The latest outbreak of dog food and cat food contamination has shaken the confidence of pet owners the world over, but nowhere as much as in the United States where illness and reported deaths took its highest toll of family pets. Now, in the aftermath of large scale pet food recalls, many are asking questions about the ingredients that they’ve always trusted to provide optimum health for their family pets.
It comes as no real surprise now that many pet owners are choosing to make their own homegrown variety of pet nutrition. When made properly, it has to be a better option than all that imported stuff with unknown ingredients of suspicious composition and origin. In fact, many say it’s not too difficult at all and fairly inexpensive to make. But, a number of experts caution that homemade diets won’t work for every pet or its owner. Some dogs and cats have a more difficult time adjusting to a new diet and the new process itself may simply be too labor intensive and inconvenient for many owners. The choice should be made only after careful consideration.
For starters, you can have your family vet or a recommended veterinary nutritionist put together a starter diet for you to try. On the other hand, if you prefer, do the nutritional research yourself. It’s unfortunate, but the rap against vets today, is similar to what doctors experienced in years past, that they know a lot about medicine, but were never taught much about nutrition. And, the veterinary nutritionists are accused of being little more than puppets, with the pet food manufacturers pulling the strings. There may be an element of truth to both, but in any case you’ll have to use your own judgment. However, having a few sample diets to follow while getting started will most likely be helpful.
The most responsible advice is to suggest paying close attention to your dog or cat. You know your pet better than anyone, so you should quickly notice changes in the quality of their health, such as energy levels, condition of their coat and stool texture. So, keep a close eye out for any subtle changes during the transition, as you would with changes to any food. When you decide to begin with your homemade foods, do it gradually by mixing the new food into the old food for a couple of weeks. Slowly increase the ratio of new to old each day as you monitor your pet’s adjustment.
Another trend of late has some owners feeding their pets a diet based largely on raw meat, vegetables and fruits. In fact, many people believe it’s the most natural and therefore the healthiest choice for pets. Melinda Miller, president of the North American Raw Pet Food Association recently stated, “There are a wide variety of benefits. Animals with arthritis and longstanding gastrointestinal ailments or skin problems often improve significantly after being placed on grain-free raw diets”.
For those who might be concerned about introducing contaminants into their own diets, it’s important to note here that the more common phobias and issues related to food borne microbes, such as salmonella are largely unfounded, with no real evidence of actual cases of illness to animals or humans when the meat is fresh and handled in an appropriate manner. Melinda Miller added, “no study has ever correlated human illness with raw-fed dogs or cats.” Raw food diets are popular in Europe and have gained significant interest in America over the past twenty years, so it can be considered yet another possible alternative over the store bought brands.
A Word of Caution:
Don’t just think that you can feed your pet table scraps and assume it to be a viable nutritional alternative. It’s not! Pets have special needs just as we do, so do your homework. There are many online resources, and even pet food cookbooks to help make things a lot easier. But, in the meantime, don’t just feed them what you’re eating. At the very least, they won’t be getting the nutrition they need, and the things you’re giving them could make them sick or even kill them.
Here’s a short list of foods that can be toxic for animals and should always be avoided, even in small quantities: chocolate, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, leeks, chives, grapes, raisins, potato peelings, tomatoes (cats) and drinks containing caffeine or alcohol. The list for your particular pet may include other dangerous or sickening foods, so think before you toss.
Making your own pet foods can certainly be a loving and caring way to guarantee that your pet gets the healthy nutrition it deserves and without the risk of unknown contaminants. But, do your cost/benefit research first as to ensure a situation that you’re comfortable with including dollars, time and balanced nutrition. Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages for both you and your pet before deciding on this trendy alternative.
For more information regarding the care, development and safety of the family pet, please visit All About Dogs.
Copyright 2007 Harry Monell. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the entire contents of this article with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, including this notice.