The Pending Health Epidemic for Dogs: Unhealthy Homemade Dog Food – Part 1

In and earlier blog I featured a story of an English Bulldog that was admitted to an emergency referral veterinary hospital in congestive heart failure. The reason for the heart failure was a lack of the amino acid taurine in his diet. His owners had been feeding a vegan, hypoallergenic recipe that they found on the internet for the previous two years.

I recently talked to an emergency hospital veterinarian who said she was seeing an increasing number of puppies that were suffering skeletal problems due to inadequate homemade diets. The puppies are so calcium depleted that their bones are like rubber and they cannot play, walk or even eat. The condition called osteomalacia is so severe in many of her cases, that she has been forced to recommend euthanasia to alleviate suffering that can’t be reversed by calcium supplementation. It is simply too late to overcome the months of calcium deficiency.


The massive pet food recalls for melamine contamination in 2007 frightened many pet owners from commercial pet food. They reasoned that any homemade preparations they fed would certainly be safer than the commercial products. Since then large numbers of recipe books for homemade dog food continue to be published yearly. The internet is clogged with the same types of recipes. As a result, in the last few years more and more veterinarians are seeing health problems related to homemade diets. Studies have confirmed 95% of homemade recipes are nutritionally inadequate, especially those offered by non-veterinarians. And like the Bulldog mentioned above, it generally takes years of malnutrition before the problem is evident, which in many cases, may be too late.

Pet owners further believe that a variety of foods will fill all the nutritional needs of dogs. So like they feed themselves, they can use a variety from the food pyramid and things should be fine. After all, we are told and believe that so many vegetable are “rich” in certain nutrients. I have had conversations with dog owners who insist that kale with their chicken and rice base homemade dog food provides all the necessary calcium because MD’s say kale is rich in calcium. Rich is a comparative term, rich compared to what?

For instance it would take 18 cups of cooked kale or 19 cups of chopped raw kale per 1000 calories (homemade diets are formulated based on the nutrient requirement for 1000 calories and dogs are then fed the appropriate number of calories for their ideal weight) of food per day to meet a dog’s calcium needs.



The same is said for spinach which is rich in iron. 9 cups of cooked or 28 cups of raw spinach will certainly deliver the daily amount of iron needed daily, if your dog can eat that much.



For liver which is thought to be the richest source of iron, homemade dog food would require 6 ½ cooked ounces per day. Unfortunately this would also add levels of vitamin A that can be toxic to the liver.



Rich does not mean adequate or even close to adequate, it only means more than something else.

You might say well that is ridiculous and adding a variety of foods rich in nutrients reduces the amount of each nutrient and would result in a healthy diet.

  • But how much of each do you add?
  • Do you know the contents of every nutrient for every food so you know how to portion the various ingredients?
  • How much spinach to how much liver?
  • Do you know what the contents of the varieties of foods you choose as substitutes?

Your dog may not show any symptoms now but what about years from now when nutrient deficiencies begin to appear if you guessed wrong about the amount of ingredients?

Formulating a healthy homemade dog food diet is not easy, only by knowing that all 42 nutrients are present in the correct amounts can you be sure of long term healthy diet. The recipes you select should spell out that information – if they don’t you are simply left to guess.

Don’t let your dog be a victim of an accelerating epidemic trend.

~Dr Ken Tudor,


 Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

There are 9 comments

  1. Marcela

    Good post, but aside from pointing out the problem, my question is, what is the solution? Commercial dog food, and this is based on my dogs’ health, even the one that is called premium gave Alex, my 12 year old pit mix, an upset stomach at least once a week, dull hair, little appetite and stinky stool to mention a few. My other dog, Bella, when she was only on commercial dog food would poo 4 times a day and it smelled like something died. What would be a good diet for a dog?

    1. Dr Ken Tudor

      We agree that homemade is better than commercial. That is why we founded Hearthstone Homemade for Dogs. It isn’t easy making completely balanced homemade dog food, but I needed to because my grand dog, Socrates, could not eat commercial food. I developed a recipe and supplement program that not only ensures every bite is completely balanced but also promotes better health and a longer life. Now Socrates is healthy and we want to share that program with all dogs and their pet parents. Check us out
      Dr. Ken Tudor

  2. Run A Muck Ranch

    Confusion on the bulldog case: Taurine is not an essential amino acid, nor is there a requirement (NRC, AAFCO and peer reviewed journals) for it in dogs.

    How would the heart problem be related? Is it the potential that the lack of the amino acids that could be converted to taurine?

    I wish “vegan diet” and “dog” wouldn’t be used in the same sentence. I’m a vegetarian human who lays hands on a lot of meat and offal for my dogs. I wouldn’t attempt vegan on a dog. If dogs were meant to be vegan, there wouldn’t be starving dogs in cornfields!

    1. Dr Ken Tudor

      Sorry for the confusion. I inserted the link for the entire story hoping that would add more clarity and save space in this post. You are right, dogs have a much smaller need for taurine than cats, but they still need it in their diets. The NRC and AAFCO requirements assume these needs will be met with their total protein recommendations, which are not based on entirely vegetable sources, hence the no listing as a necessary nutrient in their standards. Taurine is only dispensable when there are adequate surlfur containing amino acids in the diet, namely methionine and cystine. These sulfur amino acids are limited in most vegetable or legume protein sources. The case of the bulldog resulted in a diet consisting entirely of lentils, brown rice and potato without a protein source for taurine, i.e meat. Consequently he developed the heart condition associated with taurine deficiency that would not have happened with the slightest amount of meat or taurine supplement added to the diet. These owners, unlike you, were not aware of the nutritional needs of their dog.

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