Homemade diets: Are they right for your pet?
Some pet owners have raised objections to commercial pet food, often expressing concerns about the ingredients, quality or processing. As an alternative, some have turned to preparing meals for their cats and dogs themselves. If you are considering this option, we encourage you to read some of the pros, cons and other specifics surrounding homemade pet foods.
Perceived benefits of homemade pet food
There is a commonly held belief that preparing a homemade diet is healthier and more natural, in the sense that you can control exactly what goes inside your pet’s food bowl. By making their own dog or cat food, pet owners can make conscientious decisions about natural, organic, vegetarian and vegan ingredients.
Some pet owners also believe that the homemade diet strengthens the human-pet bond and that it is cheaper to prepare your pet’s food than to purchase a commercial product.
Homemade pet food imperfections
The truth of the matter is, truly balanced, nutritionally sufficient home-prepared diets require considerable time, effort and expense. Unlike many high-quality dog and cat foods available on the market, homemade diets often fall short of providing all the essential nutrients that pets need on a daily basis. Below are some of the common errors made in home-prepared diets:
- Excessive quantities of protein
- Deficiencies in calories, calcium, vitamins and micro-minerals
- Abnormal calcium to phosphate ratios
- Low energy density
- Poor palatability
- Feeding raw meats and bones which can lead to infectious disease or trauma to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract
- Diets have not been adequately tested with animal feeding trials or laboratory analysis to confirm nutrient content and nutrient availability
- Often crudely balanced and may not achieve satisfactory palatability, digestibility or safety
For these reasons, the formulation of a home-prepared diet should only be undertaken in appropriate circumstances and with the right expertise.
In certain circumstances homemade diets may actually be beneficial to your pet’s health. For example, if your pet has complex medical problems (such as chronic pancreatitis or chronic kidney disease) that simply cannot be accommodated with a commercial product, a homemade diet may be the best choice for managing the condition.
Again, even under these circumstances, pet owners should always consult with a veterinarian to get adequate advice and information before starting a home-prepared diet. If it is deemed medically appropriate for your pet, you should also ensure that the homemade diet is formulated by a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist and prepared using the correct ingredients and strict adherence to the recipe.
For a complete list of Boarded Nutritionists, please visit www.ACVN.org. You can also learn more about your pet’s nutritional needs by reading the articles below or by scheduling an appointment with your local Banfield veterinarian.