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  • Jody

Are Dog Food Recipes only for Newbies?

My own philosophy in feeding my dogs has evolved over the past 25+ years of feeding fresh foods. I have fed based on various ratios, generic recipes, commercial raw, homemade cooked and raw, and relying on variety over time, so when I say I use the National Research Council guidelines in dog’s diet now, it’s after a LOT of other methods with my own previous dogs. I mention my experiences because I think many people who feed by other methods assume people who use NRC guidelines do it because they are too scared to try other methods. Believe me, I’ve done it all!


Some people think that following a recipe is for newbies, and that as you get more experienced you no longer need a balanced recipe. In my opinion, an NRC recipe that meets nutrient guidelines vs food/ingredient guidelines is a game changer for optimal nutrition. When working with clients they are often surprised, and I still get amazed at how just a small change in the foods can suddenly necessitate a supplement, or vice versa decrease a need for a supplement. I see this a lot with small dogs who don’t eat a lot or large dogs who are easy keepers, it’s not that easy to get all the nutrients these guys need all from food! Once you have followed a balanced recipe and understand how little changes can have big effects I find most people do not want to revert back to estimating with ratios.


All dogs have some genetic uniqueness, all breeds- including mixed breeds -have some sort of genetic predisposition. Within the breed, there is still individual uniqueness.

Remember that initially almost any change from processed food to fresh food may show up with positive external results – shiny coat, firm stools, and perhaps better energy. Fresh foods provide powerful nutrition and that means even an unbalanced diet is going to look great- at first.

Questions to consider with other feeding methods:

*What if your dog can’t tolerate the % of bone that the ratio philosophy suggests or their stools get too hard, so you reduce the bone…is the diet still providing enough calcium?

*What if you need to feed a lot of bone to get firm stools, are you oversupplying calcium and other minerals from the bone?

*What if your dog can’t tolerate the % of organ meats that the ratio suggests or they get runny stools or vomit? If you reduce or eliminate nutrient dense organ meats, then you are reducing vitamins and minerals.

*What if you feed extra organ meats because they are inexpensive and they help keep your dog from getting constipated? What minerals are being fed in excess – iron? Copper?

*What if you can’t afford lean meats so feed more fatty raw meaty bones and cuts of meat. Are you meeting amino acid requirements?

*Do you feed a lot of oily fish for the omega 3 benefits? How much Vitamin D are you feeding in the fish?

I see the dogs after they’ve been on unbalanced diets.

Where people had no idea how much fat they were feeding to their dog whose breed is prone to pancreatitis, where the excess amount of bone was impacting skin and coat health due to mineral interactions and where liver enzymes were very elevated after feeding high amounts of organ meats.

I have had many clients who were feeding what looked on paper to be an amazing diet…feeding all the things in the right ratios – as well as grass fed, organic, etc- but the dogs had issues with dirt eating, intermittent vomiting, excessive shedding, inability to gain weight, mucous stools, constipation.

Changing the diet to meet NRC requirements helped with all these things. I see this so often and that’s why I am such a huge proponent of balanced diets and why I would never go back to relying on variety and ratios. Because when things go off the rails and your dog develops a few issues, you have no idea what to do to get back on track.

Recipes are not for newbies, they are for informed dog parents. As a population we (sadly) aren’t doing the best job at feeding ourselves, it makes sense we’d need some guidance when feeding another species.


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