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Owners prepare pet food at home

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  • Owners prepare pet food at home

    Heike Munday was in the checkout line at Whole Foods Market recently, her cart piled with 20 pounds of organic chicken necks.

    They weren’t for that night’s dinner — at least not for her. She got them for her two dogs and two cats.

    Heike, a pet groomer and owner of Furry Friends, has been feeding her own pets natural diets for years, including chicken necks and other raw foods.

    Nutrition and food quality is becoming a major concern for more and more pet owners, especially in light of the recent recall of more than 80 brands of potentially poisonous pet foods. The incident has left many pet owners worried about their companions’ foods and searching for alternatives. (For a list of recalled pet food, visit

    So, many are doing what Munday is: feeding their pets raw or organic foods and home-cooked meals.

    But it’s not always easy, and it’s not always done the right way, pet experts warn.

    “The potential of raw diet for animals is very good if it is done correctly,” says Nancy Irlbeck, an animal nutritionist at Colorado State University.

    The diet has to be balanced and safely prepared. It’s a complex procedure that takes a lot of work and costs a lot of money.

    “But the problem is that most people are lazy by human nature and the animals will suffer,” Irlbeck says.

    What often happens, she says, is the pet owner gets a good raw diet going, then runs out of a certain supplement, so they skip it. Two or three days down the road, they forget they were supposed to buy more, and the animal eventually becomes nutritionally deficient.

    Likewise, pet owners don’t often follow important safety measures when refrigerating and handling raw meats and chicken, and when cleaning up. If the animal is old or has a compromised immune system, improper handling of raw food can make it sick.

    Munday has been feeding her pets home-cooked meals for 10 years, beginning when she rescued a cat that had serious medical problems. The cat, Sessi, threw up no matter what she was fed. Veterinarians couldn’t find a cause. So Munday started researching animal nutrition and became intrigued by the abundance of literature on natural food diets and especially evolutionary diets - mimicking the feeding regimen of wild animals. She tried the raw food diet on Sessi and is convinced it saved the cat’s life.

    Her dog Willie, a Hurricane Katrina rescue, also gets raw meat, along with fresh organic vegetables, which Munday says is helping restore his health.

    But she says she had to go through a half dozen veterinarians before she found one who could help develop a diet and safety measures to follow when preparing meals for her pets.

    She now takes her pets to veterinarian Jim Friedly of the Natural Health Care Center for Animals in Falcon. An expert in wellness and nutrition, he helped her devise a diet and monitors the efforts.

    “There is an alternative. You don’t have to feed junk to your pets,” says Friedly.

    He notes that organic pet food was becoming increasingly popular before the pet food recall, because people who eat organically are demanding it for their pets, too. In fact, the organic pet food industry is a $30 million a year business, according to the Organic Trade Association, and growing rapidly because of concern over the quality of pet foods.

    Owners can feed dogs organic food through a raw diet or home-cooked meals, or by purchasing premium packaged organic meals.

    Munday feeds raw and cooked organic meats, buys patties packaged especially for pets by Ranch Foods Direct, and gets natural canned food at Wag N’ Wash Pet Center.

    But Irlbeck, of CSU, warns that care must be taken with organics, too. “You have to evaluate what is labeled organic. It can be misleading and you might not be getting what you think you are,” she says.

    Likewise, Friedly notes that some of the nonorganic dog foods on the market today that are labeled “premium” really aren’t because they contain byproducts (chicken beaks, feathers, cowhides, and such) and filler such as corn meal, grains and wheat gluten, all of which can cause health problems for some pets.

    If you decide to feed raw or organic meals, he cautions: “There are many recipes on the Internet, but some are good and some are not — and inexperienced pet owners most likely won’t know the difference without professional help.”

    CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0371 or [email protected]

    Looking to upgrade your pets’ diet? Here are some helpful sources:

    - The American Egg Board, working with Davis Veterinary Medical Consulting, has created some pet recipes that are available free at (enter EGG at checkout in the promo code box). The site also has calculators to evaluate your pet’s calorie intake and compare brand ingredients.
    - offers consultations and advice from veterinary nutritionists.
    - A well-known proponent of the raw diet is veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. His Web site is:
    - has advice from a retired Denver veterinarian.
    - offers some pet food reports.

    - “Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats,” by Kymythy Schultze
    - “The Compete Holistic Dog Book,” by Jan Allegretti
    - “Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats,” by Richard Pitcairn
    - “Give Your Dog a Bone,” Dr. Ian Billinghurst
    - “The Natural Dog,” Mary Brennan, DVM
    - “The New Natural Cat Book,” Anitra Frazier
    - “The Good Food Cookbook for Dogs: 50 Home Cooked Recipes for the Health and Happiness of Your Canine Companion” by Donna Twichell Roberts

    Raw food can be contaminated with salmonella and other bacteria. Some nutritionists say dogs genetically have strong constitutions and can fight off such bugs. Others say that is not true. Here are suggestions from Falcon veterinarian Jim Friedly:
    Know the source. Buy from stores that process meat the same as they do for yourself.
    Handle raw meats carefully, as if they were for your own meal. That includes clean-up. If an animal doesn’t eat it all, take it away so it doesn’t spoil.
    Keep raw meat frozen and thaw only small amounts needed for a meal. The food can be put in individual containers and even vacuum-packed.
    Most questions regarding GroomerTALK are answered in the Board Help Talk Forum. Thanks for coming to our community a part of

  • #2
    So my question about raw diets is this:

    Does it have to be raw? Can you not cook it, and give the dog everything that was in the pan it was cooked in? For example, maybe steaming chicken, or even boiling it with a small amount of water, and giving the dog the chicken ALONG WITH the water, keeping all the nutrients that may have gone from the meat into the water? Why does it have to be raw, potentially exposing the animal to salmonella and other "issues?"

    Honestly, I know I'll probably never feed my dog raw, but I like to have information on this type of thing---I do change my mind on occasion. If my dog died from dog food, I KNOW I'd change my mind.

    Tammy in Utah
    Groomers Helper Affiliate


    • #3
      I have heard that cooking chicken with bones causes the bones to become brittle (bad for pets), but the bones can be eaten safely uncooked. Other than that I also can't figure out why you wouldn't cook it.

      What did pets eat before dog food was created? I'm guessing table scraps, which probably aren't as healthy as they were years ago, due to pesticides, pollution, processing etc. When I was growing up (just to give you a time frame -- I'm 49), my mother always gave the dog table scraps, and supplemented with dog food when there weren't enough leftovers. Our dogs were never obese, but they were out running around the neighborhood with the kids.

      I think the pet food companies have convinced us that our pets can't be healthy without their 'balanced' product. Now seems like a good time to test that theory. I've been thinking of feeding mine primarily table food and supplement with a good quality pet food. Maybe I have my head in the sand, but I just don't know why it has to be so complicated to provide adequate nutrition without processed dog food.


      • #4
        Originally posted by SpikeyTheYorkie View Post
        So my question about raw diets is this:

        Does it have to be raw? Can you not cook it, and give the dog everything that was in the pan it was cooked in? For example, maybe steaming chicken, or even boiling it with a small amount of water, and giving the dog the chicken ALONG WITH the water, keeping all the nutrients that may have gone from the meat into the water? Why does it have to be raw, potentially exposing the animal to salmonella and other "issues?"Tammy in Utah

        The Dr. Pitcairn book mentioned above advocates home cooked foods, with many recipes, for cats and dogs. It's been a reference guide for those who choose to feed this way for years. I think that variety is very important, and if you keep feeding different things, it helps cover all of the nutrients needed. For example, my dogs have a 'base' diet of Wellness kibble. I rotate which one they get- lamb, venison, duck, or fish. I supplement with home cooked foods, raw beef and buffalo leg bones, and things like Nature's Variety prepared raw food- although I do boil it. Sorry, raw feeders, I just can't get to the totally raw way of feeding, except the marrow bones! ;-)


        • #5
          i dont know about giving the water...but yes you can cook the BONELESS meat...i think even if you just boiled the chix legs you'd still be cooking the bones. reason why cooked bones are a no no and raw are fine? because cooked bones become brittle and hard and shatter easily...raw ones are of course not cooked, are NOT brittle and BEND rather than shatter...which is why raw bones are safer for pets to eat than cooked ones are.
          i myself feed raw...just handle the meat like its your own raw food and no problems ever have arose yet from this.


          • #6
            I don't think pet food companies or vets are saying that pets *can't* live without their balanced diets. I think its more what the article said. People can get lazy. The raw/cooked food diets are not easy and are expensive. The average person is just not going to do it properly for long periods of time. Sure some of us dog world enthusiasts might, but the average person with 2.5 kids and the dog and soccer practice everynight and a full time job ect ect is going to start off great and get lax and then the pets will start to miss out on the different nutrients and minerals they need.

            THAT is our vets dilema. While in theory they have no problem with these diets they deeply fear that by encouraging them to the general public they will do harm.

            I was very interested though in the kittykat that was throwing up in that article!! I have a siamese cat like that. She throws up constantly Ive tried every food, she has been checked by the vet and had all kinds of tests and the only thing that helps slightly is the low residue eukanuba but that only lessens the frequency a bit. It doesnt stop it. I wonder if I should look into some kind of real food diet for her. I dont think I could do raw tho. ick. Id be afraid of the bacterias


            • #7
              if your worried about the bactarias'....just treat it likes its your own food. also....cats are VERY picky about what they want to eat and can be very difficult to switch to raw. also preparing a cats raw diet is alot diffrent than a dogs. you NEED to add taurine to the diet (ie heart has taurine in it so if you do switch to raw you'd need to add that)..some cats only eat it ground, others wont touch it at all. with cats you CANNOT do the wait the animal out. they WILL starve themselves TO DEATH if they do not eat anything. ie you cannot completley get rid of the kibble in the household. or if you have multi cats some might eat raw and others wont. it can take anywhere from a couple of days to months to even YEARS to try and switch cats.
              it all depends on your own personal cat. not up to messing with all that for rather just stick with a great kibble and leave it at that.
              also...what other premium brands have you tried? have you tried innova,innova evo, wellness?