5. Cautioning about home-cooked diets
Despite the availability of many complete and balanced commercial diets prepared by companies with proven reputations, some
people choose to cook for their pets. While these clients may have the best intentions, problems can occur when essential
nutrients are not included in the home-cooked food. To help them understand the tremendous commitment involved in such a diet,
inform them how difficult it is to provide the appropriate proportion and quality of protein, including specific amino acids,
vitamins, and minerals.
Strongly discourage clients from feeding a home-cooked diet to puppies and kittens, as many recipes available have not been
adequately tested to ensure the nutrients needed for growth are present. Be sure to emphasize that they should avoid raw-food
diets. If a client still wants to feed a home-cooked diet to an adult pet, he or she should be directed to a reliable resource.
http://PetDiets.com/ are two websites developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists. Tell clients the recipes found on these sites must
be strictly adhered to when preparing, because eliminating or substituting ingredients could severely unbalance the diet.
Clients want to feed their pets appropriately. As veterinary professionals, technicians can help by assessing a pet's nutritional
needs, then educating owners on sound nutritional practices that can enhance a pet's qualify of life for years to come.
What "complete and balanced" means
When a commercial pet food is labeled "complete and balanced," it means the diet contains all the essential nutrients at levels
that meet a pet's requirements. A claim of "complete and balanced" must gain the approval of the Association of American Feed
Control Officials (AAFCO). Companies may use this claim on their labels if it can be substantiated in one of two ways.
The first option requires the pet food to undergo a series of stringent AAFCO-approved feeding trials. The second method requires
the food be formulated to meet the minimum and maximum concentrations of nutrients established by the AAFCO's Nutrient Profiles
for Dog and Cat Foods. For more on this, visit
Charlotte Higgins, CVT, is a nurse practitioner in nutrition at the MJ Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
She's also a member of the organizing committee of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians, which was recently recognized
as a veterinary technician specialty.