A homemade diet for a dog or a cat: what benefits to expect?

Feeding your animal a homemade diet means fresh ingredients, well chosen, prepared and given in appropriate quantities. A homemade diet makes it possible to best cover the nutritional needs of dogs and cats  ...
If (and only if) well done and followed, a homemade diet is not only safe but it has several benefits...

A first good reason for giving a well formulated (and followed) homemade diet is that it gives the best chances of good health in the long term.

What are the other benefits to expect ...?

1- a (very) small amount of stools

The quantity of stools is very little when solely fed a homemade diet.
With a housemade diet, you can count on a surprisingly small quantity of droppings: for a cat only homemade fed, there can be only one saddle per day, and sometimes not every day. That's normal!

Why ?

The digestibility of a household ration is excellent, and it takes 2 to 3 times less stool than if your dog or cat eats mid-range dry or wet commercial food...

2- healthier skin, shinier and silkier hair less falls 

It is normal for a dog or a cat to lose hair continuously. But the better the diet, the better the quality of its skin and coat.

Why ?

The skin and the hair protein consumption counts for 30% of the total protein requirement ... It also produces sebum,  which protects the skin and contributes to the shine and luster of the hair. But these organs are not as vital as the heart muscle, for example. So in the event of a diet that does not cover all or not the need for proteins or amino acids, the skin is not a priority and the body "deprives" the skin of certain nutritional elements. This impacts the quality of secretions, and the quality of the hair. With a protein diet poor in quantity or quality, we can compensate with a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and this gives the illusion of good quality, the hair in particular benefits. But the skin, which is the body's first barrier against external pathogens, also hosts a large part of the body's immune system. And the contribution of a lot of protein (of quality) is much more effective in maintaining good immunity than the contribution of little protein to which one adds an amino acid or particular fatty acids ... The digestibility of a homemade diet is excellent, and you need 2 to 3 times less stool than if your dog or cat eats mid-range dry food.

3- Better satisfaction of appetite, thanks to the volume of food to eat

It is even often surprising: if you are used to feed kibble to your dog or cat, the amount of homemade diet may can appear enormous! But grams of kibble and grams of household diet are not comparable ...

Why ?

A fresh, homemade ration is normally moist: the food is not dehydrated as with kibble. Therefore, this means that there is more water in a household food than in kibble.
But it also means that the quantity consumed is greater, and consequently more satisfying to your pet.
To cover the same caloric intake, the amount of food consumed in grams in the bowl will be between 3 and 4 times greater with a homemade diet than with kibble.
Is it interesting?
Cats and dogs more and more often neutered, and with low activity such as on hour walk per day... In this context, the energy need to maintain optimal body weiht steady is very low (about 40% compared to an entire animal living in the garden).
Giving your pet a home cooked meal remains synonymous with being able to give a substantial volume, while limiting the caloric intake to the strict need.
It is quite satisfactory, and helps to avoid overweight or begging.

4- Making cat drink more without even noticing!

When it comes to the cat, a homemade diet is a mean to make it drink a lot more than if eating kibble and drinking at will.

Why ?

By eating a homemade diet, a cat can cover all its nutritional needs and, in addition, consume a lot of water. In a way, he eats the water, even if he drinks very little on the side.
For the same composition, a cat will ingest 30% more water when eating homemade diet and drinking almost none than when eating kibble an dinking on the side.
A cat that drinks more is a cat that urinates more, which is one of the factors promoting the good health of the cat's urinary system.

5- Vitality

 By consuming a fresh, homemade, well-balanced and adapted diet, many owners notice a better vitality of their dog and their cat. They seem more lively.

Why ?

Proteins and micronutrients (6 minerals, 12 vitamins, 6 trace elements) have varied roles, and in particular in all energy metabolism and in the transmission of signals between cells. Vegetables provides water and fiber, for a better digestive comfort.
A better diet covers all of these needs well, with hih quality ingredients, and individual adaptation to the needs.
Even if the quantities are low, the supply of micronutrients is vital and literally contributes to vitality, which includes senses (vision, hearing, smell), better body condition, better muscle tone, less fatigue, good reactivity to stress, better perception of the environment ... What we then perceive as better vitality!

6- Less risk of skin disorders (atopic dermatitis)  in dogs

> for puppies, if the bitch is fed a homemade diet during lactation 
A study has shown that feeding a lactating bitch with a homemade diet decreases the subsequent risk and therefore protects the puppies against the subsequent development of atopic dermatitis, and this in 3 high risk breeds - Boxer, Bullterrier & West Highland white terrier.

Why ?

During lactation, the mother breastfeeds, but the puppies also consume some of their mother's diet; this prepares their weaning.
Several hypotheses for the benefit of the homemade diet :
an intestinal flora closer to physiological with a more digestible household food therefore with less residues that arrive in the large intestine.
Also a better coverage of the nutritional needs of the mother, which would even allow a better quality of milk or better immunity.
It may also allow the diversification of the puppies' diet during their preparation for weaning as well, resulting in a better food tolerance then ...
We do not yet have the most relevant answer ... stay tuned...

References

Rutherfurd-Markwick KJ, Hendriks WH, Morel PC, Thomas DG. The potential for enhancement of immunity in cats by dietary supplementation. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2013;152(3-4):333-340 Nodtvedt et al. A case-control study of risk factors for canine atopic dermatitis among boxer, bullterrier and West Highland white terrier dogs in Sweden.
Vet Dermatol. 2007;18(5):309–315 Jaffey JA et al. Successful Long-Term Management of Canine Superficial Necrolytic Dermatitis With Amino Acid Infusions and Nutritionally Balanced Home-Made Diet Modification. Front Vet Sci. 2020 31;7:28.

Dr Vet Géraldine Blanchard

Find plenty of articles on homemade diet and nutrition for cats and dogs on cuisine-a-crocs'blog (in French)

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