Behind the Study

74 Comments

UC Davis recently released the results of a study evaluating the nutritional content of home prepared dog food recipes.  Their study found that only nine recipes (of 200) met the minimum nutritional standards for adult dogs.  But there is more to the story…

As a co-author of a pet food cookbook, a pet food safety advocate, and an advocate for real food for our pets (versus highly processed pet food containing synthetic supplements often sourced from China) the study performed by UC Davis veterinarians concerned me.  The study ‘selected 200 recipes from 34 sources’ but found only 9 recipes provided “all essential nutrients in concentrations that met the minimum standards established for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials” and only five recipes “provided essential nutrients in concentrations that met the National Research Council’s Minimum Requirements for adult dogs.”

Continuing quoting the UC Davis press release“The results of this study, however, indicate that most available recipes for healthy dogs, even those published in books by veterinarians, do not provide essential nutrients in the quantities required by the dog,” Larsen said. “It is extremely difficult for the average pet owner — or even veterinarians — to come up with balanced recipes to create appropriate meals that are safe for long-term use,” she said.”

Clearly, the UC Davis study is not in favor of home prepared pet foods and encourages pet food consumers that choose homemade food to “consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.”  But let’s look at why…

Why is it ‘extremely difficult for pet owners and veterinarians’ to come up with balanced home prepared diets for pets?

Quick question…how many grams of protein should a thirty pound adult dog consume daily as recommended by AAFCO or NRC?  How many milligrams of Choline is recommended for a thirty pound adult dog?  Do you know?  Do you know how to find this information?

The reason it is so difficult for pet owners and veterinarians to properly provide pets with home-prepared foods that provide all the needed nutrition is the nutrient requirements of pets is not readily available to pet owners.  It’s very difficult to learn exactly what nutrients our pets need and in what proportions.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes a yearly update to pet food nutrient requirements (along with ingredient definitions and proposed pet food regulations)…but the book will cost you $90.00 (based on 2013 price) to read.  And it is challenging for the average pet food consumer to interpret; example: mg/kg, ME/kg DM, energy density greater than 4000 kcal ME/kg DM, and so on.

With human foods, human diet – the U.S. government has offered (for decades) tons of free information to learn how to balance our diet.  Remember the food pyramid?  There are many government programs such as ChooseMyPlate.gov and FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org that teach human food consumers to balance the diet through eating a variety of healthy food (not through supplements).   Pet food consumers are not provided with similar information.

Human food labels provide detailed and actual nutrient information providing the human food consumer with a way to monitor all the nutrition they are consuming.  Pet food labels provide very minimal nutrient information and it is not required to be actual (protein/fat listed as a minimum amount, fiber/moisture listed as a maximum amount), providing the pet food consumer with very little information to monitor any nutrients their pet is consuming.

How can a pet owner learn to properly feed their pet when there are so many obstacles in the way?  (Feels almost like AAFCO and FDA doesn’t want us to know exactly what to feed our pets doesn’t it?)

It is wrong a consumer is forced to open their wallets to purchase the nutrient requirements and/or read the definitions of pet food ingredients.  It is wrong the pet food consumer is not provided with complete and actual nutrient information on commercial pet food labels just the same as provided on any other food the consumer purchases.  And one more, it is wrong that…any consumer can watch laws being developed (for no charge) in State government and in Washington, DC (Sessions of Congress) – but if a consumer wanted to watch pet food law being developed it would cost them $415.00 (AAFCO meeting).

If the UC Davis study proves anything – it’s that changes need to occur.  I hope the veterinarians at UC Davis see the bigger picture and I hope to see them at the next AAFCO meeting advocating for that change.

Note:  The only free dog and cat required nutrient information is via the National Research Council.  Cat Food information HereDog Food information Here.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
TruthaboutPetFood.com
Association for Truth in Pet Food
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

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74 Comments

  1. cathy gibson

    It’s interesting. I have a 15.5 yr old Dog whom I make all of her food . She has beatern , cancer , seizures as well as mange. She is a testament to feeding well . I do confess, I give supplements.

  2. Susan MERCER

    I feed raw meat (beef and chicken) with a premix supplement from Know Better Pet Food and my two Labs are in such better health now than when I was feeding kibble. My overweight Lab has lost weight and is at a perfect balance. He now moves with ease and has energy to be playful. Their teeth are white, coats are shiny and soft, eyes bright and clear and I am so pleased. No more allergies (ears) and itchy skin, no gas and their poops are much less. You can’t convince me that commercial food is better for my pets.

  3. Darlene

    I cooked for my sheltie who had Cushings disease. She lived 4 yrs without medication. Life expectancy was 2 yrs with OR without medication. When you have the correct balance of % protein/carbs/fat, you can add a “pre-mix” which makes the homemade food nutritionally balanced…(Wysong Call of the Wild, Balance-It, Honest Kitchen, etc). I think all of the “pre-mix” vitamins and required nutrients meet AAFCO requirements?

  4. Yvonne McGehee

    The NRC guide has been available to look at online free, for years, and the 1985 version can be found used in print for a few dollars. Though there is a newer one from maybe around 2005 that is expensive, the 1985 one works well. A lot of home feeders use the USDA nutrient guide, I also use Nutrition Almanac by Kirschman and Kirschman to look up and calculate contents for my homemade diets. I don’t know how to use spreadsheets, but many who do, use them to construct their homemade diets. There are many books available to help, Monica Segal’s K9 Kitchen series have helpful information. Her last book contains the most recent NRC guide, and she has analyzed the contents of some of the raw meaty bones raw feeders typically use, so you can find the contents of these items as well. These books are not particularly expensive. UC Davis has online diets you can purchase, which are analyzed and which have a supplement they make and sell to go with them.

    What home feeding route you take, will depend on how inclined and how able you are to calculate everything out on your own. If you want a complete diet that has been calculated by someone else, there are these services available, Monica Segal’s K9 Kitchen, UC Davis, and there are others. There are a lot of homemade diet groups online, some are good and some are not so good as far as the diets complying with NRC guidelines.

    So, there is a lot of help out there and a lot of resources for making complete homemade diets for dogs. But it does take a lot of “leg work”, a lot of time spent learning. We do not make our own diets this way, but it is also true that many people’s diets are deficient and/or excessive in a lot of nutrients.

    Yvonne McGehee

  5. Peter

    I wouldn’t spend the $90 on the AAFCO document even if I had the funds to burn. AAFCO is just a commercial enterprise that I view as little more than a glorified lobby group for pet/livestock food manufacturers. AAFCO has yet to integrate contemporary National Research Council nutritional figures into its recommendations, and pet food manufacturers can caption the AAFCO “approval” on their labels without even conducting feeding trials, just by meeting a standard “nutritional profile.” The worst mass-manufactured junk foods carry AAFCO “approval.” Sawdust (masquerading as “cellulose,” so the consumer wouldn’t recognize it) can be an “approved” protein source. “Brewer’s rice” is just a made-up AAFCO term for broken, junk rice (so consumers won’t recognize it). Maybe many raw/home food recipes AREN’T perfect and maybe many of them may not even be all that “good,” but I would question the purpose and POV of a “study” that essentially endorsed mass-market pet foods.

    • Monti Markel

      I totally agree. So its better to feed commercial crap that might be full of plastic or peanut shells or God knows what??? But I wont know until my dog is too sick to survive??
      I think not!

  6. Michael Jones

    When I rescued my Danes I looked into BARF and make your own food. These dogs are lucky to make it to ten years old, so I wanted to give them as much chance to make it as possible. To make a long story short I ended up using Susan’s dog food analysis and chose a kibble, Wellness large breed. I factored in what we actually eat in this country , which is mainly processed foods. To obtain always fresh food and meat considered safe is very expensive and time consuming. There are many factors contributing to a Dog’s health, which includes environment, heredity, breed and nutrition. While it’s great the dog has beaten all those problems I don’t think you can conclude it’s all do to feeding a certain way.

    • Anna

      After the recall in 2007 when it seemed as if there wasn’t any food left to feed I began home cooking and researching. It was very time consuming cooking and I worried if they were getting proper nutrition. And I wasn’t quite there with the raw. So I went back to kibble (Canidae at the time) and it wasn’t long before they all seemed to have issues (loose poop or throwing up). The journey led me to The Honest Kitchen and Dr. Harveys. It was with great results, haven’t looked back, at least 4 yrs. now. I hope you can google them, they could make a great addition to your Wellness program (we feed Wellness and Honest Kitchen to the cats).

  7. Denise Moitoza

    When I saw that email I was embarrassed for UC Davis. It was very obvious who was getting called out. UC Davis must have something they want to fast track through the FDA. We live very close to Davis, in fact most of the vets at the clinic we use graduated from UC Davis. Any that have seen me more than once know better than to talk about food with my me. One actually told me to just use Purine One and then asked if I was also going to start raising cows and chickens to make my pet food. I saw my husband brace up out of the corner of my eye as soon as ‘Purina’ came out of her mouth. My response was ” IF I HAVE TO! ” The rest of the conversation would involve a lot of bleeps and symbols so I will respectfully leave that out.

    • Anna

      Some nerve that Dr. had asking such a question and obviously not placing much importance on the 1st line of health and well being for people and animals, what we eat.

  8. Paula

    My neighbor and I just had a conversation the other day about pet foods. What we both found interesting is that growing up we remember when people just fed their dogs scraps from the table, sometimes throwing in a slice of bread if there wasn’t a lot of leftover food. All dry dog food was supermarket variety then, but many of the old timers wouldn’t think of spending the money. The mix fed was mostly veggies and meat, with no science behind it. We both remember that the dogs lived to be 17 or 18. They also spent more time tied outside than today’s pets, and the only shot they ever got was for rabies. I know of 2 older women with poodles that are 18 who have only been fed cooked chicken thighs. Kind of makes you wonder….

    • Monti Markel

      Doesnt make me wonder – I remember the same thing you remember. My grandma’s dog ate table scraps and no dog died of cancer – they died of old age. Davis is an embarrassment – I am appalled that they would put out a study like this!

  9. Laurie Raymond

    The NRC studies are pretty accessible, but they show some conflicting results — just like human nutrition studies do. I really think that taking a sound set of basic recipes and modifying them — carefully, and with specific goals in mind — for individual animals (like we do for our own diets) is a sane and more than adequate approach to feeding our pets appropriately. Such a program is orders of magnitude better than feeding the best “complete and balanced” kibble, because, as we know, it isn’t what is in the food, it’s what the body can use that counts. Think of the human diets evolved in populations that utilize local resources, and the dogs that co-evolved with these populations. We are in a very different situation now, but variety and good observation can lead us to good nutritional decisions for our pets. Those who want to make consumers afraid to learn and apply available knowledge are almost always those who stand to gain financially from their unquestioning dependency. We should ALL be learning and applying pet nutrition knowledge as best we can. What if, someday, “good” kibble is too expensive for anyone, or if it becomes unavailable?

  10. KAH

    I also remember the days of feeding table scraps to dogs, including augmenting some commercial food diets. They got what was left over on plates meaning a good variety of nutritional sources. Back then the rumor was canned pet food was made up of horse meat (?). But you’d have to think that manufacturers had much less sophistication in those days, probably using ascetically unusable edibles from what was rendered for other purposes, including “seconds” and “thirds” of produce and carbohydrates that couldn’t be sold retail or commercially. Somehow our pets survived a long healthy life (with less chronic illnesses) and many more seemed to die of natural causes rather than cancer at younger ages. Of course that’s when the majority of the population ate “whole” fresh foods anyway, and a lot more was home grown as well, meaning foods that weren’t processed or artificially preserved or chemically treated in pesticide laden soil. The semi-prepared foods of today (packaged mixes with artificial additives, preservatives, and all of it) are filled with unnatural amounts of sodium, sugar and GMO’d corn derivatives. So when thinking table scraps today, try to stick to fundamental food sources, including steamed (natural) veggies, whole carbs, and basic protein sources. NO fast or junk or spicey or greasy foods.

    • Paula

      Definitely agree KAH, and we humans should also be eating in the same manner.

  11. Janice Schultz-Aldrich

    Hello Susan,
    I believe there is a mistake in the NRC pamphlet regarding the recommended amount of calcium. I checked this with the chart in the 2006 “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats” published by the NCR. When the book came out I contacted a person at the National Academies who helped me calculate my dog’s metabolic body weight. With that, and the charts on pp. 359-360 of the book, anyone can calculate the requirements for his or her dog. Here is how to calculate your dog’s metabolic body weight: Find your dog’s body wt. in kg by dividing it by 2.2; for an 11 lb dog (which I use as an example) this would be 5. Now, you can use a calculator to take the square root of that number (in this case 5), which = 2.236 and then take the square root of THAT number, which = 1.495. Divide the body wt in kg, which in this case is 5, by that number, 1.495, which = 3.34. This is the metabolic BW for an 11 lb dog. On the charts in the book named above, under Recommended Allowance, use column 3: multiply that number by your dog’s metabolic body weight for each nutrient to get the recommended amount. There are other ways of calculating for less active dogs, etc., but this is a good start. You may be able to find the book at the library or ask the USDA to xerox the relevant pages for you. (Get something for those tax dollars!) At any rate, the recommended calcium amount, as calculated according to column 3 of the chart in the book, for a 33 lb dog should be .988 rather than .75 as the pamphlet has it–note, higher than the phosphorus amount.

  12. Kate

    The 2006 AAFCO and RNC information is easily accessible for free online:

    http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/management_and_nutrition/nutrition_small_animals/nutritional_requirements_and_related_diseases_of_small_animals.html

    People who want to cook for their animals simply need to do the work to do it right, and this does mean finding the information and understanding measurement units and numeric calculations.

    It also is not hard to get more detailed information about commercial petfoods than the guaranteed analysis that manufacturers are required to put on the bags. What you generally want is the “complete nutrient analysis.” Some manufacturers put this on their web pages (Innova and Hills come to mind but I am sure there are others). If they don’t, you can email or call the manufacturer. I’ve gotten the information I needed from all but one of the manufacturers I contacted. If they won’t give the info, I won’t use their product.

    • Susan Thixton

      Kate – if you look closely at the information provided at MerckManuals.com of nutrient requirements – you’ll notice that (example) protein, fat and sodium are listed as percentages but iron, manganese, and copper are listed as mg/kg. Nothing is clear for the average consumer or as clear as it is expressed for human food consumers.

      • Kate

        Susan, they are reporting the requirements in the most appropriate units for each nutrient. Requirements for items like iron, manganese, and copper are too small to report as percentages by weight. To use your example of copper, translating the mg/kg to a percent gives 0.00073%. That is a much less helpful number than the 7.3 mg/kg. Vitamins A and D are presented in IU/kg because IUs right units for a fat-soluble vitamin.

        I cook for my oldest dog, who has renal failure. I don’t use these particular tables, because they are intended for normal, healthy dogs. However, these are exactly the kinds of numbers (an units) that I need in order to cook a safe and appropriate diet for her.

        • Rick Woodford

          It would be far easier if nutrients were just listed in percentage of recommended daily allowance.

  13. vegan

    Do you know whether any of the recipes in DinnerPawsible were among the 200 or the nine? And is your book “free” or are consumers forced to open their wallets to get a copy?

    • Susan Thixton

      No – I don’t know if any of the recipes in Dinner Pawsible were among the 200 – but I can tell you (as is stated in the book) none of them are perfectly balanced but all are close – and all were designed to balance the diet through a rotation of foods (recipes). And last I looked, cookbooks aren’t free everywhere – it is very common for cookbooks to charge a fee for recipes.

      Government employees (tax dollar supported) on the other hand – the work they do (such as AAFCO being state and federal government employees) it is not common to charge a fee.

      • Janice Schultz-Aldrich

        Susan, perhaps the NRC, supported by tax dollars, would be willing to give permission for you to reproduce at least the tables on pp.359-60 of the 2006 “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats,” mentioned in my comment above. Those are the nutritional requirements for adult dogs (tables 15-4 and 15-5: maintenance). Once the metabolic weight of one’s dog is known(formula given above in my previous message), its nutritional needs can be calculated. What was difficult for me at first was trying to figure out metabolic weight (which is represented in the book as BW superscript 0.75). But the formula in my comment above will yield the equivalent and it is easy to arrive at with a calculator. I corresponded with a very kind lady at the National Academies to get this formula.

        • Susan Thixton

          That is a really good point – I will contact them. Thank you for the suggestion.

          • Robin

            Wow! This is excellent, TJ. Thank you for posting this link.
            It DOES help alternatively answer much of what’s being discussed….

        • Kate

          Those are the very tables that are already available for free at the Merck Veterinary link that I posted above. There’s lots of text there as well, including the formula for calculating metabolic weight. It would be great if Susan would add a link to them.

          • Janice Schultz-Aldrich

            As far as I can see, the Merck tables reproduce amounts from the 2nd column of pp. 359-360 of the 2006 book. For me, it is easier to work with the 3rd column and use the formula I gave above. Why not just have the pages from the book reproduced? Then people could calculate however they want.

        • TJ

          Robin, I try and get this out to as many people as possible. It’s an eye-opener for sure. It’s such pertinent information and bless John Peloza for putting it together so succinctly with so much substantiated information. Please spread as much as possible as it’s one of those links that never really comes up easily when you’re looking for this type of info!

  14. Robin

    Then we should create a website that outlines exactly what needs to be in there and simplifies it for anyone to do.
    However, the food ingredients and their significance and necessity should also contain the available information about actual feeding trials performed….how many dogs, their ages and breeds and how long they were fed this or that and any negative outcomes; ie: weight gain, weight loss, allergic reactions, skin lesions, ear infections, tooth loss, death, etc.

  15. Diana Farrar

    I’d be curious to know the source of the funding for this study. Call me suspicious, but most of the veterinary schooling, particularly on nutrition, is usually provided by endowments or grants by the big dog food companies….

  16. alexandra

    Lab type studies often lack common sense. I prefer to contemplate a wolf, hunting, over time. One day a rabbit, another maybe a chunk of carrion elk. Some days nothing, or a snack of blackberries. A fish dropped by a bear. One day a dead sheep, with a grab of liver then driven away by a bigger wolf. Then some Cheerios pulled out of a deserted camp site. And then, 3 days later a cow’ s stomach(s), contents included.
    well, you get the idea. We can’t achieve that totally for our dogs but we can do our best, get close, with a wide variety of raw meats and bones and offal and tripe. Turn the nutritionists loose on the concept of a wolf diet! Over time it would be balanced beyond their wildest dreams!

  17. Bill

    A major flaw is that humans and wild animals don’t balance each and every meal as pet food industry tries to do. The body is dynamic, ever changing and the nutritional balance comes from variety of different species appropriate foods. Each food brings different nutrients to the table with raw being the most natural. Every step in processing further degrades the final product.

  18. Cheri Fun Fellinger

    When did things become so complicated? Anyone with common sense can plainly see, as mentioned several times already, people used to eat healthy whole foods and then feed the leftovers to dogs, cats, poultry & pigs usually in that order. Some of us still do! Everyone worked hard and lived long, healthy lives. Where did the people of AAFCO, NRC & UC Davis grow up? The moon? Didn’t they have grandparents? Just goes to show how easily people can be brainwashed.

  19. Ian

    I find this study suspect for a few reasons.

    FIRST…. they seem to be saying “if you pick one of these home-made recipes and that’s the only recipe you feed your dog every day every year for the rest of its life, it will not be good for your dog. DUH! Did they test whether an assortment of the varying recipes fed in rotation over time provided a balanced diet??? THAT’S what home-cooked diets provide. On a certain level I DO trust my intuition on this. Yes if you are going to feed your dog the same meal every day for years that meal had better be perfectly balanced. But if you are going to feed your pet a varied diet of wholesome human grade unprocessed foods … that’s a very different story.

    SECOND: UC Davis has been intimately involved with creation of a line of pet food supplements for those who cook for their pets… it’s called “balance it” and here is an excerpt from their “about us” at balanceit.com … “DVM Consulting, Inc. was founded in 2003 by Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, DACVN, a board certified veterinary nutritionist who held an academic faculty position at UC Davis between 2003-2013, headed R&D for Natura Pet Products, Inc. until its acquisition by Procter & Gamble, and co-edited/co-authored a leading textbook on veterinary clinical nutrition.” Enough said!

    For those using supplements, a quick Google search on UC Davis supplements brought up some other interesting headlines: “UC Davis study finds high arsenic levels in kelp supplements” and “Supplements don’t improve athletic performance” which story contains the line “As long as athletes eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water, that should be all they need,” … so high performance human athletes don’t need supplements yet they would have us believe that our pets must have supplements if they’re not eating pet industry foods?

    FINALLY, my Shiba has been eating a home cooked diet of a rotation of meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and yes, starches (basically, what I eat except I feed her no salt, sugar, onions, macadamia nuts, or chocolate) for almost two years and the first comment out of most people’s mouths when they see her is “what a gorgeous dog.” She also eats a lot of bone-in fish like canned salmon and sardines which I DON’T eat. Nothing made in China. I admit I take a pretty unscientific approach to her diet at this point and welcome any feedback of specific tests I could do to spot any deficiency she might have developed over two years. Because when I ask my vets about it they just say “she looks great keep doing what you’re doing.” It would be nice to be able to show the world some empirical data if such tests are available (and affordable.) Because I BELIEVE it’s not really as complicated as the pet food and pet supplement industry wants you to believe.

    And not insignificantly she LOVES her meals… would you want to eat something out of a can or bag for the rest of your life? I didn’t think so.

    • Ian

      And yes, I want to add that my courage to start feeding real foods to my dog came from Susan’s excellent pet cookbook Dinner Pawsible, which was my starting point. I’ve since bought a few other pet cookbooks and I really think Susan’s was the best of the ones I’ve read. Thanks Susan! I’m sure my dog would also give you a thorough licking in thanks if she could as well!

    • Donna

      Great info, Ian. I totally agree with your second point concerning DVM Consulting and Balance It.
      Not certain how they continue to profit from Balance It while they claim balancing cannot be done except thru commercial.

  20. jmc1

    Karen Becker, DVM gives very good information in her book on raw feeding for dogs and cats. “REAL FOOD FOR HEALTHY DOGS & CATS” Simple Homemade Food. There are recipes, all the vitamins and minerals all spelled out. Available on Amazon. Excellent information especially for those beginning raw diets.

    • Jeri

      Her book is my “diet Bible” for our younger dog. Our older dog has IBD but thanks to a raw diet and no more vaccines she hasn’t had an issue or episode in over a year! AAFCO only provides MINIMUM standards — not maximum standards for a thriving animal. (Karen’s recipes, while not as easy as pouring kibble in a bowl, ARE balanced and user-friendly.) The chem panels and nutritional scans we have had done on our dogs is evidence that raw does work wonders. I would defy the UC Davis “backers” to be able to duplicate those test results with the high carb diets provided from Balance It (which I have used in the past, but don’t find as helpful or healthful as raw so no longer use) or commercial diets. As others have pointed out, follow the financial backing of the study and you’ll discover the “agenda” behind it.

  21. Donna

    I agree with Ian’s comments. It’s funny they say a pet owner cannot balance a meal for a pet, yet UCD’s own DVM Consulting (Davis Veterinary Medicine) is more than willing to provide a free recipe and sell you Balance It supplements.

    I think their information also insults veterinary nutritionists who provide recipes to clients who want to home cook meals for their pets.

    I would really be interested in hearing what Dr. Strombeck thinks of the UCD study, especially since he was affiliated with UCD. And as I understand it, when Dr. Strombeck was asked to provide an updated second edition to his wonderful book, he said no and posted the info in a website for everyone to have for free.

    I’ve been home cooking since 2007 when the pet food recalls hit. We had been having illness with our dogs. Thought it couldn’t be the pet food because it was a premium brand. After the recalls became public I became very suspicious. I paid for private testing and was told there were toxins in the food. That moment I changed to chicken and rice and began searching for recipes. Almost immediately the sickness resolved. After a few months, their coats were more beautiful and silkly than ever before. Both have been very health since. And, more importantly, I do not worry about commercial production or recalls.

    • Donna

      One other point – I was told by the manufacturer that the vitamin mineral pre-mix was not ground up correctly. That resulted in chunks of very hard, sharp chunks of this pre-mix that was in the food – it was visible and not water-soluble.
      So – if the vitamin mineral pre-mix is not mixed in the pet food sufficiently (evenly) a pet could be exposed to too much of certain vitamins which potentially could have adverse effects.

    • dodo

      >I think their information also insults veterinary nutritionists who provide recipes to clients who want to home cook meals for their pets.

      What? They recommend people seek advice form nutritionists and the only diets that were complete were ones made by nutritionists.

    • Jenn Newark

      Donna – use rice with caution. Many brands of rice contain arsenic as a natural byproduct. While the controversy surrounding how dangerous or not a lot of rice is, there are other safe alternatives to be used if you need a filler in your food.

  22. Pet Owner

    I see contradiction built into this discussion. On the one hand it is being said that home made recipes can’t contain sufficient nutrition to sustain a dog long term. That would be assuming the dog eats the very same meal, in exactly the same proportions, given the dog is expending exactly the same amount of energy/activity, allowance for changes of season, daily for it’s entire life, no matter the state of health. What meal, even if artifically contrived (aka commercial pet food) could possibly be a perfectly well balanced meal for the life of any dog? Given 365 days x 10 years, that’s a lot of daily meals! Even a commerical pet food, even if the same brand, the same formula, could never be expected to be exactly the same (consistently) for the life of any pet. Variation, also a matter of averaging, is built into the concept of long term nutrition. These same commercial pet food companies (or their advocates) are not even recommending (which theorectically they should be) that the consumer should rotate various formulas, if not different brands themselves, over the longterm.
    .
    Curious it would be, but doing so, would certainly play into the competition’s hands. And what commercial pet food company (aka mega-corporate level) ever advertises anything but feeding their brand (like Purine “One”) for the life of the pet? Very few, though it was beginning to trend, spoke of evem life-stage pet food formulas, and only one (RC) advertises a specific formula for a breed type. The majority at least speak to size (puppy vs. adult vs. senior) but there is a vast range in between that is not being addressed.
    .
    The more we look at these commercial pet food messages, do we see not only built in contradiction, but easy confusion, and superficial context. In terms of home made diets, the key as Susan has mentioned so many times before, is variation, rotation, supplementation (whole food based, no imports or synthetics). That is what stoped me from continuing to use Balance IT (many years ago) because it contained a synthetic Vit K. Now, we all know about the dangers of imported substances involved in the manufacturing of synthetic vitamins. I used the UCD Dietary Nutritionist’s recipe (by the way) and it consisted of a formula that was based on the weight of the food (like 1/3 cup of cooked fish) to 2/3 cup of cooked carbohydrate (like baked Sweet Potato) to a VERY specific amount of corn oil (like 1/4 tsp.) plus the Balance IT supplement. That was it, supposedly for the future of the dog’s meals. Imagine a dog eating that single meal for the number of days mentioned above? Wouldn’t that design be completely contradictory to what a dog would encounter in a natural enviroment? That’s just crazy thinking. For the meals given my 2 dogs at this point, I just make sure I pull from all the food groups (multiple veggies, carbs, etc.) and add a digestive supplement, rotate fish/flax oil capsules, add a cooked egg, a dairy/probiotic, and throw in daily variables. Meat is minimally cooked, and the chicken is organic. Right now they’re getting a black cherry and a chunk of watermelon treat. To arrive at all this? I just looked at all the ingredients, on many lables of the commercial pet foods out there. They literally use (in theory) almost everything, except the foods know to be toxic. How could I go wrong.
    .
    But I agree with the idea that this formulation shouldn’t be nearly so complicated. Who can handle all those tables and numeric conversions? Yikes, when I buy a bottle of vitamins, it just tell me the quantity in proportion to the whole in (grams) and by percentage, and generally to what degree the percentage is meeting my daily requirement. There’s nothing mentioned about my weight, age, activity level, or environment. The PFI is purposefully fluxing our minds to intentionally thwart us!!!!

    • Peter

      Pet food manufacturers deemed required AAFCO feeding trials onerous and expensive, and subsequently AAFCO designed an alternate procedure for asserting the nutritional adequacy of pet food: by testing the food for compliance with “nutrient profiles.” Feeding trials conducted over the lifetime of animals, with comparison made to other, species-appropriate foods, and focused on nutritionally related diseases, is costly to the industry and has never been performed. In the end, it is the dog guardian him/herself who conducts “lifetime” testing of these products.

  23. Liz Bennett

    This is the reason to feed raw. Dogs and Cats are carnivores and what they need most is raw meat, bone and fat. Do you think a wolf stops and measures the % content of his meal? People are making the feeding of pets too difficult when it is really a simple thing. Most people I have come across think that raw meat is too high in protein! I have a packaged commercial raw food (bovine) nutrition facts are are as follows: crude protein 10.0%, crude fat 27% crude fiber 2.0% and the most important one 62.0% moisture. To this I add kelp, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and chopped vegi’s such as broccoli, kale, spinach, etc., it is that simple. Moisture is the KEY and that is why no kibble ever is going to be a proper food to feed because the reality of it is: IT IS NOT A PROPER FOOD TO FEED EVER!

  24. dodo

    The press release addresses the rotation for balance issue.

    >“Also, since so many recipes shared the same deficiencies, rotation of recipes and the feeding of different foods to achieve variety — known as the ‘balance over time concept’ — is not likely to correct these problems,” she said.

    This sounds like speculation but they did test it in the study.

    >Three recipe groups (each consisting of 7 recipes, all of which were from the same source) were assessed together to reflect feeding instructions, which recommended rotation of the recipes to compensate for nutritional deficiencies in each individual recipe. Combined analysis of these 3 groups did not result in a complete diet because several nutrients were below the RA or MR, including zinc (3/3 groups), choline (2/3), vitamin D (2/3), vitamin B12 (1/3), and vitamin E (1/3).

    >Many proponents of less structured recipes for home-prepared diets assert that although each day’s meal is not necessarily complete, rotation and variety will provide a balanced diet overall. Our analysis indicated that this assumption was unfounded because evaluation of 3 recipe groups, each of which comprised 7 separate recipes, did not eliminate deficiencies. In addition, many recipes had similar deficiencies, with 14 nutrients provided at inadequate concentrations in at least 50 recipes. Thus, even the use of a strategy for rotation among several recipes from multiple sources would be unlikely to provide a balanced diet.

    For rotation to provide balance, the deficiencies and excesses from the different diets have to complement each other. It’s scary how many raw feeders think that rotation is some kind of magic which automatically creates balance.

    • dodo

      Hmm, the paragraph spacing didn’t work. The last two sentences(For rotation to provide balance…) are my comments and not a quote from the study.

  25. ellie

    Oh, my gosh! How did cats and dogs manage to survive for thousands of years without the FDA and the pet food industry? Was anyone dehydrating their food for them eons ago? Was anyone cooking their food for them? NO! Now we are supposed to believe that only a scientist is qualified to decide what is good for our pets to eat?
    Although we have advanced a lot in the past 100 years the information gained in those years seems to have regressed as far as healthy nutrition goes for humans and pets. People and pets are being fed highly processed foods, contaminated with multiple chemicals as well as being genetically changed and the industry is telling us that this is good for us?
    The fact of the matter is the closer a food item is to it’s original fresh, uncontaminated state the more likely you are to get the full nutrition from it as well as the benefits of being more easily and completely digested. I for one am not really concerned about what some “scientist” at UC Davis has to say about what my pet needs to eat. I would be more concerned about why they think their information needs to be kept a secret from the public.
    The people of this country are being manipulated at every level these days. Information is with held and misinformation is put out there. If we don’t look out for ourselves we are in big trouble. The days of trusting big businesses and the government to watch out for us are over.

  26. Lynn

    I think variety is best ! I use several dehydrated foods and add beef,chicken,salmon,rabbit,pork,sardines,green tripe, egg. Rotate so that they at least 2 different proteins per week. Also give coconut oil, omegas, Standard Process canine whole body support. Sounds like a lot to some folks but in reality is easy, if I fed rabbit last I just get something else out of the freezer, no spreadsheets etc.

  27. Jenn Newark

    There is a Yahoo group that helps people to find this information and they provide assistance as well as a handy excel spreadsheet. If you really want to get the perfect diet, the information is out there and is free. But it’s hard word to get it.

    I have purchased both the NRC ($400) and the AAFCO ($90) books in order to confirm the homecooked diet I prepare is as close to perfect as possible, given the information we currently understand about dogs.

    What concerns me GREATLY about these studies is this: it’s well known that the Atwater tables used in these publications are the ‘modified Atwater’ tables. Which have been modified only for use with kibbles and heavily processed foods. You have to use the original Atwater tables to gain the proper nutrient values for a home cooked or raw diet. AAFCO refuses to use the original tables for any foods produced – so if you want to get your food listed as meeting the AAFCO standards and it’s a home cooked or raw diet, you’ll be hard pressed to provide a properly healthy diet that doesn’t OVER use certain nutrients (just as bad and damaging as too little of a nutrient).

    I would be frankly surprised to find they did these studies taking that into consideration – there is a firm hold by big business on how foods meet the recommendations. Exceeding is bad – if you really want to make your own and are serious about the quality, use only the NRC guidelines and ensure you are within the boundaries of the minimum and maximums. It’s hard work as I said, but worth it!

    • Susan Thixton

      Good point Jenn – I wrote about AAFCO’s Modified Atwater a few years ago. The language of pet food is completely different than human food – not quite fair when you consider the same people buying human food are buying pet food.

  28. a. a.

    When I was a girl in Zimbabwe, a friend had several Rhodesian Ridgebacks, which ate from a great big bowl of Mealy Pup every morning. Mealy Pup is boiled porridge oats with some flax seed, just as we eat our porridge, only they didn’t have milk. The rest of the day they might catch a few mice and occasionally have a meat bone. That was it. They slept by the fire at night and lived well to 15 years each. No science. My aunt’s German Shepherd used to love picking her own blackberries to eat during blackberry season. My grandparent’s Lab ate a lot of vegetables, including sauerkraut off our plates in order to get a little meat and lived to 13. He could possibly have lived longer if we had been with him year round but his life was a little more boring because we weren’t and that may have aged him. I think that pet food in the old days was probably healthier, just as human food was healthier. Now there are so many chemicals and fillers involved for both. Can anyone say azodicarbonamide? And people, just so you know, you get better flour if you buy organic wheat flour than if you get the non-organic with malted barley flour. Non-organic pasta is tough and hard on your stomach. If you get chicken liver to cook for your pets buy it organic if you can as all bad stuff is processed by those types of organs and can reside there. Has anyone heard about how much irradiation is occurring in pet food processing and even about allowable irradiation of organic fruits and vegetables for human consumption? Also, organic does not mean heirloom. If you and your pets can eat organic and heirloom varieties of foods you and they will be much better off.

  29. Ian

    I went to the link to try and read the actual study and find out which recipes were found satisfactory and which nutrients were found lacking etc, but apparently the actual study can only be read in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association.

    I did find something interesting however…. in my earlier comment I had noted how UC Davis has been involved in a spin-off called Balance It that sells pet food recipes, software, and supplements. To quote from their website https://secure.balanceit.com/ .. “Davis Veterinary Medical (DVM) Consulting, Inc. is a small family-owned company that has managed Balance IT® since 2005. Balance IT® is now the world’s leading solution for making fresh homemade pet food. Our patent pending online software is used by pet lovers and veterinarians worldwide to make over 10,000 custom recipes for pets and patients a year…DVM Consulting, Inc. was founded in 2003 by Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, DACVN, a board certified veterinary nutritionist who held an academic faculty position at UC Davis between 2003-2013, headed R&D for Natura Pet Products, Inc. until its acquisition by Procter & Gamble, and co-edited/co-authored a leading textbook on veterinary clinical nutrition.”

    The lead author of the UC Davis study finding almost everyone else’s pet food inadequate is “Jennifer Larsen, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis and lead author on the study.”

    You know what’s coming next already, don’t you? Down at the bottom of the page it also mentions “Larsen is a co-owner of DVM Consulting Inc., which licenses the software used to analyze the recipes.”

    Hmmm… so Ms Larsen did a study of her own company’s patent-pending software (that she licenses to people to make pet food using supplements that her company also sells), and found that almost everyone else’s recipes are inadequate. O-Kayyyy… maybe…. but I’d really like to see an actual study of the health of dogs fed the supposedly inadequate diets, specific information about what is deficient and how that can be fixed with real whole foods rather than expensive industy supplements….rather than what is essentially just a study validating the lead author’s own for-profit products.

    If anyone can forward me a copy of the actual study I’d love to read it.

    • ellie

      This is really interesting information. I know of people who always send others who are thinking of making their own dog food to this site. They assume that only a DMV would have the correct information!
      Misinformation is more like it!

    • KAH

      Susan works with Vets who support her PF advocacy work. Maybe one of them could extract the electronic copy from the Journal of the American Veterinary Association and make it available to you. I would also like to know which recipes met the requirements, including why and how.
      .
      As mentioned before I used their DVM recipe service. The recipe I got back was VERY, very basic, meaning Salmon and Sweet Potato (baked), with the ratios determined by weight. They were very specific about the amount of corn oil to add (1/4 tsp.) and you had to add the powdered supplement. It was later pointed out to me that unless I knew how the powdered supplement was sourced (meaning if from overseas and China) it might not be a good thing long term. Plus the Vit K was synthetically made and I was told that wasn’t too good an idea either. Perhaps the other elements were too. In formulating this recipe they really only asked the dog’s weight, gender, age, if he was neutered. But I couldn’t see feeding a 2 ingredient diet day in and day out with the powdered supplement rather than giving a variety of more whole foods. They didn’t even suggest using a probiotic.
      .
      I hope you get the study. It would be interesting to see how self-serving it is for their own marketing purposes.

      • ellie

        The vitamin thing is an important issue. Most commercial foods have a ton of synthetic vitamins tacked on the end of the ingredient list. Sine the food has been cooked multiple times at very high temps there is really very little nutrition left in the “food” ingredients so vitamins must be added for the animals to exist.
        Finding out where these vitamins are sourced can be a challenge. Pet food companies do not have to list where they get their ingredients.
        Much of the vitamin supply in this country has at the very least been manufactured in China.

    • dodo

      You are grossly misstating the purpose of the study. The study was on the nutrient values of recpies in found in books and on the net. It’s not a study of the software. The software is just used as a tool to calculate the nutrient values of recipes. The study can be done without the software. You just need to look up food nutrient databases and calculate manually. Computer based analysis is only one part of the study. For the second part, the authors prepared 15 recipes and did lab analysis on them.
      .
      Might this study cause more people to use BalanceIt because they fear that the recipes they use are inbalanced? Sure. But to claim the the study actually validates Balanceit products is ridiculous.

      http://www.viewdocsonline.com/document/6eruom

      That’s the full article. The source of all the recipes are given(references 10 to 46) but they don’t mention which sources the balanced recipes come from.

      • Ian

        Thank you for the link to the study. However, I stand behind my earlier statement about the study validating the author’s for-profit software, based on the following statements from the UCDavis press release regarding the study:

        “Larsen… evaluated both the ingredients and the instructions for each recipe, using a computer-based program to quantify the nutritional content of the food described by each recipe, as well as the specificity of the instructions…..In order to corroborate the results of the computer-based analysis, the researchers also conducted laboratory analysis of nutrient content for the dog food that was prepared according to the instructions specified by 15 of the 200 recipes…. In comparing the results from the laboratory analysis with the computer-based analysis for these 15 recipes, the researchers found that both assessment methods agreed on deficiencies and excesses, with only a few discrepancies. “The data support the concept that computer-based analysis is a reliable method for detecting inadequacies in recipes for homemade dog food,” Larsen said.

        • dodo

          Then you are not comprehending the meaning of those sentences.

      • Ian

        I have read the study. Here are some excerpts in reply to dodo’s statement. I have added the referenced footnotes in parentheses.

        On the first page, paragraph 2: the primary purpose of the study is “…to provide an evaluation of recipes for home-prepared diets for adult dogs conducted via computer based software….” Followed by on page 2 paragraph 2: “Quantitative analysis was performed with diet formulation software (Balance IT Autobalancer, Davis Veterinary Consulting Inc, Davis CA) and both publicly available (USDA, Agricultural Research Service, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference) and proprietary (Davis Veterinary Medical Consulting Inc, Davis CA)nutrient analysis databases.”

        From the final Clinical Summary; “…Computer-based analysis was highly predictive of deficiencies or excesses of nutrients as measured via laboratory methods which supports the reliability of computer based analysis for use in detecting inadequacies in recipes…”

        On the first page of the study it confirms “Dr Larsen is an owner of DVM Consulting Inc.”

        So no, I do not agree that I was “grossly misstating the purpose of the study.”

  30. Ian

    uggh… you know, I hate to think I am just too suspicious, and the main issue is really the health of my dog…. so I went back to balanceit.com to use their Free Recipe Generator… yes it freely generated a recipe for my dog, but if I wanted to actually READ that recipe I have to buy their $45 supplement… OR if I want to use my own human supplements I can BUY the recipe itself for $20. Not the ingredients… not a book… ONE RECIPE. $20. (But the generation of the recipe was free!) (And don’t forget, a study at UCDavis found virtually no one else’s recipes are safe for your pet!)

    • Rhiannon

      You don’t have to pay to read the free recipe, I’ve tried it. You must not have been clicking on the correct button. Just click “view” beside the word, “passed”.

      • Ian

        Rhiannon, it’s free if you use their products in the recipe, not free if you are NOT using their products. I just went and tested it again. As a carb source I did not select their product, I selected bananas. As a protein source I selected cottage cheese. I chose one of their standard recipes. Then it delivers results saying “passed” and “view” only for the recipe “using Balance IT® Canine” ….for the recipe “using Human supplements” the button “view” is replaced by a button that says “add to cart” and you have to buy the recipe for $20 before you can view it.

  31. Ian

    Further things I found interesting in reading the actual study were:

    “supplement-type products were not included in 58 (29%) of recipes”…. so… 71% of the recipes evaluated called for the use of supplements as ingredients, not simply whole foods.

    Susan and Dr Alinovi’s book is mentioned in a footnote, but the footnote is kind of vague as to the reference. I have written to the author asking for clarification.

    In the introduction it states: “We believed that most of the recipes would not meet requirements for essential nutrients and that recipes written by non veterinarians would have a higher number of deficiencies than recipes written by veterinarians.” After doing the study, they concluded that what they already believed before they began the study was in fact true. I guess that’s OK, you have to have a hypothesis when you’re starting out, right?

    I just wish the goal of the study had been “to find which home prepared recipes and cookbooks provide adequate nutrition, inform the public clearly of which recipes do not provide adequate nutrition, and suggest ways of elevating home cooked meals to fully adequate nutrition using whole foods and avoiding supplements.” That would have been lovely. Maybe someone will do that study next !

    They noted that adjustments have to be made in recipe analysis due to “the expected higher digestability of human foods than of commercial pet foods.”

    They later point out that supplements do not always contain what they say they contain, so that introduces errors when trying to computer-analyze food prepared with supplements.

    The most commonly deficient nutrients were zinc, choline, copper, EPA plus DHA, and calcium. Also vitamin D and vitamin E. Also vitamin B12. (Some recipes exceeded the safe upper limit for vitamin D and 6 surpassed the safe upper limit for EPA plus DHA.)

    When they got to the actual laboratory testing of the food (as compared with just evaluating it using computer software) they state “Because of cost constraints, analysis of only select limiting nutrients was possible. These nutrients included vitamin D, E, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc.” So their lab analysis did not see everything that’s in there, just what they’re looking for. (I would assume that in whole foods there are a substantial variety of trace elements beyond those 12, which may have synergistic health effects not addressed in this study?)

    Finally, the study is NOT about feeding real dogs real food and measuring their real health. The study is about using the existing assumptions about pet nutrition to do computer analysis using the main author’s proprietary for-profit computer software, checking that against lab analysis of 12 select nutrients, and concludes that the authors’ pre-existing belief that it is not safe to prepare your own pet food at home is correct.

    I think I already pointed out that DVM Consulting (closely involved in this study) has been also pretty intimately involved with Procter and Gamble. https://secure.balanceit.com/info/aboutus.php?

    I guess that’s to be expected… industry would also want to hire the best nutrition experts, right? It would be nice, though, to see a study of the safety of home-prepared pet foods done by people who are not intimately connected with the pet food industry.

    Wish I was a billionaire… anybody know a billionaire who loves pets and scientific research?

  32. Ruth

    Just a note on the above comments, the BalanceIT recipes are extremely high in carbs (at least all the ones I’ve looked at), which is not something I’m going to feed to my dog TYVM.

    On the subject at hand, the FDA makes publically availible the AAFCO nutrient guidelines (as of 2010) for both cat and dog food: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/ucm047120.htm

    Now yes, a large number of the required figures are in percentages of dry matter. Thats not really that hard to work off of. If you go here: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ you can get the USDA figured averages for all sorts of foods, subtract the moisture number from the total and that becomes your new 100% figure (so if you have 100g of meat and 18g of that is moisture 82g becomes your new 100% number) and you then figure all your percentages from that, its basic math guys. The nutrients that AREN’T given as percentages are because they are such small numbers (and often potentially bad in signifigantly higher numbers) that its simpler to just give concrete numbers. Again, NOT THAT HARD to figure out.

    Now the NRC’s info is usefull, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t actually have to pay for the AAFCO’s info….

  33. Ian

    I wrote to Dr Larsen with several questions and she kindly replied. Unfortunately her replies were less specific than I was hoping for. Still, she took the time to reply, which I appreciate.

    I asked: “which recipes did your analysis show were the best, and what was the source of those recipes?”

    She replied “The goal of our study was to increase awareness regarding the nutritional inadequacy of most readily available recipes, not to promote the use or avoidance of specific sources for general recipes. Further, some of the passing recipes required assumptions with regard to which ingredients and/or supplement products to use, and may not remain balanced with alternate assumptions. Finally, some recipes from the same source were nutritionally adequate while others were not, therefore a blanket recommendation for any particular source is not possible.”

    (So, she states that a goal of the study was to demonstrate that most pet food recipes are nutritionally inadequate, and they succeeded in showing that. And even the recipes that were found to be adequate might not be if you prepare them yourself using other assumptions/products. I guess the same might be true of the recipes found to be inadequate??)

    I asked “if you are feeding your dog home-cooked foods, is there a way to actually test the hair or blood of your dog over time, or any other test, to see if they are developing any deficiencies?”

    She replied “Hair analysis is not useful for evaluation of nutritional status. Not many nutrients can be reliably assessed using blood analysis either (especially minerals). Assessment of an individuals nutritional status involves many factors and is unfortunately not straightforward.”

    I asked: “Do you have a dog? What do you feed your dog?”

    She replied “My dogs eat commercial diets as well as home-cooked diets depending on my availability to spend time shopping and in the kitchen.”

    Finally, I asked for clarification on the footnote regarding Susan Thixton’s and Dr Alinovi’s book Dinner Pawsible. She replied that the foot note means that for the section of the study where they tested 3 groups of 7 recipes to see if a single group of 7 recipes evaluated at once would meet their requirements for a balanced diet due to recipe rotation, the only source used for the 3 groups of 7 recipes was Dinner Pawsible. And their computer evaluation found that none of the groups of 7 recipes pulled from Dinner Pawsible was fully balanced. I do find it interesting that out of the many, many sources of recipes evaluated in the study, only Susan and Dr Cathy’s book was used for the grouped recipe evaluations. Also they do not state if the recipes pulled from the book were pulled randomly, or were pulled with an eye to show that they would not be complete, or were grouped with an eye to trying to make a complete group. It seems to me how they were grouped could make a big difference.

    She concluded her email with the statement: “We strongly believe that a customized approach that accounts for the energy requirements and the specific ingredient preferences of the pet and the owner is the most beneficial use of home-prepared diets for healthy pets. When you use a general recipe, you lose the major advantage of this type of diet. This is even more important for pets with diseases, and in that case a “one size fits all” recipe is not indicated and may be harmful. For this reason, our Nutrition Service does not provide or recommend general recipes, and encourages collaboration with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to develop a comprehensive and customized nutritional management plan including follow-up and adjustments as needed. More information can be found here: http://nutrition.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ and http://acvn.org/.”

    The last link goes to the American College of Veterinary Nutrition website which states in one section : “There are many recipes for home prepared pet diets available on the Internet and in books; however, the vast majority of these are inadequate and unbalanced. The recipes are either vague in instruction, contain errors or omissions in formulation, incorporate potentially problematic ingredients, or feature outdated strategies for addressing specific disease conditions. They may also lack specificity about the exact amount to feed a particular size of pet. If you wish to prepare your pet’s food at home, consider getting a customized recipe and consultation with a board certified veterinary nutritionist.”

    FYI, the Chairman of the Board of the AVCN is Dr Sally Perea. Why did that name sound familiar to me? From the Davis Veterinary Consulting Balance-It website: “Sally Perea, DVM, MS, DACVN aided the company in significant ways for five years until she left to focus completely on Iams Veterinary Formula development at Procter & Gamble in 2012.” Small world!

    Finally, the link that a previous commenter “Dodo” provided to the actual study is no longer functioning, but I did save a pdf copy of the study if anyone wants it.

    • Susan Thixton

      Ian – I’d like a copy. If you can email it to me that would be great.

  34. KAH

    I worry that people thinking about home cooking for their dog may come to this discussion and be discouraged. They may conclude that using commercial PF, no matter the quality, is the trade off for ensuring balanced nutrition. Wrong. Mean that’s kind of a dumb assumption. Would you serve your family inferior food, diseased, spoiled, compromised, or even worse even toxic food, JUST because it represented a complete range of balanced nutrition PER individual meal?
    .
    I think we need to get back on track, rather than debating the merits or deficiencies of this particular DVM/UC Davis Study, which also seems to be self-serving for the makers of the BalanceIT supplement mentioned. Better yet, is to focus on the real life experiences of existing feeders. While some may disagree with pure RAW feeding, I have yet to read an owner reporting a bad experience having fed raw over a period of time. I’ve done it with young and old dogs, all do well. More likely the dogs have actually thrived and were relieved of previous health issues.
    .
    Better yet is the philosophy of rotation. Including among different types of feeding, protein sources, how food is prepared and combined, etc. I think there is plenty of room for “some” very high “quality” (see The 2013 List) commercial kibble which would ensure that all necessary nutrients are being provided. And there is a place for using raw food too (particularly by feeding chicken necks, and ground up bone in beef, as examples), and using other whole foods minimally processed. It takes time initially to research and become organized, but look up all the nutrients required for a balanced diet, and look up the foods that contain the highest amounts of the vitamins and minerals mentioned. You will be surprised to learn that certain ingredients provide several different vitamins and minerals (such as do meats, fish, seeds, egg, liver, asparagras, brussel sprouts, oat bran, brown rice … just to call these out). There are whole food supplements that are not sourced from China or from synthetics. By the time an owner invokes several methods of feeding, your dog will have the benefit (probably even greater than what would be obtained in the wild) from many rich sources. And unless your dog already has an illness, he or she should do very well eating in many different formats, as we ourselves would do as well. Including fresh, raw, minimally processed, a little treat food, maybe a vitamin now and then, and so on. Do not fret people, and keep your eye on the GOAL which is to avoid sub-standard and potentially toxic commercial PF that is all too often doing more damage long term than whatever you could possibly contrive from your own kitchen. Just as long as you avoid the very few toxic foods that exist.

  35. donteatkibble

    Best PR campaign strategy ever!

    Partner with a major university; create your own proprietary measuring tool, measure competitors to your standards instead of the well accepted Gold Standard, then publish in a major journal like JAVMA posing as science when the research is pseudoscience at best. Sorry JAVMA, but you’ve been fooled, and are being used as a tool for publicity. These are the same tactics and pseudoscience that has been used by the same industry for too long now. It needs to end.

    One of the authors of this study is an owner of the Balance It balancing system. This is also the autobalancer used by the research team and UC Davis to make their diets. Does it seem strange to anyone else that the very researcher involved in the study, and for that matter the research team and very university, has a financial gain in finding 200+ other methods for making a homemade diet, including those of 120+ veterinarians as inferior to their own?

    From the Balance It website: “DVM Consulting, Inc. was founded in 2003 by Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, DACVN, a board certified veterinary nutritionist who held an academic faculty position at UC Davis between 2003-2013, headed R&D for Natura Pet Products, Inc. until its acquisition by Procter & Gamble”

    This “study” is essentially a Press Release from UC Davis attempting to stop people from making potentially more wholesome diets at home. Vets should be outraged that this group is trying to kill a trend toward more wholesome options instead of supporting them. It is essentially the same as a reputable human doctor fighting tooth and nail for some “Balanced Human Kibble” or processed “Human Meal Replacement Powder” against a balanced whole meal, simply because he’s part owner and his parent company is Proctor and Gamble. It wouldn’t make any sense there, and it makes no sense here.

    There are many flaws with this study including: 1) potential conflict of interest 2) novel methodology that has not been used before 3) proprietary methods 4) small sample sizes used to make very large generalizations (only 15 diets were actually prepared and lab tested, but 200+ were claimed to have been concluded on – big leap in the evidenced based process).

  36. Gary Alan

    Your point is well taken and I strongly support you with that. To add to the matter regarding the UC Davis Study, I also find it absurd to treat home made dog food recipes individually and isolated. Home made dog food recipes are various and are served to our dogs in variance. Meaning, our dogs do not just eat the same recipe for the rest of their lives the way commercialized dog foods would let us do. We serve them various recipes so that the nutrients that are not in one recipe, will be added by another recipe. Makes sense, isn’t it? So don’t be discouraged by this study. For all we know, it is one of the marketing strategy of the pet food industry.

    • Denise Moitoza

      Last week while at my vets office with one of my furry lads the question of food came up. As soon as I said that I make my own food she immediately said that whenever they find out someone is making their dogs food they are immediately referred to a nutritionist. My husband and son both took two steps back. Hmmmmm where did this nutritionist get their education? The reply was UC DAVIS. My reply was no thank you. The vets reply was a look of shock, disbelief, and amazement. Then I listed all the veggies my dogs loved then all the fruits. Finally I asked her what vegetables her animals loved or did she even know? Then I scooped my little guy up and left. Pretty sure that subject won’t come up any time soon.

    • ellie

      It is interesting that most Americans have had about 15 minutes of information about preparing meals for humans and no one cares about that and yet preparing meals for your pet yourself is considered near animal abuse according to the pet food and veterinarian association.

      It is insanity to think that humans can buy whatever they find on the grocery store shelf and eat it without anyone raising an eyebrow but just buy fresh all natural meat and vegetables to be prepared for your pet at home and these people tell you that you don’t know what you are doing!

      Do you really think that pet nutrition is something that only a veterinarian hired by a big pet food company can figure out? What do you think a feral cat or dog would pick out to eat in nature? The farmers corn patch? Do we see discussions about human foods as much as we see pet food
      companies and veterinarians condemning people who want to feed their pets real fresh food rather than highly processed low quality food items?

      Americans have become brainwashed by the food industry into thinking that food with real nutritional value can come out of a box, bag or can.
      A human nutritionist will tell you that you cannot use synthetic vitamins to replace the nutrition gotten from eating real, fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits. Do you think that is any less true for your pet? Are they specially designed to exist on highly processed, low grade items with added synthetic vitamins?

      In truth “pet food” is actually convenience food. Convenient for the pet owner and highly profitable for the manufacturer.

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Jerky Treats from China have been killing and sickening pets for

When will FDA make this clock stop?





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