First, do no harm.
We believe that it is our responsibility to advocate on behalf of dogs that live in the care of fur families (humans).
The way we do this is by making sure that everything we supply is scientifically based, precise and simple for dog parents.
From puppy-hood, my grand dog Socrates has been plagued by severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. In his first months it generally, but not always, was associated with objects he had eaten. As he matured, objects became less involved and we tried different commercial, premium diets with no success. However, he always responded to my home prepared meals.
One afternoon my son and daughter-in-law rushed him to the hospital where I worked. Socs had explosive vomiting and diarrhea and had become dehydrated in a very short time. After much testing and exploratory surgery it was evident that Socs had no foreign bodies or underlying medical problems. We had to conclude that he simply could not tolerate any commercial dog food. I needed to come up with a long-term homemade diet that was nutritionally complete. This was not as easy as I expected.
I was introduced to homemade dog food during my second year of veterinary school. Dr. Donald Strombeck, our veterinary gastroenterology professor and the god father of homemade dog food, introduced us to the wonders of cottage cheese and boiled white rice for our patients. He taught that a bland diet with limited ingredients allowed the intestines, liver and pancreas a chance to rest and heal from various conditions. He also taught that providing limited ingredients in a diet helped diagnose conditions, particularly allergic conditions. To this day the critical care unit at the University of California Veterinary School Teaching Hospital in Davis has a ready supply of cottage cheese and boiled white rice. But such diets are not nutritionally complete. They don’t need to be because they are generally used for a short period of time.
So how was I going to help Socs with a permanent homemade diet? I devised a program that allowed me to analyze homemade recipes offered online and in books. Most of the recipes did not contain the necessary amino acids and fats. The vitamin and mineral recommendations for these recipes were vague, suggesting any children’s or adult vitamin mineral supplement and any bone meal formula was OK. But every vitamin and mineral company has their own formulas that are all different. There are 5 major brands of bone meal and each one has a different amount of calcium and phosphorus. What this means is that different choices of supplements would result in very different amounts of vitamins and minerals in the diet.
There is no way to know whether a recipe would contain everything a dog needed. And that was exactly the problem I encountered. I could not find a human vitamin/mineral or calcium/phosphorus product that would ensure Socs received all of his daily nutrient needs. Turns out, I’m not the only one coming to this conclusion. In the last 5 years, 3 veterinary research studies from the UC Davis nutrition group found that 95% of homemade dog and cat food recipes on the internet or published in books lacked one or more essential nutrients.
If I wanted to be sure that Socs’ meals were balanced, I had to formulate my own supplements and recipes. Because in my clinical practice the most common question I get is “what should I feed my dog,” I wanted to share Socs’ healthy solution with other dog owners so they could also feed the best, healthiest and easiest homemade dog food. Healthier Homemade was born.
Dr. Ken Tudor is a recognized leader in the field of pet nutrition and fitness. He co-founded a national campaign to help fight dog obesity, developed a pet weight management program, and served on an American Animal Hospital Association task force to develop weight management guidelines for dogs and cats.
He is a member of American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, American Veterinary Medical Association, European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, and California Veterinary Medical Association. He has had research published in Veterinary Medicine, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and Feline Medicine journals. He also contributed to the “Daily Vet” blog at PetMD.
A personal note:
More than 39 years ago, I had the great fortune of studying under the godfather of homemade dog food, veterinary gastroenterologist Dr.Donald Strombeck. He introduced we students at the U C Davis veterinary school to the healing powers of cottage cheese and rice for intestinal upset. To this day the Davis ICU refrigerator has a fresh supply of cottage cheese and rice for critically ill patients. I followed that same recommendation for my ill patients into private practice with remarkable results. But cottage cheese or chicken and rice is not a balanced diet. It didn’t need to be because the diets were used for only a short period of time to aid healing or diagnosing problems before the dogs were put back on a commercial dog food that met their needs.
Nutritionists Drs. Qinton Rogers, James Morris and new resident Tony Buffington taught at Davis at the same time and developed many specialty diets for the Hill’s Pet Food Company to manage many of the conditions identified by Dr. Strombeck and other faculty members. Using the nutritional information from this nutrition staff, Dr. Stombeck wrote the first homemade dog food recipe book for normal dogs and cats and those with various diseases.
I used Dr. Strombeck's book during my early practice years to formulate individual homemade diets for my veterinary patients. His book was written before the advances in computer technology that have allowed more sophisticated analysis of dog food diets and the nutritional needs of dogs. With my experience and knowledge of dog nutrition coupled with newly available data, I discovered that most of Dr. Strombeck’s recipes were not balanced and did not adequately meet the daily nutrition requirements of dogs. Happily, with the new tools available in recent years, I was able to build on that early work so that now we can provide truly complete and balanced meals.