Natural and Homemade
As pet owners have demanded higher-grade ingredients for their dogs, manufacturers have responded with complete lines of natural pet foods. Additionally some pet owners feed their dogs homemade foods that may consist of all raw ingredients or a combination of raw and cooked ingredients.
For a dog food to be labeled “natural,” the AAFCO guidelines require all ingredients and components of ingredients in the food to be natural and not synthetically made. If any of the vitamins or minerals is chemically synthesized, the label must state that the food is “natural with added vitamins and minerals.”
If the meats in a home-prepared diet are raw, there is an increased exposure risk for both you and your dog to the bacterias E. coli and salmonella. There is some thought that freezing these meats prior to preparation may decrease this exposure risk; however, the only proven way to avoid these diseases is to cook your dog's meats thoroughly and sanitize all surfaces that come in contact with raw meats.
Home-prepared diets are those that are often recommended by holistic veterinarians. These diets include raw or cooked meats, raw vegetables, whole grains, and nutritional supplements. If prepared according to a recipe from a veterinarian with expertise in nutrition, a home-prepared diet can be an extremely healthy alternative for your shepherd.
The drawbacks to a homemade diet, however, are numerous. Personally preparing your dog's diet takes time and planning, which many dog owners can't manage. The ingredients required to make home-prepared diets are expensive and must be purchased fresh. Perhaps most importantly, home-prepared diets must be made with no substitutions, no variances in quantity, and extreme care in measuring and weighing the ingredients.
If you are considering preparing a homemade diet for your shepherd, you must consult your veterinarian. She will be able to provide you with a recipe along with help in finding sources for some of the vitamins and minerals that need to go into the mix. But whatever you do, follow this recipe to the letter; otherwise, you will be doing your shepherd far more harm than good.