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Complete and balanced dog food, or a dog’s recipe, means that the recipe/food meets the calorie requirement for the dog and also the nutrient requirements. The nutrient requirements include macronutrients of protein, fat, and carbohydrates and micronutrients of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. I go over nutrient requirements in detail in my Breaking Down the Bowl Workshop here on Dogly.
How do you know if a commercial dog food, or recipe, is complete and balanced? In short, it needs to meet nutrient requirements of the NRC, AAFCO (USA), or FEDIAF (European). AAFCO and FEDIAF requirements are used in commercial dog food formulations and NRC is typically used in individual recipe formulations. AAFCO is not a government organization but is a private organization that established guidelines for the production of pet foods. AAFCO’s main concern is to make sure that nutrient requirements are met. They get a bad reputation because many people think AAFCO regulates the pet food industry and has a direct hand in any bad brands of dog foods. This is not exactly true. AAFCO does not inspect any brand or dog food company - they just want to see nutrient requirements met.
When veterinarians are concerned with homemade diets whether raw or cooked, they have good reason to be. Most people don’t know about following nutrient requirements and veterinarians see firsthand the damage that can be done as a result of nutrient deficiencies. When a veterinarian, or a nutritionist like myself, talks about complete and balanced nutritional recipes or commercial food formulations we are concerned about the nutrients your dog is consuming and absorbing in order to sustain their life. That’s why choosing a dog food that meets nutrient requirements is so key!
Prey model diets, 80/10/10, 75% protein and 25% carb diets are scary to me (and vets)! They are deficient in so many essential nutrients that dogs need for longevity and sustenance. When choosing a commercial diet you really need to make sure that nutrient requirements are being met through AAFCO or FEDIAF. When choosing a nutritionist to work with, you need to make sure they formulate to meet NRC requirements. We’ll talk about red flags to look for in the next post but briefly terms like 80/10/10 and “ratio diets” are major red flags.