The fact that commercial pet food was never the best choice for your pet somehow gets lost in the face of constant news stories about companies using poor quality ingredients, or by foreign suppliers faking protein percentages by adding melamine has put millions of pets' health at risk.
The best diet for your cat or dog becomes clear under this scrutiny: homemade, healthy, natural and whole foods not only make the highest quality foods, but they also make for a happy and healthy pet. Knowing exactly what your dog is eating means greater piece of mind for you and no need to second-guess your choices as time marches on.
Whatever the increase in food cost, it is more than offset by the high cost of vet care needed to get a sick dog healthy again. This may seem incredible, but the majority of dog illness and disease can be prevented by making wise food choices, and incorporating a few key supplements for cats and dogs.
The Best Diet for your Adult Pet
Most pet nutritionists agree on the basic formula for optimum pet health is 40% meat and protein, 30% vegetables and 30% starch. But not all ingredients are created equal. Choose wisely! The information is at your finger tips- in cyberspace.
Organ meats are rich in nutrient content. When using organ meat, only ever use a quarter to the total amount of meat protein. Ground turkey, lamb, beef and chicken are all popular choices while vegetable preferences range from root vegetables such as carrot and turnip to kale, Swiss chard, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, green beans and squash of all shapes and varieties. Prepackaged ground meats and vegetables should be cooked; cubed and whole meats are fine served raw. Free-Range Eggs that are hormone and antibiotic-free are also a healthy protein choice. Starches to include are: oatmeal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, both regular and sweet potatoes. Barley is fine in moderation but may cause loose stools, while quinoa and bulgur wheat make excellent regular additions.
Many people toss a spoonful of yogurt into the mix, but most dogs are actually lactose intolerant; a better choice for probiotics is actually soil-based probiotic supplements.
Always include at least one dark green leafy vegetable to guarantee there is enough calcium, iron, chlorophyll, and MSM in your homemade dog food.
For convenience, make up enough food at one time to last for fourteen to twenty meals, package in daily amounts and freeze. Rotate through ingredients so that all nutritional parameters are met in time.
Do not feed your dog mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes or white rice!
The Best Diet for your Puppy or Kitten
Puppies are harder to feed in many ways. When considering a homemade diet consult with a holistic vet or a nutritionist who specializes in pets.
Always monitor the speed in which your pet is growing. For large and giant breeds, slow consistent growth is best and although we think growing puppies need more protein and calcium, the truth is that too much of a good thing can cause growth defects. Protein levels for these large breed pups should be the same for an adult dog and no more then 40% but unlike the adult dog, the protein choice should have a slightly higher fat content. Alternatively, use lean meat and add a tablespoon of olive oil to their dish. Small to medium sized breeds do well with a slightly higher amount of meat in their diet 45% should be optima; make sure you decrease the amount of starch accordingly.
Remember skinny puppies are healthy puppies and a roly-poly puppy leads to a fat, unhealthy, adult dog!
The Best Diet for your Senior Dog
Senior dogs are much like senior humans when it comes to the best dietary choices for an aged digestive system. A homemade diet is ideal as you can mix the ingredients to guarantee optimal nutrition. Seniors require less protein and higher fiber. Digestive enzyme supplements are essential. Sodium and phosphorous are hard on aging kidneys; to be safe avoid wheat bran, rich fish products, organ meats, all pasteurized and homogenized milk products, and anything containing yeast. Also, avoid frequently switching ingredients as big swings in food can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Smaller, more frequent meals can help both the digestive system and blood sugar levels in the senior pet and share your banana with your senior citizen - potassium is great for heart health!
The Best Specialty Diets for your Pet
While every pet benefits from improved food choices, none are more important than considering what to feed a pet with special dietary needs! Most medical conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, kidney stones (or low kidney function), and a myriad of digestive conditions are easily improved by a well-balanced and custom designed homemade diet.
Pets suffering from chronic bladder infections and/or stones improve on a diet that includes mineral salts and potassium while lowering protein levels (never below 15%).
For gradual weight loss without the usual starvation, try adding fiber to your pets homemade diet. Gradually increasing the amount of wheat bran, psyllium seed, or canned pumpkin will help them feel full longer while increasing the vegetable content of their homemade diet will increase the good calories.
Diabetic pets require high fiber content in their diet. Not only does it make them feel full longer, aiding in weight loss but it also slows down the absorption of sugar, both important to stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Hypoallergenic pets do extremely well on homemade diets if you can find a readily available source of novel protein choices such as rabbit, kangaroo or ostrich. Avoid wheat products and white rice for the allergic dog and once you find a formula that works well for your itchy dog, stick to it! Swapping and changing does not work well with these pets and a consistent diet is best for them while adding soil-based probiotics and essential lipids to their diet usually pays quick dividends.
Much like the senior pet, a pet suffering from renal disease requires a diet low in sodium and phosphorous while limiting protein content. Add more high fiber vegetables such as canned pumpkin or squash to their meal and make sure the protein source is easy to digest such as ground chicken or turkey.
A veterinary nutritionist or holistic veterinarian is a wonderful resource to access for pets that have specific medical conditions or requirements. Feeding a high nutrient diet, exercise and maintaining an ideal body condition are always your best allies when fighting chronic conditions!
What if Homemade Pet Food is Not an Option?The Best Specialty Diets for your Pet
For whatever reason, if making a homemade, natural diet for your four-legged friend is not possible for you, then always choose a commercial diet that is as close to whole foods as possible. There are many prepackaged, organic, whole food frozen or freeze dried diets on the market that are as close as you are going to find to homemade and yet are almost as convenient as kibble. These foods are available in puppy, adult and senior formulas although not all address specific nutritional needs for dogs requiring specialty diets. Surprisingly, many of them are not much better than common commercial brands so do your research. Buyer Beware!
No matter what you decide to feed your pet, always buy the best quality food available and research the ingredients and any available dietary information. Feed within the recommended amounts and watch your pet closely for either weight loss or weight gain when switching foods as the quality of the caloric content may change how they use the energy from the food. Adjusting your pets caloric requirement each day, dependent on his body condition and energy output, guarantees he will maintain an ideal weight.
Feeding your pet properly does not take a degree in animal nutrition. It takes common sense, a bit of research and knowledge and a few minutes each day to prepare.
Feed him well and love him more - your four-legged companion will reward you with years of happiness, love and good health!