As promised, here are some follow-up comments with regard to the recipe. I’ve based most of them on what my students have asked – I assigned this entry to the class, to see if they might come up with questions. And,  clever bunch of keeners that they are, they hit on just about everything.

So, for the other nutrition-geeks out there, here are some  Q&As with regard to Recipe Number One.

1) Carbohydrate content

2) Phytate and absorption of minerals

3) Grains! – isn’t rice a grain? Aren’t all grains bad for dogs? (No, this was not asked by one of MY students!)

4) How much selenium is in the recipe?

5) How do we know how much iodine is correct to add?

6) What about Vitamin C? It’s not an essential nutrient for dogs, but shouldn’t we add some?

7) You are always reminding us that too much fish is dangerous, given the contamination of all our oceans now. Is it really ok to add so many cans of sardines?

8) Can we just substitute chicken for the turkey?

9) There are a lot of ingredients here, don’t some dogs do better with simpler recipes?  Can I use this and just take out the beef?

10) Should I still add fish oil, given there are sardines in the recipe?

Good questions, and a great chance for me to address some more important nutrition topics here for  everyone to read. So let’s look briefly at each one of these potential issues, and see what we can see.

1) Overall carbohydrate content – It is my personal belief, based on my many years of research, training and experience, that something akin to carbophobia is overtaking the world. Put simply, carbs are not evil. They do not “cause cancer” – by themselves they do not “make dogs fat” -and they are by no means harmful if used in the diet correctly. Over-feeding of poor quality, gluten grains and waste products like peanut hulls, is a bad thing. Adding a third of your dogs daily calories, give or take a percentage point or two, using healthy carbs such as quinoa, lentils, sweet potato, and brown rice, is actually GOOD FOR THEM. If we don’t use any such carb content – that means that all the energy – calories – in the diet will be coming from just two nutrients – protein, and fat. And as we go into these two nutrient groups, we’ll see why feeding so much of them both can stress your dog’s systems in many ways. So no, 30, 35% carb content isn’t too much. It’s actually pretty average, and when you consider that the protein content in this diet is more than TWICE the recommended amount , it’s a very high protein diet even with the carb count as it is.

2) Phytate and mineral absorption – yes, it’s definitely true that phytate in rice and legumes can inhibit the absorption of minerals overall. But, that’s not the whole story. The content can be greatly reduced by proper preparation – so your dog can have the health benefits of the fiber without the mineral-blocking effect.
I use the RA (recommended allowance) for most minerals, so even if there were to be small reductions in absorption, your dog would still be getting more than the Minimum Requirement for each –  so no, I am not at all worried about phytate content. The problem arises when most of the diet consists of grains, not when a smaller portion is prepared correctly and part of a meat-based recipe.I’ve also been feeding these diets to dogs for over a decade and have seem such amazing longterm results, no hint of mineral issues –  and that includes therapeutic diets wherein the protein and fat have to be very low – and the phytate higher than in this recipe.
but do soak it. It really does make a difference – for them and for us.

3) The problem with grains is basically overuse, and gluten (and of course allergy, but that can just as easily be to beef, chicken, turkey etc as to grains). Brown rice is a very good energy and fiber source for dogs and allows us to keep the protein and fat high, but not scary-high. Dogs sensitive to rice can have quinoa and buckwheat and extra sweet potato, none of which are grains. See my entries on carbs for much more detail.

4) Selenium content is hard to ascertain with precision. The RA for a fifty pound dog is 123 micrograms per day, so that’s 861 over the week. The turkey alone has 529 mcgs. The sardines have 265. I am assured that we have ample selenium – and since many vets recommend adding extra as antioxidant support, if we are higher, I’m fine with that too.

5) Iodine again is tricky as even professional software doe snot always list every food’s content. It can take a bit of estimation. The RA for this fifty pound dog, for the whole week, is 2153 mcgs. Iodine is needed for proper thyroid function, which in turn plays a major role in growth, and in cell differentiation, and in regulation of metabolic rate in the adult(NRC, 2006). There’s about 600 mcgs in the turkey; and about 330 in the sardines. Adding 1200 mcgs is a safe amount, possibly going onto the high side, but that is preferable for a healthy dog, then too little. Low iodine is by far a bigger health concern for dogs, in a chronic scenario, than is a small amount over.

6) When I started working with canine diet professionally, everyone gave VitaminC all the time, no matter what – just as we humans were taking enormous quantities of it back then as well. More recent findings indicate that mega-dosing C for US may not be a great plan afterall – let alone for dogs, who metabolize their own ascorbic acid endogenously (in plain terms, they make their own). too that VitaminC greatly acidifies urine, so if you have a Bichon Frise, Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire terrier, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu – or any dog who has had oxalates in the urine or a stone in the bladder – you should NOT acidify urine with VitaminC. So no, I personally  recommend adding, Vitamin C to  the recipe at all.

7) The sardines in this recipe really don’t add up to a huge amount, just 504 grams per week, but they pack a lot of nutrition all the same. Check with the manufacturer about BPA in can liners – some use it and others do not. If you wish to use fresh you acn do so but that does change the nutrient profile somewhat. I recommend using a recipe like this for one week out of the month, and other months use fresh salmon for VitaminD and Omega3 fatty acids, or use no fish and add supplements… but 1-2 weeks per month with canned sardines as part of the diet is not a major concern, since A) they are low on the food chain, size-wise and have consistently been shown to have the lowest concentration of mercury and pcbs of any commercial fish, and B) the benefits outweigh the issues.
In truth it is very hard today to find any food, unless we raise/grow it ourselves, that does not pose some risk, in terms of contamination or chemical content. I’d be concerned if people were using some fish from China as the main protein source in a single recipe, day in and day out… but not 504 grams of good quality, water- packed, rinsed sardines for a fifty pound dog. More good than worry here, by far.

8)  Well, turkey is overall a nicer, cleaner food than chicken – and more dogs can tolerate turkey, so it’s my first choice. If you have a dog who does ok with chicken,and you have a clean source, you *can* substitute it here, but not cup for cup. 10 cups of chicken dark meat adds up to about 500 calories more then the 10 cups of turkey (comparing gram weights of 1400 each) It also has a lot more fat. So if you want to use chicken, some of it has to be white meat. If you really want to substitute and you need the numbers, contact me and I’ll do the math for you. 🙂 The short version is, don’t just substitute, or you’ll be adding a lot more fat and energy than you might want.

9)  Absolutely right many dogs do best on a simpler recipe! BUT-  if you just take the beef out, not only will you be shortchanging calories, but also iron, Bvitamins and other essential nutrients. I will be adding variations on this recipe as time allows – including a beef-free one and a grain free one. But yes, for sure, some dogs should have more basic recipes, and if yours is one of them, this recipe is not for you.

10) I still add a capsule of quality krill or fish body oil daily, and sometimes a little more, if there is a condition such as heart disease or arthritis that warrants extra supplementation. Use a good quality humangrade product, with a high level of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.  If you have worries about  fish oils, give one every other day. The sardines here help balance the fatty acids, but personally I aim for a higher presence of Omega3, for most dogs anyway.

And that’s it for this recipe – I was also asked about both purines and VitaminD3, but both of those really need a whole entry, so I’ll be sure to get back to you on both.
Any more questions, you know where I am.