When it comes to feeding your pet, nothing is more important than having quality, well-balanced ingredients that provide the proper vitamins and minerals to keep your dog or cat healthy. As pet owners look more critically at the food they purchase and prepare for themselves and family members, many have wondered whether it would be better to prepare their pets’ food from scratch using quality ingredients they choose.

It’s a question worth asking. Since cheaper pet foods tend to have more filler that is not beneficial to pets, most pet owners are willing to spend a bit more to get better quality foods. Unfortunately, many of those higher-quality foods can be cost-prohibitive. But is making your own really the answer?

For both dogs and cats, store-bought foods in all price ranges are fortified with nutrients specifically needed for their health. Those pet owners who have attempted homemade options have reported that recipes frequently fall short on at least some of these important nutrients. The process also is time-consuming and demands careful attention to detail.

Critical tips for homemade pet food

  • Use a recipe created by a pet nutritionist.
  • Follow your recipe exactly, using measuring tools and the specific ingredients listed—no substitutions.
  • Follow careful storage instructions to avoid contamination.
  • Plan to give your pet supplements to make up where nutrients are short.

For dogs

Dogs need protein in their food, typically from animal meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs. Dairy and eggs also provide needed calcium, and meats and oils will provide their required fats. Dogs also require carbohydrates and fatty acids, which they get from grains and vegetables, as well as plant oils and egg yolks.

In general, even the best recipes for homemade dog food will fail to provide needed iron, copper, calcium, and zinc.

For cats

Cats need protein and amino acids from meat or fish, as well as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. They also need water. Cats are carnivores and in the wild, they get all the water they need from the meat they eat. As a result, even domesticated cats do not have the urge to drink, so providing water in the food they eat is necessary.

Carbohydrates, such as rice and corn, are not necessary to a cat’s diet and should be included in small amounts if at all.

Among cat owners, there also is the question of whether a raw meat diet is a better choice. Most veterinarians warn against going to a raw diet because the risk of bacterial contamination, such as salmonella, is much greater when working with raw food, both for the cat and the human preparing it.

Talk to your veterinarian

If you are considering home cooking for your pet, it is best to work with your veterinarian to understand what comprises a well-balanced diet and what specific daily nutrients your pet will need to maintain optimum health. Recipes, nutritional guidelines and regular veterinary support are crucial to keeping your pet safe and healthy on a homemade diet.

At Lake Cable Animal Hospital, our staff is always available to provide you with resources that help you make the best decisions for your pet, including which store-bought pet foods provide the best nutrition for your pet at every stage of life.