DIY Pet Food
After reading the horror stories about store bought pet foods and then looking at the price of the organic alternatives, you may be tempted to think that making homemade cat or dog food from good, wholesome ingredients is the ideal solution.
The answer is… that it can be. However, devising and planning a diet for your beloved pet is much more complicated than simply giving your carnivorous dog or cat some cooked meat. It requires care, planning and knowledge – not to say time to prepare properly on a regular basis.
In any case, you should consult with your Vet anytime you are contemplating making a big change to your pet’s diet. What follows are some general guidelines only – remember that your pet may actually require special adjustments or modifications due to age or specific conditions.
The most common mistake pet owners make when feeding their companions homemade food is to assume that your carnivorous pet will be happy eating only meats. That’s not true. For dogs, the rule of thumb is:
• 1/3 protein – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy products
• 2/3 grains and vegetables
While dogs are more opportunistic than cats when it comes to dining, cats are pure carnivores. The rule of thumb goes:
• Half protein – meat, poultry, fish eggs or dairy
• Half grains and veggies
Raw or Cooked?
Many people advocate giving your pet raw foods, particularly cats. After all, that’s what the big cats, wolves and other wild canines eat, isn’t it? But the answer isn’t quite as simple as that.
• Bacterial contamination is a big deal, and much more likely with raw foods than cooked. Salmonella poisoning is a real risk, among others.
• Cross contamination between raw pet food and human foods is common – scrupulous cleaning and hygiene practices are essential.
• Zoonotic (animal to human) disease transmission can mean that what affects your pet can also be transmitted to you and your family.
• Don’t leave the food out too long – whatever your pet doesn’t eat right away should be immediately refrigerated.
Some other helpful tips:
• Vary the diet – no single type of food should ever make up more than half the diet. That means varying protein sources, such as chicken, beef, fish, eggs or organ meats such as liver.
• You can include table scraps as long as they represent good food – i.e. something you’d eat yourself. Don’t use your pet as a garbage disposal!
• Use lean rather than fatty meats and remove the skin from poultry.
• Never feed your pet cooked bones and be especially sure to remove bones from fish.
• Dogs can eat fruits like melon, berries, bananas, apples, pears, and papayas – but not cats. Avoid grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure. Fruits and vegetables can add fibre along with many nutrients to a dog’s diet but you want to be sure of the proportions. Starchy veggies like potatoes and squash and legumes (beans) can provide needed carbohydrates. Green and leafy veggies offer great nutritional value but too much can cause gas.
• Dogs can also eat dairy, but choose low-fat versions such as ricotta or plain yogurt rather than fatty cheeses like cheddar or Gouda.
At all costs, avoid these ingredients!
Do not – ever – feed your pet any of the following:
• Grapes and raisins
• Macadamia nuts and walnuts
• Mustard seeds
• Onions and onion powder
• Garlic (raw, cooked, and powdered)
• Yeast dough
• Coffee ground, tea
The most important thing to remember is that you need to consult with your Vet or a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that your pet is receiving all the right nutrients and dietary elements in the right proportions.
Dr. Gary Arzem, Newmarket’s Go-To Veterinarian
About Dr. Arzem and The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital:
Dr. Gary Arzem received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from The Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Ontario in 1989. He is the founder and head veterinarian at The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital in Newmarket, Ontario. Having practiced veterinary medicine for more than 25 years, his skills and special interests include surgery, dentistry, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound and radiography), dermatology, internal medicine, cardiology, ophthalmology and public health as it relates to pets and their owners. He is a founding member of The Veterinary Emergency Clinic of York Region in Newmarket. Dr. Arzem is recognized as an educational leader in the community and is involved with The Ontario Veterinary College, York Region District School Board, Simcoe County Board of Education, and Seneca College’s Co-Operative Education Programs. Dr. Arzem also participates in several continuing education conferences, including The North American and Western Veterinary Conferences and he is actively involved in fundraising for a number of charitable organizations, such as The Pet Trust Fund, The Farley Foundation, The Hospital for Sick Children and the Canadian Cancer Society. He has also appeared on City T.V.’s Animal House Calls and Rogers Your Pet Your Vet television shows and has written several articles for Newmarket’s Snapd Newspapers.