Original Question: I was recently lucky enough to rescue a senior Golden Retriever from a rescue organization. He’s 12 years old and very healthy, other than obviously bad arthritis in his legs and knees. I treat that with injections of Cartrophen and Metacam for pain. I was able to slowly switch him from kibble to home cooked food which I know is better for him. His diet is chicken, liver, sweet potato, carrots and basmati rice. The odd time he will have tuna in water from a can but not often. I created a monster, he won't touch kibble anymore which is fine by me, I love knowing I have a healthy and happy dog. My vet has given me supplements and B12 to ensure he gets all he needs. My question for you is how much in one portion of liver and chicken should he get? Should he have a full chicken breast? It is skinless and boneless. The liver I only thrown in an ounce or so because I know it's high in calories. I also once in a while throw in shredded cheese for flavor for him. I'm really interested in your opinion; does it sound like a good diet to you? How much do you think he should have? He gets this meal twice a day. I've tried to coax him with apples, bananas, blueberries, but I don't think he’s ever been around them, so he has no taste for them. He won't even touch peanut butter? I have to hide his medication in blue cheese balls. I really value your opinion Dr. Greenway and hope you have a chance to respond. Thanks. - Chris
It sounds like you’re a very caring dog owner and this boy is lucky for that.
So, this is a disappointing email for me. I pride myself on being able to help people with their pet challenges but this one is a little tough and I’ll explain why.
A lot of vets take a serious stance on diets and recommend very particular ones for all dogs. I’m not one of those vets. I believe a good food is one that you feed your dog and he eats it well, his skin is good, his stools are normal, his weight is ideal, he’s not itchy, and it creates good health. That means it’s a good food for that individual dog. If you feed an extremely high end all natural food, some dog is going to do poorly on it. For that reason, every food is a trial. I think you have to try things and watch their responses to determine the value of that food for your particular pet.
In your case, it seems you have that. I can’t say whether a little more meat or a little more of another ingredient is the ‘right’ thing to do. If anyone tells you what’s best, I don’t think you should listen to them. Your dog will dictate what’s best for him and I can’t predict ahead of time of what that is.
A general thought is that organ meats for dogs like liver can have a lot of vitamin A and that can be bad, but I’ve never seen a dog get sick from this. You want to keep the level of fat consistent and not in excess as this can cause pancreatitis and obesity. Most importantly, I don’t know what the calorie content of this food mixture is, so I cannot calculate exactly how much his body needs to maintain an ideal weight. This is impossible to figure out when feeding a diet like this.
My best suggestion is to find some resources either online or at bookstores about homemade diets for dogs and follow the advice they lay out. As a pet parent that is feeding homemade food, you are now responsible to make it balanced and have appropriate levels of all necessary nutrients. You’ll find this type of information in resources like these.
I would start there to answer your question. I think it’s great that you are caring enough to do this and I think he’ll be a very healthy boy.
Hopefully this helps to some degree. All the best.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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