Looking for information about pet food? You are not alone! We all worry about providing the best diets for our pets. There are a lot of options and nutritional fads tend to jump ahead of science-based nutrition. Here we provide consensus-based recommendations and information sources.
If you choose to feed a home-cooked diet, we encourage you to consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or a veterinarian with advanced training in nutrition to create a complete and balanced recipe specifically for your pet’s needs.
The adequacy of a home-cooked diet depends in part on the quality of the ingredients selected. It is also very important to have an appropriate recipe and that the recipe is strictly followed. When ingredients are left out or substituted, dangerous nutrient deficiencies or excesses may result. This is especially important for animals with the most stringent dietary requirements, such as cats and young, growing animals.
While recipes for homemade diets are easily found, few provide adequate nutrition. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 200 dog food recipes were analyzed for nutritional adequacy. Only a few of these recipes provided all essential nutrients in concentrations meeting or exceeding the National Research Council and Association of American Feed Control Officials for canine maintenance diets. A later study evaluated 114 home-cooked diets for cats. Problems with nutritional adequacy were identified in all 114 diets. As Dr. Chapman has wisely said, there is nothing better than a balanced home-cooked diet, and nothing worse than an unbalanced home-cooked diet.
For Homemade diet recipes and nutritional counseling:
For a list of board-certified veterinary nutritionists go to American College of Veterinary Nutrition
For help balancing your pet’s homemade diet see the links below
We generally do not recommend the feeding of raw food diets and follow The American Veterinary Medical Association and the FDA, both of which discourage feeding raw diets to pets.
Several major concerns surround raw food diets. First is the question of nutritional adequacy. Many of these diets pose a risk of nutritional excesses or deficiencies, either of which may result in substantial harm or even death to the pet if the diet is fed on a long-term basis. Second, the risk of food-borne pathogens exists, for both your pet and yourself. This is especially concerning for very old or very young family members or those with compromised immune systems. Third, raw diets may include bones. Intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal perforation, gastroenteritis, and fractured teeth are all potential complications for dogs that eat bones.
See below for more guidance on this subject.
- S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance document on safe handling of raw foods: fda.gov/downloads/AnimalVeterinary/GuidanceComplianceEnforcement/GuidanceforIndustry/UCM052662.pdf
- Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University fact sheet: tufts.edu/wp-content/uploads/raw_meat_diets_memo.pdf
- American Veterinary Medical Association’s policy on raw diets: AVMA Policy on Raw Diets
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has published recommendations on selecting the best diet for pets. Key components of the WSAVA recommendations include:
- The pet food label’s nutritional adequacy statement provides important factual information. This statement confirms three important facts:
- Whether the diet is nutritionally complete and balanced according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Model Bill and Regulations.
- If the food is complete and balanced, for what life stage is it intended?
- If the food is complete and balanced, did the company determine this by formulation (either analysis or calculation) or by feeding trials?
- A nutritional adequacy statement is required on every pet food label in the United States.
- The other most important information needed to make an informed decision about pet food is not on the label and must be obtained from the manufacturer. Important facts that can help select a pet’s food include:
- Does the manufacturer employ a full-time qualified nutritionist (e.g., a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition or European College of Veterinary Comparative Nutrition, or a Ph.D. in animal nutrition)?
- Does a qualified nutritionist formulate the diets?
- Where are the foods manufactured?
- What specific quality control measures are used to assure the quality of ingredients, consistency, and nutritional value of the end product?
- Can the manufacturer provide information on any requested nutrient or the caloric value for the pet food in question?
- Has product research been conducted?
Some special considerations for feeding cats:
Please explore the American Association for Feline Practitioners consensus statement to discover the natural feeding behavior of cats at Cat Nutrition
For controlled feeding of special or prescription diets in a multi pet household try the Sure Pet Feeder
To train your cat to accept pills, start now by offering a soft treat twice a day. Create a habit of gobbling a treat that can hide a pill!