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Jun 102009
 

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

You’re picky, selecting only the best organic fruits and vegetables, or cruelty-free meats and poultry to prepare healthy, well-balanced meals for your family.

You might not be so thoughtful when it comes to your dog’s dining choices. Does it come straight off the grocery store shelf, plopped from can or bag into Fido’s bowl? OK, maybe we’re being too tough on you. Perhaps you lovingly spring for the extra cost of organic, natural dog food from the pet store or the Web.

Why not give your beloved companion the doggie version of a high-quality homemade meal? In these more austere times, perhaps making Rover’s dinner could save money. With recent scares and recalls of pet foods, others may feel that turning to their own kitchen is the solution.

There are about 75 million dogs in American households today, and it’s likely a very small percentage of them eat homemade (much less organic) food.

However, when it comes to developing just the right combination of ingredients, you’d best be armed with information and resources before starting to simmer the chicken.

First, be prepared to do homework. Searching the Web for “homemade dog food” turns up thousands of recipes offered by well-meaning souls who may or may not have examined the latest information about dogs’ nutritional needs (which is regularly updated).

“Pets need different vitamins and levels of things in their diet,” said Debbie Hill, supervisor of special services technicians at the University of California at Davis’ Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “People don’t realize, for example, that a dog needs a certain amount of calcium. You can’t just throw together some food and assume you’re giving them the right thing.”

Most would-be dog chefs are well-meaning, “but they don’t know that they can actually do more harm than good in creating a home-cooked meal,” Hill said.

“We have a nutrition service that offers consultations with pet owners. It’s a pretty long, drawn-out process to get it right,” she said. Improper levels of needed nutrients, minerals or vitamins can cause heart or liver damage, she added.

Many online sources suggest a simple mix of protein (chicken, turkey or beef usually), carbohydrates (rice) and vegetables. That sounds healthy, but it doesn’t provide all needed vitamins and minerals. Others may say a “raw” diet is the way to go, but uncooked meat can harbor bacteria or salmonella that can make a dog sick, just like it would you.