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  Category: Articles » Home & Family » Pets » Article

Feeding Your Pet Fresh Foods

By Sherry Massey

Okay, I admit it. I am fascinated, overly curious, not quite obsessed with the idea of "you are what you eat." If you could see me, you'd say I need to lose more than a few pounds and certainly don't seem to practice what fascinates me so. I know in my gut (literally), that my consumption of overly processed foods, restaurant lunches, sweets and chips are slowly but surely going to cause me major harm and very probably chop a few years off my life. To my credit, I am getting up early every morning and exercising in an effort to, freif not lose weight, at least stave off the diabetes that runs in my family. So, if my family needs to eat better, what about my pets?

Hopefully, you've all read my article on the horrible things that are found in commercial, pet foods. If not, check it out at the link below. When I found out what was in the kibble we were feeding both our dog and cat, I researched the alternatives and came up with a great all natural dry pet food. I've been extremely happy with the results of the switch with Annie, our cat, but for some reason, Dax just doesn't go for it. In fact, he really isn't crazy about dry food in general. He will eat it when he gets hungry, but let's just say he doesn't seem to enjoy his food. I've tried several brands and nothing flips his bippy. On the other hand, he jumps for joy when I give him a scrambled egg or chicken scraps. And salmon! Katy, bar the door!

So here we are. While I'm trying to convince myself to feed my human family better, maybe Dax would be better off, too, with a more natural diet of fresh foods. I'm not committing to anything at this point, but I'm willing to do some research and see how convincing it is. Want to go along?

You know, when I think back to visits at my grandparents' farm, I never saw my grandmother feed their dog anything but table scraps. I don't think I ever saw a bag of dog food at their house. Now, today, table scraps would mean pizza, French fries and other bad examples of human "food." But not back then. My grandparents raised grass fed beef, which they slaughtered and ate. My grandmother had a huge garden and Papa had acres of corn. They grew what they ate and the scraps that Beau got were good, healthy, all-natural and pesticide free.

So, the first question that comes to mind is that of total nutrients. I know the premium dry foods I have been buying assure me that they are formulated to supply all the nutrients Dax needs. So how can I provide everything my dog needs in a homemade diet? Well, let's see what the experts have to say. They tell me to aim for variety to ensure a balance of nutrients.

They tell me that my dog and cat are natural carnivores and that meat and other protein sources should be high on the list of ingredients in this new way of eating. They also tell me to feed the meat raw. Okay, now wait a minute. That just grosses me out. What about e-coli and salmonella and all those other nasties found in raw meat? Well, it seems that your dog's stomach has a much higher acid content than your's and can handle raw meat just fine. In fact, raw meat is much higher in nutrients that cooked meat.
Interchange lean meats such as turkey, liver, mackerel, chicken, tuna, heart, lean hamburger, duck, rabbit or fish. Try ground meats for convenience and ease of eating.

Meat alone should not be the only source of protein for our critters. There are lots of other ways to beef up the protein intake. Eggs are an excellent, low-cost source of low-fat protein. Again, experts recommend feeding them raw. Try cottage cheese, too. Whole grains are another cost-effective source of high quality protein as well as carbohydrates and an array of vitamins and minerals. Grains, however, should definitely be cooked before feeding to aid in digestion. The most cost effective sources of good grains are oatmeal, cornmeal, millet and bulgur (whatever that is).

The list goes on. Beans and other legumes such as split peas and lentils are great sources of protein. Cook them just like you would for your family. These are good to cook in larger quantities and freeze in meal portions.

Okay, we've got protein covered. What's next? Vegetables. Veggies are vital for adding vitamins, minerals and roughage. Some can be fed raw, such as grated carrots, squashes, lettuce and other greens, and grated beets. Others like corn, peas, green beans, and broccoli need to be cooked. Please! No canned vegetables! Our focus here is on fresh foods. If the vegetables are not organically grown, be sure to wash them thoroughly, even use a little soap and then rinse thoroughly.

Now that the basics are taken care of, the next thing the experts say we need to consider is supplements. Evidently, both cats and dogs, but especially dogs, have a high calcium requirement. Calcium can be added to a fresh food diet in several ways. A common source of calcium is bones. This is where experts take very different paths. Some advocate feeding your dog raw bones. Others are opposed based on the fact that cow bones can contain high levels of lead or can splinter. Those that oppose raw bones recommend the use of bone meal. Now, let me stop and stress right here that they are not referring to the bone meal found at your local garden center. It's toxic to animals. The bone meal recommended for feeding is that found in health food stores recommended for human consumption or some say, better yet, a bone meal made especially for animals. I'm thinking a large pet store might be a good source or maybe a good feed store.

A great source of natural calcium can be found in something we all through in the trash: egg shells. Who knew? In his book, Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, Dr. Richard Pitcairn recommends washing eggshells right after cracking and letting them dry. Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes and then crush into a fine powder. This can then be sprinkled on your pet's food. If you prefer, you can even crush calcium tablets into a powder. Don't give them to your pet whole.

Other recommended supplements include nutritional or brewer's yeast for its B-vitamins, iron and other nutrients; oils such as fish oil and cod liver oil for Omega-3 and Omega-6 benefits; Vitamin E is a natural anti-oxidant and can be found in wheat germ or just puncture and squeeze a capsule over your pet's food.
So, the last question that comes to mind is this: I've always heard that a dog needs dry, crunchy food to help keep his teeth clean. This is still true with a fresh food diet. A good, all natural, crunchy dog biscuit, fed once or twice a day will help exercise gums and clean teeth.

This is a very brief overture to the world of fresh food feeding for pets. I know I don't feel guilty anymore for feeding Dax meat scraps and eggs. If you want to know more, please check my website often. I will be posting more in-depth articles on this topic. In the meantime, happy eating!
About the Author
Copyright 2007 Sherry Massey
Sherry Massey is the owner of Barker and Friends Natural Pet Treats. Read our article on commercial dog food entitled Can Your Dog Stomach This? in Resources at Look at our pet treats for those dry and crunchy treats to keep gums and teeth healthy.

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