In the wake of the recent pet food recalls the idea of home-cooked pet food has grown in appeal to some pet owners. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) warns that preparing a meal for a pet at home is no simple task.

While our pets are an important part of American households, they have very unique nutritional needs. Most importantly, the AVMA warns pet owners against feeding pets table scraps or human food in lieu of commercial pet food. Many foods that humans love to eat can be deadly if ingested by pets.

"Table scraps should definitely not be a part of your pet's diet," said AVMA President Roger Mahr, DVM. "Gravies, meat fats and poultry skin can readily cause stomach and intestinal upsets, and even lead to a life-threatening condition called pancreatitis in dogs. Bones will splinter when chewed and cannot be digested by the animal's system. Chocolate can be poisonous to them, but it tastes good so pets will eat it if they have the opportunity. Dark chocolate used in baking is particularly dangerous to pets, and xylitol - a common sweetener in baked goods - has been linked with liver failure and death in dogs."

The AVMA does not recommend that people attempt to prepare home-cooked meals for their pets because pet nutrition is very complicated and unique to species and individual animals. If you are certain you wish to cook for your pet, the AVMA does recommend you first consult with your veterinarian and do some research on appropriate diets for your pet. A pet owner should only consider recipes for pet food that are developed for dogs or cats by veterinarians or trained professionals in animal nutrition.

Dr. Tony Buffington, DVM, Ph.D., an Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor of clinical sciences and a member of the AVMA, agrees that preparing food for your pet can be tricky. In the event a pet owner is determined to make pet food at home, he recommends Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative by Dr. Donald Strombeck as a good cookbook for pets. Dr. Buffington also recommends www.petdiets as one the best Web sites on home-cooked pet diets.

But Dr. Buffington also cautions that it is hard to match the balanced pet diets provided with commercial pet foods in a home-cooked meal for pets, because commercial foods are formulated by professionals trained in veterinary nutrition.

"If your pet is healthy and doing well on the pet food it is currently eating, and the food is not on the recalled products list, there is no reason to change their diet," said Dr. Mahr.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 75,000 member veterinarians engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. AVMA members are dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine including its relationship to public health and agriculture. Visit the AVMA Web site at www.avma to learn more about veterinary medicine and animal care and to access up-to-date information on the association's issues, policies and activities.


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