How to Make Your Dog's Meals Nutritious - and Fun

Getting it right at meal time isn’t always easy for busy dog owners. There’s a tendency to grab a bag of store-bought dog food, pour it in the bowl and be done with it.

“I’ve seen 18-year-old dogs that have been fed nothing but commercial food all their lives,” says veterinarian Dani McVety.

Some of those store-bought brands do have a balanced mixture of nutrients that can serve a dog well, she says, but it’s even more beneficial when people can add such supplements as fish oil or vegetables to their pet’s diet.

“What we put into our own bodies is important, and the same is true for our dogs,” McVety says.

Devoted owners can, on occasion, even take the time to cook their dogs a meal, much like they would for any family member.

Kris Rotonda does that sometimes. He has three dogs – Coco, Kobe and Jordan – that he gives home-cooked meals as a special treat.45

Rotonda’s interest in his dogs’ meal-time habits even inspired him to develop a creation he calls the PupPot (, a cooking, serving and storage system for preparing those homemade doggie meals.

There’s certainly something to be said for Rotonda’s approach, and it goes beyond the nutritional aspects, McVety says. “Cooking for our pets increases the bond we have with them and increases the time we spend with them,” she says. It’s also a good way to know exactly what’s in the animal’s meal because you are adding each ingredient. Just what, and how much, to feed a pet varies, though. A certain amount of trial and error is involved as you settle on the right amounts and the balance of nutrients, McVety says.

“But as long as it’s a balanced diet that your vet recommended,” she says, “then the benefits of cooking for your pet can be immeasurable.”

McVety offers a few tips on how to make the most out of your dog’s meal:

• Mixing it up. Deciding whether to prepare a meal at home or opt for a commercial dog food instead doesn’t have to be an either/ or thing. McVety likes mixing things up with her own dog, with about half the daily calories coming from a balanced commercial dog food and the other half from ingredients she provides. Salmon is one of her favorite things to include in the meal rotation because of its anti-inflammatory properties, she says. She also likes to add eggs, along with vegetables such as carrots. “If it’s healthy for us, generally it’s going to be relatively good for them,” she says.

• Beware of allergies. Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to certain foods. In some cases, they develop allergies to the proteins in commercial dog foods. “That may or may not be because of the quality of the dog food they are getting,” McVety says. “That’s why I prefer organic.” If you are adding something new to your dog’s diet, introduce it slowly so you can monitor the dog’s reaction.

• Check with your vet. Ultimately, your dog may have specific diet needs based on its breed, health history or other factors. “It’s important to work through a veterinarian because we understand the physiology of the animal,” McVety says.

Dr. Dani McVety, a hospice veterinarian, is a speaker, consultant, author, and host for PetCareTV. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and is the youngest recipient of the college’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award (2013). She also was the recipient of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s President’s Award (2014). She is co-founder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, the largest network of veterinarians dedicated solely to end-of-life veterinary care.

Kris Rotonda, an entrepreneur and creator of the PupPot (, owns three dogs. He and his fiancée, Denise Fernandez, host the Puppy Cooking Network on Youtube. Rotonda also created , a dating website that matches dog owners with other dog owners.

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