Most of us barely have the time and energy to fulfill the dietary needs of our human family members, much less take on the task of making homemade meals for our canine kids. However, some advocates of homemade meals for pets say that it is no different than feeding the other members of the family, and can be a cost-effective way to ensure your pet has the best food possible.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about giving up those packaged pet food diets:
1. It’s all on you.
You will be responsible for all of your pet’s nutritional needs. Balanced and complete meals are necessary for good nutrition, but every meal doesn’t have to be complete. The “balancing” can be spread over several meals. Research shows that nutritional needs will vary with breeds and age. Diet guidelines are stricter for puppies (much like children), especially if your furry child is a large-breed puppy.
2. All the information is out there.
Internet research will turn up many recipe options, including companies that will help with meal planning. While you may be tempted to experiment, it is best to follow them exactly to correctly meet nutritional and caloric needs. Substituting or changing methods of cooking or ingredients can make a difference in nutritional values and total calories.
3. Keep it fresh!
When in doubt, throw it out. Keep meals in the refrigerator no longer than the shelf life of the ingredients. A three-day rule is a safe one to follow. If you need to plan meals in advance, most recipes can be safely stored in the freezer, then thawed for use.
4. Check with an expert.
Supplement. You will probably need to supplement with additional vitamins and minerals to round out the diet. Calcium is a major concern. Vitamin needs and dosages will be different for small and large animals, so a trip to the vet or a dog nutritionist should be on your list before you start.
5. Start slowly.
You don’t have to convert all at once. Some home foods can be added to your dog’s regular meals without completely converting to the homemade diet plan. Healthy additions might be carrots, honey, egg, a little canned salmon, or lean meats. Never feed chocolate, artificial sweeteners, grapes or raisins, onions, avocados, Macadamia nuts or walnuts. You should also avoid onions, garlic, mustard seeds and mushrooms. (For more information on sharing people food, check our handy guide.
Is a homemade diet right for you and your pet? The key to success is to research options and make an honest evaluation of the time you have available, the expense of homemade meals, and how willing you are to tackle the dietary needs of your pet.
Talk to your veterinarian before deciding if this is the right course for you and your furry family.
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