Fresh foods are healthiest, but not everyone has the time, budget, and experience to make balanced homemade meals for their pets. Offering your pet nutrient-dense add-ins are the next best thing.
Raw Meaty Bones
Raw meaty bones are the most effective way to clean your pet’s teeth, and they tend to be safer than store-bought chew bones. There are two types of raw meaty bones: edible and recreational.
Edible bones can be eaten in their entirety. Your pet’s stomach acids will break them up so they can pass safely through the digestive system. Bones provide calcium and make your pet’s stools firm, though they can cause constipation if you feed too many. Bones should make up ten percent or less of your pet’s kibble-based diet.
For small dogs and cats, try raw chicken or duck wings, necks, and feet. Feet contain cartilage, which is high in glucosamine chondroitin, so they can prevent or relieve arthritis. If your dog is medium to large, they can only eat small bones if you’re certain they won’t try to gulp them down without chewing. Larger bones include duck and turkey necks, pork tails, ribs, chicken quarters, and chicken backs.
Recreational bones are not meant to be eaten, just chewed on. They should have plenty of meat on them so your pet can “floss” by tearing meat and tendons from them. These should be larger than your pet’s head. For a cat or Chihuahua, a turkey leg can be a recreational bone. For a larger dog, try beef and lamb ribs, heads and legs.
Always supervise your dog while they eat bones, and be prepared to take it away if they are in danger of swallowing large pieces. Trade the bone for a meaty treat to teach your dog to happily give up their oh-so-valuable bone. Never feed cooked or smoked bones, as these dry up and splinter even when cooked at low temperatures.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that naturally populate the gut, contribute to digestion and boost your pet’s immune system.
Dairy sources of probiotics are popular for pets. In small amounts, they should work well, but some animals are lactose intolerant. Serve a teaspoon of plain, sugar-free Greek yogurt or kefir per ten pounds of body weight. Dairy-free sources of probiotics include fermented veggies and kombucha.
Fruits and Veggies
Cats are obligate carnivores, while dogs are omnivores. If you want to add fresh foods to your cat’s diet, it’s best to stick with bone-in and boneless meats. Dogs benefit from a small percentage of produce in their diet.
Dogs cannot digest most plant matter. That’s why, if you feed your dog a carrot, you’ll see orange chunks in their stool. In order for your dog to absorb nutrients from fruits and veggies, you must steam or puree them before feeding.
The easiest way to do this is to make smoothies for your dog. You can freeze extra in an ice cube tray so you can feed a small amount each day. Your smoothie can contain carrots, apples, blueberries, spinach, kale, celery, pumpkin puree, and bell peppers, in any combination.
Fish and Fish Oil
Fish oil is a convenient way to add omega-3 fatty acids to your cat or dog’s diet. It can make your pet’s coat softer and relieve inflammation, particularly from arthritis. Fish oil supplements come in pump bottles or tablets that you can break open and pour over your pet’s food. It has to be refrigerated, and must be used within 90 days once open.
You can also try giving your pet whole, raw sardines, found in the frozen section at your grocery store. Smelt is an even smaller fish that you can feed. Try to find the fish with all innards intact, if possible.
If you cannot find fresh fish, you can also try feeding tinned sardines and salmon. Make sure they are packed in water, not oil, and no added salt.
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