Expert advice from Bailey’s nutritionist Liz Bulbrook on choosing the right diet for your dog

Q: I own a pet Springer Spaniel and have been advised by our vet to feedhim a basic diet of raw meat and vegetable puree, together with a plain biscuit mixer, rather than tinned or complete dry food as he has proved to be extremely allergic in the past.

Is there a risk that by feeding this diet he could be missing out on essential nutrients and additives and should I be adding any extra additives to compensate for his food allergies?

B. Simpson, Esher, Surrey

A: Getting the balance right with home-made recipes can be difficult, as the quality of the diet will depend upon the source and digestibility of the nutrients supplied.

Unless the mixer biscuit you are feeding is mineral fortified and fed in sufficient quantities with the meat then it is likely that the diet will be deficient in essential nutrients; particularly calcium and vitamins A, D and E, along with some of the essential fatty acids such as linoleic for coat and skin condition.

Growing youngsters and working dogs will have higher vitamin and mineral requirements.

Using a vitamin and mineral supplement specially formulated for dogs is advisable, but even these may not supply sufficient calcium. NRC (National Research Council) data indicates that the calcium requirement for dogs is 1.6mg per kilocalorieof dietary energy intake.

Additional calcium can be provided from Di-calcium phosphate, but you will need to know the nutritional contribution from the ingredients you are feeding to calculate the correct amount to feed.

Meat and fish are generally good sources of protein, fats and oils, iron and B vitamins, fats are highly digestible and provide an energy source, with fish oils providing a good source of essential fatty acids.

Wheatgerm oil can also be used to provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Assuming that food hypersensitivity is the cause of your dog’s allergies then it is most important to try and identify the type of foodstuffs he is allergic to as well as balancing his diet.

For example, if your spaniel cannot tolerate chicken-based commercial foods then feeding fresh chicken may not alleviate the problem. Introduce one meat source at a time, such as lamb, venison or fish.

Introduce the new diet gradually and watch for any digestive upsets, as raw meats carry an increased risk of bacteria and mycotoxins that your dog will not be use to, these would be reduced by feeding cooked meat.

I would suggest asking your vet or a specialist pet nutritionist to work with you on making sure you get the best balance for your dog.