Pet food recalls, including the recent Pedigree recall, has many dog owners wondering, “How do I feed a homemade dog food diet?” Read on for the pluses and drawbacks.
A Raw Dog Food Diet is One Alternative that Avoids Pet Food Recalls
The voluntary pet food recall of September 12, 2008 involved Pedigree Dog Food and more than a dozen other brands manufactured at Mars Petcare’s Everson, Pennsylvania plant.
This marks the latest in a series of pet food recalls that’s been taking place since March 2007, and this voluntary Pedigree recall has many dog owners considering the merits of a homemade dog food diet.
The Benefits of Serving Homemade Dog Food
There are many benefits associated with serving a homemade dog food diet. Firstly, pet owners will experience less worry when it comes to dog food and cat food recalls. These recalls are not always well publicized, and it can be difficult to determine if your dog’s precise dog food brand or dog food variety (i.e. small bites, healthy weight formula, senior formula, etc.) has been affected.
Dog owners who opt to cook meals at home for their pet do not have to worry about commercial pet food recalls, though there are still other recalls that affect “human foods,” but fortunately, these recalls are well-publicized relative to some dog food recalls.
Dog food recalls aside, pet owners who serve a homemade diet of “people food” to their dog(s) can relish in the fact that their pet is consuming few, if any, preservatives, artificial colorings and other additives that are often found in dog food.
“A homemade diet tends to be much better for the dog’s body. A well-balanced homemade dog food diet is easier to digest and higher in nutrients and vitamins,” explained Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, who added, “You also have to remember that many pet foods contain an abundance of grains as fillers, which you don’t want. And even when meat is added, you often end up with “junk” meat – body parts and animal organs that aren’t fit for human consumption.”
Dog owners who serve homemade dog food diets can also customize their dog’s homemade food to his or her specific dietary needs, health needs and tastes.
“It’s a huge advantage, the ability to tailor the homemade food to your dog’s precise dietary needs. If your dog needs to gain muscle mass, you can add meats and proteins. If your dog has cancer or a chronic illness, serve foods with antioxidants and lots of nutrients, like vegetables. If there’s a food your dog doesn’t tolerate well or if he has a food allergy, you can simply exclude that item from the dog’s diet,” Dr. Levine added.
The Drawbacks of Serving a Homemade Dog Diet
While there are many benefits associated with serving a homemade dog food, there are some disadvantages to consider as well. Firstly, creating a homemade dog food diet takes dedication and time – it’s not as convenient as heading out to the store to purchase kibble.
“Dogs cannot change foods frequently without experiencing some degree of digestive upset like diarrhea, so if you’re late getting home from work one night and don’t feel like cooking, you’ll still have to prepare dinner for the dog or put him at risk of illness by serving a kibble that his body is no longer used to. You don’t just need to take the time to cook for your dog – you also need to plan ahead and freeze a few meals. And this doesn’t suit every dog owner’s lifestyle,” Dr. Levine added.
Pet owners must also learn about their dog’s dietary needs. A dog’s diet must be comprised of about 50 to 60 percent meat, with the rest of the meal comprised of fresh vegetables, fruits and some dairy products, like cottage cheese. Grains are not well tolerated by dogs and should be given in small amounts.
“An unbalanced diet cooked at home is no better than store-bought kibble in many cases, so if you’re going to cook for your dog, you need to understand his dietary needs,” Dr. Levine added.
What Kind of Foods Should Dog Owners Serve?
There are three basic types of homemade dog diets: cooked food diets, raw diets and combination cooked and raw diets.
The Bones and Raw Food Diet (BARF Diet) is among the healthiest and most common homemade dog food diets. Pet owners who would like the benefits of natural, preservative-free raw food can also opt for a pre-made raw food available from a small number of select distributors.