Your normally starved dog doesn’t care much about his nibble lately, and you are wondering if it’s time to change his diet. You’ve heard of the homemade dog food trend and think you’ll give it a try. Should you make the switch?
If you do, you are in good company. A recent study by the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College in Canada found that 87% of dog owners feed their pets real food (read: human-safe) as part of their diet. Yet it is difficult to detract from the value of commercial dog food that is reliably produced by an industry that dates back to the mid-19th century.
Which option is best for your dog – homemade or store-bought? Here’s a quick comparison to help you decide.
There is no question that homemade dog food wins in this category. If you want to have your dog with his meals, you can choose the freshest ingredients to feed him. Most commercially produced dog foods have a long shelf life. A bag of unopened dry dog food can last up to 18 months. Unopened canned food has a shelf life of two years. Because of this, it’s important to check the expiration date on every bag or can of groceries you buy.
Even with subscription services for fresh dog food like The Farmer’s Dog, where meals get to you within a few days of being prepared, there is some delay. If you want to give your dog the freshest ingredients, homemade wins the day.
You might think that homemade dog food is better than nibbles here, too, but that’s not always the case. Dogs have distinctly different nutritional needs and digest food differently from humans, which means that homemade meals may be lacking in healthy ingredients that dogs need. When researchers at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine rated 200 popular dog food recipes, they found that 95% of the required amounts were lacking in at least one essential nutrient.
In comparison, any dog food made in the US must meet the US Department of Agriculture’s requirements for a balanced diet. Ingredients are regulated by the Center for Veterinary Medicine, a branch of the US Food and Drug Administration. The Association of American Feed Control Officials is responsible for enforcing state laws for the safe production and labeling of animal feed.
What’s the verdict? When it comes to nutritional value, store-bought food is the best choice for an active, healthy dog. The recipes are formulated for every phase of your dog’s life as well as for their special nutritional needs, which are difficult to achieve in your own kitchen.
We call this a tie.
Let’s talk to the elephant in the room first. We have seen many dog food recalls over the past 15 years which is one of the reasons homemade dog food is so popular now. In an incident in 2007, nearly 180 pet food companies voluntarily recalled their products that were reported to have caused kidney failure and death in thousands of dogs and cats in the United States and Canada.
What do you need to fear when preparing homemade dog food? Much the same risk. Foodborne illnesses are not only intended for commercial dog foods. A 2010 study found that less than 2% of reported cases of foodborne illness were related to pet food. This compares to 76 million foodborne illnesses worldwide, killing nearly 5,000 people each year.
And when cooking for your dog, you need to know what common foods are potentially harmful or even deadly for dogs to eat. A short list includes avocado, chocolate, grapes, and raisins.
Is It Cheaper to Prepare Meals for Your Dog? Not necessarily. Here are a few variables to consider:
- Budget. Store-bought dog food prices range from a little under $ 1 / pound for dry snacks to more than $ 20 for a 13-ounce can. Determine how much you are currently paying per meal so you can get an accurate picture of how much the switch will cost.
- Ingredients. What ingredients do you need when you switch to homemade? How much do they cost and are they available from you? For example, duck is a common ingredient in home-cooked meals, but it’s usually more expensive than chicken and harder to find year round.
- Time and effort. How much is your time worth Store-bought dog food is pretty simple: just open the sachet and serve the correct portion. Homemade dog food, on the other hand, requires more effort. In addition to shopping for the right ingredients, you need to invest the time and effort in properly cooking and storing meals.
There is a lot to consider when trying to decide whether to feed your dog store-bought or homemade meals. His age, health, and lifestyle, and your budget and availability should all be part of the equation.
Before you make a decision, you should consult your veterinarian or a board certified veterinary nutritionist. She is the expert on your dog’s health and can help you make informed decisions about how to achieve optimal health. Working together, you can be assured that your dog is getting the best nutrition for their health, happiness, and longevity.