Today, November 1st, is National Cook for your Pets day! You may not have even known this was an actual calendar event, but when you’re in the pet-care business, like we are, you tend to be aware of these special calendar events. Basically, what this day is all about is taking a little extra time to make a home-cooked meal for your pets. Believe it or not, many people cook their pets’ food on a regular basis. This can offer some benefits for your pet but it can also be challenging as well. Today, we’re going to take a look at both the benefits and challenges of cooking for your pets.
BENEFITS OF COOKING FOR YOUR PETS
There are various reasons why people choose to cook for their pets instead of buying ready-made pet food. For some people, they prefer to know what’s in their pets’ food and cooking for them allows them to know exactly what their pet is eating. For other people, it’s a necessity! Such was the case for Barb Laino, featured here. Her dog developed a chronic health condition that didn’t’ respond well to regular medication. Out of necessity and frustration, Barb began experimenting with cooking her own dog food and it made a huge difference in her dog’s health. Now, seeing your pets’ health significantly improve as a result of cooking for them would make a believer out of anyone and it’s fair to say that would be a tremendous advantage to cooking for your pet.
Another benefit is knowing exactly what your pet food contains. When you take the time to cook for your pet, you have the advantage of knowing what he or she is consuming. Many of us remember, with great sadness, the pet food recall of 2007 when many animals died eating dog food that included a Chinese-sourced, melamine-tainted, protein boosting ingredient. Obviously, when cooking for your pets, you don’t have to worry about the possibility of your pet consuming toxic ingredients that may be hiding in their food.
While we acknowledge these are very real and understandable reasons to cook for your pets, we also feel a tremendous responsibility to share accurate information with our readers. Let’s take an honest look at some of the challenges of cooking for pets.
CHALLENGES OF COOKING FOR YOUR PETS
Some of the challenges people encounter when it comes to cooking for pets is simply the amount of time and money it takes. Let’s face it; cooking takes time anyway and if you have to cook all of your pet’s food, place it in storage containers and likely freeze it, that takes a lot of time. The expense of purchasing fresh food can also add up quickly. However, some of the bigger challenges (and concerns from veterinarians) are:
- Lack of nutritional balance– Ask any vet and they will tell you that a balanced diet for your pet is very important. Pets need adequate protein along with other minerals and nutrients for optimum health. Pets who don’t get a balanced diet can be more vulnerable to fractures and other health issues.
- Not subject to Oversight from AAFCO: The Association of Animal Feed Control Officials has devised a standard for an accepted balance of nutrients as well as oversight over commercial pet foods to ensure they are meeting these standards. Homemade pet food is not subject to this type of oversight so it may lack some of the essential nutrients that your pet needs. Yes, there is the issue mentioned above of the 2007 recall. Sadly, there are those cases where oversight did not happen and innocent pets suffered, but thankfully that is the exception and not the rule.
The biggest concern for veterinarians is that your pet’s food is well balanced to meet their nutritional needs. If you feel your pet should be on a natural, home-made diet your first step should be to consult with your vet about how to go about this. Your vet has likely cared for your pet for a while and knows your pet’s health record as well as the specific needs of your pet’s breed and age. Get some clear guidelines from your vet before proceeding with home-made pet food.
We would also advise easing your pet into any type of change to their diet. Start with small changes that you can add to their diet once or twice a week and then increase as your pet can tolerate it. Celebrating National Cook for your Pet day would be a good way to start making these changes. Cook your pet something special and see how he or she likes it! You may find that you enjoy it and see some benefits to your pet as well.