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Why Cooking for Your Pet Could do More Harm than Good

It's always done with the best intentions when we cook for our pets! The food is always made with love and a desire to do what's best for them when we make what we believe are healthy home cooked meals.

We cook for them so we can be sure of what's in their bowl! Sounds like the perfect thing to do...right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Let's look at why when we're cooking for our pets, we may be doing them more harm than good.

There's a lot to know when you're cooking for your pet in order to make a balanced meal! The absolute most important thing about feeding our pets is feeding a balanced meal and when we're doing the cooking, we may be missing some essential components of a balanced meal. Often times our vets will discourage us from doing home cooking and in most cases, it's because they know that even when pet parents have the best intentions for their pets, they may not know exactly what is needed in a bowl to make the meal completely balanced. If the meal becomes unbalanced because we don't know exactly what to put in the meal, that is truly the worst thing we can feed our pets...an unbalanced meal.

Cats and dogs have specific biological requirements when it comes to nutrition and though there are some similarities with our own nutrition, there are also some big differences. Even between cats and dogs, their food and nutritional requirements are different, it's not just "pet food" sufficient for either species.

The reason dog food differs from cat food is because each species requires their own nutrient profile for optimal health. Felines and canines are both carnivores (meat eaters), but with a very important distinction. Cats are obligate carnivores, whereas dogs are scavenging carnivores.

An obligate carnivore (or true carnivore) is an animal that must eat meat in order to thrive. They may eat other foods, such as fruits, honey, grains, and so forth, but meat must be included in their diet.

True carnivores lack the physiology required for the efficient digestion of vegetable matter and some carnivorous mammals eat vegetation only as a means to vomit. Our cat companions are prime examples of obligate carnivores.

Dogs are scavenging, or facultative carnivores, which in general terms means they are primarily meat-eaters, but can survive on plant material alone if necessary. The key word is "survive." To survive is not to thrive. To thrive is to grow vigorously. To survive means simply to stay alive.

Cats must eat animal meat and organs to meet their nutritional needs. Plant-based proteins simply aren't a good substitute. Cats lack the specific enzymes necessary to use plant proteins as efficiently as animal proteins.

The proteins derived from animal tissue contain a complete amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Plant-based proteins do not contain all the amino acids critical for the health of an obligate carnivore.

Cats evolved hunting a different set of prey species than dogs did, so their dietary requirements are different than dogs. Cats have a special requirement for vitamin A, which is available naturally only in animal tissue.

Cats also require 5 times more dietary thiamine (vitamin B1) than dogs do. A thiamine deficiency can result in a poor quality coat, loss of appetite, hunched posture, neurologic problems including seizures, and even death. Vitamin D is also essential in the diets of all mammals. Cats and dogs must consume vitamin D in their diet as they are unable to synthesize it through their skin. The liver and fatty tissue of prey animals is rich in vitamin D.

Another distinctive biological feature of cats is their need to get most of their water intake from the food they eat. Domestic kitties are not as responsive as other animals to sensations of thirst or dehydration. Unlike dogs who drink frequently from their water bowls, when fed a diet devoid of moisture (e.g., kibble), cats aren't driven to search for another source of water to make up the difference between what their bodies require and what their diet provides. This can result in chronic mild dehydration, a condition that will ultimately result in disease, especially of the feline lower urinary tract and kidneys.

Cats and dogs have nutritional requirements that have some overlap, but also some very unique differences. They include:

Protein - both cats and dogs need amino acids from a protein source. Cats require taurine added to their diets as their bodies do not naturally produce it like dog's bodies.

Fat - linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid required for both cats and dogs. Cats also require arachidonic acid in their diets.

Vitamins -both dogs and cats require vitamins, uniquely they each require a different amount of vitamins and different vitamins than the other

Minerals - both cats and dogs need minerals: macro-minerals and micro-minerals and this is where we as loving pet parents just trying to do the right thing could miss the mark

Both cats and dogs full biological nutritional requirements come from a variety of proteins (including meat and organs), bone, moisture and fat. Mother Nature intended for our pets to get all of the nutrients they need from a variety of animal proteins which is why we recommend rotating the proteins they eat.

In addition to the specific requirements of our cats and dogs, proteins cooked for human consumption are typically "over-cooked" for animal consumption as their bodies are designed to eat raw meat. When proteins are cooked, their nutritional make-up is altered and does not provide the adequate nutritional value our pets need to thrive.

Cooking for your pet requires a lot of knowledge regarding natural sources of all the essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins and amino acids they require to thrive!

Though home-cooked meals are always made with the best intentions, it's also a very daunting undertaking to ensure our home-cooked meals are balanced and providing optimum nutrition for our pets and not actually causing the exact problems we're trying to avoid if they are unbalanced which is the worst thing we can do for our pets.

If you need help finding the best, balanced and biologically appropriate meal for your pets, we're always happy to help!

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