Ensuring appropriate nutrition: Just as a balanced diet is important to overall health of humans, balanced nutrition made to address the specific nutritional needs of your dog or cat is important to the health of your pet. To ensure your pet is receiving proper nutrition, it is best to feed a commercially prepared food. Premium commercial pet foods are specifically formulated by nutrition experts and account for specific nutritional needs of different lifestages and lifestyles. Most are thoroughly tested and guaranteed for nutrient content, palatability, and safety. In contrast, homemade pet foods are unlikely to be tested or guaranteed.
Ingredients: Including proper ingredients is important, but just as important are quality, proportion, and consistency.
- Lower-quality ingredients do not provide the same nutritional benefit—just as eating a baked potato is nutritionally different from eating potato chips.
- As with any recipe, ingredients need to be in the correct proportion with other ingredients. Adding too much or too little of one ingredient will change the taste and the nutritional content of any recipe.
- Substitutions for missing ingredients are usually harmless when cooking for humans; however, they can seriously imbalance a pet food that is designed to meet a pet’s entire nutritional needs. Proper preparation, cooking, and preservation procedures are also essential not only to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses, but also to maintain optimal nutrient levels.
Vegetarian diets: Dogs thrive on a diet with both animal and plant products (omnivore). Although adult dogs may ‘get by’ when fed a vegetarian diet, they do best when fed a meat-based diet. Raw diets: The recent fad of feeding raw meat diets to pets originated in the belief that the wild ancestors of domestic dogs and cats hunted and consumed raw meat. But it has its own risks.
- Nutritional risks: Although high in protein, a diet that is comprised primarily of raw muscle meat will be deficient in several essential nutrients and does not provide balanced and complete nutrition to dogs and cats.
- Health risks: Pets are at risk for bacterial and parasitic infections when fed raw meat from any source. Most of these bacterial infections, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria are also transmissible to humans. An additional health risk is the danger of intestinal obstruction or perforation from the consumption of bones or bonechips.
Supplementing with human food: Many pet parents add human foods to their pet’s diet because they enjoy giving something extra or because they believe that the supplement is necessary for their pet’s health. However, supplementing a balanced diet with human food unbalances the food and promotes obesity, which can lead to health problems. Thus, to ensure your pet is receiving a diet that primarily meets all her nutritional needs, feed a commercially prepared diet.