Should You Make Your Own Pet Food?

I think I would need both hands to talk about all the pet food recalls in recent memory. With everything from plastic and metal to other euthanized animals (so nasty), it can be scary every time you walk down the pet food aisle! And you have to wonder, who can you trust?

Well, if you’re tired of the giant pet food corporations taking shortcuts and risking your pet’s health, you can actually make your own pet food. It sounds a bit scary, but it really isn’t. I do it for Sydney and we’re both pretty happy with the results. Here’s what you need to know in order to get started.

First, I recommend talking to your vet. They might tell you to avoid sodium or how many calories you need to be feeding them. Some pets need special diets due to health concerns. You’re going to need to be sure that you can either meet those needs somehow. Please don’t just find a recipe on the internet and start making it for your pet. There can be serious long-term consequences if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Remember that just because something is all-natural or safe for humans does not mean it is good for pets. It’s important to know that you’re meeting your pets’ nutritional needs without exposing them to scarier things. Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. But did you know raisins and grapes can cause kidney failure? The additive xylitol, found in many human foods, can also be fatal. Nuts, too (peanuts are legumes). Onions, garlic, and chives are also terrible for dogs, but even worse for cats! There’s a whole list of things that people can be unaware of and unknowingly poison their pets with – I don’t know them all. So please, please, make sure you talk to your vet about that stuff, too.

That’s what not to do, sure. But you’re probably wondering what to do. Look for reputable recipes specific for your type of animal, You’ll want things that have very specific ingredients (ie “mashed sweet potato” vs “cooked vegetables”) to be sure that you are meeting your pet’s specific needs. You will also likely need to use a supplement. It’s hard to meet all of your pet’s food needs through diet. Lean meats should make up at least 50% of their diet (cats slightly more than dogs). Liver is actually a fantastic meat to use. Sounds gross but Sydney loves it!

Calcium is beneficial to animals. Meaty bones will work well for dogs, but bone meal might be better for cats (a word of caution – only use bone meal marked for human consumption, not the gardening kind). Some fats are helpful too, to promote a healthy skin and fur coat.  While most animals don’t eat carbs in the wild, you should include some in their food.

Also, sure, our pets’ wild relatives eat raw foods. That does not mean you should feed your pets raw food! Your pet’s wild cousins also don’t live as long as you want your pet to. I’m all for a natural diet but follow food safety measures to prevent food-borne illnesses and disease!

Know that if you have a growing kitten or puppy, or a pregnant or nursing animal, there’s a lot more to consider with nutrition – so again, please talk to your vet or veterinary dietician before you change their diet and start making your own food. Going natural can be a great option but please be careful and be sure you’re doing it right.