If you could add more years to your dog’s life, you’d make it happen…right? That’s the reason I started cooking for my dogs nearly 10 years ago. It’s also how I found Balance IT® recipes, a website associated with a veterinary medical school that helps me create healthy homemade pet food.
Balance IT® is a free site that teaches pet owners how to make nutritionally complete meals for dogs and cats. It’s a great find if your pet is a picky eater, has food allergies, a chronic disease or if you just want to cook for them. Bailey and Olivia have grown up on the recipes.
This isn’t a raw diet; it’s a combination of lightly-cooked proteins, grains, vegetables, fruits and oils.
I first started cooking for my dogs when Cody, my German shepherd, developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The condition is caused by a reaction to food that inflames the intestinal tract. Dogs with IBD have chronic vomiting, diarrhea and severe weight-loss.
When Cody was diagnosed with IBD, our vet prescribed a prescription dog food. Cody had a horrible reaction to the food and it that nearly cost him, his life. So, the veterinarian recommended we try the recipes on Balance IT. It was a life-saver for Cody and now it helps Bailey, who’s the pickiest eater I know.
Note: I am not affiliated with Balance IT. It’s a resource I like and it’s my pleasure to share it readers.
The experts behind Balance IT
The website was founded by Dr. Sean Delaney, former Executive Chair of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. It’s associated with the University of California, Davis and managed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists. You can even make an appointment to talk with a nutritionist about your pet’s specific needs.
The goal of the site is to educate both pet parents and veterinarians. The group believes that when vets are knowledgeable about healthy food, they spend more time educating their clients and sharing dietary advice.
Balance IT relies heavily on professionals sharing information for another reason too. There are relatively few board-certified veterinary nutritionists in the U.S. Less than 100 vets have entered the field.
So, every recipe you use from the website and share, is another opportunity to educate a pet family.
How the website works
To get started, pet owners are asked to set up a user information page about their dog or cat. Once you’ve done that, I recommend taking a tour through the videos and then head to the Homemade Food tab. That’s where you’ll find a genius software program called the Auto Balancer®. It turns your dog’s favorite food into a nutritionally sound recipe.
The program is easy to use. Simply choose as many ingredients as you want from the 5 categories: Protein, Carbohydrates, Oils/Fats, Vegetables and Fruits. Then press the tab to create a dog or cat recipe.
Here’s a picture of my choices
The Auto Balancer will let you know if you’ve created a balanced meal or how you can improve it. Click on the View button to see if there were any adjustments. This screen will also tell you the quantity needed for each ingredient and the best way to cook it.
My recipe was a little too high in protein, so I clicked back to the ingredients page and deleted one of them. The change gave my recipe a passing grade. Over the years, I’ve learned to work with the Auto Balancer until I get the perfect menu.
I’ve also learned a few things about pet nutrition. For instance, instead of choosing olive oil for my recipes, I now know that corn oil or walnut oil are better choices. That’s because dogs need more linoleic acid than humans and corn and walnut oil have the highest levels.
Corn oil is the richest source of linoleic acid that is readily available in North America, so it is widely used in our recipes along with canola oil to minimize the amount of extra fat that has to be added to recipes. Walnut oil can be used as an alternative.Dr. Sean Delaney
The program also let me know I needed a supplement
Supplements made by Balance IT are the one product sold on the website and they’re meant to be used solely with their recipes. They don’t come with general use instructions, because the amount of supplement to give, depends on your individual recipe.
You can read more about each supplement here.
Sometimes I choose to use the recommended supplement, and other times I use an alternative approach. My secret is to add a small amount of high-quality commercial kibble to complete a recipe. I’ve done this with my healthy dogs only.
Pet with medical conditions
Balance IT® offers two alternatives for sick dogs and cats. Both need a prescription from your veterinarian in order to access a recipe.
First, there are pre-determined recipes for pets with common illnesses. These include: Arthritis, Liver Disease, Diabetes, IBD, Heart Disease, Allergies, Urinary Crystals and Stones and more.
This is how I found the recipe that helped calm down Cody’s IBD. Your vet can also request that you work directly with a nutritionist. That way the veterinarian can get a complete history of your dog’s medical condition and develop a custom recipe.
Balance IT has been my “go too” source for a long time. I hope you find it helpful too.