Why a Complete and Balanced Dog Diet is Vital

…And How to Get There if You’re Making Your Dog’s Food

Oliver and Wallace enjoy a variety of proteins, vegetables, and some starches. We also utilize a quality vitamin supplement to achieve balance in the diet.

On Sundays, I enjoy selling treats at the local farmer’s market. Of course, everyone LOVES to talk about their Best Friends! I LOVE talking about their Best Friends’ diets. My first question when someone tells me their beautiful, healthy dog’s advanced age is, “What are you feeding this dog?!” Often, the answer I hear is chicken and rice, or chicken and lentils, or some variant of protein and starch. Argh. While these are fine things to supplement a dog’s diet with, eating them every day will lead to a myriad of deficiencies. As tired as I get of hearing it from the feeding police on social media, a complete and balanced dog diet is vital!

What Does “Complete and Balanced” Mean?

Complete and Balanced as defined by AAFCO (The American Association of Feeding Control Officers) states that pet foods must meet certain minimums for protein, fat, and other nutrients. Of course, commercially produced foods do meet those minimums. However, many do not exceed them. Can we really trust Big Pet Food (Mars, JW Smucker, and Colgate-Palmolive) to put our pets’ health above massive profits?

AAFCO pet food trials require pet food to meet certain criteria to include the words “Complete and Balanced” to their standards on a pet food label.

  1. A minimum of 8 dogs; healthy weight; at least one year old
  2. The food has to keep the dogs alive for 26 weeks
  3. Additionally, the dogs cannot lose weight. However, it is not counted against the study if any dogs reach obesity status.
  4. If at least 6 of the dogs fit these parameters at the end of the study, the food is considered “Complete and Balanced”.

Ingrained Feeding Habits

We all have different opinions on what our Best Friends should eat. One thing is certain; many people believe their dog will experience stomach upset if switched to a different food, is rotated through other foods, or when given additions. Why is this? In my humble opinion, the complete and balanced police, (big pet food) has been telling us for years that if we deviate from the same kibble-fed diet our dogs will develop deficiencies or get sick. Plus, it’s just darn easy and convienent for people to feed one thing. Bonus if your pet gobbles it up!

Disclaimer: I do realize that some pets just DO need to eat the same thing for one reason or another. As I’ve mentioned before; feed the dog in front of you. The dog in front of you may just thrive on some variety in his diet!

Imagine this; you eat the same ultra-processed food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps it’s an Ensure shake or well-fortified cereal. Chances are, you’ll feel pretty crappy after a few days of this. It WILL, however, keep you alive. After all, it is a complete and balanced diet! After a few months, you may begin to develop illnesses. Indeed, dogs who are fed the same variety of kibble day in and day out, for their entire lives do tend to develop illnesses later in life. Half of all dogs over 10 will develop some sort of cancer. Could this be changed with more variety in their diets?

When we feed our Best Friends the same food (primarily kibble), day in and day out, things like allergies, intolerances, and leaky gut syndrome can flare up. Why? Isn’t the food complete and balanced? Yes, it likely is. However, as evidenced, those feeding trials aren’t the most comprehensive.

Plus, most all (with the exception of freeze dried foods) kibble is considered ultra processed. This means it’s exposed to heat several times, essentially killing off ALL of the living nutrients in the food. Of course, these are added back in in the form of synthetic vitamins and minerals.

Complete and Balanced for the Real World

Think for a moment of how you eat. How you feed your children. Is every. single. meal. complete and balanced? Of course not! In our own diets, we achieve balance over time. When I eat a lots of restaurant meals, skimp on the veggies, or overindulge in sugar, I feel it. My body craves the nutrients it needs and eventually balances out.

Wolves will often first eat the entrails (with the green stuff) of their kill, followed by the vitamin-rich organs, then muscle meat, bones, and hair. Essentially, the wolf is achieving complete and balanced nutrition directly through mother nature. Obviously, your dog is not a wolf. However, he does share much of the same DNA. A dog’s DNA is 0.02% away from a wolve’s. That’s it.

Many people who feed a raw diet prescribe to the knowledge that it’s OK to balance their dogs’ nutrition over time. For instance, over the course of a week, the dog is provided with several types of protiens, balanced fats, along with the vitamins and minerals in those foods. This achieves balance over time. These dogs too, are eating a complete and balanced diet. While each meal is not considered complete and balanced, they get all their nutrients over time.

My (Imperfect) Complete and Balanced Method

A sample breakfast that we rotate through. Yes, there is lentil pasta in there, and yes, my dogs enjoy it and are healthy. I recommend against regular wheat pasta as it can be treated with glysophate and wheat does not hold any nutritional value for dogs.

For my 2 dogs, I make homemade breakfast which is relatively carb-heavy (a no-no in strict raw feeding groups). The base may be lentil pasta or quinoa mixed with some cooked greens and meat. Breakfast is supplemented with a high quality vitamin powder, calcium (a must!), an egg (not every day) or fish; typically sardines, mackeral, or canned wild-caught salmon.

They enjoy a raw meaty supper. I do this for ease and budgetary reasons. Additionally, I will prepare about 2 weeks of food and purchase commercially prepared meaty food from a local farm. This gives me a break for making dog food a couple of weeks each month. One of my dogs can eat 3 pounds of meat per day! This gets pretty pricey when trying to source quality muscle meat. I feed this under guidance of my holistic vet, who is also a canine nutritionist. A win for all of us!

Both dogs are in amazing outward health! They’re muscular, close to perfect body scores, and their teeth are WHITE, WHITE, WHITE! (I totally skimp on brushing too, since the discovery of delicious raw meaty bones). Since adopting this feeding method, I’ve noticed that fleas and ticks are not an issue as in the past. Finally, both dogs’ allergies have all but disappeared (seasonal and food-related).

This works for my dogs. Honestly, it is A LOT of effort. I get that you probably don’t have the time. Also, a method like this may not work for your dog. All dogs are different. However, I can say this health boost is a definite testament to sharing fresh, real food with my own Best Friends.

Ways to Achieve Complete and Balanced When Preparing Your Dog’s Meals

Since all dogs are different, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re going to cook for your dog or prepare a raw diet, you must be in it for the duration. You must do your research. Many of the recipes that will turn up in a google search are not complete and balanced. While you CAN and should use them, be prepared to supplement a bit with necessary vitamins and don’t get too attached to one recipe. Rotate through three or four recipes with different proteins. Variety is the spice of life!

Is it OK to supplement my dog’s kibble?

Yes! Healthy additions like sardines, greens, small amounts of fruits, or vegetables are fabulous additions and offer so many health boosts. A dog cancer study found that adding dark, leafy greens reduced bladder cancer instances by over 90% in a Scottish Terrier group! Be sure to keep the additions to no more than 25% of your dog’s diet to avoid weight gain and throwing off the balance in the kibble too much.

Is it OK to cook for my dog?

Most definitely! Here are two fantastic resources where you can make up balanced diets:

Balance IT

Dr. Peter Dobias Recipe Maker

Both resources encourage you to purchase supplements to balance the recipes. Realistically, when making your own dog food, you do need to account for a good Omega supplement, like a quality fish oil as well as a multivitamin.

On BalanceIT’s site, there is also an option to formulate recipes without the supplement. When you’ve come up with a recipe, BalanceIT will tell you which nutrients are deficient. Then, you figure out foods or vitamin supplements to fill that gap. It’s helpful, but not perfect as not all foods in their database are available for analysis. However, it is a good resource if you’re a beginning home dog food chef!

What about feeding my dog raw food? Can I achieve a complete and balanced diet?

Sure! You can balance a raw diet too! This is best done over time, as I mentioned before. Raw diets take some dedication. For example, it’s helpful if you’re not squeamish because there will be punget smells and you’ll handle organs. Plus, it helps to know a farmer or have a good resource to source your organs.

A great place to start is perfectlyrawsome.com. There, you can make a personalized diet plan for your dog including amounts of each type of meat. However, these are starter plans and are not fully balanced. So, it’s up to you to figure out additional foods and supplements that provide necessary nutrients. They will do it for you for a cost of between $65-$225, depending on your requirements. But, if you’re in it for the long haul the fee is well worth the investment for your Best Friend’s health and longevity.

It brings me great joy seeing my two dogs eat with such gusto and happiness! Our dogs don’t require much. Make sure nutritious food is one of those non-negotiable requirements!

Your Dog Will Thrive on REAL Food; Give it a Try Today

While it can be overwhelming cooking or preparing a raw diet for your dog, you don’t need to go all in. Give a few home-prepared meals a try. Rotate through different proteins. By doing so, you’re providing your dog with REAL nutrition, in its minimally processed form.

If you do cook or prepare all of your dog’s meals, rotate proteins, ensure adequate calcium requirements are met and provide an excellent multivitamin your meals will likely have some sort of balance over time and provide your Best Friend with superior nutrition. (I say likely as every dog is different).

Do you cook for your dog? Are you interested in getting started? Are you looking for balanced recipe ideas, kibble add-ins or raw food recipes? Would you like future blog posts to include balanced recipes? Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. Wanna talk dog food? Pull up a chair, I’m ready!

2 thoughts on “Why a Complete and Balanced Dog Diet is Vital”

  1. Monday Morning BFK????
    Enjoyed today’s post. It makes me more mindful of what I’m feeding my companion dog. Taking baby steps to more nutrition….having BFK to supplement is our safety net. Catching up on last week’s ???? mushroom post gives us even more to incorporate. Fascinating & helpful.
    Thx BFK❤️ Oreo & char
    PS. Enjoy the great dog photos!

  2. Pingback: Balanced Dog Food Recipe: Beef And Fish-Tastic!

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