Many of us take the time to ensure that our plates are filled with fresh, wholesome foods. Doesn’t your favorite pooch or preferred tabby deserve the same consideration in its food bowl?

“Feeding your pet a fresher, more natural diet takes a little time and effort. It’s certainly not as easy as opening a bag of kibble. But once you understand which ingredients to use and how to put them together, you’ll see that it’s not so difficult. Also you’ll be rewarded by seeing your pet’s health improve,” encourages Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., and his wife, Susan, in their book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

“Many pet owners don’t realize the importance of good nutrition for their pet. So often they buy whatever’s on sale – without realizing that it may be at the expense of their pet’s health,” Sandi Statter, D.V.M., a veterinarian in practice in Portland, Ore., recently told Better Nutrition.

If your dog or cat seems to be having diet-related health problems, switching to homemade meals, even if it is only for a few meals a week, can really make a difference.

However, Statter reminds pet owners and would-be animal-chefs that you have to make sure that you have a good, nutritionally complete recipe designed for your species of pet and that you follow the directions of that recipe to the letter, for the sake of your pets nutritional health.,,

Look for recipes especially for dogs & cats

Finding recipes designed for dogs and cats is important. Remember, dogs and cats are different species from humans, and, consequently, they have different dietary requirements than we do. This is why it is unhealthy to feed your pet exclusively on table scraps. For example, a cat fed only table scraps may have trouble meeting its need for the amino acid, taurine. Perhaps a more common risk of feeding your pet table scraps on an ongoing basis is that it may develop gastrointestinal upset.

Statter shared with us recipes for hypoallergenic diets that would meet the needs of virtually any dog or cat. These homemade hypoallergenic diet plans are especially beneficial for animals reacting to allergens in manufactured pet foods, such as milk, wheat, artificial flavors, and dyes. There are also pet diets designed for weight loss, low sodium intake, and for enhanced digestibility.

Hypoallergenic Diet for Dogs

1/4 lb. diced lamb 1 cup cooked white rice 1 tsp. vegetable oil 1 1/2 tsp. dicalcium phosphate (or bone meal) Vitamin and mineral supplement designed for dogs

Trim fat from lamb. Cook thoroughly (braise or roast) without seasoning. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Keep covered in refrigerator. Feed enough to maintain normal body weight.

Hypoallergenic Diet for Cats

1/4 lb. diced lamb 1 cup cooked white rice 1 tsp. vegetable oil 1 1/2 tsp. dicalcium phosphate (or bone meal) 1/8 tsp. KCI (salt substitute) Vitamin and mineral supplement designed for cats and 250 mg taurine daily

Trim fat from lamb. Cook thoroughly (braise or roast) without seasoning. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Keep covered in refrigerator. Feed enough to maintain normal body weight.

Any diet changes for your four-footed friends should be introduced gradually. Less healthy animals, in particular, may be finicky and resistant to changing from their regular brand of food – even if the change is for the better.

You may find it useful to add about a quarter of the “new” food to three-quarters of the “old” food, and continue to add more of the homemade food over the course of a couple of weeks until your pet adjusts to the dietary change.

Consult your veterinarian if your pet’s health does not improve or worsens on the homemade diet, but chances are your efforts will be rewarded with a healthier, happier dog or cat. in addition, check out the variety of pet supplements available at the health food store.