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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Why Pets Need Real Food

Aug 28, 2012 12:19PM ● By Lee Simpson

The food we eat is critical to our health and well-being; it turns directly into replacement cells for all our organs—our liver and kidneys, our immune system, and so on. This is why the quality of food is vital to good health. The same principle applies to our pets. 

Veterinarians insist that pets should not be fed human food, but then recommend giving hamburger and rice after a bout of diarrhea. How can it only be beneficial when they are sick?

If we were handed  a piece of pretzel or an oyster cracker and told that  this would be our diet for the rest of our life—our entire diet—even if it was supplemented with everything we would ever need to be healthy—would we believe it? Would we be happy and look forward to mealtime? Probably not. How then, do we expect it to be healthy and satisfying for our pets? Dogs have a much keener sense of smell than humans do, and sense of taste is related to smell. It must be torture for them to smell the wonderful foods we cook and eat, but not be allowed to eat any of it.

The pet food industry is a huge and lucrative industry. There is no regulation on what goes into pet food by any outside group. Many of the ingredients in pet foods are meat and grains that are unfit for human consumption. Is the meat fresh, or does it contain tumors and abscesses as well as dead, dying, diseased and downer animals. Are the blueberries, cranberries and avocados listed on the bags fresh plump berries, or are they the skins and pulp left over from making juice and guacamole? With commercial food, we never know. 

A high quality commercial food can be part of a pet’s diet, but every dog and cat should receive some homemade, human food every day for good health—both physical and mental. They are carnivores, so they should be fed meat. Many dogs and some cats also relish fruits and vegetables. Commercial pet food already contains lots of carbohydrates—starches such as corn, rice, barley, peas and potatoes.

Starches are not good nutrition as they only make the pet fatter. For pets that eat some commercial food, don’t add more carbs. Instead, add meat, cooked eggs, vegetables and fruits. Examples are beef, turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, fish including canned sardines, mackerel and salmon (watch the salt), cottage cheese, cooked eggs, carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, green beans, green leafy vegetables, apples, all berries, peaches, apricots (watch the pits), all melons, and so on. Vegetables can be raw or lightly steamed. Avoid grapes, raisins, and macadamia nuts.

The ratio of meat to veggies depends on how much of the diet is homemade, but about 60 percent meat, 40 percent veggies/fruits for dogs and 80 percent meat for cats will work. Depending on the amount of homemade food added to the diet, pet owners will want to supplement vitamins and minerals. Certain diseases demand specific diets or supplements, so be careful. 

It is important to make any changes to a pets diet slowly. Working with a veterinarian who is experienced with homemade diets can assure a successful transition to a healthy diet for pets.

Food is the basis of a health, but also makes us happy. Experiment with different foods and find out what the pet likes—it will be smiling at mealtime.

Lee Simpson is a doctor of veterinary medicine and certified veterinary acupuncturist at Healing Options for Animals, in Kempton. For information, call 610-756-6036 or visit

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