Homemade Pet Food: Yay or Nay?
On March 15, 2007 (simpler times!), the FDA learned that certain dog and cat foods were contaminated with a substance called melamine that was sickening and killing pets. This massive pet food recall and the fear that it generated among pet owners led to an increased interest in homemade pet food.
Although preparing your sweet pet’s food in the safety of your own kitchen seems like a good way to protect them from potential poisoning, but proper pet nutrition is a tricky business. Commercial pet food is formulated to be nutritionally balanced for a pet’s specific age and life stage, but this doesn’t mean you can’t provide your pet with a good diet on your own. Research and advice from your trusted veterinarian are the keys to making an informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Homemade Pet Food
Before deciding whether or not homemade food is right for your pet, it’s important to not only do your research but to weigh the pros and cons.
- With homemade pet food you can control the ingredients. This comes in handy if your pet has an allergy to a specific food.
- Because homemade food is fresh it retains maximum nutritional value.
- Homemade pet food may be more cost effective than commercial diets, especially if your pet has a food allergy. Recipes can often be prepared using many of the same ingredients you buy for yourself and your family.
- It’s easy to miss out on key nutrients your pet needs when preparing homemade pet food. Be sure to work with a veterinary nutritionist to come up with recipes and proportions.
- Homemade food has a shorter shelf life than commercial diets, and may not be ideal for travel or if your pet needs to be boarded.
- Pets with certain health conditions may be better off with a commercial diet specifically formulated to address their medical needs.
Do’s And Don’ts
Keep in mind the following if you decide to prepare your pet’s food from scratch:
Safety – Certain human foods can be highly nutritious for pets, but there is a wide variety of foods to avoid when preparing meals for dogs and cats. Dangerous ingredients include chocolate, the artificial sweetener Xylitol (found in some sugar free peanut butters and baked goods), grapes/raisins, onions, garlic, avocados and macadamia nuts. Avoid raw diets for pets, as they are at risk from pathogens in meat and fish just like humans.
Nutritional requirements – Dogs and cats have specific sets of nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. For example, dogs need a blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates along with minerals, such as calcium, and essential fatty acids. As obligate carnivores, cats require a diet high in animal protein as well as amino acids like taurine and arginine (found in meat or fish). Work with your veterinarian or a certified veterinary nutritionist to make sure your pet’s needs are met.
Your team at New Haven Pet Hospital is happy to help you make an informed decision regarding your pet’s dietary needs. Feel free to contact us with any questions!