Nutrition for Man’s Best Friend: Home Cooking For Your Dog By Dr. Deborah Shores

Photo by: aussiegall
It’s officially 2014, time for resolutions, goals, and plans. Your resolutions may include eating healthier, learning to cook more nourishing food, or spending more time with your family. You may be planning to start a new diet, one full of whole foods, by choosing to cook at home with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. Although you may have planned this diet for yourself and your family, did you think about including your pets in your nutritional goals? If you haven’t, consider it. An overwhelming majority of pets are fed a commercial diet, purchased from the local pet or grocery store, yet very few of these foods are species-appropriate for your dog. In fact, many commercial diets contain ingredients that can be detrimental to your dog’s health and wellbeing. 

Food is body fuel and you or your dog cannot exist without it. The strength of your dog’s immune system, his resistance to disease and illness, and his overall wellbeing depend on diet. Although commercial pet food is convenient, it provides only a fixed formula without any variety and as seen with recent recalls, may be contaminated with bacteria or toxins.(1) 
Food is body fuel and you or your dog cannot exist without it. The strength of your dog’s immune system, his resistance to disease and illness, and his overall wellbeing depend on diet. Although commercial pet food is convenient, it provides only a fixed formula without any variety and as seen with recent recalls, may be contaminated with bacteria or toxins.(1) 

Many commercial pet foods also contain additives and preventatives for extended shelf-life. Some use artificial flavors, colors, and flavor enhancers to make the food more desirable to your canine.  

A huge benefit of feeding a homemade diet is the fact that you have complete control over what your dog consumes. Unless a commercial pet food specifically says that it is made with human-grade, whole-food ingredients, it is made with rendered meat (remember “pink slime”?) — which is meat that has been stripped from the bone and can include connective tissue.  I appreciate that every part of a meat animal is used for something instead of being wasted, but rendered meat has higher bacterial levels, potentially containing dangerous Salmonella. This meat has to be treated with chemicals, such as ammonia, to be considered “safe.”(2)

Because manufacturers are only required to list the amount of crude protein on the pet food label, they will include cheap sources of protein that aren’t usable by your dog’s body. The term “meat by-products” can be translated to mean poultry feathers, gristle, fecal waste, and horse hair.  Carbohydrates can also mean something much different than labeled. Examples of carbohydrates used in pet food can include sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, rice flour, beet sugar, and rancid or moldy grains. 

The lack of variety in commercial pet food is also worrying. Humans would be repulsed by the idea of eating a formulated food that contained every nutrient necessary day after day. Yet for our pets, we don’t question it. 

However, even though feeding a homemade diet sounds like the obvious option, it can be overwhelming and difficult, especially without help. If you have the opportunity, work with an experienced veterinary nutritionist who can help you formulate and adjust a diet according to your dog’s specific needs. If not, there are a variety of books and resources available on the internet. Be sure to only use recipes that have been formulated and tested by actual veterinary nutritionists. 

We recommend that you visit holistic vet Dr. Susan Wynn’s website (www.susanwynn.com). She has a free, complete and balanced recipe for adult dogs and cats.  Beware that many diets available online and in books don’t offer complete nutrition, so do research and determine what’s best for your dog. 

Preparing a homemade diet is a great step towards helping your dog be the healthier he/she can possibly be. If you have any questions, just ask in the “Ask The Vet” feature. Best of luck and Happy 2014!

Resources

(1)   Unsure if your pet’s food has been recalled? Check out an up-to-date list of pet food recalls, including dates and lot numbers: https://www.avma.org/news/issues/recalls-alerts/pages/pet-food-safety-recalls-alerts.aspx?fvalue=Dog
(2)   Flock, E.  April 5, 2012, Salmonella or Pink Slime? Consumers Don’t Have to Make a Choice. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/salmonella-or-pink-slime-consumers-dont-have-to-make-a-choice/2012/04/05/gIQA6y4fxS_story.html

About Dr. Deborah Shores

Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida. She has two cats and recently lost her 8 year-old Australian Shepard to liver cancer. 

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