Nutrition and Formulation Information

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Complete and Balanced Meals Formulation Details

The recipes in the book meet the latest criteria for recommended allowances from FEDIAF. These recommended allowances are for growing and adult dogs and cats, meet a metabolic basis for specific activity levels and calorie consumption, and do not exceed extrapolated FEDIAF maximum nutrient requirements on a metabolic basis per day. 

The formulation software we used to create these recipes is the Animal Diet Formulator (ADF), which combines USDA and verified international food data to build a comprehensive nutritional database of ingredients, in collaboration with practicing veterinarians, board-certified veterinary nutritionists, pet food producers, and other industry professionals using up-to-date FEDIAF and AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines. We used 2021 FEDIAF guidelines for these recipes.

All recipes also meet AAFCO 2021 guidelines, excluding phosphorus for adult cats (opting for FEDIAF’s lower requirements). We used the lowest iodine requirements (AAFCO) for all adult cat recipes. All recipes were formulated in Atwater, on a caloric basis (not dry matter), using the following metabolic multipliers (K factors):

  • 110 for adult dogs,
  • 85 for less active dogs.
  • Puppy feeding directions based on NRC 2006, page 38–39 and Table 15–2, using K factors of 210 (early growth), 175 (mid growth), and 140 (late growth). Cat and kitten feeding instructions based on FEDIAF table VII-9, VII-10.
  • Cat K factors: 52 (less active), 75 (indoor adult), 100 (outdoor adult), 169 (kitten early growth), 141 (kitten mid growth), 113 (kitten late growth). Nutrient losses during cooking were accounted for using USDA retention values.
Watch Dr. Becker and Steve Brown discuss the formulation of the recipes in The Forever Dog book.

Lysine maximum for canine growth

Wondering why lysine is flagged in the nutritional analyses for all of our puppy recipes?

The answer is that we’re showing you how our recipes stack up against FEDIAF’s nutrient profile standard (we formulated to meet both FEDIAF and AAFCO). FEDIAF established a maximum for lysine (one of the essential amino acids) in canine growth recipes based on one study done in 1985 that found puppies fed a diet supplemented with high levels of lysine had stunted growth and symptoms of deficiency of another amino acid, arginine.

However, there are no studies finding cause for concern with higher levels of lysine naturally occurring in foods. In fact, it is virtually impossible to formulate a fresh meat-based diet without exceeding FEDIAF’s maximum. It’s pretty compelling that dogs’ biologically appropriate, ancestral diet – on which puppies and adults alike thrive – contains a robust level of lysine, all from real food. It’s also worth noting that the amino acids coming from real foods are balanced by nature, so there isn’t a dramatic upswing in one that leads to disrupted relationships with the others (as seen in the 1985 study using one amino acid in excess and isolation).

AAFCO has not set a maximum limit on lysine for canine growth formulations. And what’s more, the board-certified veterinary nutritionists who reviewed our recipes had no concerns about the lysine levels above FEDIAF’s maximum.


A: Follow these simple steps:

1. Identify your pet’s life stage and activity level from the list on p. 155

2. Weigh your pet

3. Select the appropriate chart on p. 158-159 for your pet’s life stage and activity level,and find your pet’s weight in that chart
4. Note your pet’s approximate calorie requirement per day from the chart – save this number! You’ll use it for every recipe.

5. Each recipe lists the number of calories per ounce. Divide the calories your pet needs per day by the number of calories per ounce in the recipe. For example, if your dog needs 603 calories per day, and you’re feeding a recipe with 44 calories per ounce, here’s how to calculate the ounces to feed: 603 / 44 = 13.7 ounces of food per day

6. Divide those ounces into as many meals as your pet eats in one day.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for each different recipe you try! And if your pet is a growing puppy or kitten, or if your pet is losing or gaining weight, reweigh often to update feeding amounts.

A: In the book, you’ll find recipes customized for a specific species (dog or cat), life stage (growth or adult), and activity level (active or less active). You’ll also find some recipes that meet nutrient needs using all whole foods, and some that use supplements.

On the website, you’ll find variations of those recipes formulated specifically for other life stages and activity levels. Every recipe has variations for dogs and for cats. For every recipe that uses whole foods, we offer a variation using supplements so that sourcing ingredients doesn’t have to hold you back from trying the recipe. However, not every recipe that uses supplements can be formulated using whole foods while still keeping to the protein category.

For example, meeting nutrient needs in the pork recipes requires either using organs from another animal species or using supplements. We kept the protein sources consistent to meet the needs of a larger number of dogs and cats.

A: We don’t recommend it. The recipes have been formulated using ingredients that complement the unique nutrient content of various protein sources. Like puzzle pieces, the ingredients fit together to make a perfectly balanced meal. Substituting another protein may result in a recipe that is deficient in one or more minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, or amino acids.

A: When using tablet or capsule laboratory-made nutritional supplements, they are supplied in various strengths or dosages, and these are clearly indicated on the label. For example, if a recipe calls for 30 mg zinc per batch, and you have a bottle of zinc supplements that are 15 mg per capsule, just open two capsules and add it to your supplement powder dish during meal prep. In Chapter 4, amounts listed on a recipe under the sub-heading Supplements is a dosage or strength, NOT weight.

A: Whole food ingredient powders should be weighed on a gram scale. Bonemeal and kelp are dried whole foods ground into powders, which are weighed to provide the correct amounts. The same is true for herbs, spices, and other foods. We don’t offer these amounts in teaspoons, cups, or other common kitchen measures of volume, because a teaspoon of one ingredient will weigh out at a different number of grams compared to another ingredient. Weight is more accurate than volume measurement.

A: Look for kelp that uses the whole plant, and that does not have added ingredients. Whole kelp naturally contains a host of vitamins and minerals (which are wonderful for our pets), but there should not be any additional supplements added to the product.

The Forever Dog Life %Rodney Habib% %Dr. Karen Becker%

Kelp sources we’ve used (so you know what to look for):

  • Thrive Sea Kelp
  • Thorven Geothermal Icelandic Kelp
  • Animal Essentials Ocean Kelp
  • Foothills Naturals Organic Kelp

Bone meal is a naturally rich source of calcium and phosphorus, so we use it to meet these nutritional requirements in some recipes. Other trace minerals are naturally found in ground bone, aside from calcium and phosphorus (that the supplement company may also list on the label). What’s important is to make sure the product is actually ground bone (i.e. bone meal is the listed ingredient) and not a “bone-building” supplement. Also check the ingredient panel to ensure there is NO added vitamin D, copper or iron.

The Forever Dog Life %Rodney Habib% %Dr. Karen Becker%

Some bone meal and kelp supplement companies add other nutraceuticals so the label reads, “with added X, Y, and Z” nutrients – these are not appropriate for our recipes. Look for plain bone meal and plain kelp.

Some Bone Meal brands we’ve used:

  • NOW Bone Meal
  •  Ancestral Supplements
  • NXGEN Supplements


A: Absolutely! Cats deserve biologically appropriate, complete and balanced fresh food just as much as dogs do. That’s why we custom-formulated variations of the recipes specifically for cats. If the versions for cats aren’t in the book, they’re on the website.

A: The ingredients in these recipes were chosen to meet nutrient needs and/or to provide a specific health benefit. Even the smallest addition of an herb or spice, for example, is necessary to ensure mineral or vitamin adequacy in the recipe.

While very simple recipes with just a few, easy-to-find ingredients are alluring, they are nutritionally deficient in important micronutrients (you’ll find those easy recipes never come with a nutritional analysis because folks would faint if they knew how deficient the recipes were). Similar to making homemade human infant formula, it’s important to make sure there are enough of all required nutrients for longterm health and wellbeing. It’s our goal to provide the optimal intake of all required vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, as well as abundant sources of antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Our recipes accomplish all of these important nutrition goals.

The good news? You’ll find easy recipes with few ingredients in our treats and toppers section – because we love to make those simple recipes, too – and our pets love to eat them as healthy add-ons to their complete and balanced nutrition foundation.

A: If you can’t source a specific ingredient, or if you want to find nutrient-dense organ meats not found in your local grocery store, you may have luck with a local livestock farmer (or farmer’s market), ethnic markets, or online. We’ve found organs and a variety of protein sources at Raw Feeding Miami, Hare Today, and My Pet Carnivore. You may find others near you.

Nutritional Data Sheets For Recipes In The Forever Dog Life

Chinese Beef and Chicken Stir Fry, Whole Foods, Canine Growth

Basic Beef and Broccoli, Whole Foods, Adult Canine

Basic Beef and Broccoli, with Supplements, Adult Canine

Garden Fresh Goodness, Whole Foods, Adult Canine

Beef Bourguignon with Mussels, Whole Foods, Adult Canine

Beef Mexican Fiesta, Whole Foods, Adult Canine

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