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Doggie diets are similar to their owners'

When pet owners ask Dr. Justin Dahl about starting their dogs on homemade diets, he warns them that it's time-consuming. "If your life is so busy that when you get home all the time you have is for a microwave dinner, you probably won't have time...

When pet owners ask Dr. Justin Dahl about starting their dogs on homemade diets, he warns them that it's time-consuming.

"If your life is so busy that when you get home all the time you have is for a microwave dinner, you probably won't have time to make food for your pet," said the veterinarian at Grand Avenue Veterinary Clinic in Duluth. "It can take a lot of management to make a homemade diet, but there's nothing wrong with it."

Dahl offers this general rule: If the food needs to be cooked for you, then it should be cooked for your dog. Cook meat so your dog doesn't get tapeworms or get sick from salmonella and other bacteria. Beef should be very lean and chicken skinless.

"Dogs have a diet similar to ours," Dahl explained. "We eat a little bit of everything. The same is true for dogs."

Dogs need meat, carbohydrates and a fat source. They also need a little oil in their diets, the vet said. Use fish oil capsules or, for the average dog, 1 tablespoon a day of cod liver, olive or canola oil. They also need a vitamin/mineral supplement, he said.

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Don't give your dog too much of one food group, said Dr. Steven Schuder of Duluth Veterinary Hospital. The average dog needs protein to comprise 22 percent of its diet, but growing dogs, geriatric dogs, sled dogs and dogs with medical conditions have differing requirements, he said.

"It's tricky," Schuder said. "It differs with dogs and where they're at in their lives."

A general rule of thumb, Schuder said, is if it's healthy for you, it's probably healthy for the dog.

"Don't eat the steak and give the dog all the fat," he said. "What is junk food for us is just as bad for the dogs."

Schuder also cautioned that any dog can have a bad reaction to any food, even healthy food.

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