From supplements to raw food, we’re talking animal nutrition.

By Hannah Harper
October 11, 2019

Should my pet be taking any supplements?

In all likelihood, that’s not necessary. “The average pet does not need any supplements when being fed a good-quality diet,” says Cailin Heinze, VMD, DACVN, adjunct associate professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Massachusetts. Pet food is formulated for different life stages and will provide cats or dogs with all of the specific nutrients they need at the time, like antioxidants for aging cats or extra protein for puppies. Plus, giving your pet a surplus of nutrients can be toxic. For example, dogs can overdose on vitamin D. If you are concerned that your pet’s diet is lacking something, talk to your vet, who can determine if your furry friend could use a boost.

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I’ve been hearing lots about raw food for dogs—what is that all about?

You’re right, there has been some buzz about raw-food diets. They consist of uncooked meat, raw eggs, dog-safe fruits and veggies, and some dairy. Advocates for this diet say that benefits include shinier coats, healthier skin, and increased energy. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, there’s a catch. Raw meats have very high bacterial-contamination rates and can sometimes carry dangerous bacterial diseases, like salmonella or listeria. Because of this, the American Veterinary Medical Association has taken a formal position against the raw-food diet. “It not only puts your pet at risk but it’s also a human health risk. Your pet eats the raw chicken and then is sleeping in your bed, drooling on your pillow; you may as well have rubbed that raw chicken on your pillow and climbed in,” says Heinze. And here’s another thing to keep in mind: According to experts, the benefits of the raw-food diet come from the high fat and protein content rather than the raw factor. So lightly cooking the meat to a safe internal temperature would still allow your dog to reap any perks—without the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria.

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Speaking of cooking for my pet, are home-cooked meals best?

Most store-bought offerings do a good job of providing a balanced meal for your fur baby. So doing the homemade thing isn’t necessarily better. You certainly can try it if you want; just understand that it can be costly and take a lot of time. Also be aware that many people don’t know what their pet needs nutrition-wise—and feeding cats and dogs without that knowledge can put their health at risk. Plus, there are a lot of foods that are good for humans but dangerous for animals—like grapes, garlic, avocado, and more. Because of this, vets recommend working with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to determine what your pet requires and come up with a regimen that will work. One option that may appeal to you: Try a pet meal delivery service. For example, Pet Plate lets you fill out info about your animal, then they come up with a perfect meal plan, cook the meals, and flash-freeze before shipping them to you.

RELATED: A Grain-Free Diet May Not Be Good for Pets

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