Updated: Mar 25, 2022
The first UK-based Veterinary Multi-Supplements that accurately and reliably balance home-cooked recipes to FEDIAF nutrient guidelines
By Dr. Charlotte Gray MA (hons) VetMB MRCVS
Home-cooking can be tricky. Our dogs love to share our food and - for many of us - cooking for them and giving treats is a large part of our bond. Unfortunately, nutrient requirements for dogs are very different to our own, and this can sometimes mean that our well-intentioned sharing results in nutrient deficiencies in our canine companions.
I know that it seems odd to worry about balancing dog food when most of us do a pretty good job of balancing our own food without much thought, but there are several reasons why balancing your dog's diet may be more difficult and critical than balancing your own.
1. Dogs have had some extremes bred into them that make them vulnerable to short term nutrient deficiencies. This is particularly true for puppies: the average human takes 18 to 20 years to reach adult weight and skeletal maturity - that’s nearly a quarter of your life spent growing, slow and steady. Many dogs reach skeletal maturity rapidly (by 12 months), spending less than 10% of their life getting to ‘full size’ - dogs grow FAST. This speed of growth is even more striking in large and giant breeds who will gain 1-2kg per week as puppies. This makes them far more vulnerable to nutrient deficiency than we are. Dogs need high and consistent levels of the right nutrients to support this rapid growth.
2. Dog nutrient requirements are not the same as ours. Dogs have adapted a little to our way of living over the last 20,000 years and have adjusted (genetically) to be able to eat a wider variety of foods than the wolf, but they still have a vastly increased need for some particular nutrients. Their calcium requirement is a great example, with their need being nearly 3 x higher than ours. This means calcium sources such as dairy don’t really cut it for dogs. It’s remarkably common that I meet older dogs during dental procedures whose chronic calcium and vitamin D deficiencies have resulted in the jaw bone becoming thin, brittle, and occasionally completely dissolved… It’s common that we fail to provide the right balance.
3. Dogs that are suffering from clinical disease have some unusual and difficult nutrient requirements. Our dogs have been bred selectively to look and behave the way we want. We have little dogs and big dogs, gun dogs and guard dogs, dogs with long flowing hair and dogs with no hair at all. Unfortunately, this selective breeding has introduced many issues that require some unusual nutrient requirements to enable them to live a long and healthy life. Liver shunts are an excellent example: pets with liver shunts need lower-protein diets with protein sources coming almost exclusively from eggs or cheese. They also need accurately calculated and higher levels of zinc (improving liver function) and water soluble B vitamins. It’s almost impossible to provide this combination of nutrients safely without accurate supplementation.
What does this mean for home-cooking?
Home-cooking is still a great option for most pet owners. Home-cooked food for dogs is highly digestible, tasty, flexible and allows you to use local/traceable ingredients, but it can be tricky to get the nutrient balance right.
There are thousands of supplements for dogs on the market but with the exception of the American ‘Balance IT’ there has been no other product capable of providing adequate nutrient balance to simple home-cooked recipes for dogs.
BalanceIT has its problems for UK dog-owners too… it is only available from the USA which incurs hefty import charges and delivery times. Recently, many owners cannot get the product at all as a result of Covid and Brexit-related issues.
You’ll have to trust me when I say I have spent several years scouting international markets for an alternative product that I was happy with and I never found one. There are thousands of ‘multi’ supplements on the market but every single one I have looked at fails to address nutrient balance: most rely on fancy marketing but have very little thought behind them. I’m currently creating a video to help demonstrate this for you. I often saw owners in my practice who had forked out hundreds of pounds on multiple supplements in a desperate attempt to balance a home-cooked diet and I had to repeatedly break the news they had probably wasted their money.
Until now, the only alternative solution I had when formulating for these pets involved owners having to source multiple human supplements and weighing/cutting tablets to create their own supplement mixes. This is expensive, time-consuming and puts dogs at risk of accidental over or underdosing when products change.
For many years I hoped that someone would create a UK-based multi-supplement that would do a good job of balancing simple home-made diets safely and accurately. Despite the rapidly growing number of owners choosing to make their own dog food at home, this elusive product never materialised so in 2021 I joined the VetChef team to develop it myself.
A year on, we now have a range of multi-supplements to accommodate all of the most common types of dog and I’ve created something that I’m really happy with. When I designed these supplements I wanted to:
Create a supplement that reliably allows easy balancing of simple, cheap recipes so that home-preparing meals becomes accessible to ALL owners.
Create a supplement that is hypoallergenic and doesn’t contain common carbohydrate allergens like rice or wheat.
Use organic, protein-bound and highly bioavailable forms of nutrients (chelates and glycinates) wherever possible - dogs can absorb these forms much more readily than inorganic forms like sulphates.
Provide the CORRECT amount of nutrients rather than provide excessive levels ‘just in case’: copious amounts of nutrients can cause just as much harm as deficiency.
Create a range of supplements that will also accommodate growing pets or pets with specific and challenging requirements such as liver disease or renal failure.
Our database provides hundreds of free recipes that, when combined with the recommended supplement, provides easy home-made meals that will meet FEDIAF nutritional guidelines every time. We will talk more about each supplement over the coming weeks to give you more of an idea of what makes ours so special.
For many pet owners they will be the difference between being able to or not being able to feed home-made meals!
You can find out more about our supplements here: https://www.vetchef.com/everyday-homemade
Our Prescription Supplements are only available with vet-approval, but the supplements for healthy dogs are available to all. *For vets and those who are using software to formulate bespoke recipes for pets, we will shortly be adding the PDF full nutrient breakdown for you so that you can use them in your own recipe formulations.* The supplements are currently only available in the UK. Contact us for international partnership enquiries.