Any missing nutrition in this dogfood recipe?
July 6, 2024 6:37 PM   Subscribe

For various reasons, we are now making food for our dogs.

They are both over 11 years old. One is about 15 pounds, the other about 25 pounds. There is no specific illness or deficiency we're addressing.

This recipe was recommended to us:

They like it. It seems simple to make in batches.

What's missing, nutritionally? What's present that should be taken out?
posted by Number Used Once to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So, you're probably going to see a lot of different philosophies for feeding your dog.
What stands out to me here, is that this recipe has a tremendous amount of starches- carbohydrates. They are centrally fillers and of no real nutritional value for your dog. They lead to obesity and all the other problems that come with obesity.
I would say that what is missing is more animal products- organs, skin, bone, and cartilage. Dogs thrive on this. Yes, dogs are scavengers and can subside on many foods. But the most nutritious is animal products.
posted by Lucky Bobo at 7:14 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]

I’m assuming you’re intending for your recipe to be their main dog food, as opposed to mixing it with commercial kibble. If that’s the case, you should consider a supplement like BalanceIt. It’s really difficult to give your dogs all the nutrients they need with a single recipe. In the wild they would eat a varied diet. When we did only homemade food, I used BalanceIt and their recipe calculators to ensure I was feeding my dog correctly.
posted by bluloo at 8:11 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]

I would not put peas in it. As you may know peas may or may not cause heart disease in dogs. I'm not going to wait til they hash this out. I'm just not going to chance it.

I would not feed green beans, even organic.
see Consumer Reports

For carbs, my dogs definitely need some carbs, I was raised to, when in doubt, feed a dog hamburger and white rice. This is old school dog breeder advice for when a dog may be not digesting regular dog food.

So when I went home cooked (when my dog refused to eat kibble) I fed him hamburger and BROWN rice, I thought that would be healthier. then I fed him two days - just hamburger, I was experimenting. Three days later he threw up - all of the day one meal completely undigested! He didn't digest the brown rice in three days! I don't know if all dogs can't digest brown rice? But mine can't.

Then I did not go to white rice because I am concerned about this -new to me- concern that humans should not eat rice that has been left out. It develops some kind of toxin. Does this affect dogs? I don't know, I'm not going to chance it - since at this point he was maybe not eating all of his food at once and letting it sit in his bowl for hours.,

So there was a change a few years ago - I think it was because so many women went No WHeat, that dog food manufacturers started making their food with rice as the carb. Then they changed formulas and I know a lot of dogs didn't like the smell of the new formula and left food in their bowls for hours? Did the rice develop the toxin? I don't know but that is one of my theories.

SOmething I eat and I found out my dog loves is brown rice noodles. He can digest them and he eats every bit so I don't have to worry about him leaving food in his bowl to develop toxins.

So my current formula is some kind of meat, hamburger, well cooked salmon (raw salmon may have worms in it), mackerel, chicken, and I add about a 1/4 of brown rice noodles. Then I may add a scoop of canned pumpkin (unsweetened) and a scoop of yogurt or cottage cheese.

I don't feel like dogs need vegetables but I am still experimenting with my recipe. He can not eat too much in one meal. So I feed him about a third of a cup 4 times a day. I think this is unique to him. But if my dog was throwing up I would first try feeding him smaller meals.

My friend gives her dog a sprinkle of ground pumpkin seeds in each meal to prevent worms.

My dog is thriving. Have been feeding him like this for 6 months.

The reason I do this is I did have a bad experience with kibble about 6 years ago where my dog would trow up every meal. I changed dog food and he was fine so I believe it was bad brand. Currently, my dog, 6 months ago just refused to eat his kibble at all he acted like it smelled bad. I would put toppers on and he would carefully just eat the toppers. I tried different brands. He lost a lot of weight and would just refuse to eat.

I learn a lot from the Facebook group
Healthy Homemade Dog Food Recipes

My dog also hates treats and I will not buy any treat from CHina.
He loves fish skin called Ocean CHews
I cut string cheese into bites for training treats.
posted by cda at 9:28 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

CDA's answer is great.

We feed our cats homemade food and have done so successfully (and with great results) for 13 years. A critical piece of our process is that our recipe was developed by a vet and includes supplements.

Other than the supplements, everything in our cat food is a protein (and water). Bone in chicken thighs, eggs, and chicken livers. I would be suspicious of your recipe (but I'm not a vet or a dog owner)
posted by arnicae at 9:49 AM on July 7

Response by poster: One interesting common thread I'm seeing is that this recipe has too much non-protein stuff in it. That seems interesting to me, as I thought protein was directly related to energy and activity levels in dogs, and a high protein content isn't actually indicated for older and relatively inactive dogs (walked twice a day, don't worry) like these.

Here's one of the first results when I googled this a minute ago, which claims dogs like these should have about 18% of their diet be protein + 9-15% fat. That adds up to < half% of their caloric intake dedicated to fat and protein:

That's clearly more carbs than wild dogs and wolves get. I'm sure it's influenced by various pet food industries wanting to produce cheaper food products with less meat and more grains in them, but is there any evidence it's actually unhealthy?

I looked on the balaceit website and it looks like this recipe is fairly close to the linked one, with some suggested adjustments I'm likely to make:

Can someone suggesting much higher protein intake share some support for needing such a high level of protein, and what are the target macronutrient percentages?
posted by Number Used Once at 11:33 AM on July 7

I have been going down such a rabbit-hole on canine nutrition.

I'm still in the rabbit-hole, but this is what I've got so far.

1. There are veterinary nutrition programs at some universities publishing good info, e.g.,

2. JustFoodForDogs--bless their hearts-- publishes their DIY recipes that can be made at home. You'd have to add their supplement powder to your homemade meal to make it 100% complete.

JFFD also seems to be a leader in evidence-based dog nutrition
posted by superelastic at 12:29 PM on July 7

The recipe you posted with only ground turkey does not seem like it has enough fat, enough calcium and phosphorous, and it does not have any salt. Dogs need all these things in their diet (though only a tiny bit of sodium)

Small Animal Clinical Nutrition (SACN) published guidelines suggest about 0.2-0.4% sodium in a young adult dog’s daily diet. They define this as a "risk factor management" range. Using the high end of the range, that would work out to approximately 500-1000 mg of sodium (based on approximately 250 grams or about 2 cups of kibble per day) for a typical medium sized dog. For older dogs, the guidance is lowered to 0.15-0.4% in their daily diet.

When we made homemade food for our dog, we used bone-in chicken thighs when cooking, and then removed the bones and chunks of cartilage from the final product. This added all the bone broth goodness and extra protein from the gelatin produced. We also added an omega 3 and 6 supplement (see fat link above) and a tiny bit of salt. Because we fed this to our cats too, we also added taurine in the form of ground dried liver. Instead of rice, we added sweet potatoes for some carbs and fiber. We also added a bit of calcium and phosphorous which is very important in homemade diets. I don't have an exact recipe because we haven't made it in a while.

If there's not enough protein from animal sources, they may become deficient in taurine as well (dogs can make taurine from amino acids (methionine and cysteine), but if there aren't enough of these amino acids, they can't make taurine). This is the issue with pea and other vegetable proteins and thier relationship with heart disease.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:01 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

The concern with carbohydrates in dog food is overblown, imo. Dogs prefer overall more protein and fats than humans, but cooked carbs are perfectly fine for dogs, and will not lead to obesity or other negative health outcomes on their own. Overfeeding of any food causes obesity, and there are real health concerns correlated with feeding a grain free diet. Dogs should not be compared to wolves in this way, or to feral dogs, since the one is different species, and the other is not living under ideal conditions. Remember that humans and dogs have been sharing food, including grains/starches, for upwards of 15 thousand years.

cda is correct that there are potential risks in cooked rice or any other starchy foods, including wheat and potatoes, kept at room temperature for long periods, from a bacteria called Bacillus cereus. The spores of this bacteria are resistant to heat and produce a toxin when left to grow at room temps. Another common bacteria (Clostridium perfringens) with a similar toxic profile is found on meats (including meat gravy and broths). This is a real danger when feeding homemade or raw diets to dogs, so be sure to always use good food safety practices!

I do agree that this specific recipe seems a little low in fats, especially if using turkey, since that is a very lean meat. Adding in some fattier cuts and offal (liver, bone marrow, tripe, etc) can make this much more nutritious. Brown rice can be harder to digest; since the bran is intact it may not spend enough time in the digestive system, so it may in practice be acting as indigestible fiber and not meaningfully contribute to calories.

Note also that this blogger is adding the Balance It supplements (in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it mention) and is not relying entirely on this recipe, which is not that surprising considering the overall health-washed tone of the blog. In general, I wouldn't trust the nutrition advice of anyone who generically disparages commercial dog foods, as this blogger does, calling it "questionable gelatinous gunk." To me that speaks of a basic lack of understanding of the complicated science of nutrition. I definitely recommend discussing with your veterinarian, since they'll have the most breadth of experience of the potential pitfalls of an all homemade diet and know your individual dogs and their health well.
posted by radiogreentea at 9:25 AM on July 8

I fed my larger (60 - 75 pound) dogs a similar basic recipe to the one you posted above and they were both very healthy for many years. I used ground turkey, brown rice, sweet potatoes, olive oil, fish oil and and crushed eggshells for calcium. I cooked the whole thing in a giant stockpot with water for about three hours until it was all sort of the consistency of canned dogfood - I did it every week and then doled it out twice daily. I occasionally added canned fish, sometimes I tossed in spinach or other greens. They both lived to be 14.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:10 PM on July 9

« Older Ghibli movie with food   |   Tell me everything you know about The Muppet Show! Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments