Homemade diets are diets made for individual pets by pet owners. Recipes for these diets can be found in textbooks, magazine articles, and on the internet, or they can be acquired from a veterinary nutritionist. Most published recipes are unbalanced and/or incomplete, and consultation with a veterinary nutritionist is encouraged to evaluate the recipe or to formulate a homemade diet based on your pet’s individual needs.

Homemade diets follow two basic categories:

A homemade diet combined with commercially available at food.

A complete homemade diet, which can further be divided into diets with raw ingredients, cooked ingredients, or a combination of the two.

There are several reasons to consider feeding a homemade diet. One is when potential adverse food reactions occur causing gastrointestinal problems and skin problems in your pet. Another reason is when there is a specific requirement for special food to manage a disease that cannot be achieved with commercially available therapeutic diets. Another reason is the personal preference by an owner because of negative information about commercial pet foods. In most cases, this is erroneous information. Some people believe that home-cooked foods are better or more natural than commercial foods.

Several services are available to help owners with formulating and balancing a homemade diet. Your veterinarian can assist you in contacting these resources. They include veterinary nutritional specialists that have been trained in the specific nutrition for various medical conditions. When making a homemade diet, do not deviate from the recipe provided you, because this could make the diet unbalanced or incomplete. Veterinary nutritionist can formulate several versions of a homemade diet to provide variety for the pet. Personal hygiene is important when mixing or feeding these diets, especially when feeding raw ingredients.

Dogs and cats that are fed and homemade diet should be evaluated periodically by a physical exam and laboratory tests. Bowel movements should be reasonably formed, and animals should maintain body weight and body condition while on the diet. If any abnormalities or problems develop, it is worthwhile to consult a veterinary nutritionist to evaluate or reevaluate homemade diet. If necessary, a sample of the homemade diet can be sent to a food analysis laboratory to determine amounts of nutrients in the diet.

Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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