I am a Personal Chef to both Humans and Pets
As a personal chef for both humans and pets, I can face challenges with each one of my eaters. There is no one-size-fits-all package in my menu planning and food preparation whether they be man, dog, cat, bird or turtle. However, to achieve a person (or pet’s) optimal health and wellness, I do use the same philosophy of cooking – let me explain…
Where my human clients range from ages one to eighty-five, my pets range from two to fourteen years old. Whether a pet is very active or not, the next agility champ, retired working dog, or weighing in as the world’s largest cat – they all get a menu plan that improves the quality of their lives. I want my clients (human and other) to look, feel and be their very best! I cook with an attention to biological individuality, from birth through maturity.
The biggest challenge I face when cooking for pets is their human counterpart’s understanding of diet. I often face misinformation, skepticism, and fad followers from the “no carb” or “grain-free” to common myths about fats, proteins and the consumption of fruit. Often times, global ethics, religion, and politics can dictate how I approach a client’s nutrition. Some folks pursue a specific diet for their pets without first considering the natural diet of the animal itself and its true nutritional needs. According to Catherine Lane in her article called Perspectives on Canine Nutrition, “Food should be nutritionally balanced to meet the specific need of your breed, age, weight, activity level and overall physiology.”
That being said, I would like to clear up a few myths…
Comparison between food for humans vs pets
Pets may eat the same foods we do, but their nutrient requirements differ from those of humans. For example, dogs need a “high value protein” and far more calcium and other minerals proportional to their body weight than you and I. Calcium, especially the source of calcium, is of significant importance to pets on home-cooked and raw diets without supplements. For example: If you’re an animal lover (Ethicurian), vegetarian or vegan, it isn’t wise to try and persuade your kitty to give up her meat too. If you want to keep Fido strong enough to win his herding championship, fat-free low-carb won’t cut it.
Your pet’s diet
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, let it eat like a duck. As CJ Puotinen points out in The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care, “In the end, each owner makes a personal choice, and that choice must be respected. I hope that everyone who lives with a dog or a cat will let thousands of years of natural selection define their canine and feline menu planning.” That goes for birds, turtles, rabbits, horses and pigs, too.
How much to feed your pet
Some pets are fed free-choice, and eat only when they are hungry. Others are hungry all the time (you Labs know who you are!) Let your pet’s age, weight, activity and appetite help guide you. From birth through maturity, as well as seasonally, your pet’s nutritional needs change. They may also have a change in appetite as well as fluctuating weight loss and weight gain. This can be managed with a few considerations: Portion and calorie control coupled with the nutritional analysis of the foods’ protein, fat and carbohydrate content. The amount fed throughout the day should be determined in proportion to their life stage and level of activity. For example, growing puppies require twice as much energy (food) per pound of body weight as adult dogs. Puppies might eat three to four times a day, while older or overweight dogs expending a lower percentage of energy eat once or twice a day. Pets with special needs (pregnancy, lactation, diabetes, recovering from injury or surgery) require specific guidelines for feeding.
Carbs, Complex Carbs and Grains:
Carbohydrates are often thought of as grains, and only grains. However, carbohydrates can include vegetables, fruits and legumes. Feeding low-carb can be a healthy way to control blood sugar, but energy needs should also be considered. Working dogs may require more carbohydrates, and many can eat grains like rice, oats and quinoa. Complex carbohydrates provide a host of vitamins, minerals, fiber and even protein. Other carbohydrate-rich foods useful in our pets’ food include sweet potato, tapioca, peas, chickpeas and lentils, carrots, squashes, broccoli and cauliflower.
Fats can be a-okay
We want the right fat in the right proportions to your pet’s species, breed, body type and activity level. Cats and dogs differ in their requirements for quality and quantity of fats. Working and outdoor pets in cold weather climates need more calories from good fat in the diet. Animal fats and plant-based fats both have beneficial qualities, and are used in different proportions for different reasons.
Your canine companion and feline friend may benefit from fruit every now and then. However, cats and dogs differ in their likes and dislikes, as well as nutritional needs. Cats are true meat-loving carnivores. They need their animal protein. Dogs and humans, as omnivores, can eat more vegetables and some fruits. Because fruits are higher in simple carbohydrates – also known as sugars – I recommend limiting fruits to the lower-sugar varieties of apples, pears and berries. An occasional bite of banana, papaya or melon is fine as a treat.