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5 Reasons a Cooked Diet Might be Right for Your Dog


One of the guiding principles of holistic care is to treat the dog as an individual. What's good for one dog may not be good for another. This is particularly true in the area of nutrition and diet - and a properly formulated cooked diet may be best for certain dogs.


Unfortunately though, cooked diets are some of the most unbalanced, nutrient deficient diets I have ever seen.


Meals that are a version of something you might see on the dinner table - usually some ground meat, a grain, some veggies, maybe an egg and some kind of trendy 'lifeforce' supplement picked up at a pet store - will not give your dog the nutrients he needs. I wish it were that simple, but it isn't. Typically I see deficiencies in calcium, zinc, copper, iodine, manganese, vitamin D3, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids in these type of diets.


Dogs have specific nutrient requirements which are quite different from humans. While we all benefit greatly from unprocessed whole foods there has to be knowledge of the nutrients a dog requires and in what amounts.


Here are two examples of how an adult dog's nutritional requirements differ from an adult human's


  • Dogs and humans both need zinc. An adult person who weighs around 150 lbs. needs 11 mg of zinc daily. My 85 lb. dog needs about 30 mg of zinc each day.

  • Dogs and humans both need calcium. An adult human needs about 1000-1200 mg a day. My 85 lb. dog needs about 2000 mg of calcium daily (and often a bit more to balance phosphorus). For adult healthy dogs we don't have to be exact for every meal, but we have to at least be within range.

  • Source for dog nutritional requirements: NRC recommended allowance per metabolic weight


Now that we appreciate the importance of nutritional standards (I prefer NRC standards), let's look at some reasons why a properly formulated cooked diet might be the best choice for some dogs


1) Dogs With High Caloric Requirements: If you want to feed your dog a fresh food diet, but she requires a lot of calories (e.g. pregnant and nursing moms, working and sport dogs, high activity dogs) a cooked diet might be a better fit than a raw diet. Raw diets are very high in moisture, which has excellent health benefits, but that amount of moisture creates food volume and so a dog who needs to consume a lot of calories might run out of space in their stomachs. This is referred to as 'bulk limiting'. The bulk of the raw food limits how much a dog is physically able to eat. With cooked food, the moisture is reduced and so the calories and nutrients are more concentrated thereby allowing the dog to eat enough of the food.


2) Picky Eaters & Dogs with Small Appetites: Dogs who graze, don't seem to enjoy their food, or never seem to eat what's in their bowl might have trouble eating enough food to supply calorie and nutrient requirements. Often dogs find the aroma, texture, and palatability of cooked food very enticing! Compared with raw diets, a dog can eat a smaller portion of cooked food to fulfill their nutritional needs (see note above bulk limiting above).


3) Dogs With a Compromised Immune System: Dogs who have a chronic illness or immune system dysfunction might not be able to fight off any pathogens contained raw food in the same way that healthy dogs can and they could become quite ill. A cooked diet could be the safer choice.


4) Dogs with Digestive Trouble: Dogs who seem to have a rumbling stomach, malabsorption issues, signs of acid reflux or general digestive issues - and has been cleared of underlying health conditions by his veterinarian, a cooked diet might help alleviate these symptoms. Some senior dogs fall into this category due to the decline in digestive enzymes and less efficient digestion. Cooking makes food more digestible and some dogs have much happier tummies eating cooked food - again, it's all about treating the dog as an individual and doing what's best for him.


5) Dog Preference: Some dogs simply do not enjoy raw food. They like the warmth and increased palatability of cooked food. If you choose not to feed kibble, and your dog refuses to eat a raw diet, then gently cooked meals are a very good option. (I know … dogs and wolves in the wild don't cook their food! However, try telling that to the little chihuahua across the street from me who ran away from her beautiful raw food but jumps in circles of excitement to eat her cooked food.)

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Finally …


It is a myth that cooking destroys all the nutrients. Cooking concentrates the calories and nutrients. Minerals are stable during cooking and there are some vitamin losses during cooking, freezing and storage. However, when we formulate a cooked diet we use the USDA nutrient and calorie values of the food in its cooked form. This way we make sure that the nutrients in the cooked food match the dog's requirements. And, if cooking destroyed all nutrients, then how are we still alive?


Do not cook your dog's pre-made raw food. Most raw dog food contains raw bone. Cooked bone poses a life threatening health risk to your dog since cooked bones can splinter and cause intestinal perforations and obstruction. (It's fine to add warmed bone broth or liquid to raw food as this is not cooking the bone.)



Further Reading


Key Nutrients Your Dog's Diet Might Be Missing


The Best Diet for Dogs: The Goldilocks Principle




This article is for information and education purposes and not intended as a substitute in any way for veterinary care. If you have any health concerns about your dog it is important that you check in with your veterinarian.