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Oops! Big Error Found in University Pet Food Study

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  1. Grateful

    You rock Susan. Thank you.

  2. Josh

    I just wanted to say that it is a fight (against the commercial standard) everyday to give clients good information not put forth by the big companies. I discuss many options in nutrition and make them aware of the impact food health has on their dogs. I have learned that many people are open to the idea of home cooked or raw meals for their pets when they are given the information to make their own informed decision. That is the hardest part, informing people! When studies like this are done and made a big deal out of, it’s very hard to have people listen to the little guy. I’m starting to recommend your site to a lot more people as a great tool to keep up with current issues. I’ll keep up the fight to educate and inform people and I hope you, and everybody else who follows you will to.
    Thank you,

  3. Ann

    Why do you imply that UC Davis has a vested interest in the reported outcome of this study? I’ve ready the summary in the JAVA — I’m sure that you have too. It does NOT discourage feeding home made diets that are formulated by a nutritionist.

    Susan, I’m going to choose a couple of recipes from Dinner Pawsible and feed them to my dog for life. Do you guarantee that he will receive complete nutrition and suffer zero deficiencies? Guarantee it please, here and in writing.

    Thank you.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Ann…why wouldn’t I feel that UC Davis has a vested interest in the outcome of the study? Especially when one of the authors is part owner of the software company that analyzed the recipes. The clinical summary of the study states: “Formulation of recipes for home-prepared diets requires expert input to minimize the risk of problems, and we recommend that recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs be obtained from or evaluated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists or veterinarians with advanced training in nutrition who are experienced and able to understand and address these concerns.” Which I interpret to mean that only a board certified veterinary nutritionists is qualified to feed my pets. I personally disagree with this statement. I didn’t need a board certified nutritionist to feed my children – and I don’t need one to feed my pets. This isn’t rocket science – it is food.
      And Ann – I feed my four cats and two dogs my and Dr. Cathy’s recipes from Dinner Pawsible every single day. I have for the last four years. You can choose to feed what you’d like for your pets – I choose my home cooking for mine.

      1. Jeri

        I so agree with this Susan. This is such a hot button issue with me. We have raw fed our two dogs for over 2 years now and have corrected our older dog’s IBD by doing so (episode free for over 2 years!) It’s complete nonsense to say that only a board certified nutritionist can balance a diet. Frankly, anyone who does their own research can do so. We use Karen Becker’s great little book, “Real Food for Dogs and Cats” as a guide, but there are others out there just as well-written. Personally I wouldn’t trust a board certified nutritionist to do as good a job. I’ve used some recipes from sites manned by them and they are heavy-handed with grains and lacking in organ meat. Not a good mix.

      2. Ann

        Susan, you neglect to answer the bigger part of my question.

        Please guarantee in writing that the recipes in Dinner Pawsible are nutritionally complete for my dog and that he will suffer no nutritional deficiencies when I feed these recipes for his entire life.

        1. Holly


          Susan does not owe you a guarantee. Just as life itself does not owe you a guarantee of health and happiness, for you or your pets. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to care for your pets as you see fit. It is your responsibility to review the ingredients on packaged foo, and research home-based recipes. It is impossible to guarantee any one recipe, or specific ingredient, will be beneficial for all animals. Each individual creature on this planet has their own specific gut biome and epigentic expression. That is why medications, for example, can have profoundly different results for two seemingly identical animals/humans.

          Susan did her research and presented it to her followers. It is now OUR responsibility to evaluate this information and make the decision whether to follow her recipes or not.

          If you require someone to make such a guarantee, there are plenty of packaged pet foods at your local stores.

        2. Susan Thixton Author

          Ann – I give that guarantee to my own pets each day when I feed them my home prepared food. 20+ years ago I fed my dog a commercial food that killed her. Ever since that day I am fully aware that what I feed my pets can end their life. So to them I give a guarantee that their food is the best food I can give them and is safe to the best of my knowledge.

          Since it seems like you want to argue – With the guarantee you personally seek from recipes in Dinner Pawsible your question stated “two recipes”. No – “two recipes” would probably not be the best for your dog long term. Dinner Pawsible recipes were designed to feed dogs and cats the same way Mother Nature does…through a variety of foods and a variety of nutrition. So if you choose as example two chicken recipes, that would not provide your dogs with a variety of nutrition.

          What you are asking is a set up (I was born at night…it wasn’t last night). The recipes in Dinner Pawsible are fantastic and provide a variety of nutrition to the pets that consume them. Will they provide every dog and cat complete nutrition for their entire life? I doubt it. There is no one (or two) perfect recipe for all dogs and cats. Nutritional requirements change. But neither is one commercial dog food complete nutrition for every dog for its entire life. There is no one perfect food.

          But those recipes are perfect for now for my own pets – they have been each day for more than four years. I have a 15 year old cat my veterinarian said has kidney function better than any cat he’s seen at this age. I don’t think that’s accidental.

          1. Jeanetta


            I’m sure you already know that there will never be a recipe, commercial or home-prepared, that is going to be perfect for all dogs, but that’s where chem screens come in handy. I don’t care if you are feeding commercial kibble or a home prepared diet with a variety of ingredients, IMO, you still need to be checking (and tweaking!) as long a dog is drawing breath. I’m not talking about an annual in-house blood test done by your local vet, but those done by major labs like Antech. That’s the only way you can possibly know if the diet you are feeding is correct for your particular dog. Even then, you still might want to consider the ethics of what you are feeding and certainly the sources of the raw ingredients used.

            My husband was in the food industry for many years. When he witnessed first hand what went into chicken meal at a protein supplier for a major dog food company, he came home and told me he’d never again question how much I chose to spend on feeding our dogs. Chicken feathers were a real turn off. That trip did more good than all my carping had.

            In the past 50 years, I’ve fed commercial, raw, home-cooked and now I’m feeding a commercial dehydrated food to a healthy 13 year old dog. Do I think you need to be a food scientist in order to know how to feed a dog — NO. Do I think you need to know a lot about your dog and it’s level of health in order to feed it correctly–YES! And feeding correctly doesn’t mean organic flown in from China!

          2. dylan010

            Isn’t that part of what the study published, no one diet provides complete nutrition for life?

            Was one of the author’s an owner of the software when the study was published? Is the author an owner currently?

        3. Miranda

          Ann, If you require a guarantee, please look at the package of any commercial pet food. You will get a guarantee – and possibly a recall down the road.
          Are there ever recalls on human food that I use to feed my dog (or myself)? Sure. Do nutrition and safety standards for humans and animals change as more research is done? Of course. Just look at how many things were “great” for us a short time ago and are now taken off the market.
          It appears that you are willing to give up your personal power over the health of your pet in order for someone else to assume responsibility for your decisions. If something doesn’t go as planned there will be someone else to blame.
          So sad.

        4. Scott

          I would like Susan to make that guarantee as soon as Purina and Iams make those same guarantees. They won’t. Why? Because they can’t. Not in support of Purina or Iam (or whatever commercial brand you put there) but there is no way that can be done and not get your ass sued. This coming from a pet owner whose dog was killed by by Purina products. I will never feed my dogs commercial food again. Outside of the death of a healthy and lovely Dane, commercial food contains so many allergens that within 24 hours of a meal, my pit bull starts losing fur, scratching, ears pussing, etc. When he’s on a raw diet, his coat is stunning, his energy high, his personality right where it should be and so is his weight. So, Ann, tell me please, what company do YOU work for? Your posts smack with the tone of an insider.
          I won’t eat crap from a can or a bag myself, why would I continue to do so for a dog that has no choice in what he is fed?

    2. Karla

      Ann, you seem to have missed the whole concept of “food.” Go to any human nutritionist and ask them to give you just two meals that YOU can eat every day for the rest of your life, that will guarantee perfect nutrition for as long as you live, no matter how your health needs change … and they will laugh in your face. That’s not how humans – or dogs – are meant to eat, and that’s not how books like Dinner Pawsible are intended to be used. But what should be obvious is that “real food” offers nutrition that is far healthier and more wholesome than anything that comes from an extrusion machine. If you doubt that, I will offer you a different challenge … try eliminating ALL fresh food from your diet for just one year (which is the equivalent of several years in our pet’s lives), and see how that works out for you.

  4. Gitta

    Wow – great catch Susan! In a fair and just world, this would be circulated and talked about just as much as the original story. Perhaps a letter from the Association to the editor of the magazine that published the story?

    I know common sense ain’t so common, but how on earth did dogs not only survive but thrive and reproduce for thousands and thousands of years without the wonders of processed garbage??? I am desperately waiting for an answer. If anybody can convince me – I’ll be happy to switch to Ol’Junk.

    1. Peter

      That is an important point: this study was given wide coverage upon its release, and sustained re-reporting. Few questions were put forth at that time about the implications of that coverage itself.

  5. Diane Blackman

    Inability to provide nutritional requirements by feeding home cooked is ridiculous on its face. What? Dogs were inadequately nourished in the thousands of years before kibble and canning? No creature needs all of its nutrients in every meal. I’m not even sure that is a good goal. Comparing meal symphonies to kibble monologs is bound to sound more than a little flat.

    1. Miranda

      Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a DVM from “down under”, relates in his seminars of how the incidence of disease in domestic animals increased significantly once the pet food companies got a foothold in the area. Can’t all be coincidence.

  6. Lucy

    So, if she were to do a human study, she would declare Chef Boyardee canned ravioli nutritionally superior to a meal of grass fed beef, whole grains and fresh veggies. Ludicrous…

  7. Donna

    First, your best yet! Our gratitude to you for this stellar work on behalf of pets and pet parents.

    I learned my lesson in 2007 with the recalls. Two dogs sick. A premium pet food that was privately tested and found to have toxins. Harassed by the PF company’s attorney. I could write a book. I began home cooking then. Dogs are healthy, coats look great and, most important, they absolutely love their food. I know what they eat. I know where it came from. I am not going back.

    Thank you, Susan.

  8. catherine

    too bad UC Davis didn’t use the substantial time and money to test commercial pet food.

  9. Promise's Mom

    Nearly 5.5 years ago I abandoned commercially prepared dog foods and treats – especially ANYTHING that originated and/or processed by China when Promise, who use to gorge herself on chicken jerky treats, was staged as a ‘3’ LSA victim, a few months before her fourth birthday. Promise, a LSA survivor, as well as the other Basenjis she shares me with, is feed the same diet as my husband and I eat – I simply cook for five. I am a type 2 diabetic, and cook with raw or frozen basic ingredients – no convenience or prepared foods. Doing so has allowed me to have more control of protein and carbohydrates. Cancer loves carbs.
    My vet had considerable reservations about this home solution for feeding my Basenjis but now, five years later, she commented during this last check-up (everyone has a yearly check-up although Promise has a CBC with diff and organ function every six months) that everyone was healthy, with nice skin and coats, and sound. I must be doing something right.
    Thanks, Susan.

  10. Jane Eagle

    I think we shold all write to UC Davis and point out that their name on this study gave it “authority” and now that we find it was based on errors that UC Davis did not bother to check, their entire reputation of excellence is now in question by thousands of animal owners.

    This is also why I already pay no attention to “studies” that tout results that are clearly counter-intuitive.
    It’s a shame, quite literally.

    Office of Research
    University of California, Davis
    1850 Research Park Drive
    Suite 300
    Davis, CA 95618-6153

    Phone: (530) 754-7679
    Fax: (530) 754-7894

    1. Maureen McGrath

      This is shameful research that makes my blood run cold. It discredits academia in general and the University of California in particular. But for UCD which is known primarily for its vetinarian studies to produce this poorly conducted study with the obviously erroneous result makes themselves into a joke. It puts all their research and their research into question.

  11. Kelley

    Wait a sec, …I must be having another attack of stupid again. How can any study being done on paper (as a matter of theory) compare to actual case study research? Would Dr. Larsen be suggesting then (by default) that dogs fed a commercial diet are healthier than (for example) ranch/farm dogs fed real, whole foods? Or dogs eating home sourced whole food leftovers? What about dogs being fed raw diets? Don’t those kinds of diets mimic a dog surviving in real life conditions??

    With such innate nutritional knowledge surely Dr. Larsen and the UC Davis Team could identify the appropriate array of real whole foods, to be fed in the correct quantities, per dog’s the weight., age and lifestyle to establish the control group. Then feed the 2nd group (comparing all stats to the first group) strictly a commercial diet. Then pull blood samples, and medically examine (compare) the dogs on a routine basis. Remembering to sample dogs under a year, as adults and seniors too. Certainly with the full confidence that commercial PF makers have about their products, no doubt they would be particularly enthusiastic about “proving” the superiority of their feed being supported through real life research!

    Maybe this idea could be suggested to Dr. Larsen as well in terms of actually proving her theories (?). I mean I think we’re all about evidence here on the TAPF, ….wouldn’t you agree.

  12. Brenda

    Either the article needs to be retracted or corrected with proper controls and correct values.

  13. Wolf

    and UC Davis is one of the highest ranked vet schools in the world. In the WORLD! So this is what we are fighting against…the bias is that deeply rooted. BPF is that deeply entrenched.

  14. Jenn

    I’m still perplexed by how they are using the modified Atwater tables to calculate home cooked foods. The original Atwater tables are what are accurate in a fresh food. The modified tables are used with the heavily processed foods because they become so depleted of bioavailable nutrients. Makes no sense to me if you are a scientist to ignore…science and fact.

  15. Sharon

    I find it comical that feeding our pets a high quality diet is “so difficult” we’d better leave it to the “experts.” With this logic maybe a processed kibble should be created for feeding our nation’s children too. Yeah! It sure would make life easier and more convenient! …We could have unique formulas for the different stages of childhood… Baby-formula, toddler bit-n-pieces, mid-childhood & teen kibble–all in tempting flavors I’m sure they’d find appealing! We could have a weight loss formula too… Sound ridiculous? Sure does to me. If you love your pet, make the time, and are motivated to LEARN, you can become “qualified” to cook for them, just like we do for our human children.

  16. Victoria

    Dear Susan,

    no question producers of waste food in form of tin and kibble will always try everything they can to confuse concerned pet owners. This may be reached by legal or illegal means. They will be inventive, more cheating is certain to come.

    Your letter is honorable. You are a very brave person. Thanks for doing this on behalf of all of us!


  17. Michele

    First, thanks so much for sharing this with us. Second, what a load of BS !Third, I have been feeding my dogs home cooked meals for 4 years. I think people do need to understand that home cooked is more than rice and hamburger. It certainly involves veggies and fruits, meats / poultry and more. Nobody is going to tell me my home cooked diet isn’t perfect for my dogs. They are extremely healthy, look good, smell good and feel good. My Vet says they are the best looking dogs she sees. So, I don’t need a study by someone who purports to have an animal’s best interest in mind because I can see for myself what a home cooked diet is doing for my dogs.

    1. Susanne

      I think that for many years , starting when we were all very young, we were taught that if someone was more educated than us, and backed by a bunch of impressive letters behind their names, we could trust what they had to say. I am now just long enough in the tooth to say that these are the people I trust the LEAST (most of the time)!! It is foolish to just accept what the ‘powers that be’ are saying. Just as I don’t arbitrarily trust that a drug will help whatever ails me, because my DR says so and he has a magic pill from the licensed drug company pusher that says it will ‘fix’ my problem. it is equally unwise to place all our trust in pet food companies…after all, it IS all about $$$ Someone in the comments above suggested that we should know who is funding the said research….100% agreement here!! So…if you have seen changes in your pet and said pet was initially happy and healthy…backtrack and try to figure out what changed. That is what I am trying to do at the moment, and am interested in insight from you folks. I have a dilemma… I had a dog who was perfectly healthy for half her life….then, gradually she began to smell ‘yeasty’, she began itching terribly, and at times, her belly, which should be pink, looked black, thickened, and leathery. Additionally, she develops inflammation in her ears (not related to ear mites) and I must treat her with Ortomax. Any suggestions?? (She is currently living with a relative, but the problem continues and I would like to suggest some kind of solution regarding her care). Thanks!! Sincerely appreciate any suggestions. I do have her on an expensive, organic dog food which seems to have lessened the problem but what can I do to reverse it?? Or is it systemic and genetic and she will stay this way until she dies? Just wondering.

      1. Michele

        Susanne – yeasty smell, scratching, chronic ear gunk – these are the reasons I began cooking for my English Springer Spaniel. She was 11 years old at that time. She had always had skin issues; hot spots, flaky skin, stinky gunky ears. She was always at the Vet. She was often on Prednisone and Otomax. She’d get better for a couple of months and it would start all over. One day I happened to see an article about allergies and it stated many canine allergies are related to food. Huh? It never dawned on me this could be causing her problems, but I thought, ‘okay – what now?’ So, I picked up a couple of books about cooking for pets and I started reading. First – I HATE cooking! But, I did it. I cooked up a batch of turkey stew and started feeding it to her. I made up an essential oil recipe and added that to her food. I topped her meals off with liver, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruits, flax seed, wheat germ. Within a week the flaky skin was gone. Two weeks the gunky ears and one hotspot had cleared up. Within a month she was a totally different dog. She was more energetic. Her eyes were bright. She was happy! And she felt better. I cooked her food from then on until she died of old age at 14. I continue to cook for my other two dogs. They only see the Vet for annual exams. To me, the proof is in the dogs.

  18. B Dawson

    Since UC Davis has provided homemade recipes in the past – I’ve gotten them from various vets over the years – I wonder how their own diets fared in this comparison? Didn’t the graduate school even offer, for a fee, custom recipes for home diets?

    The relationship between vet schools and major pet food companies runs deep. From scholarships to lab funding to authorship of the texts used, vet students are taught a party line in the few nutritional classes they are offered. And just as an aside, I was appalled at SuperZoo (a trade show for the pet industry) when I witnessed vets going booth to booth offering to sell their credentials so “veterinarian approved” could be put on a food, supplement or treat label. Yup, saw it first hand.

    For years I have presented a talk entitled “The Myth-Conceptions of Companion Animal Nutrition”. My first question to the audience is “are there any human dietitians, certified nutritionists or the like here today?”. After 20 years doing this I can count on one hand the number of persons with advanced human nutrition schooling. Yet vets and the schools who educate them still sing the same tune – we as consumers are too stupid to feed our pets without expert guidance.

    I was taught that “bad data is worse than no data at all” because it leads to erroneous conclusions. I must now take that further to say “bad data allows for manipulated conclusions” that help market products whose quality and safety are being harshly criticized. If both options have risks it’s a roll of the dice, right? Most consumers will opt for the easiest solution. This is the psychology of consumer marketing.

    Thank you, Susan, for putting a spotlight on bad science. Now if the media would just make as big a deal out of the corrections as they did the original study, life would be better!

  19. Angie

    Why do people expect anyone to guarantee the health of THEIR pet(s)? People need to realize that they are RESPONSIBLE for the choices they make every single day and stop trying to find someone else to take blame if something goes wrong. If you chose to feed your pets the lower end dog foods, you get to reap the benefits of it just as your pet does. If you chose to cook for your pet or feed your pet a raw food diet you reap those benefits and so does your pet it’s that simple. I’ve seen first hand the damage that kibble does to animals and I’ll never feed it again. I’ve also seen first hand the changes that take place in a dog when they are switched onto a raw food diet and frankly it’s incredible. This is a common sense issue, the ‘industry’ is out to make as much money as cheaply as possible. The fact that there are harmful and misleading ‘studies’ being released by people with vested interest shouldn’t surprise anyone with common sense. Thanks again to Susan for putting it out there for the public that still seems to be blind to the insanity that is the ‘pet food industry’!

  20. Lynn Whinery

    This is an interesting article. I feel the key to the issue is who funded the study. I don’t see how the fact that Dr. Larson co-own’s the company that made the software is a conflict of interests. How would it be to her company’s advantage to show that home made diets are incomplete?

    I was floored when I heard the results of that study, thought they were suspect, and immediately wondered who funded the study.

    I would like to see the answers to your questions when Dr. Larson replies, but I must say that your email to her is unnecessarily argumentative.

    1. Jeri

      It would be in her best interests if it generates more business. Those computer-generated diets used by the “board certified nutritionists” are not inexpensive. Before I knew better, I used them. They are heavily grain-based and incomplete in terms of the organ meats used (none). Susan was spot on.

  21. Eucritta

    The notion that everyday pet nutrition is difficult and best left to experts arose from marketing campaigns. The Pet Food Institute even used to have a page up on their website with a very good outline of the history of commercial pet foods and pet food marketing in which this was explicitly claimed. They took it down, btw, during the rolling recalls over melamine contamination, when everyone was trying to figure out what to do if commercial pet food couldn’t be trusted, and discovering there really weren’t very many resources for home-prepared pet foods, especially if you didn’t want to feed raw.

    There’s glaring bias in a basic assumption underpinning this study, one which arises from this very marketing campaign: that every meal – every food – must be ‘nutritionally complete’ according to a given standard (currently, AAFCO’s guidelines). In the kitchen, however, this is an unreasonable standard, as natural ingredients vary considerably by season and conditions, and different recipes are likely to be used over time according to perceived or actual need, special considerations, what’s available, looks good or because we know our pets like it. In other words, just as we do when researching, planning, and preparing healthful meals for ourselves.

  22. Nathalie Sperling

    My problem with the study is that only ONE day of the raw diet was testing. As all barf/raw feeders know, a raw food diet offers variation and balances out over time. Different muscle meats and offal are fed on different days, different protein sources, bone content,
    fish versus meat, eggs, no day is the same (or should be) when feeding a correct raw diet. So how did the study take this into account? Did it analyse 10 days of raw versus 10 days of kibble (which doesn’t change)?
    In here the flaw in my opinion…

  23. Caroline

    When my dog got kidney disease I discovered how much rubbish is in commercial dog food. I also believe annual injections played a big part in speeding up her demise. It’s time this was analysed too. Making money has a lot to annswer for. Why do dogs need a booster every year?? Humans don’t.

  24. Anon.

    I offer this as food for thought… I work and am certified in pet nutrition, every day I read and learn something new; there will always be mistakes in surveys and studies and we will all have to once again change the way we think.

    If you do enough research yes you very well might be able to cook your own food without a recipe, and of course you can only get out of the recipe the quality of food you put in. Meaning if you use inferior quality food then there is no guarantee that your pet will be getting a completely balanced meal. However, most people don’t do the level of research needed and thus need to rely on a certified pet nutritionist to design their meals. I often discourage people I talk to from making their own as their version of a meal is boiled chicken and carrots! Sound good to you? In those cases, which are actually the majority, their pet is not getting the proper nutrition and should be directed to a high quality kibble, prepared raw, or a recipe book providing they would actually follow the recipes in said book.

    In the end you have to think like the average consumer, what route is the easiest, quickest, most convient, inexpensive route? That said I fully support a mixed diet of high quality kibble, raw and home cooked, everything in moderation!

    I will not be checking back here so please do not reply. This was just food for thought.

    1. Annonymous Too

      It is nice that you accidentally dropped by to contribute your thoughts to this forum. I don’t know what your experience has been with “chat rooms” or”breed interest” groups, perhaps made up of casual owners and happy conversationalists. But the Truth About Pet Food (TAPF) has been around for about 8 years now. It represents serious consideration, solid journalism, well researched in depth articles, insider tips and collaboration with SME experts and progressive veterinarians (the good kind). I think we’ve gotten the message long ago that “research” is the heart of the matter. And thankfully, and in part due to this very website, research has been abundant so that many owners have been enabled to prepare well balanced home cooked PF, and also to be supported by other readers who are enthusiastic about raw feeding. The author has published 2 books, one in collaboration with a vet, is dedicated to very specific recipes and the other focuses on the problems with commercial PF ingredients. I am not sure anyone here, necessarily needs to rely on a “pet nutritionist” to “design their dog’s meals” – as I learned to use the varied list of ingredients from a wide variety of commercial PF … EXCEPT I make sure mine are whole foods, minimally process and …. natural! Thankfully I don’t need artificial supplements or foreign sourced vitamins and minerals either (as I discovered one “certified pet nutritionist” was inadvertently recommending to support her “holistic recipes”! I second many a reader’s thoughts here, that if I’ve been able to raise a human family on a wide variety of wholesome human foods (including myself, gluten sensitive), then I can do the same thing for my dogs. As long as I’m not using Fast Food or Toxic ingredients. All this other chatter creates doubt and fear, forcing owners to doubt their own instincts, and continue spending money in impractical ways.

      It is regrettable that you failed to check the boxes “notify me of follow-up comments by email” and “notify me of new posts by email” since you’ve chosen not to return to this site and don’t want anyone to reply. Sadly, it is and will continue to be, an indispensable resource for learning about PF, nutrition, PFI issues … and what we’re all waiting to hear about …. the results of some very ground-breaking PF testing!

      By the way, in the ’60’s our neighbor fed only cooked chicken meat (and a few veggies) to her purebred miniature poodle who was the picture of health and energy his whole life! I think I would do so any day, before serving Ol’ Roy, Beneful or Pedigree!

  25. Pat P.

    ANN: Instead of expecting a guarantee, from Susan, that Dinner Pawsible is nutritionally adequate, I would be much more worried about the guarantees that you will never receive from the majority of the commercial pet foods. There are exceptions, of course, but not many, esp. considering the number of brands and varieties on the market.
    !. food is free of 4-D animals (dead, diseased, dying or disabled). Even though against the law, it is not enforced. These animals, if still alive are euthanized, then ground and frozen–often not even heat-processed which kills some bacteria, but not endotoxin bacteria released at death. It can be a very long time before dead animals, whether from other farm/ranch animals or road-kill (any animal) are rendered and determined “unfit for human consumption”
    2. food is free of toxic chemicals–dying/disabled animals are often pumped with harmful chemicals in attempt to save them (and their profits)
    3. antibiotics, growth hormones, toxic chemicals and preservatives are not used, routinely
    4. are no euthanized cats/dogs or even zoo animals, which uses penobarbitol–often found in “meat and bone meal” or “by-products” as in #1
    5. rancid grease is not used
    6. loss of nutrients from extremely high heat used in processing (less in canned foods) Even though some are added back, usually synthetic, not as well absorbed or of good quality

    The above is not all that should be of concern, but these I would worry about. As for nutritionally adequate–Most are of poor quality, very high in carbohydrates (cats need very little, if any) and very low in protein (cats need very high amounts, of high quality and not from the plant kingdom, which a good portion is. Dogs can do with slightly less.

    The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with little or no conscience and only concerned about easy profits. Considering how much waste, of all types, they can accumulate and mix in with their pet “foods” (or feed according to the FDA), and little to no oversight or laws (that are even enforced), more and more companies, totally unrelated to pets, are going into the business; i.e. Del Monte foods sold its main Hawaiian pineapple plantation to focus on its largest business (they are not the 4th largest pet food company, Dow chemical and others are jumping in. Many even own their own rendering plants, so they can use waste from their other products in the mix.

  26. Bri

    I’m sorry if I just missed something, but why is this just now coming up? If the study came out last year, why wasn’t this posted then?

    1. Reader

      You did. The original story can be read at
      This article is a followup realizing that what was originally being compared in the study wasn’t a matter of equality.

      btw: There’s an incredible of information out there concerning the nutritional welfare of our pets, good or bad. So far this Newsletter is free of charge, and is published purely as a service to the author’s many fans and followers. Consider all the reading, confirmation, consultation with SMEs, correspondence with article originators, and comparative work that needs to be done before any article is put into print. Given many topics are being worked on simultaneously, not to mention many other responsibilities that are also being managed as well.

      Whatever is published, no matter when, is information for which I am quite grateful and appreciative.

      1. Reader

        correction…. there’s an incredible amount of information … out there

        (my keyboard sticks!)

      2. Bri

        I understand, and I’m grateful as well, but what I meant is that, from what I’ve seen, Ms. Thixton seems to put out articles about recent events at a fast pace, so I’m not sure why this one was posted so late.

  27. aimee mrtn

    I have read, reread and read yet again the study discussed in this article. Never have I concluded that the authors are discouraging the feeding of homemade pet foods. I only see the authors as wanting to ensure that the animals in our care be well nourished. This is something we can all agree upon.

    Using several references, the authors calculated the nutrient content of home prepared recipes and compared those levels to both NRC and AAFCO standards. It could be claimed that it is not valid to compare a fresh ingredient diet to AAFCO standards as they are not based on the higher bioavailability of nutrients in a fresh diet vs commonly used ingredients. This is true. But it is valid to compare a fresh ingredient diet to the NRC MR (Minimal Requirement) as the NRC MR is based on the nutrient being bioavailable and is typically much lower than AAFCO. For example the NRC MR for protein for canine maintenance is 20 grams/1000 kcals vs 51 grams protein/1000 kcals for AAFCO. When the authors compared the diets to NRC MR only 5 diets met this criteria vs 9 meeting AAFCO. (If the MR is unknown I believe the authors used the RA ( Recommended Allowance)). So we can see that when comparing apples to apples, highly bioavailable fresh to highly bioavailable MR most recipes still failed to be found adequate.

    There is a typo in that the Vit. D number published (339 I.U./1000 kcals) was not the number to which the diets were compared to (136 I.U./1000 kcals NRC or ~143 I.U./1000kcals AAFCO). The authors acknowledged this. The median value (the middle number in a series of numbers) for Vit. D content for the recipes for which data was available was ~41 I.U./1000 kcals which means that ~1/2 of those diets had less than 41 I.U./1000 kcals. This number is well below the NRC RA of 136 I.U./1000 kcals. From this we can see that the diets were not found deficient based on the inflated typo value. The NRC safe upper limit for Vit. D is 800 I.U./1000 kcals, over twice the inflated typo value. So even if the typo value were used it would have been safe for the dogs.

    All studies have flaws, yet after careful analysis I find no fault with the authors conclusions.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      You state the Vitamin D error was a typo, how do you know that? Was evidence of analysis provided to you? It wasn’t me – or others that asked for it. Dr. Larsen – the contact person for this study was asked for verification of the ‘typo’ by me (numerous attempts via email and voice mail messages), by Dr. Cathy Alinovi (numerous attempts) and by Dr. Michael Fox (numerous attempts). But Dr. Larsen didn’t respond to any of us. If this was an actual simple error, why wouldn’t the University and/or Dr. Larsen explain? If the ‘science’ is so sound, why wouldn’t they attempt to give evidence that this was indeed a typo and that their concern of nutrient deficiencies in home prepared diets is truly a concern and not a guise to aid in selling more recycled garbage pet food?

      A pet food consumer years ago shared with me her understanding of pet food was like the layers of an onion. She could only remove one layer at a time. Then she would have the courage to remove another and then another. Even though she wanted, she couldn’t get to the center of the onion all at once. This particular pet owner – guess what – she now feeds her pets home prepared foods and her animals have never been healthier.

      I suspect you are on layer one. I have my doubts you will ever get past the first layer – but I hope you do.

      1. aimee

        Exactly what “evidence of analysis” are you looking for beyond that which is reported in the paper? The median Vit. D content of the 167 recipes for which it was analyzed was 41.2 IU/1000kcals. From this we know that the Vit D content of 84 of the 102 recipes reported as being below the NRC RA was at or below 41.2 IU/1000 kcals. This means 18 deficient recipes were above 41.2 I.U./1000 kcals and below the value they measured against.

        So at most we are looking at 18 recipes out of 200, less than 10% of all recipes evaluated, that were measured against whatever value was used. I’d venture to say that the papers conclusions wouldn’t change no matter which number was used. Especially as only 9 recipes met AAFCO and AAFCO’s min is ~143 I.U./1000 kcals Vit D)

        I’d also bet that even when completely eliminating the Vit D data from the analysis it wouldn’t change the outcome of the study as most diets were deficient in more than one nutrient.

        So why do I say it was a “typo”?

        1. I’m guessing that the software they used has the NRC and AAFCO profiles “built in”.

        2. A correction was published in JAVMA

        3. I asked and got a response back within hours saying the number was, and I quote,” a typo”.

        Also I don’t know why you are comparing me to an onion or what that would have to do with an objective analysis of a published paper. Should I be insulted? You suspect that I’m on layer one and don’t think I’ll ever reach the center. And the center is….what? home cooking??

        Tonight I cooked venison heart with some kidney and liver…but didn’t eat any of it. Last week I cooked about 5 lbs of chicken breast, 4 lbs’ chicken thighs and 5 lbs 90% lean beef along with peas, carrots, broccoli, potatoes… and none of the human family members in the house ate any of it. Go ahead guess where it all went? 😉

        Interesting that you see the paper “as a guise to aid in selling more recycled garbage pet food” On another forum it was seen as a way to drive more business to those ACVN’s that consult with clients to make custom home cooked diets. Shrug

        I just see it as concerned veterinarians wanting to see pets be well nourished. Something we can all agree upon.

        1. Susan Thixton Author

          Aimee – as I’ve told you in the many emails you continue to send me to argue with me – we’ll have to agree to disagree. I believe this paper accomplished exactly what it set out to do – undermine consumer confidence in preparing pet food at home. So did many other pet food consumers – whose comments are on this post.

          You state: 1. I’m guessing that the software they used has the NRC and AAFCO profiles “built in”.
          It’s ok for you to make an assumption about the paper but not me?

          You state: 2. A correction was published in JAVMA
          No press release was issued to announce the correction so that the thousands of media accounts warning consumers a ‘study’ from a famous university contained an error. Was that fair? It remains fact – the published paper contained an error. One that we know of. Are there more? Veterinarians whose work the study disparaged tried to engage the publishers in conversation to understand how their recipes were found nutrient deficient – but alas, no one from the study cared to discuss it.

          You state: 3. I asked and got a response back within hours saying the number was, and I quote,” a typo”.
          It remains that I have not gotten a response from numerous people at UC Davis – it remains that Dr. Cathy Alinvoi has not and it remains that Dr. Michael Fox (who is a well known holistic veterinarian that helps pet food consumers all over the world in his syndicated newspaper column) hasn’t gotten a response. Now why wouldn’t the publishers of this paper want to discuss their findings with veterinarians? Puzzling. (Not really.)

        2. Reader

          Please give me a break. Your response is entirely “formulated.” That means, so what’s your angle? Few typical Readers have the time, energy or inclination to “debate” the minutiae of a pathetically dry “scientific” paper, especially one that is questionably aimed in the best interest of pets. (Oh reeelly). If I was worried that my dogs weren’t getting “exactly” enough Vitamin D daily, would I be able to sleep at night? Or, would I be worried that FDA’s Compliance Policies are a serious hazard? Why not spend an equal amount of time “analyzing” those policies please, and their effect on commercial food? And then, lets debate PF priorities.

          As many Readers will remind, their grandparents and preceding generations fed pets with whole food table scraps, and cats supplemented their meals with fresh kills. How much equalized Vitamin D were those pets receiving per meal? Many dogs were working farm/ranch additions, lived a long life, and died of natural causes.

          We need to get real here. And stop side-tracking (especially new) Readers, yes the very people who are still working through their disbelief and denial, in order to encourage them to question everything pointed towards (the apparent benefits of) commercial PF! Your angle is still not clear to me. But since you’re so vehemently defending your critique of the study, I would guess you might be a fellow author of it, or have some vested interest in commercial PF itself, or maybe you’re a veterinarian doing fee-based nutritional consults. Whatever, Trolls are also more and more sophisticated and don’t give up quickly. Unless you’re feeding a whole crew of pets, you suggest cooking a tremendously heavy amount of whole foods per week, which frankly sounds too good to be true. After home cooking for 3+ years it’s evident to me what it actually takes.

          But the last sentence is the give-away. “I just see it as concerned veterinarians wanting to see pets be well nourished.” It that were true for the majority of Vets, then they would seek formal nutritional training, read all the current articles about compromises in the PFI, and support in every way, how owners can feed whole foods to pets. It is not rocket science by any means, yet pet owners get no credit for the wanting the opportunity of becoming educated and supported by them (meaning, the Vets) in order to feed rotation style!

          Why do I even care – well because Susan works far too hard ensuring the credibility of her reporting, and the result is helping to save the lives of pets. Unlike “other” forums she does so without permitting advertising or up front fees. She doesn’t deserve a response like this one. Because while your comment is painfully tedious, it tends to “trivialize” her reactions unfairly.

    2. Pacific Sun

      I think the issue of this (so-called) high level scientific study can be perceived as discouraging home made diets. Nothing should take two hours of reading to be fully understood, and if it does, then part of the intended audience disappears anyway. There are many reasons for not aggressively recommending home made diets (especially willy- nilly style.) Because what people consider fit for human consumption – certainly isn’t for pets (especially cats). Including fast food, pre-packaged frozen or “Hamburger Helper” like stuff, greasy, fatty, sugary, spicy, pizza lover’s or Chinese food leftovers! While whole food diets aren’t rocket science, some common sense balance is necessary. So instead – wouldn’t it be refreshing if a well funded, independent scientific study came out demonstrating how pet owners COULD feed their companions in a more healthy manner? So rather than discussing a lot of confusing scientific equations, and the minutiae of AAFCO standards, why not put into everyday language, a method for using whole foods, based on the nutritional calories required for a pet, per poundage, age and activity levels? Stressing types of suitable whole foods, per (generalized) proportions and ratios, and how owners can get the right vitamins & minerals from which foods?? We don’t need more scientific studies erring on the side of commercial (often toxic) PF. But we do need more alternatives for “rotation” feeding.

      In the beginning I started using a food scale. That’s how nervous I was about getting it right. After reading enough TAPF articles (especially about FDA Compliance Policies) I decided that there was nothing I could do worse, than the toxins contained in some commercial PF. In the END, and after a LOT of observation, I took the ingredients listed on many (so-called) quality dry PFs, turned them into WHOLE FOODS, keeping in mind their ranking on the labels (meaning in what proportion to protein and fat they were being used), minimally cooked the protein, used BPA free canned wild caught fish, steamed the veggies, added the fruits for antioxidants & digestion, used high protein yogurt & egg shells for calcium, beans, oatmeal or tapioca for a binder. My goals have always been (one) do my dogs produce good output (which they weren’t on commercial kibble), and (2) to keep the oldest dog free of chronic conditions for as long as possible. And to keep the youngest one going strong. So far, home-made has been very successful, per “scientific” blood panels and Vet consultations. Most of all, I can sleep at night not worrying about the next PF crisis.

  28. Gus Powder

    Why is there no difference between the powdered chicken and a whole roasted chicken? Is there not more protein concentration in the powder?

  29. Dalton Webb

    Not trying to get involved in this heated argument, in which it sounds like neither side has sufficient evidence to prove the other is wrong, but i do have a question.

    I dont think either commercial diets or raw/home cooked diets are inherently evil, genetics probably plays a large role in these dogs but i am sure diet affects that. My confusion is, I grew up with dogs (5 dogs) that were fed lowest grade commercial diets available (Ol’ Roy etc.) and none of them had major healthy issues and all lived to be around 15-16 years of age before health declined (one died at 17 after getting hit by car). In addition, my current dogs are both fed Purina Pro Plan and have eaten it for the last 7 years. Both are healthy, no history of diseaes or ongoing disease, no GI issues, great coats, ideal BCS and very active dogs. So, if commercial diets, grains and other ingredients are inherently bad for dogs, why have I not experienced that first hand with my own over the last 25 years?

    I am not making an argument one way or the other, I just dont have the first hand experience of commercial diets making my pets sick so I have a hard time justifying that argument.

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