CityBeat spoke to holistic vets, Drs. Patricia Ungar and Keith Weingardt, and a board-certified nutritionist from UC Davis, Dr. Sean Delaney to get advice on cooking for a pet.
I'm a great cook-can I just give my dog and cat my food?
No, definitely not. First, your gourmet preparations will be wasted on your animal. Dogs and cats have an amazing sense of smell. The scent of fresh meat cooking will have them barking hosannas to you without a dash of oregano. Second, people food does not address a pet's nutritional needs. "People are constantly thinking human health and pet health are the same," Delaney said. "It's a mistake."
I don't cook every day for myself, let alone my dog. I can just prep up a huge batch of food, freeze it and defrost it when I need it, right?
No again. Too many home pet chefs forget to balance their pets' diets. Weingardt says you must rotate through different types of meat, like lamb, chicken and beef, plus mix in other foods. And don't throw away those giblets. Cats, especially, get a lot of nutrients from organ meat like the heart and liver that come with whole chickens. "When a cat makes a kill, it goes straight for the organs," Weingardt said. All the vets recommended small amounts of vegetables, too.
Vegetables? Doesn't sound very macho to me. My dog's a meat-eating killer! Rrrrrr!
Easy there, big fella. Take everything in perspective. Cats really are mostly meat eaters-check out those vicious fangs. Perfectly made for rending flesh, or at least beheading a hapless mouse. Evolution prepared him for meat, and it's meat you should give him. But a little finely shredded asparagus or carrot will go a long way. Weingardt recommends a minimum of 75-percent meat protein, then 10 percent in grain (like cooked rice), and the rest in vegetables.Your dog's teeth reveal their evolution, too. The flat teeth in the back can grind away at plants while those front ones would help him take down a wild deer (or a mailman). Weingardt says to feed your dog at least 50-percent meat and the rest in grains and vegetables. The proportion varies based on your breed, and he recommends getting expert advice. For cats and dogs, be sure to mix in a multi-vitamin and a separate calcium supplement. The calcium is crucial.
Do I actually need to cook, or can I serve my pet raw meat?
Some folks love the idea of raw food because it mimics a kill in the wild, but Delaney scoffed. A wild kill did not spend any time on a factory farm; nor did it cross thousands of miles to get to your supermarket. The germs on food are what led our human forebears to start cooking in the first place. Delaney also worries that an animal eating raw food can spread germs around the house, putting children and old folks at risk. Still, a lot of animals will digest a raw-food diet easily, so long as it's balanced in all the other ways. So do what you will.
I keep hearing that garlic and onions are bad for dogs, but my dog loves my garlic-and-onion pizza!
Stop doing that-now. While an animal can handle almost anything in moderation, onions, cooked or raw, are toxic for dogs or cats. Delaney says to stay away from both as a rule, but Weingardt says a small amount of garlic can be beneficial. Delaney also warned against chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins.Macadamia nuts?
Yeah, who knew?
This is all starting to sound pricey to me.
You don't have to do it. Most vets recommend choosing a pet food with care. Read the pet-food package and get foods that have a meat protein as their first ingredient. But some vets, like Weingardt, believe that if you home-prepare a balanced and nutritious diet for your pet, the money you spent on Rex's dinner you'll make back in medical bills you won't need to pay.
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