For many reasons, dog owners are increasingly experimenting with non-traditional diets for their dogs. Homemade diets allow this flexibility, but well balanced homemade dog food is not easy to achieve. This is especially true for dog owners seeking a vegan alternative. The following medical case from the teaching hospital at Ohio State University is an example.

When the owners of a 2-year old English Bulldog with severe coughing and breathing problems sought help, the university doctors found the dog was in congestive heart failure due to an enlarged heart. An ultrasound revealed dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM. DCM is a condition where the heart muscle becomes very thin and enlarges in size to compensate for the lack of pumping strength caused by the thinning muscle. In cats, this was a very common heart disease caused by the deficiency of an amino acid called taurine, but taurine supplementation in cat food has made the condition virtually disappear.

The taurine requirement for dogs is much lower than in cats and is easily met by meat protein in normal diets, so DCM is rare in dogs. The owners of the Bulldog were questioned about the dog’s diet. It turns out the dog had severe food allergies and the owners had turned to the internet for an alternative diet; a combination of lentils, brown rice and potatoes to control the allergic skin problem.

Due to the lack of meat in the diet, the doctors at the university tested the dog’s blood for taurine levels and found the dog had 2 nmol/ml where normal is 60-120 nmol/ml proving a taurine deficiency. After supplementation with taurine, the dog made a complete recovery and the heart returned to normal size. The dog was also put on a balanced hypoallergenic diet for its skin condition.

This story has a happy ending but many do not. Veterinarians are seeing more cases of nutritional deficiency because more dog owners are seeking homemade alternatives. A recent study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association found 95% of homemade diets are nutritionally inadequate, especially those from non-veterinary sources, and it is especially difficult for vegan diets. Unlike meat, vegetable proteins are not complete in amino acids and without extensive knowledge of nutrition it is very difficult to create a well-balanced vegan diet.

Homemade diets let dog owners control the quality of their dog’s food, but it is important to seek help from those offering well planned recipes and proper supplementation. Hearthstone Homemade is passionate about helping.

Dr. Ken Tudor,
The Dog Dietitian

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