ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Dangers of Feeding Dogs a Homemade Diet Nutritionists Want You to Know

Updated on August 25, 2015
Dangers or raw diet in dogs, dangers of homemade diet in dogs
Dangers or raw diet in dogs, dangers of homemade diet in dogs

Raw and Homemade Diets for Dogs The Other Side of the Story

You may have heard how feeding dogs a raw diet allows dogs to thrive or you may have heard how feeding dogs a homemade diet is the healthiest way to go. You may have also heard stories of dogs with a dull coat, dogs with allergies and even dogs with serious medical conditions feeling better once a raw or homemade diet is introduced. This article is to offer another side of the story. Something important that veterinary nutritionists want you to know. No, this article is not about how dogs on a raw diet may get salmonella or how dogs may choke or get an intestinal blockage from swallowing pieces of bones. This article is about a more likely risk that can perhaps even make feeding a raw diet worse than feeding that cheap commercial kibble sold at your local supermarket.

As with other of my articles tackling health or nutrition, this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary or nutritional advice. In this article, we will take a look at what the experts in nutrition have to say about raw and homemade diets. If you are planning to feed raw or are already feeding raw, or if you are looking for recipes for homemade diets for your dog, it's important to keep into consideration this important factor that is too often overlooked.

Who's Behind Your Dog's Nutritional Advice?

There are many websites offering recipes for dog raw diets, e-books and groups discussing dog nutrition. As much as these supportive resources may seem good, it's important to see the credentials behind those offering advice. Reputable dog food companies often have board-certified veterinary nutritionists on board to ensure quality and balanced nutrition. These professionals have made studying pet nutritional science their area of specialty. After becoming veterinarians, these professionals further study to become diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN). This involves undergoing intensive clinical, teaching, and research activities lasting at least two years along with passing a written examination in order to obtain board certification.

On top of that, the Association for American Feed Control Officials details what ingredients a dog food must contain so to be considered complete and balanced. While AAFCO isn't responsible for shutting down a tainted facility or fining a food company for using substandard ingredients, it's role is important to ensure that the kibble and canned food you feed your dog is nutritionally complete.

So one must rightfully wonder who is behind the raw and homemade diet e-books being sold off the internet? Who are those folks offering nutritional advice on internet groups? Who are the owners of websites giving out recipes for homemade diets? If we would look at many people's credentials we will likely find out that a great majority are simply dog owners with no qualifications whatsoever in the dog health or nutrition department.

This doesn't mean that all the advice given on websites, e-books and Facebook groups is necessarily bad! It simply means that one must be careful before entrusting somebody else in giving out nutritional advice for ones beloved dogs. Just as we wouldn't be asking a plumber how to cure our diabetes, we shouldn't take advice for our dogs' health and nutrition lightly. Because nutrition and health are so closely interconnected, it's important to realize the health implications associated with feeding dogs a diet that is not suitable for that individual dog, or worse, lacks fundamental nutrients.

Dangers of Raw and Homemade Diets for Dogs, What Nutritionists Say

While there are many great stories of dogs feeling better once fed a raw or homemade diet, there are also many untold stories that warrant attention and that vets see from time to time. According to a study conducted in Europe in 2011 by Dillitzer et al, 95 homemade raw diets were evaluated for nutrient content. The study revealed that an outstanding 60 percent of the diets had major nutritional imbalances. These nutritional imbalances may involve nutrient excesses, nutrient deficiencies and imbalances such as incorrect calcium and phosphorus ratios. Veterinary nutritionist, Lisa P. Weeth, warns that regardless of the ingredients used, more than half of the home-prepared diets lacked a sufficient source of essential macrominerals, lacked essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids linoleic acid and arachidonic acid; and provided inadequate amounts of essential fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins E, D, and B12,

Another study revealed that dogs fed the bones and raw-food diet (BARF) showed signs of deficiency in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. On top of that, the diet was found to contain excessively high amounts of vitamin D. What health conditions could these deficiencies or excesses cause? Following are a few examples:

  • Insufficient calcium could lead to nutritional hyperparathyroidism and long term effects may involve muscle weakness, lethargy and osteoporosis
  • Insufficient zinc could lead to dermatoses.
  • Insufficient iron could lead to anemia.
  • Excessive calcium may lead to developmental orthopedic conditions.
  • Excessive vitamin D could lead to hypercalcemia.

According to board-certified veterinary nutritionist Lisa M. Freeman, there are no scientific studies showing the benefits of raw diets. It appears that their popularity is mainly derived from word of mouth, testimonials and perceived benefits spread across the boards. On top of that, those who theorize that raw is what dogs used to eat in the wild must consider that wolves who live or lived in wild live/lived only for a few years. This is quite similar to the theories raised by those promulgating the Paleo "caveman diet" in humans, when humans back in those days died decades before the age of 79, which is today's average lifespan in the USA!

And even though this Hub was meant to mostly tackle nutritional imbalances, it would not be good practice ignoring the risks for fractured teeth, intestinal blockages and perforations that are sometimes (not always!) associated with raw meaty bones. Not to mention the risks for Salmonella, Clostridium, Campylobacter and other bacteria found in raw meat diets that dogs may sometimes be susceptible to.

While it's true that healthy dogs may be capable of coping with the ingestion of these bacteria, one must consider that the very young dogs or the, old immunocompromised ones (such as those suffering from cancer) may not, explains veterinary nutritionist Marjorie L. Chandler. Turns out, an all-raw diet is not actually good for dogs with cancer.This is a reason why Dr Dressler in his book "the Dog Cancer Survival Guide" recommends cooking meat with low temperatures, just long enough to kill the microbes. Also, contrary to popular belief, dogs do not have a more acidic stomach or a shorter gastrointestinal tract that allows them to ingest bacteria with no harm. Their GI system is actually proportionate to their size, explains Lisa Freeman.


How a Commercial Diet Saved a Dog's Life

We often hear about how dogs thrive on raw or homemade diets, but it's important to also consider the other side of the story. According to an article by the Clinician's Brief, an 8-month old Saint Bernard presented with bilateral osteochondritis dissecans of the shoulders, tetanic seizures, and hyperthermia. According to the owner, from the age of 11 weeks, the dog was fed a homemade diet made of cooked hamburger, rice, apple, broccoli, commercial dry food, raw egg, and vitamin/mineral supplement. Turned out the dog was suffering from significant deficiencies in the standards set by AAFCO for growing puppies. Once a commerical diet crafted for canine growth was initiated, along with calcium carbonate, calcitriol, and taurine, after 4 weeks the dog lameness resolved. The moral of the story is that owners who elect to feed a homemade or raw diet, should not take the choice lightly, they should ideally have it formulated by a veterinary nutritionist so to avoid serious imbalances, especially in young, growing dogs.

Tips for Feeding Dogs a Homemade or Raw Diet and Doing it Right

One may assume that warning about the dangers of home-made diets may be a strategic scare tactic by vets and food reps advocating certain brands of kibble. However, several veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists have nothing against raw or home-made diets. Board-certified veterinary nutritionist Joe Bartges, for instance, believes that raw diets can be fed safely to dogs as long as dog owners are counseled on how to properly prepare and handle them and that they are fed appropriately.

A big concern is meeting the nutritional needs of a growing puppy or kitten, also because there's not much literature providing guidelines about feeding raw food diets during growth. Dr. Bartges adds that while it's true that commercial pet foods have been contaminated causing sickness and death in many pets, it's also true that issues with homemade diets aren't reported by people. It must be considered that about 85 percent of pets are fed commercial diets, therefore, when issues arise, they're much more magnified compared to an individual pet eating a diet specifically crafted at home for him.

Korinn Saker, another board-certified vet, is also concerned about home-prepared raw diets because they're neither sent to a laboratory nor fed to a test group to ensure health and well-being. These diets may be fine to feed short term, but problems may occur when fed long term and the consequences can be significant, says Saker.

So what should a dog owner do if he or she wants to start a home-made or raw diet? Here are some tips to do it right.

  • Don't rely on iffy websites, e-books and groups for dog nutritional advice--and don't trust your groomer, friend at the dog park or neighbor for nutritional advice!
  • Consider that young dogs, dogs with compromised immune systems and dogs with chronic medical conditions, such as kidney problems, diabetes, or intestinal disease, may have a hard time tolerating the fluctuations in ingredients and nutrient intake associated with the feeding of home-prepared diets, warns veterinary nutritionist Lisa P. Weeth.
  • Have your dog see the vet for regular examinations so potential deficiencies or excesses can be addressed.
  • Ask your vet for a referral to a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for tips on how to create a nutritionally balanced diet meant to be fed long-term.
  • When following a nutritionist's recipe, consider that each ingredient has its place for balancing the diet so refrain from omitting or changing them without your nutritionist's advice.
  • Consider that several board-certified veterinary nutritionists may not believe in the benefits of feeding raw diets. Another option may be consulting with a holistic veterinarian.
  • If you're not comfortable starting a homemade diet, consider consulting with your vet about the option of feeding a high-quality commercial diet supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables, suggests veterinary technician Amanda K. Jones.
  • Veterinary nutritionist Rebecca Remillard offers customized home-made diets for dogs and cats for a fee on her PetDiets.com website.

As seen, there are many things to be careful about when feeding a raw diet or home-cooked diet. While this article is not about condemning the raw diet or the homemade one, or discouraging owners from feeding it, it's main purpose is raising awareness about the risks for imbalances and deficiencies. If you are feeding or planning to feed raw or a home-made diet, please conduct as much research as you can and consult with a nutritionist for guidelines on feeding a balanced diet.

Disclaimer: this article is a product of my research on the topic and not to be used as a substitute for professional nutritional, holistic or veterinary advice. By reading my article you accept this disclaimer.

Alexadry© all rights reserved, do not copy


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Kevin Goodwin 

      3 years ago

      Bob you are absolutely correct when it comes to raw food, if you do it right and prepare it correctly then it is a good diet. It always drives me crazy when people feed their dogs grain free foods but then don't buy the dog grain free treats.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Great hub, Adrienne, and one that hits close to home for me. As a rep for a pet food manufacturer, I spend five hours a day, six days a week at various pet supplies stores talking with their customers about feeding pets.

      Hardly a day goes by that I don't encounter someone who is feeding raw, but not a diet that was formulated by a Board Certified Animal Nutritionist. And most of these people base their ingredients on what's good for humans.

      They take the simplistic view that a variety of high quality ingredients will do the trick. As you pointed out, the diets must be complete and balanced, and therein lies the rub. It isn't like they feed a meal and the dog drops dead. It takes time for nutritional imbalances to take their toll.

      Most people don't consider the complexity of animal nutrition. The subject has its own degree program, board certification and professional associations, yet some owners believe that as long as it's high quality food they're using, and they throw in a multivitamin, they're doing the best thing.

      If that was the case, all these veterinary nutritionists just wasted their time and money, and the universities that educated them are just rip offs, taking advantage of gullible veterinarians.

      I'm not a fan of raw diets, for the reasons you cite, but I can't fault anyone feeding raw who does it right. Most often, though, they don't do it right.

      People just don't think...and it drives me crazy. Hopefully, your terrific hub will resonate with some of the folks who could use some resonating. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      3 years ago from USA

      Hello Larry, nice to see you again. Thanks for the votes up and interesting. This is a subject of great controversy, and I agree with you, that what's likely happening among diets for humans is happening in the dog nutrition field; so many different theories, that make it hard to know who to believe! Sending you best wishes for good health so you can get a good canine companion.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      3 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Adrienne,

      Until I read your hub, I was inclined to believe the raw food propaganda. If my health improves to the point where I can be a good dog owner, I won't feel bad about feeding my future pet premium kibble. Thanks for setting me straight.

      Apparently, the DIY raw food diet for dogs is analogous to the Vegan diet for people. In both cases, good health is possible -- provided that you know what the heck you're doing.

      Voted up and interesting.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)