For every home feeder who sings the praises of a raw diet, I hear another one say she wouldn’t dare use foods that aren’t cooked. It’s as much a mistake to assume that raw is uniformly dangerous as it is to insist it’s a viable solution for every dog. I often use raw diets for dogs with allergies, or proactively where there are no problems and the owner has expressed an interest. One great advantage of this approach is ease of preparation. Consider your own needs and lifestyle as well as your dog’s when making this all-important decision about feeding.
10. “Dogs of all ages can be fed a similar diet, as long as it’s made up of whole foods.”
This can be a dangerous misconception. Puppies’ diets need to have at least twice, and in some cases, as much as five times the nutrient content of an adult dog’s. But although they require more nutrients, hyper-nutrition can be a serious problem, particularly in giant breeds. At the other end of the age range, though it was long thought that reducing dietary protein was in the best interest of seniors, current findings suggest they may actually require more protein than adult dogs.
If you are new to home feeding, learn as much as you can about canine nutrition before introducing your puppy or senior to a homemade diet. Better yet, work with an experienced nutrition consultant who can help you formulate and adjust the diet according to your dog’s growth needs. For seniors in particular, have a full geriatric screening run at least semi-annually to ensure that liver and kidney values are within normal range; aberrations in these numbers often indicate a need for changes in dietary management. Though poor nutrition causes problems no matter what the dog’s age, growing dogs and seniors pose greater challenges to the novice home feeder than do adult dogs, and mistakes made here can have serious consequences.
So, here’s the take-away message: A homemade diet remains a popular and potentially very healthy alternative or complement to the many premium foods on the market. However, research and planning are essential. Gather information from a wide range of sources, exercise a little caution, start slowly and don’t forget to check in with your vet or nutrition specialist regularly to be sure the diet hasn’t inadvertently drifted out of balance. Any diet on which your dog fails to thrive is a poor choice. If you see that your dog is not doing well on what you’re feeding him, consider a change. He will thank you for it.
Important: Many veterinarians, while acknowledging that pet food recalls and the poor quality of some pet foods are causes for concern, still feel that homemade diets, when fed exclusively, may result in nutritional imbalances and vitamin/mineral deficiencies that may pose threats to canine health. Therefore, if you choose to feed your dog a homemade diet, it is important that you understand and provide what your dog needs to stay healthy; veterinary nutritionists can assist in developing suitable homemade diets. While caution was taken to give safe recommendations and accurate instructions in this article, it is impossible to predict an individual dog’s reaction to any food or ingredient. Readers should consult their vets and use personal judgment when applying this information to their own dogs’ diets.