For many dog owners,
it is assumed that proper nutrition is achieved through commercial dog food products. It is an easy assumption given the packaging claims of a balanced diet and the marketing ads that assure us we are giving our dogs the healthy choice they deserve. Even veterinarians seem to overwhelmingly advocate the conventional feeding of commercial dog foods. But conventional wisdom aside, the home cooking alternative is not nearly as radical as it might seem and it may, in fact, deliver the positive benefits we all want for our four-legged friends.
A home-cooked diet for our dogs is actually a matter of logical thinking and thorough research. Like humans, dogs have specific nutritional needs and most of those needs are met through a well-balanced diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements generally cover any concerns over dietary deficiencies. It is important to know and understand your dogâ€™s nutritional requirements before embarking on a home-cooked diet. Since most of us are not nutritionists, we must turn to the experts. The information is readily available in dog nutrition books, the internet, or through a veterinarian that is open to holistic health management and home cooking.
As always, health concerns must be taken into consideration first and foremost. If your dog has allergies to grains you will want to omit it from the diet and find a nutritional alternative. If your dog has renal issues, protein levels may need to be adjusted. If your dog is overweight you will need to establish a low-fat diet that does not compromise nutritional value. These are just a few of the issues that illustrate the research you do should be specific not only to dogs but to your specific dog. Breed, weight, age, and health issues are some of the more important considerations.
Once you have familiarized yourself with your dogâ€™s dietary needs you can begin the transition from commercial pet foods. While some home cooking advocates suggest an immediate transition, others like myself recommend a gradual transition. Begin by replacing half of your dogâ€™s daily meal with one home-cooked meal. Chicken is usually an easy food, to begin with. Add a new food every 4-7 days. The transition often causes changes in bowel movements and possibly even signs of â€śdetoxing,â€ť such as watery eyes or changes in the coat. These are almost always temporary and signal a healthy change. If, however, your dog shows persistent or serious health changes, seek advice from your veterinarian just as you would with any health issue.
Like humans, you will discover that your dog has preferences. If your dog will not eat food that you feel offers a specific nutritional value, find a substitute. In doing your research, be sure to identify the foods that are toxic to dogs. Grapes and onions are highly debated while cooked bones and chocolate are absolutely forbidden. When in doubt find a suitable replacement and donâ€™t take unnecessary risks!
Given the highly controversial issue of how commercial pet foods are processed and the quality of fillers that are used, home cooking is an excellent alternative that allows you to control what goes into your dogâ€™s diet. With smart shopping, the costs can actually be lower than those expensive commercial brands. Home cooking is a commitment. It does require research, planning, and preparation. Over time you will learn to buy and prepare in bulk, saving yourself money and valuable time. Many dog owners who practice home cooking have seen dramatic results in pain reduction, energy, controlled dog odor, weight management, and even behavior modification. If we truly are what we eat, why should our dogs be any different?