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Furry Friend Fare: Rethink the Way You Feed Four-Legged Family Members
By Kelli Rosen
Anyone who loves an animal was shaken to the core last spring when news broke of an unprecedented case of pet-food contamination. Turns out, batches of wheat gluten from China that had been used to make kibble and stews for dogs and cats contained melamine, a substance most commonly used as an industrial binding agent or flame retardant. Animals who ate enough of the tainted food suffered kidney failure. The FDA received more than 10,000 complaints of illness, and although the official death toll stands at just 16, other news agencies estimate the actual number is much higher.
Following the recall, many pet owners became leery of processed foods and decided to take matters—or rather, meals—into their own hands. “The number of my clients now cooking for their animals has doubled since the recall,” says Grant Nixon, DVM, a Summerland, British Columbia-based veterinarian and co-author of Better Food for Dogs (Robert Rose, 2002).
But according to Korinn E. Saker, DVM, a clinical veterinary nutritionist at North Carolina State University, interest in homemade pet food has actually been on the rise for about the last five years. “Pets are now considered part of the family, like children, and their guardians want to cook for them as a bonding experience, as a way to improve their quality of life,” she says. Taking the leap to homemade doesn’t have to be a difficult one, as long as you do your homework and get organized.
Cooking for Fido
Make the meal. When you’re whipping up dinner for your pup, you must first figure out which ingredients to combine. “Dogs are omnivores,” says Saker, “so about two-thirds of their calories should come from carbohydrates and the other one-third should be protein.” To calculate daily caloric requirements, seek the advice of your vet because the amount varies according to size, breed, age, and level of activity. To make the task of home cooking a little less intimidating—and less time consuming—David Bastin, another co-author of Better Food for Dogs, suggests cooking for dogs what you would eat yourself and leave out any table scraps such as fats, gravies, and poultry skins because they can cause major stomach irritation. “A good general rule to keep in mind is if you wouldn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t give it to your dog,” he says.
Add the supplements.Dogs are active beings, so in addition to human-grade ingredients, they usually require supplements. Shawn Messonnier, DVM, a veterinarian in Plano, Texas, and author of Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats (Prima Publishing, 2001), suggests working with a holistic veterinarian to determine supplemental requirements for your particular breed of dog, as well as proper dosages, which should be based on the weight and special needs of the animal. “You can create nutritional deficiencies if you don’t give them enough of what they need,” he says, “and if you give them too much, it could be toxic.”
Messonnier recommends Pet-Together’s ...
Author: Kelli Rosen
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