A new study has been published adding to the evidence, which I have discussed before(see articles listed below), that homemade diets are frequently nutritionally inappropriate and less consistent or reliable than commercial diets.
Larsen, JA. Parks, EM. Heinze, CR. Fascetti, AJ. Evaluation of recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs and cats with chronic kidney disease. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2012;240(5):532-8.
The authors looked at 39 recipes from websites and published books for both veterinarians and pet owners (most written by veterinarians) and identified as intended for dogs with kidney disease and 28 such recipes intended for cats. Though the optimal amount and proportion of every possible nutrient is certainly not known for pets with kidney disease, there are some nutrients for which it is fairly clear that animals with kidney disease have different requirements from healthy animals. And the minimal amount of most nutrients needed to avoid deficiency (though not necessarily the optimal amount) is known for most nutrients. The authors systematically compared the nutrient profile of the recipes they examined with known minimal nutrient requirements and with the established special needs of cats and dogs with kidney disease.
Almost all recipes were vague about key ingredients, requiring the owner to guess about exactly what ingredient to use. Similarly, almost all recipes recommended some sort of nutritional supplement but did not offer specific guidance as to type, quantity, or nutrients. Some recipes offered clearly incorrect information, such as suggesting baking soda as a calcium source even though it contains no calcium.
The authors conclusions were:
None of the recipes assessed in the study reported here provided adequate concentrations of all essential nutrients…Furthermore, many recipes did not accommodate currently accepted nutritional strategies for managing [chronic kidney disease].
There is no doubt that homemade diets can be healthy and appropriate for dogs and cats, both those that are well and those with diseases requiring special nutrition. However, the case has not been made that home-prepared diets are superior to commercial diets, as is often claimed. And while commercial diets may not be optimal nutritionally for many individuals, they are at least consistent and monitored for minimal nutritional adequacy. Any benefits home-prepared diets might have won’t matter if they are grossly deficient or inappropriate in terms of essential nutrients.
For my own clients who wish to feed home-prepared diets, I always recommend consulting with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist (try the local veterinary medical school, or PetDiets.com) to ensure the diet is nutritionally appropriate for the individual pet. Recipes have been repeatedly shown not to be reliable, even when created by veterinarians, and relying on them is likely to lead to feeding a nutritionally inappropriate diet.
- Freeman L, Michel K. Nutritional analysis of 5 types of “Raw Food Diets.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001;218(5):705.
- Lauten SD, Smith TM, Kirk CA, Bartges JW, Adams A, Wynn SG. Computer Analysis of Nutrient Sufficiency of Published Home-Cooked Diets for Dogs and Cats. Proceedings of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum 2005.
- Roudebush P, Cowell CS. Results of a hypoallergenic diet survey of veterinarians in North America with a nutritional evaluation of homemade diet prescriptions. Veterinary Dermatology 1992;3:23-28.
- Taylor MB, Geiger DA, Saker KE, Larson MM. Diffuse osteopenia and myelopathy in a puppy fed a diet composed of an organic premix and raw ground beef. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2009;234(8):1041-8.