Many dog owners that feed homemade diets to their dogs start with a basic recipe and then substitute proteins and carbohydrates in order to provide variety. Although this seems reasonable it actually can result in recipes that are nutritionally inadequate. All proteins and carbohydrates are not created equal.
Proteins and Homemade Dog Food
Proteins provide dogs with the amino acids they need for every cell structure and function. They can also be used as an energy source. Proteins are made of 22 different amino acids. Dogs can alter 12 amino acids as needed in order to fulfill the needs of their cells. The remaining 10 are essential and must be present in adequate amounts in the daily diet.
Different meats have different quantities of essential amino acids. Cooked chicken breast contains 95mg of the essential amino acid tryptophan per ounce of meat. On the other hand, cooked, lean ground beef contains only 48mg of tryptophan per ounce of meat.
It takes only 5 ounces of cooked chicken to meet the daily tryptophan requirement for a 50lb dog. It would take 10 ounces of cooked, lean, ground beef to provide the same amount of tryptophan. Without this information, a dog owner using a basic chicken recipe and substituting 5 ounces of ground beef, would be creating a diet woefully inadequate in tryptophan. This could have serious consequences for the dog.
Important amino acids like methionine and cysteine also vary widely from meat-to-meat and cut-to-cut. Without knowledge of the amino profile of different meats random substitution of meats in homemade diets is a recipe for nutritional deficiencies.
Carbohydrates and Homemade Dog Food
In addition to calories, the carbohydrates in homemade dog food provide a source of phosphorus and other nutrients. Different carbohydrates contain different amounts of calories and nutrients.
A basic homemade recipe for a 50lb dogs needs about 2½ cups of rice, barley or quinoa. However if a dog owner were to substitute oatmeal, couscous or macaroni, the recipe needs about 3¼ of these carbohydrates. Otherwise the recipe would have inadequate calories and nutrients. Again random substitutions would result in serious diet deficiencies.
No Generic Solution for Homemade Dog Food Recipes
Because meats and carbohydrates differ in their nutrient qualities, there is no generic homemade dog food recipe. Homemade recipes need to be formulated specifically for the meat and carbohydrate ingredients. Avoid recipe sources that only offer general guidelines and not individual recipes. Also make sure these sources offer the amounts of all necessary 42 daily nutrients in their recipes with a comparison to the standards established by the NRC or AAFCO or preferably both.
~Dr Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian