Pet Nutrition

Homemade Pet Foods

for Dogs and Cats

Historically veterinarians recommended that pet owners never feed homemade pet food (or table scraps) to their dogs or cats. That position needs to be reevaluated now. Currently, some veterinarians are recommending supplementing the diet with meat and vegetables, for carnivores. This practice may provide the pet with phytochemicals (such as bioflavonoids) and other vital nutrients that have yet to be recognized as essential, or even helpful, by nutritional 'science'.

The National Cancer Institute has promoted a "five a day" program to encourage people to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This is because studies examining individual nutrients, such as vitamin A or E, have shown that these nutrients alone do not prevent cancer as well as real fruits and vegetables in the diet -- and we don't know what is in real foods that works so well. As an example, vitamin E is usually supplied as alpha-tocopherol, because this isomer (chemistry of two or more compounds) was found to be "most important." Only recently, other isomers of vitamin E (gamma-tocopherol) and related chemicals (tocotrienols) are receiving attention as having powerful effects.

Plant or other natural whole foods may contain "conditionally essential" nutrients that are beneficial to some sick animals. Is it such a stretch to believe that we also don't know everything about carnivore (or facultative carnivore - occurring optionally in response to circumstances rather than by nature) nutrition?

An example that may teach us a little humility about commercial diets comes from examining scientific papers for the risk factors for "bloat" in large breed dogs; the consensus revealed that real food reduces or eliminates the incidence of this problem (Glickman et al. 1997).

Food Pyramid for Dogs and Cats

The only way to know what is really in your pet's food is to make it yourself. Recipes for homemade pet diets are in abundance. Many veterinarians simply recommend that pet owners use set proportions when preparing a variety of meals. These proportions vary but generally run 50% meat (for dogs), up to 80% meat (for cats). 20% carbohydrate source from grain (for dogs only). Vegetables are fed to both species, 20% for dogs and 10% cats. A small amount of fruit (apple or blueberries etc.) can be added to the veggies. Last but not least, 10% organ meat (for both dog and cat). A multiple vitamin-mineral mix and bonemeal (lead free) or a calcium supplement and an essential fatty acid (from an animal source for cats. Dogs do fine converting the EFA’s from flax seed) are recommended as well.

Breed and individual genetic differences may explain why certain animals seem to require individualization of the basic diet. Formulas made by major manufacturers keep the majority of pets fairly healthy, and well, for a number of years, but for animals with problems, the holistic veterinarian will change diets and often discover very basic disease mechanisms easily remedied with food and nutritional therapy.

Once a patient is getting quality basic nutrition and is prevented from eating preservative, poor quality proteins, and problematic chemicals in the daily diet, the next step is to consider individualized therapeutic nutrition.


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