Is this a dilemma you face? You are not alone. We all want the best nutrition for our dogs but are not sure what the right choice is.
Commercial dog food has many qualities owners seek. Opening a bag or can and scooping it into the food bowl is certainly convenient. Commercial dog foods are also relatively inexpensive. A 50lb. dog can be fed dry kibble for about 13 to 40 cents/ day depending on the brand (I used Pedigree and Blue Buffalo for these figures). Canned food is more expensive but our 50lb. dog can be fed canned food for about $2/day
Commercial dog food is nutritionally adequate. Established standards by the Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO require that every dog food sold commercially in the United States contain specific quantities of the 42 essential daily nutrients for dogs.
Quality standards for ingredients are not as stringent. Commercial dog food is made with the scraps from meat slaughterhouses, grain processing plants and processed food manufacturers. The definition of “meat” by AAFCO includes tongue, esophagus, diaphragm and heart and the fat, skin, nerve, sinew and blood vessels that accompany these body parts. Any real muscle meat in commercial dog food is likely to come from animals deemed unfit for human consumption.
Meat by-products are defined as lungs spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, bone, fatty tissue, stomach and intestines free of their contents. Poultry by-products include heads, feet, viscera “free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practices.”
Homemade dog food is less convenient. Owners have to shop for the ingredients, cook, then mix with the proper supplements. Finished batches of food need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Feeding dogs homemade during travel is often problematic. Often vitamin and mineral supplements have to be ground from their pill form into powders for easy mixing with the food ingredients. Homemade is more expensive because it uses real cuts of meats and not carcass scraps.
The majority of homemade dog food recipes from books and internet sources are nutritionally inadequate. A recent study of 200 recipes from books and internet sources found 95% were nutritionally inadequate. Finding a trusted source for homemade diets is difficult and time consuming.
Homemade dog food does allow owner control of the quality of their dog food. Owners can choose real cuts of meat. Owners can choose from USDA grades to organic to free range to environmentally sustainable. Preparation in the owner’s kitchen is unlikely to result in the bacterial contamination that occurs in commercial plants that cause food recalls.
Owners that feed homemade dog food generally notice immediate changes in their dog’s fur quality and increased energy levels.
Nutritional control and improved health are the primary reasons dog owners want to feed homemade diets. Quality sources of recipe formulations, accurate feeding instructions and proper supplementation are available to owners wishing to feed homemade. By shopping carefully, homemade diets can compare in costs to commercial premium foods. The improved health on homemade food can reduce veterinary costs.
So which dog food is better? The answer is based on your needs and priorities. If cost and convenience are important then commercial dog food is the obvious answer. If you are more concerned about controlling the quality and safety of the diet and promoting maximum health in your dog then homemade is answer.
~Dr. Ken Tudor
THE DOG DIETITIAN