And What to Do About It…
Your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet. That’s all my horrified mind could think of after my last trip to the vet. I left with a bottle of antibiotics and a dog with a stomach parasite. I was devastated. I felt as if I had caused it with his raw diet. Until I started talking to the receptionist who told me he was the 3rd neighborhood dog that week to come in with that same stomach parasite!
Just the same, after a long talk with the vet I got the distinct feeling she did not approve of Wally’s homemade diet. (Full disclosure, it was mostly because it was a DIY raw diet, not necessarily just homemade). Here are 6 reasons why your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet, and what you can do about it!
Why Your Vet Disapproves of Your Dog’s Homemade Diet
1. Your Dog’s Homemade Diet is Imbalanced
I cannot tell you how many well-intentioned pet parents I talk to who tell me they feed their dogs chicken and rice! Chicken and rice!?? Sure, this old standby is often what vets recommend for stomach upset, but it is missing myriad canine nutritional requirements.
A vast majority of commercially prepared dog foods boast a “Complete and Balanced” stamp on the label. That’s because it’s vital that your dog gets all of her nutritional requirements.
When a dog’s diet is imbalanced, all sorts of health issues can rear their ugly heads. Some of the most worst offenders include;
- Tooth Decay
- Obesity or Pancreatitis
- Urinary Stones
- Metabolic Diseases
It is actually quite common for homemade diets to lack in calcium, which isn’t necessarily something people who are casually cooking for their pets think of. Additionally, appropriate calcium for homemade diets must come from bone meal, eggshell calcium, raw meaty bones, or a nutirional supplement like BalanceIT.
Dogs cannot absorb adequate calcuim from sources that are appropriate for humans. In fact, many of the top recipes for homemade dog food are deficient in calcium and other vital micronutrients.
2. Sloppy Substitutions
When you’re cooking for yourself, if you run out of an ingredient you can easily substitute something else. Not so with homemade dog food. To maintain balance in homemade dog food, you have to follow the recipe to the letter.
Different meats and oils have different fatty acid profiles and substitutions throw off the balance in homemade diets.
It’s likely that your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet because she’s experienced firsthand what’s happened when a well-intentioned pet parent substituted a different oil or meat in the recipe (over a period of time) and has seen the fallout from nutritional deficiencies.
3. There’s No Variety in the Diet
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut in regards to our diets. It’s no wonder we’re stuck in a rut with our dogs’ diets! It was only very recently that I learned that yes, my dogs DO benefit from me rotating through different proteins, vegetables, oils, probiotics, and brands of foods.
Up until that point, I was conditioned by the pet food industry (like many others) that changing my dog’s food would lead to stomach upset, gas, and diarrhea. Some poor dogs eat the same kibble for their whole lives!
The same goes for homemade diets. Many people find a good recipe, something the dog enjoys, or something that’s easy to make and we keep feeding it. And feeding it. And feeding it.
The problem with this method is that it can lead to deficiencies over time. It’s important to rotate through different proteins, vegetables, and oils because they offer a variety of nutritional profiles that benefit our dogs in the long run. Rotation also helps build up your dog’s microbiome and strengthen his immune system.
4. They’re Concerned About Contamination
In all of my research and reading about homemade dog food, this is perhaps the most common argument. There’s a good chance your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet because of contamination risk. Raw meat does pose a contamination risk. This risk is more to the humans preparing the food than the dogs.
Dogs have a short, efficient digestive tract that is meant to get any nasties through as quickly as possible. Dogs also have incredibly strong stomach acid that kills many pathogens. Have you ever wondered why your dog can eat nasty old poop, dead animals, or trash and not get sick? Vets are overwhelmingly against raw diets because of contamination risk.
Not to discount contamination. I did just have to treat my dog for an intestinal parasite. However, the risk of pathogenic infection from human-grade meat is low due to its regulatory USDA inspection.
But me, I haven’t gotten sick from preparing my pets’ food. EVER. That’s because I wash my hands and practice FDA food safety protocols and food preparation habits that I would when preparing meat for my family.
Also, let’s face it, most people don’t wash their dog’s dishes on the regular. Or ever. Don’t you think this would be a contamination risk too?
Before I became a dog food nerd, I rarely washed my dog’s dishes. That’s changed since adopting some homemade and raw feeding habits, but I’d be willing to bet that there’s a sizable portion of the pet-loving population who doesn’t was their pet’s dishes on the regular.
5. Brand Familiarity
Please don’t get me wrong here. I have the utmost respect for any doctor, particularly doctors who treat patients who cannot tell them what is wrong. Your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet because they’re very familiar with a few brands; Purina, Hills Science Diet, and Royal Canin.
Veterinarians have a tremendous amount of education up their sleeves. However, the nutrition portion of their education is often taught by brand representation from big pet food. That’s just how it goes. Big pet food employs a majority of the board certified veterinary nutritionists in the United States, and that’s often who educates veterinarians on nutrition.
Additionally, since there is so much to cover in veterinary school, nutrition is only a minute portion of that education. Veterinarians are comfortable with these foods because there is a lot of research behind them and they’re produced for the masses.
6. Lack of Education about Nutrition
Once again, I have the utmost respect for veterinarians. However, nutrition education for vets is bleak. A study by Nestle and Nesheim (2010) found that of the 27 accredited veterinary schools in the United States, 22 of them offered elective or minimal nutritional courses; only one credit hour per year. Five of those schools offered NO nutritional training whatsoever.
It is quite possible that your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet simply because he or she doesn’t have the nutritional background to assess your dog’s homemade or raw diet.
How to Communicate When Your Vet Disapproves of Your Dog’s Homemade Diet
Come Clean; Above All, Be Forthright and Honest
Your vet is a professional. Again, a professional of the highest stature who treats patients who cannot tell him what is wrong. Even if your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet, you have an obligation to discuss your dog’s nutrition with them. Do not lie or withhold information about your dog’s diet from your vet.
Your vet cannot appropriately treat your dog if she does not know about one of the biggest pieces of your pet’s health; their nutrition.
Come to your appointment prepared. If you must, write everything down. Share the foods, supplements, and preparation methods you use to make your dog’s food. Communicate that you are preparing your dog’s food; raw or homemade in the best interest of your dog. Disclose the amount of research that you’ve conducted in regards to your pet’s diet and that it is nutritionally balanced.
At the end of the day, it’s your dog and ultimately your choice in how you feed her. Your vet is your partner in your dog’s health. Like you, your vet wants the best for your dog. Listen to what your veterinarian has to say. Above all, communicate to them that you have indeed done your research and are not just throwing chicken and rice in a dish and calling it good.
You already know that whole, fresh food has far more nutritional benefit than burnt kibble bits. Otherwise, you would not go to the extent and expense that you do preparing your dog’s food. It’s up to you to be honest, forthright, respectful of your vet’s concerns, but also keep at your due diligence. You do not need to adopt a kibble diet because your vet disapproves of your dog’s homemade diet. Feed that fresh diet, make adjustments, and above all, make sure that it’s balanced.
Nestle, M. and Nesheim, M.C. (2010). Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. Free Pr: S. & S.