Homemade Dog Food (cont.)

Homemade Dog Food: Supplementation

Do dogs eating homemade dog food need supplementation to ensure that they're getting adequate nutrients? Abood and Kirk say yes.

They say nutritional deficiencies can lead to health problems. “Calcium is probably the most common deficiency in a homemade diet that isn't professionally balanced,” Kirk says. When dogs don't get enough calcium, they're prone to a condition called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, which can cause soft bones and fractures, she says.

Abood has seen such effects on young dogs eating unbalanced homemade diets. “We see problems with their bone growth -- either they're obviously not growing normally, so you see bent limbs, or they're actually bent and bowed,” she says. “It can also be severe enough that we see broken bones.”

“If you correct the diet, you sometimes can correct the actual problem with the growth,” Abood adds.

Besides calcium, other vitamins and minerals are important, too, including magnesium, iron, and zinc, Abood says. “You need to have those covered, and it's very challenging.”

Pet owners can ask their veterinarians for advice on supplementation. For example, some veterinarians will even recommend human supplements, such as Tums, as a calcium source for dogs, Kirk says. Or, owners can purchase a recommended supplement online.

Homemade Dog Food: Time and Cost

Of course, it's more time-consuming to cook than to buy pet food at the store. As for cost, “much depends on the size of the animal,” Abood says. Big dogs, for instance, Saint Bernards and Rottweilers, are costlier to feed than small breeds. “If they have a dog that's over 50 or 60 lbs. -- and they have two of them -- absolutely, the cost is going to be more, relative to the owner that has two miniature poodles or a Yorkie,” Abood says. It is also important that owners remember to stay diligent and strictly adhere to the recommended dietary formula. Many owners over time will make small adjustments to the diet because of the ease of cooking or cost of ingredients, a phenomenon called “recipe drift”. These changes should not be made without consulting a veterinarian as they might lead to malnourishment.