Updated: Apr 17
What's the most important thing to consider when thinking about preparing food for your pet at home? Flavour? Texture? Calories?
Nope, it's none of these - it's calcium. The reason is that without sufficient calcium in their diet, all animals can suffer from a range of potentially very serious health problems ranging from muscle cramps to bone deformities and convulsions - and unlike most other nutrients, calcium is actually quite hard to find in many ingredients. To keep your dog fit and strong, you need to make sure their diet has plenty of calcium.
And it's not just the quantity of calcium that matters, it's also really important how it compares to the amount of another mineral in the diet, phosphorus. For adult dogs, the ratio between calcium and phosphorus should be around 1:1. For growing dogs the ratio needs to be higher as they need more minerals for bone development - around 1.6 calcium to 1 phosphorus, and for large breed dogs, this ratio can go even higher, up to 1.8, during their later growth stages. However, it's important to be aware that too much calcium can also be dangerous, so these ratios should not be significantly exceeded.
One major issues is that most meat is very low in calcium, as are many vegetables and grains. The best sources are dark green veg such as spinach and kale, nuts and dairy products such as milk and cheese. Bones are also a great source of calcium but can only be fed raw.
Unfortunately many recipes for home-cooked dog foods (such as the classic chicken and rice) don't take calcium into account and as a result they could quickly lead to a serious risk of calcium deficiency if fed regularly.
The best way to ensure that you're giving your dog plenty of calcium (unless they love spinach) is to add a supplement, and the best one is calcium carbonate which is easy and cheap to buy. Meat and bone meal is also a great source of calcium, and it also has the added benefit of containing good levels of phosphorus, another essential mineral.
It's important to get the amount of any supplements you add to your dog's food right, as too much calcium can be as dangerous as too little. And the best way to do this with a personalised VetChef diet plan. All VetChef recipes are tailored to your dog's individual nutritional requirements, including for calcium and phosphorus, so you can be confident that they are getting exactly the right levels of these minerals in their diet. As well as making each individual recipe balanced, a VetChef home-cooking diet uses the variety that comes from feeding different meals every day to give long-term nutritional balance which is the healthiest way to approach nutrition.