What are Some Alternatives to Commercial Pet Food for Cats and Dogs?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Some pet owners are concerned about the safety and quality of commercially manufactured pet food. It is easy for pet food to become contaminated, because it is usually made from animal and plant material that is not considered to be “food grade,” meaning that it is not suitable for human consumption. For this reason, some pet owners like to make food for pets at home, or to purchase specially prepared alternative foods which are made from high quality ingredients. Before you consider changing your pet's diet, always consult a veterinarian. All pets have unique nutritional needs which should be addressed before making drastic dietary changes. A veterinarian can help you make the right choices for your pet.


The main reason pet owners feed conventional pet food is because it is convenient. It used to be common to feed pets prepared foods mixed with table scraps, such as rice mixed with leftover turkey. In some cases, pet owners made foods specifically for their pets, but the advent of packaged foods largely stamped this practice out. Many veterinarians encourage pet owners to use conventional foods because they are supposed to be nutritionally balanced for optimal nutrition, and animals should not suffer from deficiencies while being fed on them. However, the ingredients used are generally not of the highest quality, and may even include substances which are toxic or dangerous for your pets, because the major source of commercial pet food is rendering plants, which may include tissue from diseased animals in lots of bone meal and animal protein.

The least labor consuming alternative to commercial food for pets is packaged alternative versions. These foods tend to be more expensive because they use fresh, healthy ingredients. They usually come in dry and wet forms, and can be found in natural food stores and high-end pet stores. Look for those with clear ingredient labels, and a high level of protein. Many pet stores also sell frozen versions which are designed to be cooked at home, such as mixtures of ground meats. Be aware that labeling for pet food is not heavily regulated in most of the world, so do not place too much credence in claims made on the packaging.

Some pet owners feed their pets raw food, or use packaged pet foods such as Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) products. Consult with your veterinarian before feeding your pet raw food, as the same pathogens which can make humans sick, such as E. coli, will also make pets sick. In addition, cats and dogs also need fiber in their diets in the form of cooked grains and vegetables, and may suffer from nutritional deficiencies if fed on raw meat alone. If you are considering a BARF diet for your pet, make sure to research it with care.

The best pet food is that which you make yourself. Making your own food for your pet is relatively easy, and it allows you to experiment with new flavors and ingredients to pique your pet's appetite. For canine nutrition, plan on making up food which is approximately 40% protein, 30% starch, and 30% vegetables. Use cooked ground meats such as turkey, chicken, or beef for the protein, and remember that organ meats are highly nutritious. You can also use fish as a source of protein, but try to avoid fish which may be high in mercury, such as tuna. Use whole grains such as brown rice, cracked wheat, millet, and oats for a source of starch, and mild vegetables like carrots to make up the remainder of the food. Cook the dog food in mild salt free broth, and consider adding nutritional supplements like vitamin E oil, brewer's yeast, and garlic.

Dogs also enjoy whole roast bones, and some canines also enjoy fruit. Keep your dog's diet varied, and take note of the dog's likes and dislikes. Cat food should be higher in protein, and you should avoid onions, bones, and pork in cat food. Both cats and dogs will become sick if given chocolate or alcohol, so avoid adding these substances to home made pet food.


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Post 2

When I was a kid growing up in the south, we fed our animals basically what we ate. Often retreiving food from our gardens, while using no pesticides. Compared to today's standards the meals were balanced and nutritous. Perhaps if more people cooked food, rather than fast food, our familes and animals would be healthier. Food for thought.

Post 1

Please do not give your dogs bones of any sort. I work at an animal hospital, and dogs that have been given even the "safe" bones have been brought in on an emergency basis for exploratory surgery to remove the splinters caused by the dog breaking the bone up. This can occur with ANY type of bone. As to the rest of the article, there are many other foods not mentioned in this article which can cause severe problems with dogs or cats, even if they do not cause problems in people. Onions are not good for dogs or cats, and even certain fruits have been linked to internal organ failure in pets. If you plan on feeding your pets

home-made diets, please research, research, research. We see many cases of home-diets that cause severe intestinal problems, including pancreatitis. Variety may be good, but too much can cause just as many problems as you think you are fixing. If your pet's system has grown accustomed to packaged diets, do not change over all at once. Please take the time to really research your ingredients, and speak to your veterinarian about any drastic diet changes.

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