The Benefits and Risks of Cooking For Your Dog
Despite being around for hundreds of years, fresh food for pets is all the rage today. Pet stores now have freezers, there are a plethora of raw feeding groups on Facebook, and a library of cookbooks for pets that can be in your mailbox this week.
But is this the right path for your dog?
As more dogs arrive at the vet with allergies, food sensitivities, digestive issues, skin ailments, and more, pet parents are beginning to trend away from kibble diets. As humans, we’ve accepted that a diet of highly processed food - aka junk food or fast food - doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle. So why has it taken this long for us to make the connection with our pets? And what are our alternatives? Cooking for our dogs is the easiest solution for many pet parents. We’re already cooking for ourselves, why not add dog food to the menu? However, before you dust off your slow cooker, understand the benefits and risks so that your dog thrives on the fresh food diet that you’re cooking.
Benefits of Cooking for Your DogIf you’ve changed your diet for the better, then I’m certain that you can imagine the benefits that your dog will enjoy. Bottom line is that feeding a diet of fresh food will leave your dog feeling fantastic. The benefits include…
1 - fresh food is easier to digestKibble is cooked multiple times, taking out all of the moisture, which contributes to difficulty in digestion. Unlike kibble, cooking for our dogs provides a moisture rich meal that is easier on the gut making the nutrients easier to absorb. And, BONUS, when our dogs absorb more nutrients from their diet, they produce less waste.
2 - you can control ingredients when cooking for your dogOne challenge of feeding kibble is the inability to identify ingredients that may be contributing to an intolerance. When we cook for our dogs, we know where the food comes from and we control all of the ingredients. If something isn’t a good fit for our dog, we can adjust and adapt quickly.
3 - fresh food reduces inflammationA high carb diet contributes to inflammation, which we can avoid when we cook for our dogs. Decreased inflammation means better joint health, better gut health, reduced allergies, and an improved immune system.
4 - fresh food supports better skin and coat healthCooked food for dogs includes healthy oils, including Omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids support brain health (great for puppies and senior dogs) and skin and coat health. Many pet parents report shiny, healthier skin and coats once they switch their dogs to a fresh food diet.
5 - fewer trips to the veterinarian
Healthier dogs go to the vet less often. According to PetInsurance.com, the top reasons pet parents visit the their veterinarian include allergies, ear infections, skin issues, digestive issues, and anal gland expression. All of these can be alleviated by feeding our dogs fresh food.
Risks of Cooking for Your DogThe benefits of cooking for our dogs are amazing and, as a person who feeds fresh food to five big dogs, I can attest to the fact that once I switched my dogs to a fresh food diet, I had no desire to go back to processed pet food. However, there are some risks that should be considered before you toss out that bag of kibble.
1 - it’s challenging to formulate a nutritious cooked diet for dogs
There is a myth that cooking for dogs isn’t a good idea because the act of cooking kills all of the nutrients. If this were true, how do humans thrive on a cooked diet? Cooking does decrease the number of nutrients, but it doesn’t kill all of them. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves with this line of thinking.
Do you know what nutrients your dog needs in their diet?
It’s a mistake to run to the grocery store to pick up a chicken, potatoes, and mixed vegetables and call this a balanced diet for dogs because it’s what commercial brands appear to be providing. What this homemade meal is missing is a vitamin mix that adds nutrients our main ingredients are lacking.
This doesn’t mean that pet parents shouldn’t cook for their dogs. Instead, understand that it’s important that we educate ourselves on what our dogs need in their diet. Nutrient deficiencies don’t show up right away and, for some dogs, by the time they do show up, a lot of damage has been done. A great resource on cooking for dogs is Dr Judy Morgan, who has several cookbooks available and also shares recipes on her website.