As “pet parents” have realized the importance of making healthier food choices for themselves, they are wanting fresher, healthier, less processed food for their “furbabies” too. This is one reason why people might choose to prepare their own dog food. Home-cooked dog food allows complete control over every ingredient, doesn’t need any preservatives, and can be customized for your individual pet. But feeding an incomplete or unbalanced diet is one of the biggest pitfalls of homemade food. It’s crucial to follow recipes exactly from trusted, reliable sources. Homemade diets must be done right, or not at all.
If you don’t have time for the prep work and you want to be certain that they are getting all the essential nutrients, using a base mix is a good option. Honest Kitchen has a base mix that uses the same whole foods you would find in your own kitchen. You just add water, your own protein – either raw or cooked – and voila! A “homemade” meal that most pets love using 100% high quality human grade ingredients.
The desire for fresh alternatives to traditional dog food that are also convenient and easy-to-use has given rise to a completely new category of commercially prepared pet food. Called fresh cooked, gently cooked, lightly cooked, or fresh frozen - these all use a low heat cooking process that is just enough to destroy bacteria, but still retain most of the natural enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants found in raw meat and fresh produce. Think of it as home-style cooking for your pet without the hassle!
FreshPet was one of the first brands that commercialized fresh options for pet owners. However, FreshPet includes some added carbohydrates like rice bran and soy flour along with some controversial additives like carrageenan and cassia gum. Direct to consumer brands such as Ollie and Farmer’s Dog, were the next to enter the market. More recently, established pet food companies such as Pup Above, Primal and Open Farm have introduced fresh-cooked options that are available at Nilla's Tub.
The fresh-cooked category can be especially good for dogs that are picky eaters or have digestive issues, however, they are expensive. But they also work well as a topper or a mix-in with dry food to reap some of the benefits, yet keep the cost down. One negative of online brands is that they don’t support our local community and have a hefty environmental impact due to the packaging. Brands for retail purchase are generally a bit less expensive.
Every pet owner’s situation is different and every dog is different. You have to work within your budget, your family situation, and your lifestyle to determine what type of food is best for your pet. But one of the best things that everyone can do for their pet’s overall health is to minimize the amount of highly processed food and increase the amount of fresh food.