Feeding Your Best Friend

by Debra Daniels-Zeller

Pet food options have increased exponentially in the last several years and choices now include frozen raw foods, wild game… even grain-free kibble with enzymes, essential fatty acids and herbs! What’s best for your four-legged friends?

Many experts advocate home cooked or raw food diets for pets, but do your research before feeding a homemade diet. Dr. Anna Maria Gardner, a holistic veterinarian on the Olympic Peninsula, suggests a balanced, grain-free, raw food diet. For a transitional diet, try steamed grains, cooked vegetables and meat, then continue to transition by eliminating the grains. Gardner says dogs can eat a carefully planned vegetarian diet but “cats are naturally carnivorous and have higher protein requirements.” Before starting, Gardner recommends Dr. Pitcarin’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

Dr. Richard Panzer, a certified veterinary acupuncturist in Seattle, favors a cooked diet “Dogs have eaten leftovers for thousands of years,” Panzer says. Eating cooked foods is based on traditional Chinese medicine, which emphasizes cooked food. Panzer’s animals eat a soupy mixture of meat, potatoes, seasonal vegetables, with a little seaweed and yogurt. His lucky cat also gets smelt.

Homemade may be ideal, but in reality, most people will continue to feed their pets packaged foods. So how do you find a good one?

Packaged and Frozen
Look past the pretty pictures and idealized descriptions on labels, and no matter what you select, check pet food recalls on a regular basis.

Dr. Panzer said to look for identifiable ingredients, the fewer the better. Dr. Gardner says, “Steer clear of BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and artificial flavorings.”

Read Labels
Lower quality foods cost less because they are filled with corn, soy, unidentified meat by-products and preservatives–ingredients that may trigger allergies and even cause nutritional deficiencies over time. You also end up feeding more of cheaper varieties and picking up more waste. Higher quality foods are more digestible and are made with human grade and organic ingredients.

Many pet food experts today suggest adding healthy table scraps to processed diets. Dogs and cats like fresh fruits such as melon and apples, and raw and cooked vegetables. Experiment…they’ll let you know what they like!


4 to 5 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup molasses
1 to 1 1/2 cups water (or use apple cider for part
of the liquid)

Buckwheat Pumpkin Dog Biscuits


  1. Blend buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, cinnamon and salt, in a large bowl. Mix well.
  2. Combine pumpkin, peanut butter, molasses and 1 cup water in a blender. Mix flour and pumpkin-mixture together. Stir until a stiff dough forms. Adjust liquid or flour measurement. The dough should be like a stiff cookie dough, but it will be fairly sticky. Set the dough on wax paper, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Roll dough to 1/4-inch and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Turn oven off and allow biscuits to get crisp.

Debra Daniels-Zeller is author of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook: 200 Recipes That Celebrate the Flavors of Oregon and Washington (Timber Press, 2010). She is a regular contributor to Vegetarian Journal magazine and writes a delightful food blog at http://foodconnections.blogspot.com. She can be reached at (425) 776-4689.

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