Should I make my pet's food at home?
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to chose pet food. Every brand shouts as loudly as possible that they are the best brand - boasting organic, nutritional bits, refrigerated, breed specific, recall history and more. It's no wonder that choosing a food for a new pet or changing your pet's diet can be daunting.
While standing there in the pet store, staring at the hundreds of options, perhaps the thought came in your head of; "why can't they just eat what I eat?" Maybe you have a friend or coworker that makes their pets food and have thought, why can't I? Here is some information about pet food, to help you best make your decision:
Please note that this information also applies to pet treats!
1. Commercially made foods
Pros: Convenient, (usually) wholesome, affordable, accessible
Cons: HUGE variety (choice overwhelm), can be difficult to understand
You want a protein as the first ingredient. A plain, whole protein - "Chicken/Beef/Fish." If you have taken our class, you have heard our instructors describe that a protein "meal" is acceptable. Meal is describing the state of the protein - it has been dried out and ground up - not meal like lunch or dinner. Next on ingredients should be some sort of whole vegetables, fruit or carbohydrate source like rice, potatoes or grains. Meat by-products are not necessarily bad for our pets, they are likely to contain blood, bone, and organs. These items can offer some nutritional value to our pets, but not enough protein to be acceptable as a first (or second) ingredient. Keep an eye out for a variety of vitamins, minerals and even herbs.
We DO NOT want the first ingredient (or first couple) to be corn, wheat, or soy. These do not provide the nutrition our pets need. They are not necessarily bad later on in the ingredient list.
Dry or wet food?
Many people prefer dry food because it stores easily, tends to be cheaper and can help with dental health but remember that our cats should eat primarily wet food. They can develop kidney and urinary problems later in life from eating only dry food - their system is not meant to process dry food for years on end. Wet food supports their renal system. If your kitty is a crunchy food lover (many are), try using dry food as a treat or mixing it in with wet food - and of course, always make sure they have access to fresh water.
Nearly every brand of commercial pet food has had, or will have, a recall. This is the nature of our commercialized food system. Consider the number of food recalls in the human food system. There is no way to truly avoid a brand with recalls, but some things to reduce the risk are to find a brand that is transparent about their sourcing and process. Foods made in the US can be more reliable than those made in other countries that might have different regulations.
2. Homemade foods - Raw
Pros: supposedly closer to our pets biological diets, control over what your pet eats
Cons: costly, time and labor intensive, risk of illness (humans AND pets), possibility of nutritional imbalance
We do not recommend raw diets for several reasons:
The risk for food borne illness is higher, for us and our pets. This includes Salmonella and Campylobacter. Making your pets raw food can spread germs, especially if your pet does not finish all their food and/or their bowls are not disinfected after every meal.
The chances of creating a nutritional imbalance is higher. When making our pet's food, we have to be very careful about being sure to including ingredients so our pets get their vitamins, minerals and macronutrients they need. Lacking in one of these areas can create health problems.
If you would like to learn more about raw diets, check out American Veterinary Medical Association. Their policy on raw diets can be found here: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Raw-Pet-Foods-and-the-AVMA-Policy-FAQ.aspx
3. Homemade foods - Cooked
Pros: Control over what our pets eat, variety
Cons: risk of nutritional imbalance, costly, time and labor intensive
Homemade pet foods are the only way to truly know what your pet is eating. You have complete control over their nutrition and if you have the time, this can be a great way to feed your pets. However, these diets can be expensive and time consuming. They also require close attention to detail and thorough research to be sure your pet is getting a well rounded nutritional profile. The chances of creating a nutritional imbalance is higher when we make our pet's food. . We have to be very careful about being sure to including ingredients so our pets get their vitamins, minerals and macronutrients they need. Lacking in one of these areas can create health problems.
The basics of making homemade pet food start with selecting a whole protein - chicken is easiest to deal with if you are just starting out, cooking the protein (and other ingredients like carrots, sweet potatoes or other veggies), adding supplements like vitamins and minerals, then processing the food somehow to ensure your pet won't choke on the pieces. The batches should be made large enough to have enough food for a few days, but not so bad that the food will go bad before you can feed it.
Please do throughout research before starting into the world of homemade diets. It is not as simple as throwing some chicken and vegetables into the dog bowl.
Add fresh items to your pets diet regardless of if you make or buy their food. What are you having for dinner? As long as it is safe for our pets (i.e. no raisins, chocolate, alcohol, ect.), fresh foods can add nutrition and flavor to our pets normal food. Just be sure to cut them to safe size!
No bones! We do not recommend ANY bones for pets. They can pose a choking hazard, splinter or crack, or cause bowel obstructions. This includes cooked, raw and doesn't matter the type. We are anti-bone people here at Pet Rescue Utah. For more info, ask your vet.
Our pets, particularly our dogs, are endurance athletes biologically. They need carbohydrates to function. Eliminating all sources of carbohydrate (some grain-free diets do this) can cause nasty health issues down the line. If you are worried your pet has a grain sensitivity, talk to your vet about it and then consider foods that have alternative sources of carbs like potatoes to get a well rounded diet.
Learn more info about your pet's health in our pet first aid & CPR class! Feel free to share this information and link us back!