The problem with home made diets and how to analyze your diet

sarah ann

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For those who use home made diets/ raw diets many of them are not properly balanced.  This might be time consuming but I will try and simplify it for everyone. Try to actually work through each step.

Let's take a look at this diet here and we'll use this as our example diet: (the chicken diet only)

http://www.catinfo.org/?link=makingcatfood

In order to get an idea if your diet is balanced, you need to input the information into the nutrition data website (you will need to register for free).  I'm sure there are other websites you can use as well that provide a nutritional breakdown.

For the recipe, you would enter 

chicken thighs raw 13.61 x 100 grams (3 pounds)

chicken liver 4x 1 ounce

egg whole raw 2 x 1 medium 

fish oil salmon 1 tsp (5 grams)

table salt .75 x 1tsp

water 1 cup.

You can't add vitamins with this program, but let's analyze it and see what we are low in anyways.

Scroll down and look at the pie chart that shows nutrient balance.  There is no way to analyze bone in this diet so let's ignore Calcium/phosphorus for now.  Taurine is not included either.

Any nutrient that is below the 3rd line of the pie chart (from the middle) would be considered low in nutritional value.  That would be Vitamin C (not a requirement in cats so ignore), Vitamin D, E, K, thiamine, Manganese, copper, potassium, iron and Magnesium.

Now go back to catinfo.org and see what vitamins you added as supplements (vit. E, vit B complex, and taurine). Lets assume those needs are met. 

If you add bone meal it should meet Ca, P and magnesium requirements.

What REMAINS DEFICIENT IN THIS DIET IS:  Vitamin D (very little in the diet, unless your fish oil contains D), vitamin K is still low, Manganese, copper, iron and potassium are all low. 

There are 2 options at this point:

1) you can add a  daily feline multivitamin to your cat's diet that meets ALL of his dietary requirements for those deficient vitamins and minerals. If you add a daily multivitamin you may not need to supplement vitamin E or the B complex.  Do not forget to supplement taurine.

This gives the nutritional needs for a 9lb cat. Take those values, write them down, and look for a vitamin that meets or exceeds those  values.  Pay special attention to copper and manganese.  

http://www.scoutshouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Your-Cats-Nutritional-Needs.pdf

2) you can calculate exactly how deficient your diet is. It's good to know how to do this anyway!

Now we need to determine how much to supplement of our missing ingredients. 

Use this site to determine our requirements.

http://www.scoutshouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Your-Cats-Nutritional-Needs.pdf

The copper requirements for a 9lb cat are .3 mg according to the above site.

Back to our recipe... Assume we will feed our cat 5 ounces a day (less than one can of cat food). We need to convert this to grams of food fed per day.

Remember each ounce of food is approx 28 grams.

so 5 ounces x 28 grams = 140 grams of food fed per day.

Let's set the serving size to 100 grams. (at the top of your recipe). 

Now let's look at our copper value in 100 grams of food. Copper =.1mg 

So in 140 grams of food we have .14 mg copper   (.1mg of copper times (140/100)

.3mg (requirement) - .14 mg copper in our diet = .16 mg deficiency in our diet

This diet needs to be supplemented with at least 0.16 milligrams of copper on a Daily basis. If you find a cat sized multi-vitamin with more than .16mg of copper your cat's requirements will be met. 

However, due to variations in vitamin/mineral content of your cat's food, it is better to be on the safe side and supplement the full dietary requirement of .3mg of copper.

You can use this method to determine how much bone meal to add to your diet as well. If you buy bone meal it should give you the amount of Calcium and phosphorus in milligrams and you can calculate how much to add to your total diet.

SO does the recipe at catinfo.org work?  NO it is not balanced by itself, but if you add a daily multivitamin, you may be able to make it balanced. 

A short note on calcium requirements: This entire diet only contains .2 grams  of calcium (very little)

The daily basis requirement for calcium in a 9lb cat is .18 grams. Multiple .18grams times the number of servings in your entire diet and this should give you the amount of calcium in milligrams that you need to add to your entire diet to make it balanced. 

One last side note: to determine how much food you want to feed your cat,  look at the number of calories in this food and compare it with a can of canned cat food.   5 ounces of this food would be: 245 calories

A note on Turkey: Turkey is naturally high in magnesium and may cause crystals.  Beef and chicken are both low in magnesium.

Another website I highly recommend for studying nutritional requirements is: Max's house feline nutrition.
 

Willowy

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Good info! It is so important to make sure our kitties get the correct nutrition.

However, the diet you referenced includes the bones. So I doubt the entire diet only has .2 g of calcium. And isn't there quite a lot of nutrition in bone marrow? It would probably be hard to find a nutrition database with the info for bone marrow, as most Americans don't eat it. It's fairly popular in other countries, though. Maybe there's copper and manganese and whatever in the marrow. Pretty sure it has a lot of iron. That's the problem with using nutritional databases for humans---not a lot of info on the nutritional value of bones!
 

mschauer

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Thank you for posting your thoughts on how you believe a homemade cat diet should be formulated. I'll post more later when I have time but I think it is important to make a couple of quick points:
SO does the recipe at catinfo.org work?  NO it is not balanced by itself, but if you add a daily multivitamin, you may be able to make it balanced. 
What you mean by "not balanced" is that based on your analysis method it doesn't appear to meet AAFCO minimum recommendations. That's an important distinction because a lot of raw feeders do not base their diets on the AAFCO recommendations. I know that Dr. Pierson (of catinfo.org) does not. There are several reasons for this. One is that the AAFCO intends them to be used by commercial pet food manufacturers in formulating their foods and the values are set with a safety factor to account for the generally lower bioavailabilty of the ingredients used by the pet food industry.

Also, the AAFCO recommendations are in some cases based on incomplete information on the actual nutritional needs of cats. They are based on known science but in some cases there simply isn't very much known and some of the recommendations are arrived at using much assumption based on sparse information or extrapolation from known needs of species other than cats.  

People who don't attempt to adhere to the AAFCO recommendations instead base their diet on the observed natural diet of a cat. That is, the diet of a cat in the wild would consist of small animals that it captures. So these people reason that a diet composed of meat, bone and organs and some supplements should adequately satisfy the needs of a cat without the need to get into the nitty gritty of exactly what the nutritional composition of the diet is.

Now I actually am more comfortable with at least using the AAFCO recommendations as a starting point for my homemade food. I don't necessarily adhere to it exactly but I find it useful to compare my food against those recommendations then adjust as I see fit after researching any apparent deficiency exposed by the comparison.

A short note on calcium requirements: This entire diet only contains .2 grams  of calcium (very little)
That is true of the diet you posted but Dr. Pierson's diet calls for using either bone or bonemeal either of which would provide plenty of calcium. You didn't include either in your analysis.

I'll post more when I get time. I'm looking forward to the thoughts of others!
 
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maple syrup

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Also when you talk Vitamin D.  Sunshine is the best source D. D is a hormone produced by the body in reaction to UV (not sure if A or B), not a vitamin.  Thus giving kitty outdoor time during the 10-2 time frame  which is optimum for D production will get them all the D they need.  Our little guy gets outdoor time on a tether in the back yard each day.
 

furmonster mom

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This is actually a good example of why most raw feeders insist on variety.  We understand that the nutrient profiles differ from one protein source to another.  Feeding a variety assures that those nutrients are covered.

For instance, the concern over copper is rendered moot if a person feeds beef liver, which is one of the top foods listed as high in copper on the nutritional database. 

Also, I don't know how that program is calculating all the nutrient profiles, but by all reports, egg yolk is high in vitamin D. 

As was also mentioned, most of us encourage the feeding of whole meaty bones, which would include the marrow, which is high in iron and vit. K2.

Many of us feed heart on a regular basis, which can't be beat for taurine.

So, pointing to ONE recipe and claiming that all raw diets are therefore unbalanced is really doing a disservice to those of us who have always promoted a variety of foods as the optimal way to feed.
 

vball91

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No one here will disagree with you that a home-prepared diet whether cooked or raw needs to be properly balanced and nutritionally complete. There will be some discussion on what that means however. There simply isn't enough data on what the nutritional requirements are for cats for there to be definitive answers as much as concerned pet guardians would like them. Case in point, until fairly recently, it was not understood how critical taurine is to a cat's diet or how much taurine is destroyed in the cooking process, so pretending that AAFCO or the NRC is the ultimate authority on a cat's nutritional needs is fallacy at best.
What you mean by "not balanced" is that based on your analysis method it doesn't appear to meet AAFCO minimum recommendations. That's an important distinction because a lot of raw feeders do not base their diets on the AAFCO recommendations. I know that Dr. Pierson (of catinfo.org) does not. There are several reasons for this. One is that the AAFCO intends them to be used by commercial pet food manufacturers in formulating their foods and the values are set with a safety factor to account for the generally lower bioavailabilty of the ingredients used by the pet food industry.
This is a very important point that I think you are overlooking. Pet food is generally made from the waste of the human food industry, the stuff that is deemed unfit for human consumption. What is the nutritional value of this food to begin with? And what is it after it is highly processed into kibble or canned food? Why is adding vitamins necessary? Let's face it, feral cats don't go around popping a multi-vitamin every day. For humans, we hear all the time that eating healthy foods that provide the nutrients we need is a lot better for us than supplementing with various vitamins? Doesn't the same argument apply to animals?

I think that a lot of raw feeders believe that a whole prey diet composed of a cat's natural prey like mice and birds and insects is best. For various reasons, that's not feasible for a many raw feeders. So, we try to mimic that whole prey diet as best as we can. Recognizing that the meat we use is not natural for the cat, we try to supplement the missing pieces with things like fish oil for Omega 3s and Vit D, egg yolks for choline and Vit D and Omega 3s, taurine because of how important it has been proven to be, probiotics because cats aren't consuming the whole animal. I know that both mschauer and LDG do even supplement with manganese because AAFCO calls for it but it comes up short in most raw feeders' diets. I think most raw feeders spend much more time analyzing their cat's diet than their own. I know I do!

My point would be that saying that Dr. Pierson's recipe is "not balanced" is inaccurate. It may not meet AAFCO's minimum guidelines, but that is a separate argument. I would rather feed Dr. Pierson's recipe (which I don't actually use) to my cat over almost any commercial cat foods. I think it's a more healthy diet made of more healthy ingredients. It's also stood the test of time as it's been fed to her cats for about 10 years. Given that she is a vet, I would assume that she would have noticed any nutritional deficiencies over time.
 

maple syrup

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I also harken back to a documentary that I watched on the evolution of man.  It is postulated that man's brain power grew exponentially after they discovered bone marrow from left over kills by predatory animals.
 

vball91

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Also when you talk Vitamin D.  Sunshine is the best source D. D is a hormone produced by the body in reaction to UV (not sure if A or B), not a vitamin.  Thus giving kitty outdoor time during the 10-2 time frame  which is optimum for D production will get them all the D they need.  Our little guy gets outdoor time on a tether in the back yard each day.
Actually cats do not synthesize Vitamin D from sunshine. They must get it in their diet.
 

vball91

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A note on Turkey: Turkey is naturally high in magnesium and may cause crystals.  Beef and chicken are both low in magnesium.
One other thing, this is actually old school thinking. Magnesium in the diet does not cause struvite crystals to form. Lack of adequate moisture in the diet, an alkaline urine pH and stress are now thought to be more important factors in the development of struvite crystals. That's not to say that a diet high in magnesium is good, but it shouldn't be avoided because of this particular reasoning. As Furmonster Mom mentioned, variety is always good, so there is no reason not to rotate turkey with other proteins.
 

maple syrup

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Just goes to show vball91.. still learning with kitty.  Good thing our little guy loves a good egg yolk!
 

mschauer

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 A few more thoughts:

It's a mistake to think an analysis based on data from the USDA database represents the actual nutritional profile of a diet. The data in the database are of necessity averages. There is nothing to say that the actual nutrient values of the ingredients we use will match what is in the database. I assume the values are fairly close but I recognize that that is an assumption not a known fact. 

A true and accurate nutritional profile can only be determined via laboratory analysis at a cost of several thousand dollars. I have an idea of the cost because I once looked into it. It was shortly after that that I decided that an estimate based on the USDA data was close enough! 


As I said I use the data from the USDA database and I also compare the resulting analysis against the AAFCO recommendations but I do so with the knowledge that I am not getting an exact picture of the nutritional adequacy of the diet I feed. I use it to just a vague idea about how I might want to adjust my diet. In particular it has made it clear to me that the use of organs can make it easier to ensure that as many nutrients as possible are obtained from natural sources.

In my opinion no one following Dr. Pierson's diet need be concerned about any nutritional deficiencies. Vit K is synthesized by the body and according to the FEDIAF (the European equivalent of the AAFCO) and the AAFCO (but I don't have a link to their document):

FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines
Vitamin K does not need to be added unless the diet contains antimicrobial or anti-vitamin compounds, or contains more than 25% fish on a DM basis.
In the same document you will see that the FEDIAF minimum requirement for Vit D is half that of the AAFCO. I'm not saying one is more right than the other I'm just pointing out how the AAFCO recommendations aren't absolute. According to my analysis, Dr. P's diet falls a little short of the FEDIAF recommendations also. 

The iron in Dr. P's diet may fall short of both the AAFCO and FEDIAF recommendations but if I'm not mistaken an iron deficiency is easily spotted in a blood panel. I know she performs routine blood tests on her cats to check for this kind of thing so I would assume there is no problem with the iron content of her diet. But I target the AAFCO value. 


The manganese also comes up short in her diet compared to the AAFCO recommended value. According to the NRC (National Research Council) publication Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats which is the basis for most of the AAFCO recommendations:
There are no clinical or experimental reports on Mn deficiency in dogs or cats.
Their recommendation is based on studies of species other than cats which leaves open some doubt about its accuracy as a minimum for cats.

BTW, the link to the nutritional information provided in another thread (http://nutritiondata.self.com/mynd/myrecipes/welcome?returnto=/mynd/myrecipes) is to a site that uses an outdated USDA database release (SR21 from Sept '08). You can always access the most current version (SR25 Sept '12) at this link:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=12-35-45-00

I'll say again that I also utilize the USDA database to analysis my homemade cat diet but I don't think any diet can accurately be labelled "unbalanced" just based on such an analysis and on a comparison against the AAFCO recommendations. I do think such an analysis can be valuable as a starting point in accessing the nutritional adequacy if a diet. 
 
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ldg

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As someone who focuses on numbers for a living, when I first looked at / dove into a raw diet, it was very easy to get caught up in the numbers. I still do at times. :nod:

It has been so drilled into us that we have to meet AAFCO for our pets, it's tough to think outside of that box. But sometimes it makes sense to take a step back and question the box. Some of the problems with the AAFCO numbers have been pointed out. A quickie that hasn't been mentioned:

To make the claim "nutritionally balanced", the diet either needs that lab analysis OR a feeding trial. For the feeding trial, all that has to happen is that 8 cats are fed the food for 26 weeks. Six of them must complete the study; they must not lose 15% of their body weight. That's it. They are subject to a vet exam before and after, and after the trial (though not before), 4 blood values are measured and recorded: hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, and serum albumin. The diet being tested fails if any animal shows "clinical or pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess."

26 weeks. Only 6 animals need to complete the trial.

From that perspective, the diet I feed my 8 cats has met the AAFCO guidelines for labeling this raw diet "nutritionally complete." :rolleyes:


Another issue, raised by vets at UC Davis:

"Despite the lack of precise information on the requirements for many of the nutrients essential for cats and dogs and the paucity of information on the availability of nutrients in foods, many commercial diets support excellent growth, reproduction, and maintenance. However, these diets use empirical information that cannot be readily applied to the formulation of new diets. Progress in companion animal nutrition requires more precise information on requirements for various life stages (especially reproduction and maintenance), along with values for the bioavailability of nutrients in dietary ingredients. There is virtually no information on the bioavailability of nutrients for companion animals in many of the common dietary ingredients used in pet foods. These ingredients are generally byproducts of the meat, poultry and fishing industries, with the potential for wide variation in nutrient composition. Claims of nutritional adequacy of pet foods based on the current Association of American Feed Control Official (AAFCO) nutrient allowances ("profiles") do not give assurances of nutritional adequacy and will not until ingredients are analyzed and bioavailability values are incorporated." (Bold, my emphasis)

This is from Assessment of the Nutritional Adequacy of Pet Foods Through the Life Cycle (Journal of Nutrition), written by members of the Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis.

Many raw feeders disregard the AAFCO guidelines altogether for some of the reasons listed in this thread; there are others of us that feed raw that use them as a measuring stick, but given the limitations in our data, we don't view meeting them per se as a "stop or go."


The very bottom line is that

A) "...science doesn't know everything there is to know about feline nutrition; they don't have a complete list of all the nutrients cats need, nor an understanding of the natural combinations in which those nutrients are best utilized... (From Auntie Crazy in this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239691/nutritionally-complete-assurances-for-our-pet-food

B) "We know from human nutrition that is is best if nutrients are consumed in their natural, unprocessed, form. Not only can processing damage nutrients but science is starting to understand the importance of consuming some nutrients at the same time and in the same quantities as they naturally occur. We know, for instance, that calcium is better utilized by the body when it is consumed with vitamin D. We don't, however, have any where near a complete understanding of human nutrition much less feline nutrition. The more we provide nutrients in an unnatural form the more likely we are providing them in a less than optimal manner just because of things we don't know." (From mschauer in this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/261077/lets-talk-about-calcium-and-bones

Ultimately, commercial diets have some answering to do at this point in time:

It is a relatively recent situation that approximately 60% of pet cats in the U.S. now live indoor-only. This means that they are now completely dependent on us to provide their nutritional needs. What this also means is that the health problems associated with their food are becoming ever more apparent. http://www.stateofpethealth.com/Content/pdf/Banfield-State-of-Pet-Health-Report_2013.pdf

- 90% of cats are now overweight or obese and this problem is at "epidemic levels;" so it isn't surprising that with that extra weight,
- 67% of cats have arthritis; or that
- "Incidence of diabetes have DOUBLED in the past five years;"

additionally,

- 85% of cats over the age of 3 years have dental disease; finally,
- Kidney disease is 7x more common in cats than dogs.

(This is from my post in this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/260311/is-there-empirical-evidence-that-raw-feeding-is-good-for-cats )


And can anyone say allergies? IBD? IBS?

When it comes to finding food that has an appropriate protein/fat/carb balance for a cat (from a species-appropriate perspective); a food made with animal-protein, without vegetables, without xantham gum (made from corn), without soy, without carrageenan... it's nearly impossible.

So when choosing commercial canned foods, it's a matter of risk vs. reward.

And that's the same analysis many raw feeders chose, we just evaluate those risks and rewards from a different perspective. What's the risk of nutritional deficiency (as defined by the AAFCO) vs the reward of feeding fresh food, in it's "natural" state, of which we have control over the quality and composition - and supplementation?

For those of us that use the AAFCO (or NRC or FEDIAF) as a measuring stick, we also take into consideration the quality of the nutritional data available to us.

For instance, Sarah Ann states

A note on Turkey: Turkey is naturally high in magnesium and may cause crystals.  Beef and chicken are both low in magnesium.
Forget the point that magnesium is no longer thought to be an issue in the formation of crystals. Interestingly, "turkey" (for which I can find no value for a turkey carcass) is higher in methionine than many other proteins. Turkey breast is the highest of a good smattering of choices I evaluated. Methionine is an amino acid in meat: it is also the urine acidifier used in the Hill's Pet prescription food for urinary health (and many non-prescription urinary health foods).

I already had the data pulled for methionine, so I just tossed a few other minerals in there. But this illustrates the point about feeding a wide variety of food sources when feeding raw:


The info is from the USDA database: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

So I haven't run an actual analysis. But an "eyeball" of the chart looks like meat that's high in magnesium is also relatively high in methionine. Is this an example of how nutrients work together?


IMO, it's not just about the numbers. They can help provide a guide: but for our obligate carnivores, feeding a species-appropriate diet in its natural state takes "meeting their needs" a step further than "just" providing their dietary requirements from food that is extremely highly processed and supplemented with many synthetic vitamins, all of which impacts the bioavailability (and vball91 raised the point about the quality of those ingredients in most of the commercial food options).
.
 
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ldg

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Also when you talk Vitamin D.  Sunshine is the best source D. D is a hormone produced by the body in reaction to UV (not sure if A or B), not a vitamin.  Thus giving kitty outdoor time during the 10-2 time frame  which is optimum for D production will get them all the D they need.  Our little guy gets outdoor time on a tether in the back yard each day.
A little off-topic, but you might find this helpful and informative: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=607588&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0954422402000070

The full study is available for free, you just need to click on the tab for it. :)
 

ldg

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I felt it was important to elaborate a little bit on the lab analysis method of determining whether or not pet foods are nutritionally adequate / balanced and complete. This is for illustrative purposes only, but does make the point.

When the definition of "nutritional completeness" is based solely on a nutritional profile of ingredients, and not BIOAVAILABILITY of those nutrients, that label becomes essentially meaningless.

Although the Nutrient Profile system has done a lot to standardize the business of pet food production, it's not without its critics. There are studies that suggest some nutrient levels may be too high, and others too low. The Nutrient Profile system of formulation does not address the issue of ingredient quality whatsoever. One critic of this method of feed formulation designed a “food” that met all the AAFCO nutrient profile requirements – even though the food was primarily formulated from old shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil with a multi-vitamin-mineral supplement. Obviously, there would be no guarantee that any animal would eat such a food, or could digest it, even though it contained all the vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, etc. that the nutrient profiles required.
(bold emphasis added) (excerpt from Jeane Hofve, DVM of LittleBigCat.com, "Pet Food Regulation" http://www.littlebigcat.com/nutrition/pet-food-regulation/ ).

Now, we can laugh at the idea of feeding shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil: who would buy a food with these ingredients? But here's a list of approved ingredients from the official AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) regulatory publications:

dehydrated garbage
polyethylene roughage (plastic)
hydrolyzed poultry feathers
hydrolyzed hair
hydrolyzed leather meal
some 36 chemical preservatives
peanut skins and hulls
corn cob fractions
ground corn cob
poultry, cow and pig feces and litter (within acceptable manufacturing standards)
hundreds of chemicals
a host of antibiotic and chemotherapeutic pharmaceuticals
a variety of synthetic flavorings
adjuvants
sequestrates
stabilizers
anticaking agents

At a recent AAFCO meeting, they were discussing how to classify (name) out-of-date Hot Pockets being thrown away from supermarkets.

Bear in mind, all of the garbage picked up from restaurants and supermarkets goes to the rendering plant with styrofoam and plastic intact, it all gets tossed into the rendering plants. According to WebMD, 32 percent of all cats over 10 years of age will die from some type of cancer. Look at what's in commercial pet food and the over-vaccination of our pets, and is it any wonder?

Now, the USDA database won't have nutrient data profiles for those things as humans don't eat them - but the traditional lab analysis that pet food companies use would break that shoe leather, motor oil, sawdust (cellulose), motor oil down into its components - and along with the vitamins, it would be determined to be balanced and complete.

This was part of the massive recalls of 2007 and 2008 with the sourcing from China, where melamine was added to boost the protein profile of the ingredients being shipped to pet food manufacturers for the foods. Officially over 8,000 cats diet in those recalls; of course many, many more died that were not deemed "official." :bawling:

Clearly, many with pets that died in that ongoing series of recalls and because of those foods and that "lab analysis approach," began questioning just how the policies of the AAFCO help our pets. They may, from a lab perspective, "guarantee" nutritional adequacy to their standards: but the do not at all address whether the ingredients are good for our animals, are appropriate and belong in the food of our animals, or whether or not our animals actually derive any benefit from the ingredients in their foods (let alone harm their kidneys and livers, etc.).

Humans can probably survive on canned stew and dry breakfast cereal with a vitamin supplement. But is it healthy for us? And if that stew is made from thrown away packets of chicken and beef, with the styrofoam and plastic wrap attached while processed; or made from road kill chickens and cows, or downed, dying, or diseased chickens and cows, or rotting carrots and celery, and the cereal is made with acceptable levels of spoilage (mold on the grains, rat feces in the piles of grains waiting to be processed) (which all of these things are allowed in pet foods); and given we know the bioavailability of cereal is about 40% in humans... is that diet actually meeting our dietary needs? Is it good for us?

This is why so many people have become disillusioned with the "pet food industry," and its guidelines, and prefer to make their own food, with ingredients they can control - human grade ingredients - fresh, whole foods. Some analyze their diets vs. NRC, FEDIAF, or AAFCO for nutrient guidelines - but treat them as guidelines, and compensate for lack of accurate or missing data to determine if the diet is nutritionally adequate - or just scrap them altogether, and rely on what we know about the diets of cats in the wild, with prey model raw feeders doing their best to mimic what a cat in the wild would be eating. There is quite a bit known about what that is. A team of scientists from the Netherlands took the time to perform a meta-analysis of the diets of feral cats from around the world: Plantinga et. al 2011. "Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats," Br J Nutr. 2011 Oct;106 Suppl 1:S35-48. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8404219

And we know from the African Wildcat that this diet sustains a long life. They live, on average, 15 years. So with the benefits of vet treatment, the safety of living indoors and not being hunted as prey, there's no reason to think a diet that by model mimics the natural diet of a cat - a diet of small rodents, perhaps birds, and some bugs (many raw feeders provide crickets to their kitties) will not sustain our cats with a healthy, long life. The pet food industry would like us to believe otherwise. And while it does take learning and care, some basic understanding of feline nutrition, and providing a variety of meats and organs, and bones or bone substitute in the proper ratio to the meat and organs we feed, feeding our cats ourselves is not rocket science.
 
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sarah ann

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I have no issue with those who choose to make their own diets. The problem I have is that most of the diets found online do not meet AFFCO recommendations.

And why even risk having a deficiency of some kind?  Yes you can survive just fine with low/borderline vitamin/mineral levels, but is that healthy?

Low vitamin D levels are linked to autoimmune diseases in people, possibly in animals as well.  Technically an adult cat can survive with no vitamin D in his diet for at least a year (according to the nutrient requirements of cats manual), but vit D would  be crucial for pregnant cats and kittens.

There are so many vitamin/mineral supplements available on the market. Surely it would be easy and cheap enough to pick up a daily feline multi-vitamin and add it to your cat's diet.

As for the bone, I excluded it because the nutrition data site did not have bone meal as an ingredient. That is all.  I was trying to show how one would calculate how much bone meal to add to your total diet, instead of just going by what whatever recipe you are using says.

As for getting your pet's food analyzed, it is not that expensive.  I know my local university will analyze my horse's hay for nutritional value for $40.  Take a look at this website for example. (I can't say I used them, but they showed up under a quick google seach for food analysis).  Not too bad price wise if you just wanted to do some minerals (Ca, P, Cu Mn). Of course it would be thousands to analyze everything, but most home made/raw diets meet protein, fat, and fiber requirements.  All you really would need to look for is Ca-P ratio, and whatever  minerals might be low depending on the diet you choose to use.  A B-complex vitamin should meet any vitamin B requirements.

http://www.ctl.mb.ca/servicesanalysis/

and another company that does food analysis:

http://www.analyticalfeed.com/price.html

one more:

http://www.balabs.com/petfood.htm
 

mschauer

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I have no issue with those who choose to make their own diets. The problem I have is that most of the diets found online do not meet AFFCO recommendations.
I think everyone understands that. 
 The posts above explain why that isn't of concern to some people.
And why even risk having a deficiency of some kind?  Yes you can survive just fine with low/borderline vitamin/mineral levels, but is that healthy?

Low vitamin D levels are linked to autoimmune diseases in people, possibly in animals as well.  Technically an adult cat can survive with no vitamin D in his diet for at least a year (according to the nutrient requirements of cats manual), but vit D would  be crucial for pregnant cats and kittens.

There are so many vitamin/mineral supplements available on the market. Surely it would be easy and cheap enough to pick up a daily feline multi-vitamin and add it to your cat's diet.
Of course no one feeding a homemade diet to their cat believes they are feeding a nutritionally deficient diet. They don't believe the risk you refer to exists in their diet or they wouldn't fed it. The problem is that there may be no way to categorically state that a given diet is nutritionally deficient given that we don't actually know what constitutes a nutritionally complete diet for a cat. Some deficiencies will be obvious such as a diet that is completely devoid of calcium. In a lot of cases it isn't nearly as clear.

I'm with you in that I prefer to at least take a crack at understanding the nutritional composition of the diet I feed and compare it against what ever information we have about the nutritional needs of cats regardless of how incomplete that information may be. But I don't deny that is a complicated task. You outlined the steps someone might take to do it (and thank you very much for that). I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of people will look at those instructions and come to the conclusion that it is far too complicated. Especially given that the analysis would have to be repeated each time an item is added or removed from the diet. Couple that with the fact that it is easy to find what a lot of people consider convincing arguments that it isn't necessary and I think it is easy to understand why those  people would choose to not do it.

There are supplement mixes available made especially for use with a homemade diet and which will make the diet nutritionally balanced by AAFCO standards. For someone feeding a ground diet those mixes are easy to use. For someone wanting their cat to have the dental benefit of chewing on either chunks of meat or bone in meats they are more tricky to use. It involves coating the meat with what can be a significant amount of powder. Some cats won't eat the meat when coated like that. Some will. In fact, this is a method used by some here at TCS. Also, there is also an added cost and a bit of extra work involved with using these mixes. 

Bottom line, adding supplements to a homemade diet is added work and in any but the most obvious cases it is difficult if not impossible to state with absolute certainty that it is necessary. Unless of course you insist that any diet that doesn't meet AAFCO recommendations is in need of supplementation but as has been shown in this thread there are many that simply don't believe that.
As for getting your pet's food analyzed, it is not that expensive.  I know my local university will analyze my horse's hay for nutritional value for $40.  Take a look at this website for example. (I can't say I used them, but they showed up under a quick google seach for food analysis).  Not too bad price wise if you just wanted to do some minerals (Ca, P, Cu Mn). 

http://www.ctl.mb.ca/servicesanalysis/

and another company that does food analysis:

http://www.analyticalfeed.com/price.html

one more:

http://www.balabs.com/petfood.htm
Certainly if you are satisfied with a very limited analysis you can get it done cheaply and it is easy to find labs that will do such an analysis. But of course that isn't what I was referring to as being expensive. I was referring to obtaining an analysis complete enough that it could be used to compare against the AAFCO recommendations.

BTW, none of the links you provided include an analysis for vitamins D and K which you said were of concern to you.
Of course it would be thousands to analyze everything, but most home made/raw diets meet protein, fat, and fiber requirements.  All you really would need to look for is Ca-P ratio, and whatever  minerals might be low depending on the diet you choose to use. 
And how do you know "whatever minerals might be low depending on the diet you choose to use". My whole point was that performing an analysis of  a diet by using the USDA database has to be considered just an estimate and that the only way to know with some certainty which nutrients might be lacking is to get a laboratory analysis. The USDA database based estimated nutritional analysis may not accurately identify some deficiencies. 
 
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peaches08

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There is a big difference between bone and bone meal. Not to mention, not all calcium sources are equal (in human studies).

I agree that I'd rather not feed a food that only meets minimum requirements, but that brings up my next question: if Dr. Pierson's recipe is deficient, then why were my cats so sick on canned foods (low carb) but do so well on her recipe? Also, I don't have a lot of faith in any canned food doing more than just trying to meet the minimum requirements.
 
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ldg

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I have no issue with those who choose to make their own diets. The problem I have is that most of the diets found online do not meet AFFCO recommendations.

And why even risk having a deficiency of some kind?  Yes you can survive just fine with low/borderline vitamin/mineral levels, but is that healthy?

Despite all of the above discussion, you continue to assume AAFCO accurately defines nutritional needs in a diet that is [i/] highly bioavailable [/i] to a cat. As has been pointed out already, AAFCO guidelines

A) Assume the diet will be subjected to high heat
B) Assume the diet is made of ...potentially subpar (not fit for human consumption, anyway) ingredients
C) Ingredints that may have very low bioavailability to a cat (potentially being grain/plant-based proteins, fats, PUFAs or vitamins)
D) Are different than European Union guidelines
E) Are different than NRC recommendations
F) Include recommendations for some nutrients based on studies not done in cats (and we know from many studies that obligate carnivores have very unique metabolic systems that do not resemble a human, dog, pig, or rat).

Finally, as re: analysis, the USDA database is not complete, especially for many of the inputs used in a homemade diet for a cat.

Sarah Ann said:
Low vitamin D levels are linked to autoimmune diseases in people, possibly in animals as well.  Technically an adult cat can survive with no vitamin D in his diet for at least a year (according to the nutrient requirements of cats manual), but vit D would  be crucial for pregnant cats and kittens.

And there are numerous breeders feeding homemade diets, either PMR or ground, producing generations of healthy cats. Celeste Yarnall, (co-author with Dr. Jean Hofve),"The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care;" Michelle Barnard, (retired from breeding), "Raising Cats Naturally;" and a PMR feeder,
Christine M. Ruessheim, http://www.abyssiniancats.info/info.php. These are just off the top of my head, I'm posting from my phone.

Feed egg yolks and sardines, and there's no need to supplement vitamin D. Include a fish oil with D, like salmon, and the diet will well exceed AAFCO vitamin D recommendations.

.
Sarah Ann said:
There are so many vitamin/mineral supplements available on the market. Surely it would be easy and cheap enough to pick up a daily feline multi-vitamin and add it to your cat's diet.
And risk hypervitaminosis, without an accurate understanding of the nutritional composition of the diet? With info from the USDA database available, we already know the only potential shortcomings, if someone feeds following the 80%/10%5%/5% (meat/bone/liver/other secreting organ) with a variety of proteins and several meals of heart as the meat portion of the meal are

Vitamin D
Vitamin K
Iodine
Manganese
Vitamin E
Choline

Vitamin K has already been addressed. Vitamin E has already been addressed, but is easy enough to supplement if someone wants to.

If one is worried about manganese, they can give their cat cosequin.

Though the diet likely meets the need for iodine (which the USDA doesn't track) again, the lite table salt or a standardized kelp iodine supplement can be used judiciously.

And for D and choline, again, that's already been addressed. Egg yolks.

This info is all available from Dr. Becker's Book, "Real Food for Dogs and Cats." She does recommend fruits and veggies in her recipes, but for the anti-oxident contribution given the level of toxins to which our pets are exposed in this day and age.

But just throwing multivitamin supplements at your cat, especially with minerals in them, is dangerous, IMO.
 
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  • #20

sarah ann

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Most muti-vitamins made for cats (at least the ones I have looked at) do not have dangerously high levels of either vitamins or minerals.  Unless the diet you are feeding is already extremely high in something, there should not be any harm in adding a multivitamin.   Unless the vitamin you pick contains over 100% of your animals daily nutritional need.  Actually I would be more concerned with the multi-vitamin being deficient in something (like not including copper).

Look at human multi-vitamins for example. Most of them meet 100% of your daily requirements with just the vitamin alone.  

Peaches, I don't know why your cat was sick on canned food, for all I know it was an individual problem (food intolerance/allergy). 

The problem with not going by AFFCO standards is how do you know you are not deficient in something?  AFFCO standards were developed for a reason, and tested. And if you don't go by AFFCO standards how can you be certain that your diet isn't low in something?  Do you go by NRC standards instead? Do you do blood work every few months or how often?  Is it because you have heard stories on how well other people's animals do? Or are you just going by the fact that your cat "appears" healthy?  What standard do you set?

My animal nutrition teacher always said that the only way to determine if your diet is adequate is to have it analyzed.    I've seen lots of websites recommending different diets, does anyone know if those diets have been analyzed and what the results of that analysis was?

It seems like there are hundreds of raw/home-made diets mentioned on the web and in books. Some of those diets are probably deficient, some are probably better balanced, but how do you really know?  My concern is that there are a lot of people (probably not you guys since you took the time to read all this), that are out there feeding imbalanced diets to their cats just because someone wrote a book on it or because someone put some information on the web.  

Just out of curiosity, did anyone consult an animal nutritionist or have their diet looked at by their vet before deciding to feed it?
 
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