Should You Cook for Your Pet?

In light of the many FDA pet recalls through the years, a large amount of pet guardians are opting to make their own pet food.

As we've unfortunately seen, many pets became gravely ill with 1,000's more dying from eating these extremely dangerous and poisonous commercially made foods.

Oh, did I say they were not a safe food source for our pets?

This article will help you decide if cooking for your pet is right for you.

Why Feed a Homemade Diet?

Homemade pet food has become a bit of a hot topic in the animal world as of late. The more food conscious we become as a society, the more concern we have over what goes into our pets' diets, as well.

Many of us consider our pets to be members of the family, so, naturally, we want to offer them the same quality of health we want for ourselves. But is a homemade diet really the best option for your pet?

Is Homemade Pet Food Right for Your Dog or Cat?

People choose to feed their pet a homemade diet for a variety of reasons. Some pet owners feel that a home-cooked diet offers a fresher, healthier alternative to commercially available dog and cat food.

It also gives owners free reign to determine exactly what they put into their pet's food and, in doing so, keep it free of additives, dyes and other unnatural ingredients that many commercial diets may contain.

For others, it's about bringing variety into an otherwise "boring" life of eating the same kibble day after day.

In the wake of pet food recalls and product contamination scares, many people are mistrustful of larger food companies and suspicious of their marketing ploys.

Some owners simply feel that a home-cooked diet may be a better choice for their pet who is suffering from a specific disease condition (such as allergies or cancer). Whatever the reason, it seems that more and more people want to jump on the homemade diet bandwagon these days.

The Reality of Homemade Diets

As a pet owner myself, I can certainly sympathize with clients who want to feed their pets food they would consider good enough for their own consumption.

While I think the intention behind feeding a home-cooked diet is great, pet owners need to be aware that it's not as simple as filling your dog or cat's bowl with some chicken and vegetables and calling it good.

Our pets require a specific balance of nutrients to stay healthy, and their needs differ from our own. If that balance is not met, it can lead to serious health consequences for your dog or cat.

Which Pets May Benefit from a Homemade Diet?

A homemade diet is probably best reserved for a generally healthy dog or cat, or for pets with documented food allergies. In cases of true food allergies, a homemade diet may be ideal or even recommended.

Pets with suspected food allergies are often put on diet trials to eliminate specific proteins and/or carbohydrates from their diet while it is determined which foods they are allergic to. Pets who are allergic to several ingredients may be placed on short-term or long-term homemade diets.

Please note that the proper steps still need to be taken to ensure these diets are complete and balanced. Any pet placed on a food trial for suspected allergies should always be monitored by a veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist.

Do Your Research

If you are considering a homemade diet for your pet, it is important to do it the right way. While cooking for your pet regularly is certainly feasible, it does take some effort to ensure that your dog or cat receives a proper balance of nutrients.

Know that it requires a time commitment and diligence and that you must strictly adhere to the nutritional requirements for your pet or run the risk of him or her developing severe nutrient deficiencies or becoming malnourished.

Pet food companies have often spent years of research formulating diets that are suitable to meet your pets' specific nutrient requirements. If you are serious about wanting to maintain your dog or cat on a home-cooked diet, you will need to do some research of your own.

The first step is to make sure the diet you create for your pet is completely balanced. Simple "Guidelines" For Feeding Homemade (Real) Food To Pets can help you with this which is on the next page.

Some Common Ingredients

Unless your pet has a specific disease condition and must avoid certain foods, most homemade diets should include:
  • protein 
  • grain or carbohydrate source 
  • healthy fat
  • a variety of vegetables
Some common ingredients found in homemade diets include:
  • chicken
  • beef 
  • lamb 
  • brown rice or pasta 
  • vegetable or fish oils 
  • broccoli
  • peas 
  • sweet potato 
In terms of vegetables, it's best to avoid onions and garlic which can be harmful if fed in large amounts. (Many other "healthy" sounding foods are dangerous to dogs and cats.)

What about Supplements?

Even if your homemade diet seems well-balanced by human standards, it will still likely require some form of supplementation in order to provide your pet with the necessary vitamins and minerals he or she needs.

Often, a multivitamin is required to help round out the nutritional content of a home-cooked diet. Calcium is also generally added to homemade diets in the form of bone meal or a powdered supplement.

Dogs and cats who don't receive the proper amount of calcium in their diet can develop a disease condition known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, which can leave them prone to bone fractures.

Cats have additional requirements for certain nutrients such as the amino acid taurine, which plays an essential role in heart and retinal health.

I've been using "Nupro" Natural Supplements for decades and can attest to its amazing results. It comes in dog formulas and also cat formulas. It contributes to a strong immune system, which is key to staying healthy.

Have a Vet Monitor Your Pet Frequently

If you are set on a homemade diet and have done the proper research, be sure to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian frequently, especially in the early stages to ensure he or she maintains a healthy weight and to monitor for any clinical signs of disease that might indicate a nutritional deficiency.

Remember, as your pet ages, his or her dietary requirements may change. Your veterinarian can help guide you in determining what changes may need to take place in your pet's diet as time goes on.

A Note on Raw Food Diets 

Raw food diets are becoming popular because some pet owners feel it's similar to what dogs and cats eat in the wild. However, many of these diets do not take into account that our pets' wild predecessors were often consuming whole carcasses, including nutrients found in bones and other parts of prey.

We also need to remember that our dogs and cats have come a long way from their wild predecessors and lead very different lifestyles.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your pet's diet needs to be complete and balanced. To date, there is no real research to support that feeding a raw diet is more nutritious.

The bottom line is that feeding our domesticated dogs and cats a raw food diet is probably not necessary and puts both you and your pet at higher risk for coming into contact with dangerous parasites and bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli.

When a Homemade Diet May NOT be the Best Choice

For pets in life stages that require extra nutritional support, such as growing puppies and kittens or pregnant or nursing dogs and cats, a homemade diet may not be the ideal option.

Ensuring that your pet's dietary needs are met during these life stages is crucial, so it's probably best to rely on a well-established commercial diet during these times.

Dogs and cats with specific health or medical conditions such as bladder stones or kidney disease often need to avoid certain minerals and/or minimize protein in their diet. These pets will probably do best on a prescription diet. Check with your veterinarian to determine your pet's specific dietary needs.

If you are interested in adding more whole foods to your dog or cat's diet, but lack the time or resources to do it properly (let's face it, for some of us it is a challenge to prepare our own meals on a daily basis), you might consider finding a wholesome, balanced commercial food source and supplementing with fresh foods to provide your pet with additional tastes and nutrients.

Don't throw away your leftovers - if acceptable for pets, put some in the bowl and let your pet enjoy a "special" dinner!

I buy good quality canned dog food and add "homemade" food to their bowl...mix it up (half and half). I probably get more enjoyment out of watching them "inhale" their food than they do. They're getting the nutrients they need from the canned food. In the morning I add a little Nupro to their food...I feel safe doing it this way and it's easy!

Some options to consider adding are (cooked) broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, salmon or chicken (without any bones, skin or added seasoning). Just be sure to account for the extra calories by scaling back on his or her regular food.

For Feeding Homemade 
   (Real) Food To Pets