Special Edition: Supplements for Pets

Vet who advocates home cooking for pets says supplements play key role in keeping them healthy

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / humonia
Getty Images / humonia
The trend toward home cooking of pets meals continues unabated. But a prominent veterinarian cautions her clients not to forget the supplements while doing so.

Dr Judy Morgan, DVM has a holistic pet health care practice in New Jersey. She is also a pet food cookbook author, and sells supplements on her website, including a couple of self branded products that include deer antler velvet, green lipped mussel, propolis, and porphyra algae.  She has also blogged about the importance of other ingredients, such as CoQ10.

Dr Morgan said the trend toward home preparation of pets got a big boost from the melamine scandal of a number of years ago. In 2007, more than 100 pets died, with some estimates ranging far higher, when Chinese suppliers put the chemical in the pet food supply to fool protein tests.  More than 150 brands of dog and cat food were recalled at the time.

Millennials light fire under home cooking trend

Added to that is the trend among Millennials, soon to be the dominant demographic in the marketplace. A website dedicated to how companies market to these individuals says that a record 44% of millennials are unsure if they want to have children, but their rate of pet ownership tops all groups.

So there are more households with pets and with the time and disposable incomes to treat them more like people treated their kids in teh past.

dr morgan
Dr Judy Morgan DVM

Dr Morgan said the question of whether to cook for your pet is similar to making diet decisions for your human household members.

“Home cooking for your dog may sound extravagant, but the key to good health is proper nutrition and the truth is that processed foods are just as bad for pets as they are for humans,” ​Dr Morgan told NutraIngredients-USA.

“Millennials are becoming a huge part of the pet food population,”​ she said. “They have more of a desire to move into things that are natural and organic.”

Don’t forget the supplements

Dr Morgan said that feeding pets foods make with whole ingredients can be just as beneficial for them as it is for humans.  One interesting difference in the advice she gives to pet owners as opposed to the kind of recommendations human dietitians give to their human clients is that supplementation can play a key role in keeping pets healthy.

Many dietitians and doctors are not very friendly to the concept of dietary supplementation.  Everything should be available through the diet, and what’s really needed is finding ways to motivate people to make the proper choices, or so the thinking goes.  Supplementation, in this light, can almost be seen as negative by giving people a false sense of security for how much these products can make up for poor dietary habits.

Whole food improves health

Pets, on the other hand, are always in a position of eating what is supplied to them.  Dr Morgan said she sees improved pet health in most cases with owners who choose to prepare a diet for them at home.

“I definitely see improved pet health.  It’s just what you would see with humans when you take people who  were eating only processed and prepackaged food.  Some of these foods are really devoid of good nutrition.  Especially for the dried foods.  By the time they reach the home they have been highly processed and cooked at high temperatures multiple times,”​ she said.

Dr Morgan said she has long been a strong advocate for the role of supplement in pets’ diets.  Manufacturers are already adding back in some of the vitamins and nutrients that have been processed out of their foods.  Home cooks may need to do the same, even if they are trying to choose high quality ingredients, she said.

“I am a huge fan of supplementation,” she said. “In making our own pet food we need to add in things like calcium content.  Unfortunately, over the past century the quality on a lot of the food that is available now is not as good as it once was.  Soil has been depleted;  water in some regions can be fairly toxic. It’s difficult to get the same nutrient quality as we could years ago,”​ she said.

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