A topic that comes up often on my Facebook group is, how do people know if a recipe they find online is balanced or not? It is critically important, of course, that recipes not only utilize nice wholesome ingredients, but they provide all the essentials a dog needs, from Vitamin A to zinc.Now this doesn’t mean all nutrients have to be provided in optimal levels at every meal, although some really are best fed daily; as long as you aren’t constantly short-changing the requirements you’ll be fine. But how do you know what those requirements are, and what foods to use? Just rotating ingredients, or adding the so-called “Superfoods”(more on that later) will not guarantee you have enough of everything essential in your dog’s daily diet.
This little series will help you see what I mean.


Sardines are an excellent food for many dogs – high in Omega3 fatty acids, a good source of protein, Vitamin D and iodine..but the high histamine content is not ideal for a dog with allergies or MCT(a type of cancer).You might want to watch the sodium content too, if using canned, check for BPA free.
So let’s look at a simple and quick recipe I whipped up for Danny, my 9 year old Ridgeback, who has a few little quirks(like so many dogs do).

To start; Dan needs about 1800 calories a day at this current exercise level, he does best with moderate fats, and has had the best stool ever(after years of intermittent issues there)  since I added a small amount of chickpeas daily. He can’t have any but the very freshest fish, as he had a small Mast Cell Tumour removed about 2 years ago and I am watching histamine content. He doesn’t do well with beef, but he can handle bison and venison. Most veggies are ok in moderation (see more on how to use veggies here: https://thepossiblecanine.com/veggies-dog )  I’m somewhat limited in what I can use for him, his meals revolve around chicken, turkey, lamb and lamb liver, bison, eggs, chicken hearts and liver, bison heart,  occasional fresh wildcaught salmon, venison,  venison and bison tripe, and the carbs (mostly sweet potato, buckwheat, chickpeas and rotated veggies.)  He likes and does well with a little plain goats milk, but he hates yogurt. I bake various treats for him, but I play it safe; one wrong bite and we will have to get out the Benadryl – he’s that reactive. So,  how many ways can these foods be combined? Let’s see what I did this morning.


Not Danny, but that’s kind of the look I get.

So-  using dark meat skinless chicken, a little sweet potato,  haf cup organic mashed chickpeas, a cup of mixed broccoli and kale (steamed), with a teaspoon of fish oil and two eggs, it came out great in most ways:

Calories: 1766
Protein: 164.3 g
Carbohydrate: 122.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 23.2 g
Total Fat: 66.5 g

The percentages break down like this:

Distribution of calories:
Protein: 37.7 %
Fat: 34.3 %
Carbohydrate: 28 %

So this is all good for Dan,  he loves this meal, he’s happy – I’m happy. We know the type of fat and fiber  matters almost as much as total intake for many dogs, certainly for mine. So, before we feed – what’s the full nutrient content like? We expect to add calcium; like all home cooked recipes, this one is low. But there are some other sneaky little issues, and – just briefly here today – let’s “deconstruct” a bit more.

Calcium: 373.7 mg
Copper: 1.226 mg
Iron: 14.4 mg
Magnesium: 274.6 mg
Selenium: 125.1 mcg
Zinc: 17.5 mg
Vitamin D: .49 mcg

Now – these are not the only criticisms I have of this diet, but to get the post up today and get the genera idea out, here are some quickly recognizable and easily remedied problems.
Calcium is, as always, way low, we need to add 1650 mgs (rounded up a little, which is ok here).  Copper is low at 1.2 mgs – some liver would help this, but I don’t have any today, so we might think about adding a 2 mg copper supplement to get Dan’s level over his 3.0 RDA (recommended daily allowance). Magnesium is not a serious issue at 275 mgs, we would like at least 300 here but that’s one I could make up for tomorrow. Selenium is low at 125 mcg and I’d like 185…so, we could add a supplement, or a few ground Brazil nuts, or  look at what’s in tomorrow’s diet and go a little high. (I personally usually boost selenium intake in older dogs somewhat over the RA, along with Vitamin E- more on that in future entries). Zinc is predictably low at just over half what I want my dog to have daily – 30 mgs – and Vitamin D – well, yep we need a supplement here. Danny’s RA is about 280 IUs a day but I give him 400.
And what about iron ?  Well, this one looks almost ok here, we would like about 15-16 mgs, but when we take a peek at the sources in the diet, fully half of the 14 mgs in the recipe comes from plant sources, or “non-heme iron” which is not at all as readily absorbed as heme iron (from animal sources).
So, if we look just at the math, we might be tricked into thinking this recipe has enough iron. In reality, I’d think of it as low, and compensate the following day.
To sum up: A  quick analysis shows a nice looking daily recipe, macros and food choices geared to the individual –  but that needs supplementation. We need calcium and D for sure, the others, consideration and planning as to how you will compensate. People will say “recipes balance over time” but really, they so often don’t. A dog who can’t have beef, bison, venison etc but does ok with fish, might be chronically low in iron, copper, zinc and some important fatty acids..and all these home made diets need calcium and VitaminD.
I see no point in going to the trouble of buying an preparing home made food for dogs and  then not having it meet the dog’s most important, essential needs.

Your dog doesn’t need Instagram pictures of four star restaurant type meals. He or she doesn’t need chia seeds and truffle oil and quail eggs and feta cheese. He or she needs species and individual-appropriate wholesome balanced meals – digestible, easy to prepare and balanced.

Just trust me on this. 🙂