Homemade vs. Store Bought Pet Food: Which Should You Choose?
Pet owners have more choices than ever when it comes to feeding their pets. Commercially made products are readily available on grocery store shelves, the Internet, and in veterinary offices, while homemade food offers another feeding option. If you're having a little trouble deciding whether homemade or store-bought food is best, you'll want to read our take on the subject.
What Benefits Do Each Type of Food Offer?
Commercially made food offers the ultimate convenience. The food is available where you shop for your own food, and preparation is as easy as opening the bag, box or can and placing the food into your pet's dish.
Commercial foods are specially formulated to ensure that your pet's nutritional needs are met. They contain vitamins, minerals, and proteins necessary for your animal's good health. In addition to general pet food, many brands also offer specialty foods for young, old, and overweight pets, or those with certain health conditions, such as allergies or kidney disease.
Pet food recalls were in the news again this past November when multiple brands of dog food were recalled due to toxic levels of Vitamin D. The news certainly wasn't reassuring to pet owners who rely on pet food manufacturers to produce safe, nutritious products. At high levels, the vitamin can cause kidney failure or even death.
Worries about food safety often prompt pet owners to choose homemade food, although concerns about allergies and health issues may also prompt the switch. When you prepare your pet's foods, you control the ingredients. Preparing home-made food definitely takes longer than opening a can, but ensures that meals are made with the freshest ingredients.
Is One Type of Food Better Than the Other?
As long as your pet's nutritional needs are met, it doesn't really matter if he or she eats store-bought or homemade food. Unfortunately, too often, homemade food lacks key nutrients. When researchers from the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine performed a nutritional evaluation of 200 homemade dog food recipes, they discovered that most were missing key nutrients. The team evaluated recipes from websites, pet care books, and veterinary textbooks.
They reported that 95 percent of the recipes lacked one essential nutrient. Multiple deficiencies were found in 83 percent of the recipes. A 2017 Portuguese study also found nutritional deficiencies in home-prepared diets. Diets often didn't have enough vitamins E and B12, iron, riboflavin, choline, thiamine, or calcium.
Pets that don't receive the appropriate mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals are more likely to be underweight, have dull coats, dandruff, allergies, or suffer from heart conditions in extreme cases.
Commercially made products, whether you buy them in a store or at your veterinarian's office, are specially formulated to contain the nutrients your pet needs. Recipes are developed by a team of nutritionists to ensure that they meet your pet's dietary needs based on age and breed. If your pet's food contains the words "complete and balanced" on the label, it meets the nutritional standards established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials.
Not all pet food companies have the same high standards. Before you choose a brand, take a look at the "Withdrawals & Recalls" page on the U.S.D.A. website. If a company's name appears there often, you may want to choose another product for your pet.
If you prefer to make your pet's food, it's a good idea to ask your pet's veterinarian or an animal nutritionist to review the recipes you choose. Unfortunately, you can't assume that the recipe contains needed nutrients just because it appears in a pet publication or website.
Do you have questions or concerns about your pet's diet? Contact us to make an appointment to discuss your pet's nutritional needs and the best foods for him or her.
UC Davis: Homemade Dog Food Recipes Can Be Risky Business, Study Finds, 7/15/13
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Withdrawals & Recalls
Journal of Nutritional Science: Analysis of recipes of home-prepared diets for dogs and cats published in Portuguese, 7/3/17
American Kennel Club: Best Dog Food: Choosing What’s Right for Your Dog, 7/20/16
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA Alerts Pet Owners about Potentially Toxic Levels of Vitamin D in Several Dry Pet Foods, 12/3/18