If I make my own dog food, can I just use supplements to guarantee a complete and balanced diet for my dog?
No, you cannot guarantee this. The best way to ensure your dog is getting everything he or she needs is to talk to your veterinarian and/or a veterinary nutritionist.
Reputable commercial diets are formulated according to AAFCO standards and are therefore labeled as “complete and balanced.” Some dog parents, however, decide to make their own food for their dogs vs. buying online or at the store. Most vitamins and supplements are recommended by veterinarians for specific health conditions and/or to supplement an incomplete diet (such as something that’s homemade). Therefore, many people think that if they simply add supplements to their dogs’ diets, this will “complete” the diet.
A recent research study looked at this FAQ. The study, entitled Vitamin-mineral supplements do not guarantee the minimum recommendations and may imply risks of mercury poisoning in dogs and cats, was published in PLOS ONE in April of 2021. I spoke with veterinarian Catherine Barnette, who summarizes the results, “This study examined vitamin/mineral supplements from Brazilian pet stores and found that many supplements, even when fed as directed, do not provide enough vitamins and minerals to meet the needs of dogs. Additionally, nearly half of the tested products contained potentially-toxic levels of mercury. ”
So, there are a couple of bottom lines here. 1) Outline your dog’s complete diet (including supplements or anything else your dog ingests on a consistent basis) for your veterinarian and/or a veterinary nutritionist. They and only they will be able to determine if this diet is sufficient and healthy. 2) Before purchasing any supplements, ensure that they display the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal, or list FDA or AAFCO compliance in their product information.
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