Researchers at the University of California, Davis have found that many homemade dog food recipes are nutritionally deficient. It is the largest sample of recipes studied to date. 200 recipes were taken from the internet and from cookbooks aimed at creating meals for dogs.
“95% of them were deficient in at least one nutrient, and at least 84% of them were deficient in more than one nutrient, so there were significant problems with nutritional adequacy,” said Jennifer Larsen, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition for the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
That could lead to long-term health problems for dogs. Among the nutrients that were found lacking were vitamin E, choline, and trace minerals like zinc, copper and also calcium.
Larsen says she understands why dog owners cook home meals for their pets. There have been several scares and recalls of commercial dog food, and for many cooking meals for their dogs is an intimate bonding experience. But many dogs also require a special diet because of a disease or illness.
Dog owner John Schuster, who was exercising his dog at the Toad Hollow dog park, believes home cooked dog food is more for the owners than their dogs.
“It’s about making the owner feel good – chickpeas and beans and carrots and all. It sounds good for you but it’s not necessarily good for a dog,” said Schuster.
Dog owner Jill Conn has heard bad things about home cooked diets.
“One person I knew was cooking chicken and rice and the Chihuahua died from improperly balanced meals,” said Conn.
She says she’s heard of other “whacky” diets owners put their dogs on.
Senior resident nutritionist Jonathan Stockman, who developed data for the study, agrees.
“The dog may be perfectly happy with a commercial diet, or with a very different diet than what the owner really likes for its needs,” said Stockman.
Board certified veterinary nutritionists prepare specialized meals everyday for patients at the UC Davis veterinary hospital. That includes using human foods to cater to the pallets of dogs. The researchers say some of the dog food recipes which were found to be deficient were created by veterinarians who don’t have the advanced certification.
Larsen says she would never say don’t cook or prepare home-made food for your dog. The greater lesson is to have the recipe checked out by a certified nutritionist before you feed your culinary creation to your dog.