Why feed a personalized homemade diet?
A one size fits all diet does not exist. A diet formulated just for them allows for the optimization of every aspect of the diet. From macronutrients to micronutrients and different textures, everything is dependent on your dog. While this may not seem like a big deal, things like these can improve your dog’s overall health exponentially. Every one of my formulations takes the individual into account. Below are just some of the factors I take into account when formulating.
It’s not uncommon for clients to tell me that their dog showed symptoms of digestive upset while feeding commercial raw foods. More often than not, the food was unbalanced, high fat and low fiber. Many dogs need lower fat than what is typically found in commercial raw products. Additionally, many dogs do better with diets that contain at least some amount of carbohydrates. You can find more information on this here. By utilizing a homemade diet, macronutrient levels can be optimized to what your dog does best with.
This portion of the formulation process is usually the most in depth because there are many micronutrients. Each one plays a role individually but they all also work synergistically. This is where I commonly see many problems when people first try to formulate their dogs diet by themselves. There is much more to it than just meeting the requirements for each micronutrient on its own.
Beyond just meeting requirements and ensuring balance, I make sure the levels are optimized to your specific dog. If you have a northern breed, zinc levels will be a bit higher. Does your dog have allergy symptoms? Magnesium, copper, zinc and retinol will likely be boosted a bit higher than “normal.” Does your dog have arthritis? Omega 3 levels will be increased. Is your dog a senior? Calcium and phosphorus will likely be lower than younger dogs. The list goes on and on. This is where the formulation really gets into the weeds of what your dog will thrive on.
Diagram from Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
It’s no secret that pet obesity is a huge problem. Studies show that obesity can shorten your dog’s lifespan by up to 3 years and also predisposes them to countless health conditions. It is the common belief that if your pet is overweight, you can just decrease their food intake until they lose weight. However, there are some problems with this (Full blog post on this coming soon). The main one being that by decreasing food, you decrease nutrients. This can inhibit weight loss and also increase risk factors for other diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies. The other problem is that as you continue to decrease the volume of food, your dog will likely be less satisfied and will constantly be begging for food- something none of us want to deal with. This problem is usually even worse with raw foods because they are extremely low in fiber.
By feeding a personalized diet, the fiber content can be increased to promote satiety. Low fat ingredients can also be used to drastically decrease the caloric density of the food, meaning more can be fed. More food= happy pup! The opposite of this is also true. For working dogs or dogs that just don’t like to eat (I see you huskies and poodles), the caloric density of the food can be increased. By doing this, the volume of food will be lower.
Like humans, some dogs have texture preferences. Some like chunks of meat to chew on while others will only eat ground meat. Some want raw and others will only eat if everything’s cooked. Some need organ meats to be blended to mush. While it may be frustrating to figure out just what a picky eater wants, a personalized diet allows you to fully cater to what your dog likes. It also allows you to cater to what you prefer. You may not like the idea of only giving them ground meat like most commercial diets are or maybe you do like that but you want them to also chew some parts of the diet such as meaty bones. There are so many options here and because you are making the diet yourself, you can pick and choose if you use ground, partial ground, chunks, or a combination. You can also change it up frequently to give them different feeding experiences. The options are limitless.
There are a lot of considerations when it comes to choosing ingredients especially when it comes to personalized diets. Because a typical PMR/ BARF diet is not followed here, we are not glued to the need for muscle meat vs. secreting and non-secreting organs. We don’t even need bones! All ingredients are chosen based on what you can purchase easily, what your dog likes and if they add value to the diet. And yes, the “value” that they serve may be as simple as “he reallyyyyy likes X.”
When selecting ingredients, I also focus heavily on the bioavailability of the ingredients. Seeds and herbs are becoming a popular ingredient in raw diets due to their high mineral value but what a lot of people are forgetting about is bioavailability and anti-nutrients that they contain. I almost never include these ingredients, and if I do they are usually for fiber or for just a slight boost. If whole foods are not an option, I will choose a supplement with good absorption to meet mineral requirements over seeds and herbs. The bioavailability of these ingredients is largely unknown so while everything may look good on paper, we don’t actually know how they look in the body. The other big concern are the anti-nutrients that are present in these seeds which decreases the absorption of other minerals. Overall, my belief is that there are better options. Whether you feel the same way or not, personalized homemade diets allow you to be completely in control of what ingredients your dog is eating.
Because you are making the food, you also have full control over where you are sourcing your ingredients. Many people switch to a raw diet because of distrust in the animal feed manufacturers but honestly, the sometimes sketchy sourcing of ingredients doesn’t end at kibble feeds. Some raw food suppliers have been the center of FDA reports for non-compliant and dirty production.
For help with a personalized diet for your dog, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can see all of my services here. If you want to learn how to formulate yourself, I highly recommend Raw Fed & Nerdy.