Over the past 12 years, I have seen every variation of a home cooked pet diet that you can imagine. Unfortunately about 90% of them are done incorrectly and can lead to issues like malnutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor coat health, dental issues, and a wide variety of other health concerns. Dogs and cats have specific dietary needs and it is always important to fully commit if you want to make your pet's food. Here is a list of the top 5 mistakes I see pet owners make.
5. Assuming Chicken and Rice is an Appropriate Long-Term Diet
The same goes for hamburger and rice or any other meat + one grain or vegetable combination. Chicken and rice (or similar) can be used very sparingly and for no more than 3 or 4 days before a dog or cat starts to become deficient in vitamins and minerals. You should run far away from any recipe you find on the internet that has you cooking lean ground beef, instant rice, and a can of green beans or a sweet potato for the long term diet of your pet.
4. Not Measuring your Ingredients
Winging it with your famous chocolate chip cookie recipe may work out fine, but guessing with your pet's food can be disastrous. Pets can overdose on vitamins and minerals, and eyeballing how many ounces of oils and fats you have is just asking for a few emergency middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks. Always measure and stick to your recipe, if not for consistency, then for the sake of your pet's well-being.
3. Buying the Cheapest Ingredients you Can Find
Before you jump into making your pet's food, find out if it will be in your budget. As you can imagine, feeding a mastiff is quite a bit more expensive than feeding a chihuahua. The cheapest cuts of meats are usually loaded with sodium and preservatives. The same can be said for cheap canned vegetables and packaged grains. The goal is to avoid harsh preservatives, high sodium, and artificial dyes; all of which can be found in the cheapest versions of most ingredients used to make pet food.
2. Over Feeding
Over half of american pets are either overweight or obese. We must get out of the mindset that food = love, we owe it to our pets. Often I will see situations where a dog or cat really, really likes their new home cooked diet and will beg for more, the owner thinks they must still be hungry because they didn't use to do this with their kibble. They then add more food to their daily meals and before you know it the dog or cat is getting 300 extra calories a day, every day. This is a recipe for an overweight pet. Obesity can lead to a number of health issues including diabetes, heart conditions, arthritis, and various forms of cancer to name a few.
1. Not Enlisting the Guidance of a Professional
I think the problem here is the fact that most people don't even know that there are pet nutritionists available to the public. Most pet owners who have heard of pet nutritionists assume they all work for large pet food companies when in reality there are many available to you and most will even do virtual consultations. A certified pet nutritionist will tailor a diet to your specific pet based on things like age, size, activity level, ingredients that are typically available to you, etc. Never trust a homemade pet food recipe that you found on the internet; I have never found one that was completely balanced.