What to Feed Your Pet

Two authoritative books about pet food and nutrition reveal surprising information and enable pet owners to make better choices.

| April/May 2007


We love our pets, and while the recent news about pet food recalls has left many concerned and confused, it's easy to learn how to make the best food choices for our beloved companions.


With the recent pet food recalls, many pet owners are concerned about the contents, quality and regulation of cat and dog foods. Many are considering natural or organic pet foods, or even homemade meals for their four-legged companions.

Two authoritative books about pet food — particularly the problems with conventional foods and how to find healthier alternatives — are Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts about Pet Food and Protect Your Pet: More Shocking Facts, both by Ann N. Martin.

Over the course of more than 15 years of research and work with federal agencies, veterinarians, pet food companies and animal-rights groups, Martin discovered a disturbing reality of conventional pet foods that included chemicals, dyes and by-products, and sometimes a near dearth of nutritional value.

While the books' titles focus on the worrisome nature of the information found within them, the books also enable pet owners to make better choices with a wealth of helpful, positive information, such as:

  • the real diet and nutritional needs of your cat or dog, including necessary minerals, vitamins and nutrients
  • information on pet food companies that use ingredients closer in quality to that we'd expect for our food
  • questions to ask about pet foods in order to evaluate your options
  • vitamin and mineral supplements for your pets

Martin also discusses homemade pet food and offers recipes for feeding cats and dogs, including many from veterinarians and other experts. The recipes can be tailored for pets that have allergies, are picky eaters, or  need to lose a few pounds. Here are two samples:

Doggie Dinner: Spaghettiwith Meat Sauce

8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 pound hamburger, fried
4 medium mushrooms, cut into pieces
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup tomato juice

Mix hamburger with mushrooms, celery and chopped tomato. Stir in tomato juice. Pour over spaghetti and serve warm.

jeri kastner
6/20/2009 4:37:42 PM

My 14 yr old "puppy" started having siezures. The vet nearly killed her attempting to draw blood for tests, and my little girl was slipping from us quite quickly. I started extensive web-research. Overwhelming evidence suggested I change her diet from the "quality" commercial food that I've been feeding her for years. After a little more than 2 weeks, my girl has come back to me and so far, is siezure-free. I stabilized her on home-made beef, chicken, veggies & rice. Further research has led me to start feeding a RAW diet, which we are gradually changing over to. I have high hopes for her recovery! I was shocked & sickened by much of what I learned on the web regarding most commercially prepared pet foods-dry kibble OR canned. Read labels! Any food that includes "Meat By-Products" or "Animal By-Products" must be avoided. Read the definition of Meat By-Products on Wikipedia. BAD STUFF! Corn is a primary ingredient in most pet foods. It is un-digestible by dogs! Most grains cause allergy problems in dogs, as well. That includes the ever-popular rice that is recommended for most home-prepared pet food. And remember that the claim to be USDA inspected, doesn't necessarily mean that the company passed! There is a ton of information on the web for pet nutrition, but following are a few sites I found to be most useful & enlightening. The fluffy dog site includes information on toxic foods for dogs & why they are toxic--information requested by a previous poster--check out the "Articles" portion of the site. http://www.fluffydog.net/Articles.php http://www.seespotlivelonger.com/ http://www.canineseizuresbreakthroughs.com/r2.htm

leonie edge
2/14/2009 5:16:36 AM

I,too, cannot believe that such a well-established, well-thought-out magazine as MEN would push a cooked meat recipe for dogs. Please read Juliette de Baircli Levy's "The Herbal Handbook for Dog and Cat" - absolutely brilliant. I have proved this over decades, and my animals are disgustingly healthy. This is a woman who trained as a vet in London, and then, after WWII, travelled, with her champion afghan hounds, to the Middle East, where she learned all she could about looking after animals (she also has written "The Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable) from both gypsies and nomadic Arabs. She ended up teaching them. A film has been made about her and her work. I cannot recommend her work highly enough. I would suggest that if you want to buy her books, you will find them still in reprint after reprint, from Faber Publishers. Thankyou so much. Dominus tecum Leonie in Warrnambool, Australia

richard guevara
9/8/2008 9:35:45 PM

I have been using an organic dog food called Wenaewe for some time now. My dogs really enjoy it. It has some great ingredients which are organically grown in South America. Free samples are available from petfoodfreebies. Rick

june long
7/17/2007 12:00:00 AM

Dog Biscuit Recipe:1 1/2 C.flour, 1 1/2 C.whole wheat flour, 1 C rye flour,1 C oats, 1 C cornmeal,1 tsp garlic powder, 1 egg, 1/2 C canola oil, 1 can beef broth. Mix flours and all dry ingredients in Lg bowl. Add egg, oil, and beef broth. Mix till the dough can be rolled you may have to add more flour. Roll to 1/2" then cut with cookie cutter(desired shapes). Prick with fork halfway through ea. biscuit & bake on parchment lined cookie sheets for 2 hrs. at 300F. Turn off but leave in oven till they harden. Store for 3 mo. in plastic bags or freeze.

terri sullivan
7/15/2007 12:00:00 AM

I would like some homemade receipes for dog treats. Like Milk Bone type. I am very concerned about the food we all eat. Thank you.

craig moore
5/9/2007 12:00:00 AM

here's another good site on dog food recipes and the issues with commercial dog food dog food secrets , http://www.squidoo.com/dogfoodsecretsreview/

jason michaelson
4/18/2007 12:00:00 AM

John Miller's book has raw, all-natural dog food recipes. It is at http://homemadehealthypetfood.com/homemade-dog-food-recipes/

kimberly smith_2
4/18/2007 12:00:00 AM

Well, MTerp, potatoes are a member of the nightshade family, so yes, they are potentially toxic. They just need to be cooked thoroughly, and don't ever let a dog have a green, raw tater, or eat at the plant itself. There are several commercial foods that I can think of that use potatoe in their formulas, so no, they aren't that toxic, used properly. But, if ANY thing, in any one form is toxic, then it is listed as being toxic, but specifics are often left out, leaving many to think that a lot of herbs and foods are actually toxic for people, dogs, cats, what have you. It pays to dig as deep as you can when you have questions, and get ALL the facts and details before making a choice on any matter.

mary terp
4/16/2007 12:00:00 AM

Well, Potatoes can't be deadly - my dog was on a fish and potato diet specifically. After this recall I switched our two large (adult poodle and lab) dogs to half packaged dry food (touchy feely super expensive stuff, organic, whole ingredients, etc) and half a home-made mix of 40% meat, 30% vegs and 30% starch. I do chicken, rice and carrots and also hamburger, barley & peas. We feed kitchen scraps EXTENSIVELY - lots of lettuce, they LOVE lettuce! My theory is that their diet should have lots of variety. It's a little scary to think that all their nutrition would come from one source - where if that one source should be tainted (such as melamine in the wheat gluten!) it has a huge impact on them. KSmith is right, the veggies seem to just come right out. They love the new diet and seem fine so far. However, I'm suffering from MAJOR guilt issues. #1 - for myself - I am committed to only eating local, humanely raised and organic meats, and almost no meat for that matter. And here I am buying .40 per pound chicken at the walmart super center. Seems contrary. And #2 - I'm feeding food to my dogs that starving people should be eating. Just seems plain wrong.

urlene gennel
4/9/2007 12:00:00 AM

So why the heck are we buying wheat gluten from China?

cyndi burwell
4/9/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have been searching for alternate foods for my dog children and the foods listed as harmful to dogs includes tomatoes, garlic, onions, grapes, rasins, some nuts, avacado, apples, and potatoes. Could some one please find a Vet that knows all of the foods that are REALLY bad for dogs. I've read comments from people that apples are bad, the seeds I know are poison as are any fruit seed. I have been giving my children apples, fruit cocktail, (no grapes but,I used to)all vegs, I also heard eggplant is deadly. I think maybe some dogs are allergic to the foods that are on the deadly list and because of their reactions people think they are deadly for all dogs. Mine have also had milk chocolate and coffee and are still alive. How do they know these foods kill? Do they do testing on dogs with these foods and let them die just to find out? I heard thats what they did with the recalled foods, they fed them to like 50 dogs and some of them died and some suffered kidney damage. They did this to double check to make sure it was their food that was causing the deaths. I read that in one of the reports on line. How cruel and heartless can you get, lets do testing on the sweet animals that we are accused of killing with our food and if they die then it is our food. I bet none of them have pets, if they do I pitty the poor babies. When will humans quit testing on animals and start using humans. Why test a cosmetic on an animals skin, when it is going to be used on a human? Just use a human, how about death row inmates? Sound inhumane? Well so is testing on animals, it needs to stop.

kimberly smith_2
4/9/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have been feeding a raw, prey model diet to my cats and dogs for over 6 years. I raise their rabbit and poultry, and buy beef, goat, and lamb for them on occasion. I feed the rabbit and poultry, fur, feathers, and all to the dog. The cats are a bit more fickle, and will only eat it cleaned. I will NEVER go back to any kind of kibble again. I do give my dog cooked meats, that have been chunked and frozen for treats/rewards, but it is not a mainstay of his diet. I would NEVER feed him, or the cats, any kinds of grains, but the dog does enjoy some veggies/fruits from the garden, such as carrots, strawberries, and he picks his own blackberries each summer off our wild vines. Something funny? He poops nearly all of it straight out. From my observations, he actually digests and used very little of anything but his raw meat and bones. The cats enjoy fresh, pureed squash on occasion, and it does seem to assist with hairball issues.

june long
4/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

I thought that mushrooms were not to be given to dogs, why was it in the recipe for Doggie Dinner? Thank You June Long

johna delano
4/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

Your dog/cat food recipes shouldn't have wheat-based noodles in them at all. Try rice noodles,the give the same texture and none of the wheat related problems. In the above article you flag wheat then have it in a recipe? Talk about mixing signals!!

g t
4/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

I am also surprized at the listed recipies. I thought it was pretty common knowledge among animal owners that cats are exclusively meat eaters and dogs can tolerate some veggies, but also are basically meat eaters. Would love to see some better recipies posted.

4/6/2007 12:00:00 AM

I thought powdered milk was a big "no-no". I can understand the tomato being good for my dog -I give them a little to nuetralize urine acids, vit. C and they like it. I'm with BQueen - the more "prey-like" their food is - the better.

buffy queen
4/6/2007 12:00:00 AM

I was almost shocked to see the pet food recipes you published. A dog's natural diet is raw meat, with some bones and organs. A cat's natural diet is the same. To offer "recipes" that have cooked meat, grains, and veggies as being anywhere near natural is a joke. Maybe it's healthier than the usual junk that passes as dog or cat food, because it's fresher, but it isn't something that meets Mother Earth standards as natural or normal. There are several websites that offer the "prey" diet, which basically shares how to feed your pets a healthy, natural diet. Check it out.

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