Commercial dog food is once again making the news. Unfortunately, the headlines point to a recall of dog food that contains lethal concentrations of aflatoxins, a toxin released by a specific type of mold that can grow on corn and other grains used in making dog and pet food. This isn’t the first time a dog food recall has happened and sadly it won’t be the last. When dog owners rely on pet food companies to make food for their canine companions, they place their trust in those companies to be vigilant and make sure the food is safe. Most of the time all goes well, but when it doesn’t, canine family members can pay the price.
Because of the possibility that man’s best friend could fall victim to bad or poisonous commercial dog food, some dog parents have started making homemade dog food and treats. Other reasons include specialized health needs, more appealing and appetizing meals, food allergies, and wanting to know exactly what is in their dog’s food. Without a doubt, making one’s dog food and treats from ingredients humans eat takes more time and effort, but many find that it is well worth it to make sure Fido’s food supply is safe and reflects the quality ingredients they want their dog to have.
There are advantages and disadvantages to everything – even making homemade dog food and treats. The insights below will lay out many of the pros and cons of hand-making dog food and treats to help make the decision process easier for anyone who might be debating whether to continue feeding commercially bought dog food or if going homemade is more in line with what they want for their dog. Since dogs can’t exactly eat everything that humans eat, it’s always good to consult a veterinarian or a certified veterinary nutritionist regarding your dog’s current health, long-term wellness goals and to devise an individual nutrition plan for each animal. Just remember that there is no right or wrong answer – simply the best solution for each family and their furry friend.
There are a good number of benefits and advantages to making homemade dog food and treats for your pooch. Some are listed below as a quick reference if you are considering going homemade for your dog’s meals.
By feeding your dog homemade dog food and treats, you can control the food quality that goes into his diet. You do the shopping and chopping, so you have total control. Not only can you feed whole-food ingredients and meat instead of meat byproduct contained in commercial food, but you can choose which cuts of meat to feed and determine where the meat and ingredients come from. Also, you will be avoiding any dog food recalls by making homemade food.
Avoiding Fillers and Over Processing
Making homemade dog meals allows for the inclusion of nutritionally valuable ingredients of your choosing. These ingredients can be raw, baked, steamed, toasted, broiled, blended, and so on to fit your dog’s taste, but won’t be over-processed like commercial dog food is. Another advantage homemade dog food and treats have are they lack cheap fillers that commercial dog food companies include to bulk up their products to save money and make it appear that there is a lot of food in each bag. These inexpensive fillers also help fill up your dog’s stomach. However, filler ingredients are typically non-nutritional and will pass right through your dog’s digestive system and create even more waste to be cleaned up.
Variety Keeps it Interesting
Dogs love variety. It what helps make their day more interesting. What better way to introduce more variety than to include a myriad of fresh ingredients in their daily feedings. We would get tired of eating the same highly processed food every day, so one can only imagine how a dog feels when being fed the same dry or wet dog food each day. The lack of variety is boring, but it also limits the nutritional value. By feeding homemade dog food you can change up the variety and make it more interesting for your pooch. You can even let your canine family member(s) choose some of the foods they like best. They would enjoy that “pick and choose” exercise.
Custom Tailored Recipes
Another advantage of homemade dog food and treats, versus a commercialized diet, is that custom recipes can be followed or developed that include the appropriate calories and nutrients for your dog’s body weight, health, and age. You can also select ingredients that meet specific needs to address any dietary allergies, weight management issues, picky eaters, etc. Just make sure that the recipes you use are produced by a vet nutritionist or a professional, reputable source.
Fresh – No Preservatives
Even good quality commercial dog food has preservatives. There’s no getting around them. That’s where homemade dog food has the advantage. Foods can be selected that are completely fresh without any preservatives or added salt. Preservatives can make health issues worse or bring them on without much notice. Just like it’s healthier for us to eat fewer preservatives, it’s equally healthy for our pets.
Can be Less Expensive – But Watch Out
Dog parents can make fresh dog food and treats more inexpensively than purchasing some higher-end or prescription commercial dog food, but care has to be taken. If ingredients or supplements get too fancy or pricier cuts of meat are preferred, homemade canine food can end up costing more, and sometimes substantially more than commercial food. That’s not a game stopper, but if the price is a concern then ingredients have to be chosen carefully for both their price and nutritional value. Even if making homemade dog food ends up being a little more expensive than commercial food, at least you know the ingredients are better and how the food was made. That will go a long way toward giving you peace of mind and knowing your furry friend is getting the best food possible.
Food Allergies No More
When making homemade food and treats for your pooch, you can avoid any allergens to which your dog may have sensitivities that can cause an irritable, easily upset stomach or food allergies. Commercial dog foods can have those allergens included even if the labeling says it doesn’t. There can be cross-contamination on processing machines or in the packaging area where the food is being made. By controlling all the ingredients yourself, you can be assured that any problem food allergens are avoided.
As you have just read, there are many good reasons and benefits to making homemade food for your canine companion. But, there are also some things to think about or watch out for if you decide to go that route. Some are listed below to allow for a comparison to help determine if you want to consider making homemade dog food & treats or if you feel more comfortable with someone else commercially making food for your pet. Both the making of homemade food and buying commercial dog food require a leap of faith.
If you have been feeding commercial dog food to your canine companion, you will want to switch to homemade dog food gradually over three or four days to avoid any gastrointestinal issues. It is best to gradually decrease the commercial food while gradually increasing the homemade food each day. That will give your pooch’s stomach time to adjust. And make sure to watch for any changes such as vomiting, loss of appetite, stool change, etc. If you see changes, make sure to consult with your veterinarian.
It’s important to stay clear of non-friendly canine ingredients or foods when making homemade dog food or treats. By following proven and reputable recipes, much of this uncertainty can be taken out of the equation. But, to be on the safe side, make sure to stay clear of the following foods and ingredients that humans like, but that are unsafe for dogs: chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, avocados, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, walnuts, fruit seeds, hops, moldy food, xylitol, alcohol, coffee, tea, caffeine, gum, salt, and yeast dough.
The nutritional needs of a dog are different than ours. Therefore, it’s essential that when deciding on a homemade dog food diet that it includes all the right vitamins and supplements for optimal nutrition for your dog. The right nutrients allow for maintaining a healthy weight so weight gain or loss isn’t an issue. Not enough fat, vitamins, or minerals can lead to possible diseases, obesity, or malnutrition. Touching base with your vet will allow them to recommend any supplements they feel you may want to add to your dog’s menu.
Reliable Recipe Source – Follow Precisely
Homemade dog food recipes can be found online, in magazines, books, etc., but the safest ones are written or approved by veterinary nutritionists whose job it is to make sure that there is a correct nutritional balance in every pet’s diet. If some good recipes are found outside of a veterinary nutritionist's influence, it is always good to run those recipes through your veterinarian to make sure your vet agrees with what you will be making.
Once you have decided upon a few good recipes from a professional source that match your dog’s nutritional requirements, be sure to follow the directions, measurements, ingredients, and cooking method precisely. Any alteration can change the nutrient value that your pooch is supposed to receive.
Homemade Dog Meals will Require Some Time
Feeding commercial dog food is easy. Simply scoop out some food and place it in a dog bowl. That’s about the extent of it. Making homemade dog food and treats will require additional shopping, following recipes, ensuring all nutrition and supplements are included and they will require cooking, storing, and possibly freezing extra food. There is a considerable time commitment involved, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy as the saying goes. However, if you can cook in bulk and freeze some for later use, it will save time in the long run and make everything more efficient.
Inconvenient for Kennels and Travel
Homemade dog meals can be inconvenient for those who travel often or who board their dog when they leave town. Many kennels can’t accommodate feeding homemade meals to dogs, and traveling with your dog makes homemade meals more difficult. Many dog owners who make homemade food will opt for some form of commercial diet when they travel or have to leave their dog in a kennel.
As you can see, there are a good number of "advantages" and “disadvantages” to feeding your dog homemade/home-cooked meals versus commercially available dog food. It boils down to how interested you and your pet are in putting considerable effort into strategizing, menu planning, recipe gathering, shopping, cooking, supplementing, and freezing every week or two to feed your dog what both of you want instead of the overly convenient dependence on commercial dog food.
It can certainly be worth the effort, and many pet owners wouldn’t have it any other way, but it will require more effort than the standard stoop and scoop that you might be used to. Whichever you decide, just remember to make it fun for both you and man’s best friend.
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