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naturalpet Diets for Pets Raw Food

Weighing the Pros and Cons by Sandra Murphy


s with their own food, dog and cat owners are reading pet food labels more closely these days to evaluate ingredients and their sources. American pet food companies may outsource to foreign manufacturers, some- times with disastrous results. Various brands of dry dog food (kibble) and treats have been recalled

for melamine contamination or other problems—even brands manufactured here have been recalled for salmonella contamination. To ensure that what we’re serving our dogs contains a proper balance of protein, vitamins and minerals for over- all health, the Dog Food Advisor rates dog foods and treats by brand name, explains the ingredients, includ- ing byproducts not fit for hu- man consumption, and recommends the best options. Owners can

sign up for emails about recalls and other alerts at

Other reasons to read labels include potential allergic reactions to foods, especially

chicken and corn, com- mon ingredients in kibble. The educational website notes, “Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutri- tional value to a dog.”

26 Hudson County “You can spend

money on vet visits or on better food.”

~ Veterinarian Laurie Coger

Homemade Meals To have more control over what the family dog or cat eats, many owners turn to home-cooked meals, but know-how is key. “A big risk with home-pre- pared diets is that they are almost always nutri- tionally inadequate for long-term feeding, even when using published

recipes,” advises Dr. Brennen McKenzie, president of the Evidence-Based Veteri- nary Medicine Association. “Consult a board-certified nutritionist for the unique nutritional needs of the pet, based on age, breed, health condition and other factors. Don’t substitute ingredients.” Cooking for pets can be time-con- suming. Some owners have found dehy- drated foods like those from The Honest

Kitchen, made in the United States using human food-grade ingredients, both cost-effective and easy to prepare. While the purchase price can be higher than other options, the food rapidly rehy- drates to four times its original weight by adding warm water. A meatless variety allows owners to add their choice of raw meat, meaty bones or cooked meat and can be suitable for sensitive dogs, raw feeders and dogs that need a unique protein source.

“Dehydrated foods are also a good

way for a squeamish owner to start a raw diet for their dog,” remarks Dr. Laurie Coger, an associate veterinarian at the Bloomingrove Veterinary Hospi- tal, in Rensselaer, New York, who also offers consultations through TheHon- Coger suggests, “First, determine what a dog or cat needs in his diet, then transition gradually from kibble to a cooked or raw diet. Cats may resist change, while dogs can be more flexible.”

Pet food maker Steve’s Real Food is another option as it does not use lamb, pork or venison. Each poses a greater risk of carrying toxoplasmosis, a parasit- ic disease that can be passed on to pets, especially cats.

“If you decide to incorporate raw

foods, find a wholesale meat supplier so you can buy in bulk. You’ll need a freezer to take full advantage,” suggests Coger. “Feeding raw is not an all-or- nothing proposition, so mix and match. Cook when you have time, feed raw several days a week and use high-quality dehydrated or dry food when traveling.” Dr. Cathy Alinovi, owner of Hoof

Stock Veterinary Service, in Pine Vil- lage, Indiana, found that switching to a raw diet solved an itching problem with her mixed- breed dog. She reports that, “Eighty percent of the reasons my clients bring their pets to me are cured by chang-

ing to better food.” Alinovi points out two drawbacks of serving raw food: “You can’t leave it out all day and it can be a

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