Cooking for your furry friends

When I adopted my dog Melvin in 2014, he was 9 years old and appeared to be in great health, except for some dental issues common to smaller breeds.

A month after bringing Melvin home, however, he began exhibiting signs of gastrointestinal distress, occasionally vomiting after eating his kibble. Eventually, Melvin had some pretty serious diarrhea that wasn’t going away.

I asked the veterinary manager at the center where I work at, and adopted Melvin from, if she had any ideas. Change his diet, she said, suggesting a mixture of cottage cheese, white rice and boiled white meat chicken.

Not only did Melvin love his new food, which I dubbed “Melvin Mash,” it settled his stomach, virtually eliminating the vomiting and diarrhea. His food, which I make every five days or so, has morphed into a blend of steamed white rice, boiled lean ground turkey and cooked vegetables, such as carrots and peas, plus a scoop of a pet vitamin/mineral mixture each morning.

Apparently, I’m not unique in preparing my dog’s food. About 25 percent of Dr. Evelyn Vega’s clients at Happy Pets Veterinary Center feed their dogs a homemade diet and for a variety of reasons, she said..

“I attribute it to a few different things, such as pet-food recalls, fear of ingredients sourced in China, the idea that grain-free diets are better, the costs of high-quality commercial dog/ cat foods and the shift from pets being just pets to now being a family member,” Vega said.

The most common scenario Vega sees is severe food allergies.

“When the commercially available allergy diets or novel protein diets have not helped or are too expensive, then we try homemade diets where owners have more control of the ingredients,” she said. “Then there are dogs with specific medical conditions that are very finicky and will not eat any of the available prescription diets.”

Unless dogs fall in one of those categories, Vega generally doesn’t prescribe a homemade diet. Instead, she advocates for commercially prepared food that is Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) approved.

“There are so many diets out there for owners to choose from that are made of natural human grade ingredients, organic ingredients, with minimal additives or preservatives, with different levels of protein, fats or carbs, there are even vegetarian dog diets available,” she said. “Studies have shown that home prepared diets are not complete and balanced and many times were found to have inadequate protein, amino acid, vitamin or mineral levels. This is especially important for puppies and kittens which require specific amounts of nutrients for normal, healthy growth.”

For dog owners like myself who choose to feed a homemade diet, Vega insists on adding a pet-formulated supplement such as BalanceIt. The amount depends on the diet’s ingredients.

“Each recipe requires a different amount and type of supplement. There are also good videos there discussing diet for specific medical conditions,” Vega explained.

Vega doesn’t recommend raw food diets, as studies have shown there are no health or nutritional advantages. “Potential human pathogens have been found in both commercial and home prepared raw diets,” she explained.

For those who choose to feed homemade food to their dog, Vega advises to have bloodwork and urine tests every six months for dogs to detect any deficiencies.

“I know this is confusing for some owners,” she said, “so we do offer nutritional exams where we help owners determine what is the best diet for their pets.”Happy Pets Veterinary Center is located at 27550 Newhall Ranch Road, Valencia. For more information, visit www.happypetsvet.com or call (661) 295-9972.

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