Homemade Pet Food: Pet Owners Cook Up Cat Kibble and Dog Chow
Can pet owners prepare homemade meals without depriving their pets of vital nutrients? Yes, says the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, but cooking for the cat or dog requires precision.
"It does take education, effort and dedication to get it right," says Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic feline veterinarian in Denver, Colo., and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. "Many people get the idea that meat is all a cat needs. This is a very dangerous myth."
In fact, while meat is the cornerstone of a homemade diet for cats, supplements with the same kinds of vitamins and minerals found in its prey's bones, glands, and blood, are also vital for a cat's health, Dr. Hofve said. The goal of a homemade diet is to mimic the pet’s natural prey; in the case of a cat, to "make a better mouse."
But anything a pet owner can cook up on the stove must be supplemented with vitamins and minerals, veterinarians say. For instance, cats must receive supplements that include taurine to prevent blindness and heart disease.
One company, Balance IT, offers canine and feline recipes made of human food ingredients, as well as the supplements to go with them. Pet owners go on online and click on one of eight proteins — including lamb, chicken and tofu — and one of nine carbohydrates — including rice, pasta and couscous.
The resulting recipes — all vetted by board-certified veterinarians — can be enhanced with either human mineral and vitamins from drug stores, or with Balance IT's own supplements, which sell for $35 for a 21-ounce or 600-gram jar, plus shipping.
Even without the supplements, Balance IT is a pricey proposition: The company charges $20 for one recipe; $30 for two, and $37.50 for three.
Pet-owners can find free recipes on gourmetsleuth.com. Though the website doesn't approach pet cuisine with the medical precision of Balance IT, it does provide a chart with a break-down of canine proteins, fats, and carbohydrate requirements.
Lindsay Knerl, writing on the blog networking site sweetbread.com, suggests that families can save money by making dog food in a slow cooker using rice, vegetables, and cheap cuts from the butcher.
"Manager’s special items that you might not feed your friends such as hindquarters or shanks can make excellent dog food," she writes.
Interest in homemade food is on the rise since melamine-contaminated food in 2007 scared pet owners into seeking out other dietary options for their pets. Now, pet owners scared by the expense of prepared food are interested as well.
Indeed, the cost of feeding two 100-pound Great Pyrenees dogs premium kibble for $60 a month had Knerl rethinking how she fed her pets.
"If the pet food recalls weren’t enough to steer you towards making your own dog food," wrote Knerl, "the cost savings would."
Veterinarians and pet owners debate as to whether homemade foods for pets cover all the nutritional bases.
An oft-quoted text of a text used in veterinary schools, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition IV Edition, claims that more than 90 percent of homemade foods for pets are nutritionally incomplete.
But proponents of homemade pet foods argue that the publisher of the text, the Mark Morris Institute, is the former owner of Hills Pet Nutrition, Inc., maker of store-bought pet food brands Prescription Diet and Science Diet, and hence, competitors of homemade food.
The Colgate Palmolive Company now owns Hill's Pet Nutrition, Mark Morris Associates and Theracon, another Morris-owned company.
Critics also argue that two of the three editors of the textbook are Hill's employees, and almost 25 percent of the contributors work for both Hill's and the Mark Morris Institute.
Deborah Davenport, DVM, MS Diplomate ACVIM, executive director of the Mark Morris Institute and Director of Professional Education for Hill's Pet Nutrition, could not be reached for comment.
This article is Part Two of a Zootoo Series on pet diet trends. Check back for more information on the best ways to feed your pet.
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