Donald R. Strombeck, DVM, PhD

I ran across Dr. Strombeck's website. I believe his website to be one of the most thorough and informative websites on canine and feline nutrition--both the science of it and recipes.  I'm surprised that it took me so long to find it.  As I was doing my searches on RAW food, as his is 'homemade', I managed to miss him completely.  I stumbled upon his website in a Ca:P search.

His website is particularly handy for those dealing with special needs diets. So for any struggling with the care and feeding of such pets, his website is a godsend.   Here is an example of how easy one of his meal preparations are:

 Poultry Meat and Boiled Rice Diet
1/3 pound (weight before cooking) poultry meat (152 grams)
2 cups rice, long-grain, cooked (320 grams)
2 tablespoon sardines, canned, tomato sauce (38 grams)
1 tablespoons vegetable (canola) oil (14 grams)
1/4 teaspoon salt substitute-potassium chloride
1/10 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon bone meal powder (3 grams)
1 multiple vitamin-mineral tablet

provides 879 kcalories, 43.1 g protein, 37.3 g fat
supports caloric needs of 29 to 30 pound dog
Omission of sardines reduces caloric content by 68 kcalories, protein by 6.2 g and fat by 4.6 g.
How easy is that?  The carbs might be on the high side for for a purist, but I would have to believe that the digestibility of this recipe would be far higher than kibble.  I've made it, and my dogs LOVE it.  Further, I do not believe that serving wholesome, minimally processed grains equates to the same types of grains in commercial foods.

There are so many challenges to feeding RAW.  I know many do it, and they make it look easy. My dogs are doing well on it, but I believe that I was feeding them an unbalanced Ca:P with using chicken leg quarters and not enough muscle meat--thinking that the leg quarter had so much muscle meat (v. wings or backs). I was relying on 80%-85% (using meaty leg quarters) and the balance organs (liver/gizzards/hearts) and vegetables.  (Though it should be noted that gizzards are the only way for me to get hearts, and gizzards I believe would qualify as a muscle not organ). When I was researching bone values, I became concerned that this was too much Ca and on the high side of the acceptable ratio.  I found Steve Brown's work on line, and it confirmed my suspicions.(Though others advocate this level of feeding.) In fact, in Steve Brown's paper which referenced in my nutrition links, he changes one of Billinghurst's recipes to dial back on the Ca. These required modifications where food scientists step in to modify popular feeding method levels are what keep me up at night.

Again, there is lots of very good information out there, but it is hard for the average person (me) to wade through and know what is correct information, mostly correct, or downright wrong information--and misleading information can come from some of the most seemingly reliable sources.  My observation is that any source that offers raw meaty bones as the majority of the food offered, is best to be read with caution. The rabbit hole I went down was a long one, and it made my head hurt.  However, my conclusion was that the sites offering offering 50% raw meaty bones, 50% muscle meat as a base (to equate to about 10% bone in the diet) and then supplemented with organ to include not more than 5% liver ensures a proper balance of Ca:P as well as not over supplementation.  Though I still wonder if the Ca:P is truly balanced.  I'll spare you the rabbit hole that I went down to arrive at that continuing wonderment.

Dr. Strombeck's diets seem to offer a good 'in between' kibble and RAW:

  1. there are no calculations to make, as his recipes are balanced.  Dr. Pitcairn's book is also a great place to start. But Strombeck's recipes are free. 
  2. recipes are simple, straightforward and made with things that are inexpensive and easy to obtain.  
  3. recipes are balanced through using a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement as well as bone meal to ensure proper calcium/phosphorus ratios.  NO rabbit holes and not head scratching to wonder if supplementation is correct.

Unlike RAW, these recipes have carbohydrates (rice, macaroni).  He states that rice is the most digestible starch.  There are many RAW feeders against the use of carbs or vegetables/fruits as it is against the 'prey' or ancestral model.  I hold no such notions other than finding a way to better control the input to my dogs' nutrition without harming them by having imbalances.  I have been avoiding grains on Angel's account.  Nevertheless, I elected to introduce some rice into our homemade diet, and I'm watching carefully for reactions.

I'm in a 'blended' zone of using Strombeck's recipes with my RAW recipe 1/2 bone in and 1/2 muscle meat along with vegetables in place of the meat (which he cooks), and omitted bone meal as I have bone-in. These recipes are a big hit with my crew.  Not only does it make the meat go further, it adds some excitement to their meals.  I acquired some bone meal to be able to rely just on boneless grind.  I will watch for any plaque buildup on using starches.  According to his website:

Each recipe lists quantities of proteins and fats that cannot be compared with those listed for commercial pet foods. Commercial products list higher concentrations for proteins. These foods have higher levels because digestibility and availability for their proteins are poor compared to those in owner-prepared recipes. Commercial pet foods need up to twice as much protein than owner-prepared diets because it takes that much to supply amino acid requirements. 

Because these recipes are balanced using salt (iodine), bone meal (human grade) for the Ca:P ratio and absolute values, and a multi-mineral/vitamin pill1 (for anything else lacking), there is no need to search for exotic, expensive or hard to handle ingredients.  No need to buy an expensive grinder, (but I have no regrets, and I will continue to grind bone-in).

For those considering homemade dog food for a part-time or full time endeavor,  I would recommend exploring Dr. Strombeck's site and trying some of his recipes to see if that works for your situation.  Things that you would need:
  •  Obtain some KAL bone meal (as his recipes are tested with that level of Ca:P--and you needn't recalibrate by using other brands), 
  • multi-vitamin/mineral supplement (human, and without the accoutrements of sweeteners, green tea extracts, etc, and review his chart on calibration for dog's weight on his site.).  
  • purchase sardines in water or tomato sauce (latter in his recipes).  They are inexpensive and add important B12 vitamins to diet.
No need to give up on kibble (though I have), but by simply adding a few less-processed meals to your weekly regimen, can go along way toward kicking up your dog's nutrition. Once you start making these recipes for your dog and see how easy it is, how confident you can be that they are balanced and how well your dog enjoys and digests his/her food, you may very well find that the time and effort is a reasonable investment for the vast health and enjoyment rewards.

1 Strombeck's diets can be modified to use a human-grade multi-vitamin and mineral to assure purity and to avoid unnecessary fillers for those with animals with special needs.


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