Homemade and Raw Diets
More and more dog owners today are preparing homemade or raw diets for their animals. The draw of this type of diet is the ability to control the quality of ingredients and the desire to provide what seems to be a more natural diet for dogs. People who feed raw diets or homemade diets believe they provide better nutrition. They say their dogs have better health, beautiful coats, few or no skin problems, and great dental health. However, these are anecdotal claims, and no controlled scientific studies have been done to prove these benefits. Your pug may benefit from a homemade diet if he has food allergies, is sensitive to artificial dyes or preservatives, or has a particular health problem that requires a special diet. Factors to consider before feeding a homemade or raw diet include nutritional balance, time, expense, and safety.
Rotate the proteins, vegetables, and fruits you use so your pug receives a variety of nutrients. This will also keep him interested in his meals.
One of the concerns about homemade diets is that they aren't always nutritionally balanced. As you've learned, if ingredients aren't provided in proper proportions, the diet may not meet your pug's needs. It's possible, however, to design a nutritionally complete homemade diet for dogs if you use appropriate recipes from valid sources. There are a number of books on natural diets for dogs written by veterinary nutritionists or laypeople trained in nutrition (see Appendix B for suggestions).
If you choose to feed your pug a homemade diet for the health benefits, be prepared to use only the best and freshest ingredients, not leftovers from your own meals or scraps from the butcher. High-quality ingredients are expensive. This is especially true if you prefer to use organic meats and vegetables, which have the benefit of being grown without the use of potentially harmful antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides. Expect to spend as much as or more than you would for a premium commercial food.
Time Is Money
Commercial dog foods come ready to go in bags or cans. They're easy to measure out and feed. When you feed a homemade diet, you must purchase fresh ingredients on a frequent basis and prepare meals daily or every few days if you make a large batch and refrigerate or freeze it. Of course, this isn't a problem if you enjoy cooking and have plenty of time to spend in the kitchen. When time is a factor, an alternative is to purchase a commercial natural or raw diet from a pet supply store or by mail.
If you are considering feeding your pug a raw diet, you may be concerned about bacterial infection, either in yourself or in your dog. Infection from E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, listeria, and toxoplasmosis is possible, but following safe handling practices reduces the risk immensely. Remember that many of these bacteria live naturally in the intestinal tract of people and dogs.
Most meats purchased from the grocery store have bacteria present on or in them. That becomes a problem only when specific strains of specific disease-causing bacteria proliferate, usually because of unsafe handling practices.
If you're preparing a raw diet for your pug, follow these safe-handling practices:
Defrost meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
Wash your hands before and after touching raw meat.
Use hot, soapy water to clean and disinfect dishes, utensils, cutting boards, grinders, and other equipment used to prepare meals.
Refrigerate or freeze raw food if you don't plan to feed it immediately.