An Interview with Pet Behavior and Nutrition Expert Daniel Stein
Pet owners are increasingly experimenting with making their own pet food. Some experts say homemade pet food is more nutritious than commercial alternatives. Home cooked diets may also be safer for pets. Home cooking allows pet owners to carefully inspect every ingredient, while commercial pet food is susceptible to contamination.
Daniel Stein is a pet behavior specialist, veterinary technician, pet nutrition expert and editor in chief of The Dog Guide. He’s seen greater interest in home cooked pet diets from his clients in recent years, particularly following a widely publicized pet food recall in 2015.
After the recall, says Daniel, “Owners became increasingly aware of the ‘junk’ that goes into bags of commercially produced dog foods. I saw a rise in owners looking towards preparing meals for their pets. This process empowered them to be in complete control of their pet’s nutritional well being.”
However, pet owners often find that it’s not as easy to make pet food as one might expect. Dogs and cats have specific nutritional needs and can develop nutritional deficiencies if they don’t eat a complete and varied diet. For example, cats require a dietary source of taurine. Without this amino acid, cats are at risk for blindness and heart disease.
“Many of my clients were discouraged when they couldn’t find concise information on how to make your own pet food,” says Daniel. “Though the trend of home cooking for dogs and cats continues to grow, there are few comprehensive resources available to new chefs! For pet owners getting started with home cooking, I recommend two basiccookbooks that are easy to follow and provide detailed nutritional information for the recipes included: The Healthy Dog Cookbook: 50 Nutritious & Delicious Recipes Your Dog Will Love by Jonna Anne and Barker’s Grub: Easy, Wholesome Home-Cooking for Dogs by Rudy Edalati.”
Pet owners interested in making their own pet food should also consult a veterinarian or pet dietician before diving into home cooking. These professionals can suggest recipes and recommend tests, such as a comprehensive yearly blood panel, to ensure that the pet’s nutritional needs are met by his new diet. It’s especially important to keep your pet’s vet in the loop if he has any known health problems. Some dogs, such as those prone to pancreatitis, have special dietary needs.
If you want to make your own pet food, start by making homemade pet treats. You can easily make your own dog treats at home. If you and your pet enjoy the homemade treats, consider taking the plunge and transitioning your pet to a fully home cooked diet. But remember, your pet can’t simply eat table scraps and stay healthy. You’ll need to use carefully formulated recipes that include added vitamin supplements.
“There is much more to feeding your dog than throwing leftover meat and veggies into a bowl,” cautions Daniel. “It’s vital to your dog’s well-being that you learn about his nutritional requirements and prepare meals that will meet them.”