High-involvement petfoods and feeding plans

Commercial petfood makers are creating mixers and diets that require consumers to get involved with preparation

Get involved! How can petfood manufacturers make meal time for family pets more of a hands-on and bonding experience?
Get involved! How can petfood manufacturers make meal time
for family pets more of a hands-on and bonding experience?

According to the blogsphere and online pet community, making your dog and cat's pet food at home with your own ingredients is the latest trend. But many animal nutritionists, veterinarians and pet food producers argue that the average pet parent doesn't know just what their pet needs in their bowls.

Middle ground  

In a recent pet advice column by veterinarian Suzy Hochgesang, a pet owner asked whether she should feed her cats and dogs homemade pet food. Hochgesang was clear in her response, saying, "Most veterinary nutritionists agree that it is best to feed our pets a commercial food." She listed lower costs, more convenience and a better nutritional balance as the top reasons to choose commercial pet food over homemade pet food. Hochgesang also recommended pet owners buy brands that are AAFCO approved.

A recent article from www.examiner.com , (an often radical, commercial pet food condemning website) outlined several reasons why pets should not be fed food intended for humans. Among the reasons included:

  • Pet food is specially formulated for pets, so people food may cause them to miss out on nutrition;
  • Table scraps are additional empty calories, leading to pet obesity and other health problems; and
  • Some foods that are consumable by humans are toxic for cats and dogs, such as dairy products.
  • The best way to ensure animals get adequate nutrition is to find a quality pet food pets enjoy and stay consistent, the article recommended, much like Dr. Hochgesang suggests.

Benefits for pets and people  

As the status of pets continues to rise, many pet owners seem willing to put more time into preparing meals for their pets. Their motivations might include, according to Tim Phillips, DVM:

  • Giving their pets more pleasure at mealtime;
  • Using variety to prevent boredom;
  • Adding variety in hopes of providing a more diverse and complete nutrient intake;
  • Being convinced properly formulated raw diets supply all the essential nutrients we know about and do not know about;
  • Believing fresh is better;
  • Strengthening the bond with their pet; and
  • Enjoying the satisfaction of home preparation.

Mixers, dehydrated and fresh pet foods provide the opportunity for pet parents to prepare their pet's food at home, but still buy the balanced ingredients and nutritionally-approved recipes from the local pet food aisle.

Getting involved  

Several companies are catering to these pet owners who want to get more involved with feeding their pets.

Nature's Variety  offers several products for implementing its "rotation diet" concept. Pet owners can feed various protein types (beef, chicken and salmon) and forms (raw, dry and wet).

In May 2008  Vitakraft , the German feed and pet food company, introduced "Mix It" dog and cat foods throughout Europe. The idea is to provide variety without having to change the main food.
Wild Kitty sells a "Homemade Cat Food Kit." With the kit, cat owners can make raw or cooked cat food using boneless poultry.

Sojourner Farms  offers three "natural pet food mixes." Pet owners add meat and water to one of the mixes for "fresh, homemade petfood in minutes."

Developed by a group of veterinary nutritionists,  Balance IT  is a web-based veterinary nutrition software that is used by veterinarians along with a line of Balance IT supplements. It enables veterinarians to try new concepts in nutritional therapies with homemade petfood recipes.

The Honest Kitchen  is a family owned pet food company, based in San Diego, California, USA. It sells freeze-dried petfoods containing a combination of raw and cooked ingredients. Pet owners add water and their pet's choice of vegetables, fruits and raw or cooked meats.

Synergy Dehydrated Vegetable Mix from  Canine Caviar  contains no dyes, preservatives or chemicals. The mix can be blended with frozen protein or canned foods. Ingredients include peas, carrots, pumpkin and red pepper.

The Missing Link  Wellness Blend from Designing Health contains omegas 3, 6 and 9, phyto nutrients and probiotics. The product can be added to the dog's or cat's food daily, by simply sprinkling the powder over their regular diet.

Opportunity calling  

What's next? If the market continues to develop, which seems likely, we can expect to see more major marketers of traditional commercial diets adding high-involvement petfoods to their product lines.

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