This started off as part of an exercise for the Cancer Tutorial, and as it grew I decided to share it with a  wider audience. One of the things I am most adamant about is ensuring that home prepared diets meet all nutrient requirements – fatty and amino acids, vitamins and minerals – at levels that are optimal for the individual dog. Whole fresh foods are another part of the equation; the way I approach canine nutrition is threefold, with all of these as important as the other.

A good quality home prepared diet, whether raw or cooked, needs to

  •  meet all known nutrient requirements at or above the RA (recommended allowance)
  • utilize the best, fresh and carefully prepared foods accessible to the owner
  • always consider the uniqueness of the individual and work with what  they do best with

Many types of therapeutic diet have to utilize different levels of nutrient, but the second and third “rules” still hold true.

Danny, my 11 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback, was diagnosed this year with mild-to-moderate myxomatous valvular disease – the commonest type of acquired heart disease in the species. He’s had a history of what appeared to my eye to be mild IBD- this was not diagnosed, but I was able to manage it with diet, so the invasive testing didn’t seem necessary. Throughout his life, his needs and tolerances changed –  as a pup and young dog, he needed a lot of carbohydrate to keep weight on, and was moderately fat-sensitive (total amounts, more than specific types)  however, as he has aged, we have been able to cut carbs and raise fats, after a lot of work (herbally) on  the gut and his overall nervousness. Nowadays, his caloric requirement is much lower – the recipe I am about to share has just 1223 calories. With his two daily mushroom cookies, and bits and bites of whatever I might be eating (yeah, I’m a total soft touch) we average about 1400 a day – down from 1800 – 2200 when he was younger. Lower calorie intake means I can use higher fat, too – so the recipe I’m sharing today has just 13.5 % carb. Danny does not have cancer that we know of, but he did have a mild Mast Cell Tumour removed four years ago, with no recurrence. His vision, hearing and energy are good; his digestion still tricky, but my main concern is his heart. In addition to the valvular issue, he has a type of arrhythmia that can be dangerous.

My goals for him are to meet all his nutrient requirements, using the best fresh foods I can access and afford, keep his stools solid and regular, and support not only the general challenges older dogs face, but his cardiovascular health specifically.

This is one day of food, one example of what I prepare for him. Right now I have 6 recipes in rotation, from this one and a second that complements it, which I use much of the time, to a few novel protein versions that I might make a few times a month.

Danny LOVES his food and cleans his bowl, always. He loves to watch me prepare it and he snoozes like a baby afterwards, always.
I feed three times a day – two main meals and a light lunch.
This  recipe represents one day of food for my darling Daniel. ..we’ve used chicken, organ meat and salmon, with a “rainbow of plant foods” – but even with careful formulation we can’t meet everything he needs in this one recipe. I hope the entry today serves to illustrate the importance of meeting nutrient requirements,  how even a lovely group of foods like this can shortchange your dog in so many ways. Fed once in a while, it’s no biggie, but fed every day, or most of the time without supplementation, and serious issues around minerals and vitamins will arise.

Here is the recipe, the food totals for the day.

  1. Egg, whole, boiled
    2.0 of: 1 large   (100.0g)
  1. Oil, Fish, Salmon
    0.5 of: 1 tsp   (2.25g)
  1. Chicken, Broiler or Fryer, Breast, no skin, stewed
    2.0 of: 1 cup, chopped or diced   (280.0g)
  1. Salmon, steamed or poached
    1.0 of: 1 cup, cooked, flaked   (136.0g)
  1. Vege, Beets, boiled, drained
    50.0 of: grams
  1. Vege, Spinach, boiled, drained, no salt
    0.25 of: 1 cup   (45.0g)
  1. Vege, Brussels Sprouts, boiled w/salt, drained
    4.0 of: 1 sprout   (84.0g)
  1. Oil, Vegetable/Salad/Cooking, Olive
    2.0 of: 1 tsp   (9.0g)
  1. Pumpkin and/or squash seeds, hulled, unroasted
    18.0 of: grams
  1. Beef Liver, braised
    18.0 of: grams
  1. Quinoa, cooked
    80.0 of: grams
  1. Chicken Liver, simmered
    20.0 of: grams
  1. Turnip, cooked, from fresh, fat not added in cooking
    0.5 of: 1 cup, mashed   (115.0g)


Here’s the animal sources of this recipe:

and here are the plant foods:

and here it is all blended, before supplementation:


Now, I know a number of people might think that using these wholesome fresh foods ensures this recipe is correctly balanced, and it certainly does have advantages over dry food – but it really isn’t read y to feed on a  regular basis, as we’ll see. To start – Danny’s RA for calcium is 2100 mgs per day; this recipe provides just 270 . So, we have to add calcium (and this holds true for all cooked diets – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! ) Dan does better with a carbonate like the one in the picture (NOW) but citrate is a better option for other dogs. Many of my clients use seaweed calcium too- just be sure to add it!

CALCIUM: needed for skeletal integrity (bones and teeth) but also normal muscle function – a big consideration for the heart. Chronic low calcium can lead to skeletal abnormalities and nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. Calculate your dog’s requirement by taking his weight in kgs to the power of 0.75 ( your computer calculator set to Scientific will do this) and then multiply THAT number by 130. Dogs need a lot of calcium.

This recipe is  low in zinc (by 25 mgs!) in Vitamin D ( the eggs contribute about 80 IUs, but Danny needs 300 IUs per day) in Vitamin E (I add 100 IUs daily anyway, so this isn’t an issue)  and in manganese ( which also isn’t a concern, as his joint supplement more than covers it).  It’s also marginal/low on several of the Bs – only niacin (B3) pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin (B12) meet/exceed the RA.  With Danny’s heart conditions, Bs become even more important, so I’m adding a half of a regular B50 daily, as insurance.

This is the platter of essentials, as I add to this recipe. Clockwise from the pool of red stuff, these are



  • infused and blended organic rosehips
  • 25 mgs zinc
  • 100IUs Vitamin E
  • 400 IUs VitaminD3
  • krill oil
  • NOW calcium carbonate
  • powdered milk thistle (not an essential, but I’m adding it daily for a while)
  • 1/2 NOW B50
  • 500 mgs taurine

and the pool of oil in the middle is olive and Nordic Naturals fish oil.

So this all goes into the big bowl which I then divide into the three meals.
Additionally, he gets two of these (low- carb medicinal mushroom-and-astragalus cookies)


and blob of turmeric, which I prepare in olive oil and with 3% organic black pepper. I give him an herbal  blend that includes hawthorn leaf, flower and berry (Crataegus monogyna), as well as linden (Tilia cordata) dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Arjuna ( Terminalia arjuna).

Three or four days a week he gets a raw slurry made from whole organic apples, celery, blackberries, red leaf lettuce,  gently cooked bilberries and chamomile infusion…much of which is geared towards focused bioflavonoid support. I generally have to bury this in a bit of green tripe or cooked duck – it’s not his favorite thing. On alternating days he gets a probiotic, as fermented foods are contraindicated with a history of mast cell tumour and not a great idea for itchy, “hot” dogs in general.  I’ll talk more about the herbs I’m using with Dan, in a another entry. And Zeke, too, who has been steadily recovering from a nasty vestibular episode two weeks ago.

In the recipe above, the beets provide betalain (grated and cooked quickly, I keep the water and add it to next day’s food as well) the turnip boosts potassium to the level I needed, eggs offer great protein value and VitaminD, ground pumpkin seeds brought the fat and magnesium up, the bits of chicken liver and beef liver got my copper and iron levels to the RA – and so on. I don’t use sweet potatoes on the same day as beets, in general, although I will put both into a weekly batch. Here’s the nutrient breakdown for today – low carb, high protein, and formulated with the love that is embodied in all this attention to detail.

Calories:   1223

Protein:   150.8 g

Carbohydrate:   40.9 g

Dietary Fiber:   9.506 g

Total Sugars:   10.4 g

Total Fat:   48.9 g

Saturated Fat:   10.7 g

Monounsaturated Fat:   18.8 g

Polyunsaturated Fat:   12 g

Calcium:   270.3 mg

Copper:   3.525 mg

Iron:   15.6 mg

Magnesium:   350.7 mg

Manganese:   1.466 mg

Phosphorus:   1610 mg

Potassium:   2346 mg

Selenium:   197.8 mcg

Sodium:   1172 mg

Zinc:   9.601 mg

Vitamin A (RE):   3339 RE

Vitamin A (IU):   13816 IU

Vitamin A (RAE):   3001 mcg

Retinol:   2724 mcg

Vitamin C:   77.8 mg

Vitamin D:   .496 mcg

Vitamin E (a-toc):   6.266 mg

Vitamin K:   357 mcg

Thiamin:   .809 mg

Riboflavin:   2.317 mg

Niacin:   41.1 mg

Alpha-carotene:   4.18 mcg

Beta-carotene:   3318 mcg

Beta-cryptoxanthin:   14.2 mcg

Lycopene:   4.2 mcg

Lutein+zeaxanthin:   6541 mcg

Pantothenic Acid:   4.567 mg

Folate:   429.5 mcg

Folic Acid:   0 mcg

Food Folate:   429.5 mcg

DFE Folate:   429.5 mcg

Vitamin B6:   2.159 mg

Vitamin B12:   22.2 mcg




Distribution of calories:

Protein:           50 %

Fat:                  36.5 %

Carbohydrate:          13.5 %


Important totals:

Calories:         1223

Sodium:          1171.67 mg

Fiber:               9.51 g

Cholesterol:   920.79 mg


Potassium to Sodium:           2  to 1

Calcium to Phosphorus:       1 to  5.96



In the end it is all about balance – and balance is achieved by carefully evaluating what your dog needs, what you’re feeding, and making sure he enjoys it all.
For those interested in learning more about how this process works, check my summer tutorials. You can learn to do this too – and your dog will benefit from it all.