diets have become hugely popular over the past decade, and to be sure, there are dogs who absolutely thrive on them. But some do not. As with a cooked diet, it’s essential to ensure proper formulation. Raw diets have drawbacks as well as benefits, and may not be suitable for every dog.
If you are planning to try a raw approach, do your homework. Research both within and outside the various raw communities that exist on the Internet. Talk to veterinarians and nutritionists, read widely, and take your time.
9. “Raw diets are a dangerous fad. I’d be scared to try it.”