by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
How to best feed a pet is a question that everyone who is fortunate enough to have one, must answer. There are a number of things that will determine the correct answer for an individual pet. No doubt ensuring that a pet is happy and healthy will be one of the goals of feeding a proper diet. As mentioned in my last column, for most pets these days that will likely mean choosing a commercially prepared cat or dog food. There are lots of good choices these days - different manufacturers, moist or dry, big bites or small ones, one flavour or another, and lots of variety in packaging. These days some people, however, are seeking alternatives to manufactured pet food diets. I explained last time why I am opposed to the feeding of raw food. The other alternative to consider is home-cooking for your pet. It's not an easy option and will require a dedicated chef but it's certainly do-able.
Owners who feed their pets this way give several reasons for doing so. They purchase the ingredients themselves. Therefore they can know the source of the ingredients and can be sure they are fresh and human grade. However, cats and dogs have different nutritional requirements than people. It's not just a matter of preparing a larger meal and sharing some of the family's food with the pet. It is important that the home cooked meals for your pet are complete and balanced. An occasional meal of hamburger or chicken and rice for a dog or some fresh fish for a cat should be no problem, but longer term feeding requires more.
The issue, of course, is to ensure that the diet is complete and balanced. The diet must provide proper levels protein, fat and carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals. The amount of these materials that are required will be different depending on the age, health status and kind of pet. This means if there's more than one pet in a home, they may have different diet requirements, requiring individual meal preparation.
The good news for a 'pet chef' in a family is that there are now good sources for recipes that can be used to home cook for a pet. An excellent source for recipes for dogs is Complete & Balanced, 101 Healthy Home-made Meals for Dogs, by Hilary Watson. A pet nutritionist for more than 20 years, Watson also produces an easy to use supplement, called Hilary's Blend that can be used to ensure that a pet's diet is properly balanced. Here are two websites, both are operated by certified pet nutritionists, where home-made diet recipes for pets can be found - www.balanceit.com and www.petdiets.com Ask your veterinarian if you would like more information on these or for other sources of home-prepared diet recipes.
Just like us, your pet is what it eats. Making correct diet choices is one of the most important decisions people will face when caring for a pet. Seek advice on feeding your pet from reliable sources. Would you be satisfied with nutritional counseling for yourself from the check-out cashier in the grocery store or would you ask your family physician? I would humbly suggest pet owners should act in the same way when they have questions about the best diet for their pet. Your veterinarian will be very familiar with the health status of your pet. If there are health considerations that should be considered in feeding your pet, they can be discussed with you. By the same token, if you have a healthy, happy pet with no diet restrictions who better than their health care provider to advise on how to keep them that way. Good food is a great pleasure, help your pet to realize this truth in life. Barry Burtis is a local companion animal veterinarian. Past Pet Tales can be found at www.baycitiesanimalhospital.ca