Dr. Shawn Messonnier, host of Martha Stewart Living Radio's "Dr. Shawn, the Natural Vet" and a holistic pet care expert, explains how to ensure your pet is getting the healthiest, most nutritious foods available.
"The best food is natural or organic," Dr. Shawn says. Look at the label to make sure the food doesn't contain byproducts (like chicken byproduct or chicken byproduct meal) or chemical preservatives (BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin). Read the label carefully, as many brands of food are now coming out with their own version of "natural foods" that are not as natural as their names suggest.
Homemade vs. Store-Bought
The choice between dry, canned, raw, homemade, or freeze-dried foods is up to the pet owner -- all of them can be alternated. However, cats usually do better if fed mainly or only canned or homemade food.
"It is true that ANY food, whether it's raw, cooked, or processed, can become contaminated with bacteria," Dr. Shawn says. In people and in pets, most cases of food poisoning occur because of improper storage and handling. If you make your pet's food, make sure you freeze the meat and only thaw out enough for a few meals. Don't leave raw food out in pet bowls for more than 30 minutes (though you probably won't have to worry, since most dogs devour their meals quickly). Wash all utensils, as well as the vegetables and fruit you serve.
Find examples of Dr. Shawn's favorite homemade diets in his book, "The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats."