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Some turn to DIY dog food after recent pet recalls

Thursday - 2/20/2014, 10:51am  ET

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Sierra enjoys a dish of Marvelous Mutt Meatballs from Arden Moore's Real Food for Dogs in this February 7, 2007 photo. While many barely find time to cook for themselves, some are finding the time to cook meals for their pets. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
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Making food for Fido

Katy Nelson talks to WTOP's Mark Lewis and Bruce Allen

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WASHINGTON - There were a record number of pet food recalls in 2013 from both small companies and large manufacturers, alike. And this growing, risky list is causing concern among pet owners, many of whom are reassessing what they feed their pets.

According to Katy Nelson, veterinarian and host of "The Pet Show with Dr. Katy," the recent recalls have caused some to forgo store-bought pet food, altogether, and instead, make their own.

But this DIY approach could be more complicated than some think.

"There's a lot that goes into those commercial diets as far as vitamins, minerals, you know, basic nutrients And so when you discontinue the use of one of the commercial diets, you have to make up for that in your food, as well," says Nelson, who adds that those interested in making their own food should first consult with a veterinarian.

"You need to have the proper amount of vitamins and minerals. Pets have a very different nutritional requirement than we do."

Cooking for Your Pet

If you decide to make your pet's food, Nelson says there are some things to consider, such as the time commitment and the cost of buying and preparing fresh ingredients.

"If you're going to do this, I would recommend you make an appointment with your vet. Sit down and talk about it, and really assess whether you've got the time, patience and commitment to do this, because it's not going to be a simple thing," Nelson says.

A dog's meal should consist of a protein, a carbohydrate and a fat. Nelson says a typical meal might be made up of something along these lines: cooked ground beef (85 percent lean), blueberries, brown rice, pine nuts and spinach, plus whatever vitamin or supplement is required for the pet.

Pet food you make at home will stay fresh for three to five days, and food stored in the freezer will last two to three weeks.

Worried about a picky eater? Nelson says pets' palates are much less refined than people's.

"They're more than likely going to love pretty much anything you cook for them, and they think it's people food, so they think it's a treat," she says.

Other Fresh Food Options

If cooking meals at home is too much of a commitment, but you still want to feed your pet fresh food, Nelson says a good option is to buy fresh food, sold in the refrigerated sections at many pet stores.

"You can use those and not have to do this big cooking experiment every two or three days," Nelson says.

Again, she recommends talking with your veterinarian to hear more about their experiences with foods and what they recommend for your pet's specific needs.

WTOP's Rachel Nania contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter and on the WTOP Facebook page.

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