Cooking for Your Pet

New Pet Owners  •  Pam Karkow  •  Thursday, May 7, 2020

Recently, I was talking to a friend whose mother-in-law had taken care of her children, furry ones included, when she and her husband were out of town.  She mentioned loving it when her MIL visits because she does all the laundry and cooks up a storm.  She even cooks for the dogs.  And by cooking for the dogs, I mean not just scrambling a few eggs--we’re talking beef stew in the crock pot!

This got me thinking, how many of us cook for our pets?  And is it really ok for them to be eating people food?  Most pets eat the same food day in and day out, and I feel certain if I had to do the same thing, I would be bored to tears.  So maybe we should give them some variety in their diet.  But there are some dangerous foods for pets that may cause your pet to become sick and some are downright toxic. Before you pamper your pet with a homemade meal, let’s discuss some dos and don’ts of sharing meals with your four-legged friends.

What NOT to feed your pet:

  • Foods with high fat content.   Avoid fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, dark chicken meat and skin.  Also, be careful with dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream.  Finally, certain oils (coconut, palm, and cocoa butter) can be dangerous for your pet.  Pancreatitis is a risk when dogs and cats ingest fatty foods their bodies are not used to.
  • Onions, grapes, raisins, and chocolate.  Onions and onion powder will destroy your cat or dog’s red blood cells and lead to anemia.  Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that can lead to kidney damage in dogs and cats, and chocolate can be fatal to pets.
  • Xylitol, which is an ingredient in more foods than you realize.  Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be found in packaged goods and baking mixes, jams, syrups, and condiments.  It can even be found in protein bars and powders, peanut butter and nut butter.  Most people don't cook with this sugar substitute, but diabetics often do. Anything with xylitol can be deadly to your dog.

What to cook for your pet

  1. Homemade Dog Biscuits:  Lower in calories than the store-bought kind, and loaded with protein and vitamins, these homemade dog biscuits are good for all kinds of dogs, even ones struggling to maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Pumpkin + Pumpkin seeds: Oils found in pumpkin seeds support urinary health.  The seeds are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory effects.  Just scoop the seeds out of a pumpkin, sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt, and roast in your oven.
  3. Cooked Vegetables:  Carrots, green beans, and sweet potatoes without butter or any seasonings are healthy, tasty snacks for your pet. See Healthy Snack Ideas for Dogs and Cats for more options and to see a list of veggies to avoid. 

Pet-safe foods

The important thing to remember when you are cooking for your pet is to stay on top of current research.  Most people know that chocolate is harmful to dogs, but don’t know how toxic xylitol is.  Xylitol has become a popular low-calorie substitute for sugar.  While the alternative sweetener may be ok in small doses for a human, it can cause hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis in dogs.  Just as you would when you are buying food for yourself, always read the labels. 

Prepare for the unexpected!

Even the most careful pet owners may find that their dog has eaten something he shouldn't! Consider enrolling in pet insurance before your dog finds trouble, so you can focus on the health of your dog rather than the cost of the veterinary care needed to get him back to feeling his best.


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