We all know packaged foods aren’t so great for us compared to fresh whole foods. What about for our pets? Were they meant to eat brown nuggets their entire life? Would preparing fresh whole ingredients be healthier for them too?
I have heard a lot about raw food diets for pets recently. I have looked into this for my dogs and think it’s a great way to keep them healthy while avoiding potentially harmful ingredients in packaged dog foods. Raw meat is what dogs are meant to eat. Many pet foods are high in carbs – this does not mimic what our pets’ ancestors would have eaten in the wild. Carbs were added to dog foods not because they need carbs, but because adding grains as a filler made the food cheaper. A high grain diet is not species appropriate for dogs and cats and contributes to chronic inflammation and obesity. There is also concern about quality issues. Recalls on various pet food products seem to be quite common lately which makes one question the quality assurance process for pet foods. Processed foods tend to be less healthy, for both humans and animals, since preservatives must be added.
At a conference near Chicago I attended a couple of months ago, I heard renowned veterinarian and author Michael W. Fox speak about ill health effects of GMOs on pets. He says that when GMOs were introduced into the marketplace, cats and dogs started suffering from much higher rates of allergies, itching, and gastrointestinal problems. He now hears back from numerous happy pet owners confirming that his advice to switch the pets to non-GMO and organic feed cleared up the problem. Organic pet food can be quite pricey so making food for your pets yourself may be another option.
When making meals for your dog; the breakdown should be mostly meat (60-80%), then vegetables/fruits and last, if at all, carbs. Dogs can eat the meat completely raw; but if you are more comfortable cooking it, that is also okay (as long as you aren’t adding spices). Meat should be a good mixture of organs, skin, fat, and muscle meat – if you don’t have enough variety, your pet can develop deficiencies. Some sources of meat to try are: beef, buffalo, venison, elk, chicken, turkey, emu, ostrich, fish, eggs with shell, and rabbit. Buying cuts of meat from local ranchers/butchers that are undesirable for humans may be an affordable way to supplement your pet’s diet as well as support a sustainable farm.
Vegetables to try are: broccoli, squash, cabbage, celery, asparagus, romaine lettuce, and carrots. Kelp and spinach are okay when steamed first. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats, and millet are appropriate carbs for dogs.
Some foods to avoid are: Cooked bones (raw bones are okay), onions, avocado, hulled foods (corn, beans, peas), tomatoes, white starches, mushrooms, grapes, and raisins.
Nightshade foods may cause problems in some dogs: eggplant, peppers, white potatoes, iceberg lettuce, and raw spinach. Certain dogs may also be intolerant to dairy while others will tolerate dairy such as yogurt added to food.
Coconut oil is also great for dogs. It is good for their coats and may help with allergies and skin issues. Start with a small amount and gently increase since this can cause diarrhea if you give too much.
Making your own dog food takes careful research – you want to make sure you are keeping your pet’s diet balanced and including enough nutrients. Remember, I am not a veterinarian, speak with your vet before changing your pet’s diet. Try experimenting with making your own dog food in big batches from local sources – you may find this dog food to be healthier, less expensive, and not too much work!