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Omaha Magazine

Are Natural Foods Better for Our Pets?

Oct 27, 2020 08:23AM ● By Patrick McGee
cocker spaniel puppy head, pink/blue background

Are commercial foods sold at pet stores what’s best for furry family members? Or should our pets be fed natural foods prepared at home? Store-bought foods boast balanced nutrition and simple feeding instructions but typically contain fillers, preservatives, and processed and mystery ingredients. Homemade pet foods are fresh and more natural, but might not meet your animal’s nutritional needs. The answer to which is best is not so simple, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Dr. Pete Bashara of Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals said there is little conclusive scientific information about homemade pet foods. It can be difficult for home preparers to compete with consumer-end products that have formulas optimized for your pet’s health. For those who wish to try their hands at meal prepping for their pets, there are great resources such as the website balanceit.com that offer guidance on incorporating essential nutrients, Bashara said.

The balanceit.com interface presents 36 widely available protein options to choose from (with pork and chicken among the best sources of protein); 16 carbohydrate options (with oats, rice, and quinoa being excellent options); 16 common vegetables; 16 common fruits; and 16 oils/fats. With the interface, there will be little guesswork as to what meals pet owners can feed pets and which foods to avoid. Pet owners can also rest assured that giving dogs family meal leftovers, such as green beans, is not harmful.

The site also allows users to input information, such as a pet’s health problems or allergies, or food products that may be inappropriate in the home, to find a balanced diet that meets the needs of the pet and household. Recipes and recommended food supplements, such as custom mineral packs, organ meats, or bone meal that can be added to food to help meet the animal’s dietary requirements, are also listed on the site. Supplements are available for purchase through balanceit.com's online store. 

Pet owners can, hypothetically, serve their animals what the rest of the family is having for dinner using the same ingredients with a few adjustments for proper pet nutrition. For example, if the family dinner consists of salmon and quinoa served over a spinach and kale salad, one could consult balanceIt’s interface to determine that their canine can safely eat the same healthy meal (minus embellishments such as vinaigrette and salt), with the addition of BalanceIt Canine, a dietary supplement for dogs.

Bashara reports that pet owners he’s referred to balanceit.com have given it great reviews. Prepping meals for pets becomes as simple as normal food prep. Homemade pet food can be valuable not just to the animal, but also to the owner. “People have to make decisions about feeding their [animal] family members as if they are feeding themselves,” Bashara said. “We feel better about how we feed them.”

While scientific data backing up homemade pet food may be lacking, Bashara said he feels reassured by good results shared by his clients. “I don’t care how we got there, as long as the [pet] patient has benefitted,” he said. Nevertheless, he warns pet owners not to blindly follow recommendations or nutritional trends found online. “We must make sure we are understanding why we are doing the things that we do,” Bashara said of pet nutrition. Balanceit.com is a useful tool for doing just that. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.