Science Says Homemade Food Better for Dogs (But There's a Catch)

Aren't we all trying to kick the junk food? Every New Year, we all promise ourselves no more takeout or highly processed foods.

Why? Because they're packed with canola oil, sugar and all sorts of artificial ingredients. We know we should be eating a well-rounded, homemade diet.

So why wouldn't dogs be the same? Why wouldn't their bodies prefer nutritionally complete homemade dog food over processed dry food straight out the bag?

In this article, we'll answer the question: is homemade food better for dogs?

The science suggests it is—not only that, but nutritionally complete homemade dog food can prevent the onset of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. As long as you know how to make homemade dog food properly, you're good to go.

Let's explore the science behind what processed dog food is doing to your pup and why homemade food is healthier. But there's a catch... we'll also explain when home cooked food can actually be worse for your dog's health.

Is homemade food better for dogs than processed food?

There's sufficient scientific research to suggest that homemade food is healthier for dogs.

Below we've summarized several studies displaying the negative affects of processed commercial dog food, and why homemade food was shown to be healthier according to science.

Low nutritional content

Think of your typical fast food: burgers, chips, fried chicken and more. It's all unhealthy but convenient. We know we shouldn't eat it, but we do.

Commercial dog food is very similar, and it's manufactured in the same machines as sugary cereal. Dry kibble counts as nutrition… barely. We believe most large pet food manufacturers aren't necessarily interested in your dog's diet—beyond meeting the minimum requirements. They just want to make a profit.

The result is a commercial dog food that's of questionable benefit, and it may in fact be harmful.

In one study, researchers evaluated 36 dry dog foods for nutritional content and microbial safety. All of the dry dog foods met the industry's minimum nutritional guidelines. However, as the authors noted, "those are minimum recommended allowances for commercial pet food, not minimum requirements or optimal intake levels" [*].

Put another way: commercial dog foods contain nutrients, just not nearly enough.

For example, the recommended minimum levels for protein and fat are set at 18g and 5.5g per 100g respectively. Yet, as another study claimed, the nutrient content should not drop below 26g of protein, 15g of fatty acids, and 5g of fiber [*].

That means 13 of the 36 foods (36%) were nutritional deficient in protein, and 69% were deficient in crude fat.

In contrast, you can tailor a homemade recipe to ensure you're producing nutritionally complete homemade dog food meeting the highest standards when you make your dog’s dinner yourself.

Causes obesity and diabetes

The high carb content of most commercial pet food puts dogs at a greater risk of diabetes. Dietary carbohydrate content has the greatest effect on blood glucose and insulin levels—key factors in the onset of diabetes. High carb cereal grains alone often comprise 25 to 60% of commercial dog foods, and many pet foods contain 40% to 70% carb content in total.

Diets low in carbs, high in protein, and moderate in fat content can prevent and manage obesity and diabetes in dogs [*]. As the nutritional profile of most commercial pet foods is the opposite, they're only exacerbating an already troubling problem. Indeed, around half of all dogs are currently obese, leading to shorter and lower quality lives.

Other studies have found similar results. Dogs fed with a low-protein diet grew slower, and their glucose tolerance level gradually increased—a precursor of diabetes. Furthermore, pups born to mothers on a low-protein diet demonstrated congenital malnutrition [*].

Meanwhile, high protein, high fiber diets as found in nutritionally complete homemade dog food result in greater body fat loss in obese dogs [*].

Better gut health

Commercial dog food can also play havoc with your dog's stomach. In one study, dogs were fed either a commercial feed or a natural diet. Those on the natural diet ended the study with a "more diverse and abundant microbial composition" in their gut, also known as the gut microbiota [*]

Increasingly, the gut microbiota is recognised as a key source of canine health. A reduction in bacterial diversity (called dysbiosis) is associated with inflammatory bowel diseases, obesity, allergy, diabetes and more [*]

Homemade dog food: Not so simple

The evidence seems pretty clear: commercial dog food is often nutritionally inadequate, increases the likelihood of obesity and diabetes, and causes long-term bowel problems.

With all of these issues surrounding ultraprocessed commercial dog food, we believe the solution is a nutritionally complete homemade dog food. That way, you know exactly what's going into your dog's body.

But hold up—before you go raiding your cupboard for ingredients, there is a catch or two…

Catch #1: Nutrient deficiency

Just because commercial dog food is nutritionally deficient according to higher pet food standards doesn't make homemade dog food automatically nutritionally complete. In fact, 95% of homemade dog food recipes are deficient in at least one nutrient.

That may not seem like a lot – but over time, it can have serious ramifications.

Vitamin A (beta-carotene) deficiency, for instance, causes a weak immune system, itchiness and rashes, night-time blindness and weight loss. Meanwhile, a lack of vitamin E results in muscle weakness and reproductive problems.

Even if you do calculate the exact nutrient quantities, heating food can decrease the nutrient content over time [*]

Catch #2: Delivery options still high in carbs

We've discussed above why a high carb diet is bad for your dog—it predisposes them to diabetes and kidney disease.

But, surprisingly, most online fresh dog food delivery brands load up on carbohydrates too. So while you think your pet is finally getting a reliable, nutritionally complete homemade-like dog food, the reality is just more high-carb diets.

What's the solution?

Homemade dog food is awesome. Not only can you decide what goes inside and cut out processed artificial ingredients, it makes for a happier dog. I mean, who doesn't prefer a hot cooked dinner to the equivalent of processed crackers?

To guarantee a complete and balanced diet per AAFCO’s nutritional standards, we suggest trying our Perfect Dog Food Mix. It contains all the vitamins and minerals critical to your dog's diet and beyond. Since 95% of homemade dog food recipes online are nutritionally deficient, you'll know they're getting everything they need to stay healthy.

So, is home food better for dogs? Yes! Just be sure it's nutritionally complete.

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