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Home cookin’ for Fido; not just chicken and rice!

I get a lot of questions these days regarding the virtues of homemade pet diets.  The idea of such a thing is rather satisfying – who wouldn’t feel good about providing a wholesome and nutritious meal for your best friend?  Recent media reports of contaminated commercial pet foods make that idea even more attractive.  There are a few things to keep in mind however, before embarking on a homemade diet revamp for Fido.

Dogs and cats have different nutrient requirements than humans, and dogs have different nutrient requirements than cats.  It is important to remember that just because broiled steak and potatoes with steamed asparagus is good for you and I, it is not necessarily perfectly balanced for your pet.  It is also important to remember that cats are obligate carnivores – they have a physiologic requirement for certain amino acids that can only be provided in animal-based proteins.  Attempting to impose a vegetarian diet on a cat – and even a dog, is not a good idea as serious nutrient imbalances can occur. 

Furthermore, energy and nutrient requirements between animals are not uniformly linear, and vary considerably with activity level, physiologic state (pregnancy versus lactation versus growth), stress level, and health status.  A single generic recipe may be sufficient for one animal, but prove to be inadequate for another.  While the effects of such an imbalance may not be obvious initially, serious health problems will surface over time.  Home cooked meals are also expensive and require a considerable investment of time and work.  They require a strong commitment on the part of the owner in order to maintain a consistent and balanced diet.  Ingredient omissions and substitutions can easily unbalance a balanced ration.  In order to provide an adequate source of all the required vitamins and minerals, it is usually necessary to purchase a commercially prepared vitamin and mineral supplement that can then be added to the diet.

Commercial diets, however, take away all the guesswork.  Feeding a high quality manufactured pet food provides all the necessary calories, vitamins, minerals, fat and protein required if fed appropriately.  Changes in caloric and dietary requirements can easily be addressed by changing the quantity and/or type of food provided.  Certain disease conditions such as congestive heart failure, renal failure, and joint disease can also be addressed with specific, specially-formulated prescription foods.

Just remember that although it is not wrong to provide a homemade diet for your pets, it does require a certain amount of commitment to make sure that the diet is appropriate and well-balanced.  Contact your veterinarian for a consult prior to beginning a homemade diet, they can provide you with important resources and information!

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