Homemade vs. Commercial Food for Cats and Dogs!

By Jean Hofve, DVM

Preparing a home-made diet for one’s pets is a bit of a challenge. However, it is no more difficult than feeding one’s children a balanced and nutritious diet. Most human beings seem to be able to do that, since we have survived as a species. As any parent knows, it is not essential to balance all the nutrients in each individual meal, but over time the intake of nutrients in a varied, healthy diet will be balanced.

What parent would ever consider feeding their children only processed food out of cans, boxes and bags? We know it’s important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Similarly, it is better for our animal companions to eat fresh, whole foods appropriate to their species, than to be fed processed, preserved foods for their entire lives. The popularity of commercial pet foods is due mainly to their convenience; and to massive advertising by pet food companies seeking even more profit than the tens of billions of dollars they already make each year.

If you’re considering home-preparing food for your pets, get educated about it. See www.catinfo.org or www.rawfeddogs.com for more information. It is NOT okay to just cut up a chicken and throw it on the floor for your dog. A homemade diet must be carefully balanced with appropriate supplements. Unfortunately, studies have found that the recipes found in vast majority of books and websites (particularly from non-veterinarians) are NOT balanced and should not be fed long-term. Don’t take shortcuts, and don’t get lazy—preparing your pet’s food at home takes education and dedication, and a commitment to put in the time, money, and effort to do it right.

You’ll have to decide between raw and cooked meat diets. Raw meat diets are very popular, and we recommend them; but not all pets will eat or can handle raw meat. For instance, a cat with gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease might be better off starting with a cooked homemade diet, then gradually converted, if desired, to raw. There are things you need to know about feeding raw before making the leap, but it’s easy to find out how to do it safely by reading books or checking the Internet.

Conventional veterinarians, whose nutritional education is limited and commonly provided by pet food companies, are generally very resistant to the idea of feeding homemade meals and/or raw meat, claiming that it poses a danger not only to the animals, but also to the humans who prepare the meals. (See “The Dangers of a Raw Diet” for more info.) This is partly due to brainwashing in vet school, constant propaganda from the pet food industry, and a campaign by the FDA (spurred by the pet food industry) to discourage raw feeding.

The objections to raw diets fall into two main categories: risk of microbial contamination, and lack of balance in the diet.

The dangers of handling raw meat in the preparation of a pet’s meal are really no greater than those associated with making yourself a hamburger for dinner. No one advocates forsaking ordinary hygiene in the handling of raw meats (and all items in contact with raw meats, such as food bowls, utensils, floors, and cutting boards). To acquire a zoonotic (animal-to-man) infection is not all that easy, if you use common-sense precautions, like washing your hands!

The balance question is more complicated, and is addressed below. (Also see “The Dangers of a Raw Meat Diet.”)

If you’re not up for making the food yourself, there are pre-made raw frozen foods, as well as freeze-dried and dehydrated varieties, that are also very convenient.

Even if you can’t commit to completely home-preparing your pet’s diet, adding a little bit of fresh meat, even a couple of times a week, will be very helpful and provide many benefits that processed food simply doesn’t have.

The following recipes were created by nutritionist Dr. Celeste Yarnall with modifications by Dr. Jean Hofve. The dog food recipe and more important tips follow the cat food recipe.

General instructions:

  • Buy whole cuts of meat if possible, and have your butcher grind it fresh, or grind it yourself at home. Any grocery store will do this for you. Never use non-organic ground beef; the conventional beef industry’s chronic lack of hygiene creates an unacceptably high level of bacterial contamination.
  • If you are grinding whole (bone-in) meat or poultry, then it is not necessary to feed additional bones.
  • All raw meat, organs, and bones should be treated with a solution of 4 drops of grapefruit seed extract (GSE) diluted in 8 ounces of purified water before use. (See Directions under each recipe for details.)
  • As much as possible, use organic products, 100% grass-fed meat, eggs from pastured hens, and raw dairy products.
  • All liver must be organic.
  • Always follow safe meat-handling procedures.
  • Dogs cannot digest raw fruits and vegetables; to get the maximum nutritional value from plant products, they must be “pre- digested” by cooking (preferably steaming) or pureeing.
  • When choosing a vitamin-mineral supplement, be SURE it is intended to create a complete and balanced diet when added to meat or meat + veggies. The vast majority of supplements do not fulfill this criterion. How can you tell? The most important mineral is calcium, and calcium is bulky. A truly complete supplement will require at least 1-2 tablespoons per pound of meat in the recipe. If the directions are for less than this, then it isn’t an appropriate product for this purpose.

BASIC FRESH RAW FOOD RECIPE FOR CATS & KITTENS

Ingredients

NutriBiotic Grapefruit Seed Extract (you will dilute this in water to kill bacteria in the meat)

1 lb. meat or poultry, preferably organic, 100% grass- fed or pasture-raised raw diced beef, or coarse-ground organic poultry, up to 20 to 25 percent fat. (Do not use pork or fish; limit ground lamb because of its high fat content.) Also try venison, elk, bison, ostrich, quail, and other poultry, and alternate and/or combine meats for variety. (All meat should be frozen for 72 hours to kill parasitic cysts prior to feeding.) Meat should be coarse ground or cut into bite-sized chunks (based on the size of your smallest dog’s mouth)

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil AND an Omega-3 supplement, such as 8 capsules of Moxxor (http://www.littlebigcat.com/holistic-pet-mall/moxxor-omega-3s/), pierced and squeezed into the food, or Nordic Naturals Pet Omega-3.

Pinch of Himalayan or Celtic pink salt

500 milligrams taurine (powder or capsule)

A dash of Kyolic Aged Liquid Garlic (refrigerate after opening)

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Digestive Enzyme supplement (such as Only Natural Vital Digest), mixed into the food at serving time

Complete Vitamin-Mineral Supplement made specifically for homemade diets, such as Dr. Bob Goldstein’s Raw Complete Powder; or make your own from recipes like Dr. Richard Pitcairn’s Healthy Powder. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL!

OPTIONAL: 2 – 4 oz Food-processed raw or pureed non-starchy vegetables, preferably organic: zucchini, sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatos, yellow squash, kale, turnips, chard, spinach, apples, berries, bananas. Avoid high-oxalate vegetables for cats with a history of calcium oxalate urinary crystals. Alternatively, use 1 jar of organic baby food vegetables or veggie-meat combo.

1 tablespoon ground Chia seeds for cats who need more fiber

Directions:

Cut organ meats into bite-size chunks. If not using ground, chunks should be minced into appropriate size for kittens or cats with dental problems (this means tiny); larger chunks may be fed to healthy adults.

Mix all ingredients together and serve with love!

Leave food down for 30-60 minutes (less in hot weather). Kittens, pregnant queens, and lactating females should eat at least 3-4 times daily or on demand.

Tips:Cats and kittens like their food very fresh. Prepared food can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (4 maximum). Store it in a glass jar, bowl, or other container with a tightly fitting lid (Pyrex® makes good ones). Do not use plastic or metal.

Feed cats 2-3 times per day. Once fully transitioned to this diet, the average cat will eat 4-8 oz. of food per day. Kittens may be introduced to this diet at the age of 5 weeks and can start with one half to a full teaspoon 4-6 times a day while they are still nursing. Introduce mashed chicken necks to kittens at 8 weeks of age.

Please see more TIPS below.

BASIC FRESH RAW FOOD RECIPE FOR DOGS & PUPPIES

Ingredients

NutriBiotic Grapefruit Seed Extract (you will dilute this in water to kill bacteria in the meat)

2 pounds meat or poultry, preferably organic, 100% grass- fed or pasture-raised raw diced beef, or coarse-ground organic poultry, up to 20 to 25 percent fat. (Do not use pork or fish; limit ground lamb because of its high fat content.) Also try venison, elk, bison, ostrich, quail, and other poultry, and alternate and/or combine meats for variety. (All meat should be frozen for 72 hours to kill parasitic cysts prior to feeding.) Meat should be coarse ground or cut into bite-sized chunks (based on the size of your smallest dog’s mouth)

1/2 lb. Organ meat (e.g., organic liver, kidney, heart, gizzard, etc.)

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil AND an Omega-3 supplement, such as 8 capsules of Moxxor (http://www.littlebigcat.com/holistic-pet-mall/moxxor-omega-3s/), pierced and squeezed into the food, or Nordic Naturals Pet Omega-3.

Pinch of Himalayan or Celtic pink salt

A dash of Kyolic Aged Liquid Garlic (Refrigerate after opening)

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Digestive Enzyme supplement (such as Only Natural Vital Digest), mixed into the food at serving time

Complete Vitamin-Mineral Supplement made specifically for homemade diets, such as Dr. Bob Goldstein’s Raw Complete Powder; or make your own from recipes like Dr. Richard Pitcairn’s Healthy Powder. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL!

Optional:

Up to 16 oz pureed raw or lightly steamed non-starchy vegetables and fruits, preferably organic: zucchini, sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatos, yellow squash, kale, turnips, chard, spinach, apples, berries, bananas. Avoid high-oxalate vegetables for dogs with a history of calcium oxalate urinary crystals.

1 tablespoon ground Chia seeds

500 milligrams taurine (powder or capsule) for breeds predisposed to taurine deficiency-related cardiomyopathy (heart disease)

Directions

Treat all meat and organs with a solution of 4 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract in 8 oz purified water. For ground meat, use enough solution to obtain a consistency like thick chili. For whole cuts, meat chunks, and necks, defrost them in this solution in the refrigerator.

Mix all ingredients together, add digestive enzyme supplement, and serve with love!

At first, leave food down 30-60 minutes at dog’s mealtime. A healthy, adult dog may eat once or twice a day. Small dogs can eat up to a cup of food at each meal. Medium to large sized dogs can eat up to a pound of food a day. Puppies, pregnant and lactating females eat more often (3-4 times daily, or on demand).

TIPS FOR CATS AND DOGS

Feed raw bones for “dessert” (bones are eaten last in the wild) at least once per week. Use whole raw chicken or turkey necks or oxtails (depending on size of the dog). Cut into appropriately sized chunks or simply cut between vertebrae. Optional: pound necks with a mallet to crush bones before serving, especially for small pets or those who are not accustomed to chewing bones.

Prepared food can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (4 maximum). Store it in a glass jar, bowl, or other container with a tightly fitting lid (Pyrex® makes good ones). Do not use plastic or metal.

Many people make up large quantities and freeze in serving portions. It is okay to freeze in plastic containers since freezing minimizes the off gassing and odors from the plastic.

Do not refreeze meat more than twice (bear in mind that most meat has already been frozen once before you bought it). When you thaw meat to make the food, refreeze within 24 hours. You may add all supplements except digestive enzymes before freezing (add them at feeding time).

Always defrost in the refrigerator. Never microwave anything! Safe handling of raw meat is imperative. Thoroughly wash hands, dishes, and utensils in hot soapy water. Clean all contact surfaces with pet- and environmentally-safe cleaning products.


 

For Dr. Jean’s in-depth ebook, What Cats Should Eat, please visit our Bookstore or Amazon.com!

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