Anyone thinking about making dog food at home has an abundance of resources: Online recipes, cookbooks and instructional videos abound, and some human recipe websites even dedicate space to canine cuisine.
But it takes more than a couple clicks and a trip to the grocery store to make healthy and balanced pet food. Almost every dog food recipe analyzed in a 2013 UC Davis study lacked vital nutrients, clear instructions for preparation or even information on the size of pet it was meant to feed.
Just 10 of 200 recipes tested met minimum essential nutrient intake recommendations, and most had more than one deficiency. Recipes written by veterinarians had fewer deficiencies, and those deficiencies were less severe compared to those written by non-veterinarians.
Some of those deficiencies could cause immune system problems, musculoskeletal abnormalities or the accumulation of fat in the animal’s liver, said Jennifer Larsen, an associate professor of clinical nutrition at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and the lead author on the study.
“Homemade food is a great option for many pets, but we recommend that owners avoid general recipes from books and the Internet and instead consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist,” Larsen said. “These specialists have advanced training in nutrition to help formulate customized and nutritionally appropriate recipes.”
The UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital’s Nutrition Service works with pet owners and veterinarians to create customized home-cooked diets, crafting hundreds each year for pets around the world, Larsen said.