My wife and I have known several people who have prepared home cooked meals for their dogs. We’ve always opted for the easier way – to buy commercial food. But sometimes I feel a little guilty. Am I doing right by my old friend, Tucker?
I decided to do some research on the web, and, as I’m sure you know, you can find plenty of advice online. I think you could decide ahead of time what you want to do and find an answer that supports practically any decision.
What I do feel is important is to carefully evaluate your sources. Don’t trust just any blogger to be an expert.
With that in mind, I turned to the website of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University for starters. One point it makes confirms what I believe. “There are some inexpensive diets that have years of rigorous scientific testing behind them and some very expensive diets that are lacking in vital nutrients or based on unsound science,” it says.
A few years ago, I visited a well-known pet food manufacturing plant, and I was very impressed with the research being done there. I saw the dogs in the facility. They were healthy and well-taken care of. The Tufts site says, “Larger companies generally have more stringent quality control protocols, employ expert nutritionists and food scientists, and strive to increase our collective nutrition knowledge through research.” This emphasized what I saw for myself.
The site goes on to says that “Smaller manufacturers may have less control over ingredient quality, perform less laboratory testing and are less likely to employ full or part time veterinary nutritionists. A good rule of thumb is that if the marketing of a product sounds too good to be true, the manufacturer cites studies or research that they cannot provide to you or makes claims that cannot be substantiated, then that’s a red flag that the diet should be avoided.”
The problem with preparing our pets’ food at home is that their requirements nutritionally are not the same as ours. In an interview with Katherine Kam, Sarah Abood, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor of small animal clinical sciences at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says, “dogs and cats, like people, have requirements for nutrients, not ingredients. You can step away from the whole idea that ‘my animal has to have blueberries’ or ‘my cat needs to have fish.’” The article reports that Abood says that dog parents who make homemade dog food must make sure that the diet contains a protein source, a carbohydrate source, sufficient vitamins and minerals, and some fat.
The cook must also be aware of what foods can be toxic to their pets. So not only do we have the responsibility that they get the proper nutrients in the correct proportions, but that we avoid giving them ones that may harm them.
Kam also interviewed Claudia Kirk, DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVIM, a professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, who says, “Owners can also seek out a reputable veterinary nutritionist to help them create a balanced diet. Often, these experts can be found through a nearby veterinary school, or may be available to consult with your regular veterinarian via telephone or the Internet.”
The American Veterinary Medical Assocation (AVMA) doesn’t recommend homemade meals for pets, according to P.A.W.S. (Pets Are Wonderful), and Dr. Korinn Saker, NC State University Veterinary School Nutrition expert, says if commercial food “goes through animal feeding tests, you know that not only is the formulation appropriate, but the ingredients are going to be safe.” She was quoted by
Reporter Debra Morgan at WRAL-TV in an article on what to look for in pet food. The report says that consumers should look for a label on pet food that says it has been tested by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.
My research showed that it would take a lot of diligence or nutritional assistance from an expert for me to prepare appropriate food for my dog. I know myself pretty well, and I don’t think I’m careful enough to go the homemade food route. The experts have reassured me that feeding my dog commercial food is just fine.