Whether the deaths from contaminated pet food still ring in your mind, or you’re looking for a natural solution to your pet’s digestive problems, there are many reasons to consider switching from expensive, preservative-laden, processed pet food to a simple meal you prepare at home that’s tailored to your pets needs and preferences.
Wolves hunt their food, eating raw prey and the grain-vegetable contents of their stomachs. Humans, travelling in camps thousands of years ago, left a trail of waste that attracted both dogs and plants that would later be some of the first cultivated crops. Over time, humans rewarded the friendliest wolves (by, say, not killing them for showing aggression around the camp), and eventually, man had a new best friend and hunting partner. Dogs traditionally ate table scraps and what they could catch, until someone figured out that they could mass-produce dog and cat food, and capitalize on it by promising a more active pup, a shinier coat, or that your dog would love it.
Unfortunately, like many mass produced items, many dog and cat foods don’t have the quality of something hand made and tailored to your dog, although with the organic/all-natural movement there are increasingly better options. Still, many house pets suffer from stomach illnesses, (making for icky back-yard clean up), or can be picky about their pet food.
So what is the proper diet for your pet? Both dogs and cats eat raw meat (or lightly cooked meat, depending on the source of meat, the health of your pet-if it’s old or sick you should probably cook it’s meat–and it’s personal preferences), raw or lightly cooked vegetables (based on your pets preference) and partially cooked whole grains (mirroring partially digested whole grains). Cats and dogs require a different quantity of each, which can vary depending on size of the pet, breed, life stage, and how you use your dog (a highly active service dog, for example, will likely require more meat). Different breeds may even prefer different preparation methods (smaller dogs may prefer their food minced, for example).
Although you should experiment with your pet to find their ideal balance, here’s a starting guideline:
For protein, think beef, rabbit, fish, poultry, etc. Vegetables (and for cats, fruits) can be just about anything your pet likes, and variety will help them get a range of nutrients they need (see below). For cats, you may want to puree their grains for easier digestion. Supplementing with a digestive enzyme may generally help your pet’s digestion (and nutrient absorption), especially if you’re transitioning from processed pet pellets, but in the long term you should not be feeding your pet foods they can’t digest on their own (an exception being made, of course, for old or sick pets who have trouble for different reasons).
That’s the basic meal structure, although that’s not all your pet needs to be healthy. Bones and eggs (which can be given raw) improve dog’s teeth and coats. Cats need taurine, which is found in fish and other meats (although no study has calculated exactly how much is in any given meat), daily to avoid a number of serious side effects including blindness. Both cats and dogs need vitamins and minerals, which can be mixed in with their food. Note that cats and dogs are MUCH smaller than humans and do not need nearly as much, only a fraction of what a human dose would be, estimated by their weight–the same thing goes for fish oil or any other oil you may choose to add to your pets food.
Probiotics, like those found in yogurt, can ease stomach troubles your pets may be having. Probiotics exist naturally in the gut, promoting healthy digestion and fighting “bad” bacteria that can cause illness or bad breath. Probiotic colonies can be reduced by fluoride from tap water, stress, and other common toxins. You can add probiotics to your pets diet with a fermented food such as yogurt, or with a supplement. When supplementing probiotics for dogs and cats, you can use the same dose that you would take.
What combination works best for your pet?