Sunday, March 6, 2011

Home cooked meals for pets.

Hi my friends,

what to feed or not to feed - that is the question. There are too many different kinds of pet foods on the market and it is very difficult to pick the right one, especially with so many pet foods on recall. We all want to feed our pets with a nutritional and well balanced diet but when there are so many to chose from and so many pros and cons to all the different brands, it sometimes makes more sense to cook for our pets. And, who doesn't like a home cooked meal? With all the bad stuff in some of the commercial pet foods, it seems a much healthier alternative to store bought pet foods. Nevertheless, there are some guide lines you have to follow in order to provide the most nutritional and well balanced home cooked meal to your pet. I will tell you all about them.

Lets start out by discussing what commercial pet food really is. First of all, when you buy a can or bag of cat food from the store, do you really know how long it has been sitting on the shelf? Given, they all have "Best sold by" dates on them but usually, those dates are far in advance. For foods to have such a long shelf life they have to contain lots of preservatives. Independent laboratory research has shown that many preservatives are suspected of being carcinogenic. That means they can cause cancer. They can also cause liver damage, fetal abnormalities, and thyroid dysfunctions.

Pet foods are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as human foods are. However, pet foods are regulated by the self-regulatory board of the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which defines the nutritional, testing, and labeling requirements of processed pet foods. Their findings are listed on the label as "Crude Analysis" which is a breakdown of percentages for protein, fat, fiber, minerals, and whatever else is added to the food. The ingredients are listed in descending order from greatest to least by weight. However, if beef is listed as an ingredient, we can be certain that it does not mean Fillet Mignon but rather cow intestines, brain, lung, or some other cow part that most people would not even consider putting on their plate.

What is of even greater concern, is the feed, eaten by chickens and cattle that are used for pet foods. Most feeds have antibiotics and hormones added to them. Since there is no process to extract these antibiotics and hormones from the animal before it is made into pet food, those additives end up in the pet food as well. Processed pet food consists of 50% to 75% of bulk ingredients which are usually carbohydrates such as wheat, corn, and soy. These are used as fillers. Coincidentally, these are the ingredients that cause flatulence, the reason being that they are hard to digest.

Another concern is how pet foods are processed. Often times, foods are overcooked in order to sterilize their content but that very process can rob the food of any nutritional value. Many of the ingredients on pet food labels are synthetic nutrients, added back into the processed food. Dry foods are the worst of them all. Not only do they deprive your pet of a nutritional diet but also of water as well. Many of the dry foods have extra sodium added to them to get the pets to drink more in order to make up for the lack of water in the food. However, an excess amount of sodium in the diet can lead to hypertension.

Now that we know what pet food should not be, lets take a look at what pet food should be. A well balanced pet food consists of macro nutrients, micro nutrients, and water. Macro nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals. Let me go a little more into detail about that.

Protein should be the biggest part of a diet. It is necessary to build and maintain muscle mass and also helps regulate hormones and brain chemicals. You will find protein in meat and fish. Cooked or fried protein is less digestible than uncooked protein. Raw meats however, can contain Salmonella and also break down much faster. So, I am not a big fan of feeding raw meats to pets, especially not to elderly or immune deficient pets.

All vegetables, fruits, cereals, and grains contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide instant energy to the body and surplus carbs are stored as body fat. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are in fruits and starchy vegetables. They provide fiber. Even though fiber is not digestible, it is necessary to slow the movement of food through the digestive track so essential nutrients can be absorbed from the food. It creates bulk in the stools and is an important part of alleviating both, diarrhea and constipation. Complex carbs come from leafy vegetables and whole grains. They metabolize quickly and contain essential nutrients.

Fats provide sustained energy to the body that can be used in the future. They are necessary to build and maintain arteries and nerves, for proper kidney function, and to keep the skin and fur shiny. Some of the vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K are only soluble in fat. There are saturated and unsaturated fats. The only source for saturated fats are animals. Unsaturated fats derive from nuts, seeds, and fish oils.

Micro nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are only needed in small amounts. They are necessary to regulate metabolism and assist in biochemical processes that release energy from digested food. The best source for vitamins and minerals are fruits and vegetables.

A healthy balanced meal includes 50% protein, 25% simple carbohydrates, and 25% complex carbohydrates, as well as a small amount of fats and micro nutrients. The food should fulfill a nutritional and caloric requirement which differs according to species, breed, age, and health status. In order to find out your pet's caloric requirements, I found a very good calculator online at the following link:

Once you know your pet's caloric requirements, it is quite simple to make a home cooked meal. Start out by finding a recipe that you feel comfortable with. There are many websites that offer recipes for home made pet foods. You can also get a cookbook. One that I like for dogs is by Rudi Edalati and is called Barker's Grub.

Once you have a recipe, you have to adjust it to your pet's nutritional requirements. You do that by looking up the calories and measuring the ingredients. For example: If your dog requires 600 calories per day and you feed twice per day, you have to give 300 calories per meal. You looked up that the meat that you plan to feed has 100 calories per 1 oz., the grains have 200 calories per 1 cup, and the vegetables have 50 calories per 1 cup. If you go by the 50% - 25% - 25% rule, you then know that you have to feed 2 oz. of meat, 1/2 cup of grains, and 1 cup of vegetables per meal. For the vitamins and minerals you can add a multi-vitamin, salt substitute, and bone meal which can be found at the pet supply store. For cats you also have to add Taurine which can also be found at a pet supply store.

Here are two simple recipes that you can adjust to your pet's requirements. The first one is for a 40 pound dog.

8 oz. cooked grains (rice, cornmeal, oatmeal, pasta or other grains and cereals)

4 oz. cooked meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, fish)

2 teaspoons fat (beef fat, chicken fat, vegetable oil, olive oil, fish oil)

1 oz. raw or cooked vegetables

1 teaspoon bone meal

1/4 teaspoon salt substitute

1 multi-vitamin

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and serve.

The second recipe is for a 10 pound cat.

2 oz. cooked grains (rice, cornmeal, oatmeal, pasta, or other grains and cereals)

1 1/2 oz. cooked meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, fish)

2 teaspoons fat (beef fat, chicken fat, vegetable oil, olive oil, fish oil)

1/4 teaspoon bone meal

1/4 teaspoon salt substitute

1/2 multi-vitamin

1/4 teaspoon Taurine

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and serve.

Before you change your pet to a home cooked diet, please consult with your veterinarian. Some pets have special dietary needs, for example, pets with kidney disease need less protein and more fat. You should talk to your veterinarian about these issues. As with any diet change, it is best to introduce the new diet gradually by adding more and more of the new diet to the old diet and giving less and less of the old diet over a period of time. Observe your pet for any vomiting or diarrhea and consult your veterinarian if these symptoms continue more than two days.

Bon apetit!

Love and Peace,


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