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Home-Made Meal Planning

By Robin Tierney

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Home-Made Meal Planning

Nutrition was the focus of several presentations at the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2007 conference in D.C.

* Home-Made Diet Do's and Don'ts: Given today's increasing interest in home-cooked diets for pets , Dr. Korinn Saker warned that a fresh diet can be risky if not nutritionally customized to the individual. Her case in point: a very young Sheltie who suffered from skeletal changes and fractures due to an inadequate homemade diet.

Ingredient balance, quality and preparation are key. An expert review should be done before feeding a homemade diet. Evaluate factors such as sources and ratios of protein, carbs, fat, calcium and other minerals and vitamins. Online experts and computer programs are available to develop nutritious custom diets.

Tips: a human adult daily vitamin can be used, but not the gender-tailored varieties. Include iodized salt. Don't heat vitamin and mineral supplements or you'll destroy their potency. And avoid substituting ingredients in a homemade recipe. This common practice reduces the nutritional value of the meal, leading to health problems.

Hygiene and storage require care, since no preservatives are used. You can prepare in bulk, but keep the supplement batch separate since reheating will denature the vitamins.

As the animal ages, have the diet recipe reevaluated.

If supplementing a commercial feed, she cautioned not to supplement more than 10% of calories in a diet a day to avoid nutrient imbalance.

* Raw Food: Dr. Richard Hill addressed raw food diets. Whether owner motivation stems from concerns about the safety or nutritional value of commercial foods, or the quest for a natural diet, risks include nutritional insufficiency due to owners making substitutions in the diet and from bacteria and parasites.

* Holistic Nutrition: Dr. Robert Silver weighed in with the holistic perspective. He noted evidence that processing of foods, both human and pet, creates byproducts that have inflammatory and insulin dysregulating side effects linked to degenerative health conditions. Some kibble and canned foods contain potentially toxic byproducts. Reactive oxidative species can be created by food processing, leading to tissue damage down the road. Then there are chemical preservatives, aflatoxins and other mycotoxins occasionally contaminating commercial kibble, and basic lack of whole foods.

Silver recommends homemade diets tailored to the dog's needs. Vital considerations include health conditions; calcium is critical but some animals can't tolerate normal amounts due to medical syndromes. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition promotes a "Circle of Nutrition" approach: first assess health status, exercise-related dietary requirements and nutritional needs, then write a diet Rx.

Interesting side-benefit of milled flax seed, a highly recommended addition to dog and cat diets: the fiber will help manage hairballs.

Dogs and cats need up to five times as much of a calcium than humans. Sources: raw bones, dried eggshells, mineral-rich plants such as seaweed, coral calcium, alfalfa, and green leafy vegetables.

He agrees that the client tendency to substitute ingredients - "Recipe Drift" - can unbalance the diet.

Not ready to commit to daily homecooking for your pet? Dr. Silver suggests preparing at least one good homemade unprocessed meal a week. Also, people who eat healthy whole foods can make extra and share with their pets. Tip; Remove a half cup of kibble per each cup of fresh food supplements.

* Nutritional Myths: Fat is unhealthy and causes diarrhea? Panelists said not so. Balance is necessary for digestion and health. Dietary allergies are common? Dietary intolerance is more common.

Related Reading and Resources:

* Animal nutrition and diets

www.AAVN.org

www.ACVN.org

www.petdiets.com

www.balanceit.com

* Organic-related health news and food/farming

www.acresusa.com

* Holistic animal health

www.ahvama.org

www.DrDoMore.com

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