Measure ingredients in grams AFTER cooking. Avoid using cups to measure because how finely chopped the ingredient is can drastically change how much fits into 1 cup. Using a gram scale to weight cooked ingredients is the most accurate way to measure.
Make large batches and freeze. Using plastic bags and laying them flat in the freezer helps save space while keeping pre-measured meals ready to go.
Have complete and balanced recipes available. Studies have found that 90% of homemade pet food recipes online (even those created by veterinarians) were formulated incorrectly and nutritionally inadequate, which is especially harmful for growing puppies/kittens or senior pets who are even less tolerant of nutrient imbalances. Look for recipes formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to reduce your risk of unintentionally harming your pet. You can reach out to a nutritionist through ACVN.org or use balanceit.com to get recipes developed for your pet or assess recipes you’re already using.
Grind/blend the food to prevent your pet from picking out individual ingredients while leaving others behind.
If you haven’t heard of “Maillard reactions”, you’re not alone, but it’s something you should be aware of! This is the chemical reaction that gives browned food it’s distinct flavor/aroma, but it can also damage proteins, affecting absorption of certain amino acids (protein building blocks). The Maillard reaction can also make proteins more irritating to the pet’s immune system. Nutritionists recommend poaching ingredients instead of roasting or grilling to reduce this effect.
Going raw? Know the potential pros and cons:
- Raw (uncooked) meats may be more digestible than cooked alternatives; however, there have been no studies proving any benefits. Anecdotally, raw diets may result in less poop. Some families also report a better coat and overall appearance when feeding raw-based diets.
- Contamination might be reduced by searing or cooking the outside of meat pieces. Some families use free-dried or flash-pasteurized meat to reduce bacterial contamination.
- Fat content is often excessive, which can increase risk of weight gain or digestive upset.
- The calcium to phosphorus ratio is often dangerously off, so use with extreme caution in pets with orthopedic diseases or growing animals.
- Food safety is a major concern, just like it would be if uncooked meats were fed to human family members. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the US Centers for Disease Control do not recommend feeding raw or undercooked diets due to risk of bacterial or parasite contamination dangerous to pets and human family members that handle the food or the pets. Multiple studies have proven a high incidence of contamination with dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. Pets fed raw diets have a high incidence of shedding bacteria like Salmonella in their stools, putting other pets and humans at risk.
- Proper handling of raw foods may reduce risks, but safety cannot be guaranteed.
- Bones can easily damage teeth, and swallowed fragments of bone can damage or perforate the digestive tract.