A: Interest in home cooking for pets seems to be at an all-time high following the recall of so many brands of pet food made with tainted wheat gluten. The impulse is certainly understandable, but the execution can be tricky. Whipping up a doggie or kitty stew requires an understanding of your pet's nutritional needs as well as a significant investment of time. Like humans, dogs are omnivores, meaning that they eat both animal and plant foods, but cats are carnivores, they absolutely must have meat and are susceptible to nutritional deficiencies if they don't get properly balanced meals. While it may seem that dogs will eat anything, their needs for micro- and macronutrients have to be met by any home-cooked diet.
Although you can find recipes for home-cooked pet food on-line and in the numerous books on the subject, that doesn't necessarily mean that all of the recipes have been adequately tested or that they will be accepted by your cat or dog. One source I can vouch for is The Nature of Animal Healing, by Martin Goldstein, D.V.M., an extraordinary veterinarian who cooks for his own dogs and provides some recipes.
As you may know, I got involved with the pet food industry several years ago. My two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Jambo and Daisy, are part of my family, and it was very important to me to learn where their food came from. This led me to work with Pet Promise, a company committed to verifying the sources of the ingredients in its foods. Pet Promise has its own manufacturing facilities and operates them under strict guidelines. (I personally receive no money for my work with Pet Promise and donate all of my after-tax profits from royalties from the sale of Pet Promise products directly to the Weil Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting integrative medicine through training, education, and research.) I now give my dogs Pet Promise dry and wet foods.
If you want to cook for a pet, I urge you to talk to your vet or consult with a veterinary nutritionist about the individual needs of your companion animal and how those needs evolve with age. You'll also want to pay close attention to how much home-cooked food your pet should eat in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Andrew Weil, M.D.