Recipes can be found on the internet for homemade pet food and several books assert health claims about these diets. However, given the number of essential nutrients required to support a dog or cat’s healthy life, the reality is that homemade pet food doesn’t measure up.

Most pet food products on the market are designed to provide total nutrition for pets. Such complete and balanced products contain the right balance of protein, fat, fiber and carbohydrates. Complete and balanced products provide more than 40 required nutrients, including specific vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. Pet food makers must confirm that recipes provide the sufficient nutrition. Complete and balanced pet food comes from a carefully crafted and prepared recipe.

A 2013 study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine found that a vast majority of homemade recipes are lacking in nutrition. Researchers analyzed 200 different recipes for home-prepared dog foods, using recipes from different websites, veterinary textbooks and pet care books. The results showed that 95 percent of the recipes were deficient in at least one essential nutrient and 84 percent were lacking in multiple required nutrients[1].

Symptoms of an inadequate diet can impact a pet’s health fairly quickly, particularly with regard to diets deficient in water-soluble vitamins, such as certain B vitamins, which are not stored in the body. But if the deficient vitamin is fat-soluble, such as vitamin A or vitamin D, your pet’s health problems may not show for weeks or even months. Depending on the stage of life of the animal, the consequences of the nutrient deficiency may be more severe, especially for growing puppies and pregnant dogs[2],[3].

Health problems that could result from the nutrient deficiencies that were most commonly found among the recipes for homemade diets assessed in the study include skin problems (zinc), bone and joint problems (calcium), and weight loss and fat accumulation in the liver (choline). Some of the homemade dog foods had so little of certain nutrients that they did not provide even half of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences National Research Council’s recommended daily intake. With regard to these nutrients, ninety-five percent provided less than half of the needed vitamin D, 55 percent provided less than half the needed zinc, 43.4 percent provided less than half the needed choline, and 39.2 percent provided less than half the needed vitamin E.

Commercially-prepared pet food that is listed as “complete and balanced” offers the complete and balanced nutrition that will help your cat or dog enjoy a long and healthy life.