Home cooked diets – how to do it well?
Before commercial diets became widely available, our pets mainly ate home cooked meals and table scraps. Once pets started to be considered as another valued member of the family, the commercial pet food industry increased its presence in the market to provide more nutritionally balanced diets, as well as to save time cooking those meals.
While the pet food industry currently offers convenient, reliable, and consistent diets, many pet parents are pursuing a healthier approach to what they feed their pets, rejecting highly processed foods in favour of fresh ingredients. However, the nutritional value of pet food is not only based on the quality of the ingredients used but also the nutritional balance of the recipe, which should cover the daily nutritional requirements of the pet.
BENEFITS OF HOME-COOKED DIETS
While there is no proven scientific evidence to support that homemade diets are healthier than commercial pet food, there are certain benefits that make this option quite appealing to some pet owners, such as:
- Variety of fresh ingredients: Home cooked diets allow for a diverse range of fresh ingredients to be incorporated.
- Minimally processed food: Preparing food at home ensures that it is less processed and free from artificial additives.
- Individually tailored recipes: Home-cooked diets can be customised to meet your pet’s specific needs, especially when there is no existing therapeutic diet that addresses multiple conditions.
DISADVANTAGES OF HOME-COOKED DIETS
- While you can find thousands of homemade pet food recipes online, most of those formulations haven’t been analysed for nutritional adequacy. This situation can be significantly important for pets with very specific dietary requirements and pregnant or growing animals.
- The nutritional balance of a home-cooked diet depends on how strictly the recipe is followed. When ingredients are left out or substituted with other products, the recipe’s nutrient profile changes, leading to nutritional deficiencies or excesses. These nutrients include calories, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Not getting enough or getting too many of those nutrients can lead to diseases, malnutrition, obesity, and even death.
- Cooking your pet’s meals at home can involve a lot more than just mixing up some ingredients. To meet the minimum daily requirements, it is usually necessary to add other minerals or vitamins. That’s why most home-cooked recipes include vitamin and mineral supplements.
- It is also important to consider that home-prepared meals can be time-consuming and often more expensive than the equivalent commercial diet. Additionally, cooking for your pets involves more risks, such as handling raw meats and other by-products.
- Please be mindful that while vegan and vegetarian diets may be acceptable for some species, they could have catastrophic results if fed to others. Feeding a vegan diet to a cat is not advised, as it is difficult to meet their nutritional requirements even when using supplements.
While home-prepared diets can be used successfully as long-term diets and preparing the meals at home seems to provide a sense of control over what our pets are eating, if you want to feed your dog or cat home cooked meals, you should consult with a veterinary nutritionist to obtain a complete and balanced recipe created specifically for your pet’s needs.
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