The biggest danger of making homemade meals is nutrient deficiency. Many commercial dog food brands already have supplements included, but dealing with dog supplements for homemade dog food is actually a little tricky.
If you follow my articles, you know that I share homemade dog food recipes every week. After publishing them, I'm often inundated with emails from pet owners, asking me which dog supplements should be added to the recipe for a well-balanced meal.
This is a very important question. But unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
Essential supplements in a homemade dog food recipe will highly depend on your dog and the recipe itself. Some homemade recipes will provide all of the vitamins and minerals that a dog needs through their ingredients, but that is very rare. Most recipes will not, and it's not always easy to tell which is which.
I decided to share this guide on dog supplements for homemade dog food to shed some light on this important aspect of homemade diet. In the video above and the article below, I'll explain which pet supplements should be added to homemade dog food recipes and when, how these dog supplements may change over time, as well as the best resources to use when trying to figure all of this out.
Using Dog Supplements for Homemade Dog Food
Why You Need Supplements for Homemade Dog Food
Even the best dog food recipes that are recommended by veterinarians and canine nutritionists (such as those in our free eBook) do not always supply enough vitamins and minerals a dog needs. Every homemade dog food recipe will be different, and provide different vitamins and minerals, depending on the ingredients used.
What dog supplements for homemade dog food you will need to use will depend on two factors: (1) nutrients missing from the recipe's ingredients, (2) your dog's current health and individual needs.
In a 2013 study from the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, 200 homemade dog food recipes were evaluated. The recipes came from 34 different sources, including pet care books, websites and even veterinary textbooks.
Researchers evaluated the ingredients used in these recipes and the instructions for preparing the food. They found that only 9 of the recipes provided the essential nutrients in adequate concentrations to meet the minimum standards set for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). And of those 9 recipes that met AAFCO minimum standards, only 5 recipes provided the essential nutrients in adequate concentrations set for adult dogs by the National Research Council.
This means that only 2.5% of the recipes out of 200 evaluated provided adequate nutrients for adult dogs according to the AAFCO and the NRC.
Adding Dog Supplements to Homemade Dog Food Is Tricky
Generally, it doesn't matter where you get your dog food recipes. Whether you pick something from our list of best recipes, or they come recommended by your veterinarian, they may not be 100% nutritionally balanced. Most of them will have a good balance of calories, and also macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) but not vitamins/minerals.
The ingredients in every recipe will provide some vitamins and minerals. To reach that optimal number for your dog, you will need to add supplements. This means you need to familiarize yourself beforehand with nutritional requirements of your dog, and how much homemade food to feed your pet. Based on that, you can add supplements.
However, choosing multivitamin supplements for dogs can be tricky.
For example: let's say that you are feeding a recipe that already meets your dog's needs for calcium. If you give a dog a multivitamin supplement that contains extra calcium, they could suffer from calcium toxicity over time (or hypercalcemia, which is actually common in dogs who take supplements).
Conversely, if you are feeding a dog a homemade dog food recipe that is not 100% nutritionally balanced and you choose not to add any pet supplements at all for that recipe, then your dog could end up nutritionally deficient.
The point I'm trying to get across is that there is no one answer to a question such as “what dog supplements for homemade dog food I need to add?” There are too many variables, and you will have to figure it out based on your individual situation.
Here's how to do it:
(1) Know your dog's individual nutritional needs, which includes calories, macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). It's best to ask a vet or canine nutritionist to assess your pet and help you to figure these numbers out. Write them down and keep them close.
(2) Choose a list of homemade dog food recipes that already come as close to meeting your pet's nutritional needs as possible (ideally, show it to your vet).
(3) Calculate which nutrients are missing completely from those recipes, or where their RDA levels do not reach the necessary concentration for what your dog needs.
(4) Based on those numbers, buy all the necessary dog supplements and add them to the recipe to make up for the missing micronutrients, while being careful not to add too much.
This may seem daunting, and it does require some extra work in the beginning, but once you've gone through the initial stages, you won't have to do this again (unless your dog's health condition changes). As long as you're aware of all those numbers, there are plenty of common vitamins for dogs and probiotic supplements that you can choose from.
Before Using Dog Supplements for Homemade Dog Food
I cannot stress this enough: the safest way to do this properly is to speak with a canine nutritionist or veterinarian who is well-versed in canine nutrition (not all vets are). Talk to them about your individual dog's current nutritional requirements, and dog supplements for homemade dog food you can use, and their dosage.
In the above photo, you can see which pet supplements I commonly use in my own homemade dog food recipes. Many of those you're likely to use as well. Most common dog supplements recommended to add to homemade dog food recipes include:
- Multivitamin supplements
- Hip and joint supplements
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
- Vitamins A & E
- Protein supplements
Some good brands of dog supplements you can buy and use in homemade recipes are:
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Don't Forget to Make Adjustments When Needed
Even after you've figured out the exact numbers and your recipes are now 100% well-balanced, sometimes you may need to make small adjustments.
There are many variables that affect the nutrients that your dog's body needs to get from a meal each day, and what you should be adding to your homemade dog foods. Most commonly, it depends on your dog's age, weight, breed, environment, activity level, medical history and current health condition.
For example: if your dog has just been diagnosed with some ailment, you will have to make an adjustment to your pet's meals and the supplements you're using.
Additionally, along with the ingredients used in recipes, the preparation and storage of those homemade dog food meals will also affect the nutrients included in the recipe. For example, heating and freezing certain homemade dog foods may destroy some nutrients.
By doing some research and some math, you'll figure out all the dog supplements for homemade dog food that will be required. Even if you have the time to do all of this research on your own, I highly recommend consulting a canine nutritionist about your pet's homemade diet. It's the only way to be completely sure that your dog is getting the nutrition that he needs, and you can cover yourself in just a single consultation.