Cooking for others can be a special act of love–and that includes cooking for our dogs! From selecting ingredients to preparing the dish, creating meals and treats for your dog can a fun and healthy way to add variety to your dog’s diet. Every year, National Cook for Your Pets Day recognizes the joy pets and pet lovers get in preparing special dishes and treats.
When is National Cook for Your Pets Day?
National Cook for Your Pets Day is celebrated on November 1. This dog holiday is celebrated on the same day every year. It was created by a now-defunct site called Cook for Your Pets.
Why Cook for Your Dog?
Whether you would like to prepare Sunday doggie dinners, the occasional special meal, or the not-so-occasional special homemade treats for your dog, it’s easy to cook for your dog—and it’s always very appreciated!
While there are many high-quality commercial dog foods out there, many dog lovers like to prepare at least the occasional meal and treats at home. We find that cooking for our dogs is rewarding for us as well. When we watch them enjoying a meal we have prepared especially for them, we feel satisfaction at having created something our dogs love and their eager eating proves that they appreciate it.
Like humans, dogs are omnivores—but with strong carnivorous tendencies. Unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores and need a diet primarily consisting of meat, dogs eat (and enjoy!) a varied diet.
As you can tell from your dog’s teeth, which are meant to tear but not chew and grind, the canine diet naturally leans heavily toward meat–but dogs can also digest and savor many fruits and vegetables, too. Be sure to know which foods your dog can eat–and which foods dogs CANNOT eat–before cooking for your dog.
Providing a Balanced Diet
Switching to a homemade diet isn’t a change to be taken lightly, though. Dogs need balanced nutrition to help them live their best life.
Did you know that, for all the benefits of the essential building blocks of your dog’s diet, too much of most elements can be just as harmful as too little?
Too much of a good thing can lead to health problems. Here’s some food for thought:
- Too much protein can overwork your dog’s kidneys and liver as they work to remove the excess protein the body cannot absorb. (Too little protein can lead to growth problems for puppies.)
- Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to, you guessed it, excess poundage on your pup! Too little fat, though, results in a dull coat and flaky skin.
- Too many vitamins can stress your dog’s organs and even lead to bladder stones, while a lack of vitamins will make your tail-wagging chum tired and weak.
- Fiber also plays an important role in a balanced diet. Too much fiber leads to gas. Too little? Loose stools. Fiber is one component of your pet’s diet that’s easy to see (and suffer) the result of a lack of balance.
Your dog’s life stage plays an important role in the formulation of a proper diet as well.
Compared to adult dogs, puppies need a higher fat and calorie content in their food as well as higher protein. Large and small dogs have varying needs as well; large breed pups need less calcium than their smaller cousins.
As you can see, obtaining the right balance involves many factors—but there are big benefits. Along with being in control of the ingredients that compose your dog’s diet, you can also vary the diet according to your pooch’s personal palate.
Your first step is your veterinarian. Discuss the switch and get your vet’s recommendations on foods and supplements for your dog’s size, age, activity level and any health concerns.
Types of dog diets
Whether you and your vet decide your dog would do best with an occasional homemade meal or a full diet of homemade dishes, you’ll find there are several types of diets:
Grain-free food is one of the fastest-growing segments of the commercial pet food world because more pet lovers are concerned about the high percentage of grains in traditional kibble.
Can dogs eat grain? Certainly. But dogs have tougher time digesting grains than humans do, partly because they lack the enzymes in their saliva to start digestion. Grains can also lead to allergies (although dogs can definitely develop allergies to beef, chicken, and other meats as well).
As more people turn to a paleo diet for themselves, mimicking the diet of the hunter-gatherer, they also look to their dogs’ diets and wonder what’s biologically appropriate for their dog.
Setting aside the convenience of the bag of kibble, what is most appropriate for dogs, animals who can eat as omnivores but whose teeth obviously say carnivore?
Many people believe that diet would be a dog version of the Paleo diet, most often referred to as an Ancestral Diet where dogs are concerned. This diet is higher in meat-based protein and fat and far lower in carbohydrates than commercial diets.
Perhaps no other canine diet is as hotly debated as the raw diet.
Proponents point to the cleaner teeth, smaller stools, and excellent skin and coat of dogs on the raw diet.
On the other side, detractors emphasize the risk (to both dogs and their humans) of bacteria that finds itself around your house. Picture your dog eating the raw meat then kissing your toddler—or chewing on a toy that Grandma later picks up.
Others point to the danger of eating whole bones (although not all raw feeders serve whole bones; some grind bones or add supplements).
Transitioning Your Dog from One Diet to Another
If you do decide to switch, keep in mind that you should make the transition gradually to avoid digestive problems that could arise from a sudden change in diet.
This method is also recommended when switching from one commercial feed to another one.
Start by reducing the amount of food from your dog’s usual diet, supplementing it with homemade food, adjusting the relative amounts daily until you are feeding only the homemade diet.
Typically 20-25 percent of your dog’s diet should be switched out per day as you gradually change to the new diet.