We were recently contacted by Harper Collins publishing to review the new book Pet Food Nation by Joan Weiskopf, M.S. Veterinary Clinical Nutritionist.  Pet Food Nation addresses the recent pet food scare, what pet owners need to know about commercial pet foods, and how to feed your pets healthy and naturally.  Of course, we were very interested to learn more…

So when we received the book in the mail and I was very excited to sit down and have a look.   I love to learn about anything that relates to pet health and nutrition, and was anxious to share what I learned with you.  After this spring when sixty million cans and pouches of pet foods were recalled from shelves across the country, pet owners everywhere including myself were left wondering if what they were feeding their pets was safe.  

Joan cooks for her pets.  All six of them.  Everyday.   She tell us how good old-fashioned home cooked meals for pets is much more nutritious and –  more importantly safe – than commercial pet foods.  What I like about the book is that she is also a realist.  She understands that cooking for your pet may not be possible for every pet owner out there.  For those pet owners who still feed commercial pet foods she gives important information like how to read your pet food labels, what they mean, what to look for, what can be misleading, and more. 

Joan also addresses the major arguments against homemade pet foods – they are not economic, dietetic or pragmatic and stresses that the ingredients for preparing pet food at home CAN BE purchased cheaply.  She feeds her six adult Bedlington Terriers for six weeks on about $300.  For one dog, that is less than $10 per week. 

Something that leaves some pet owners frustrated is the quality of commercial pet foods.  If you are paying for so called  “premium pet foods” aren’t they supposed to be better  – and safer – for your pets?  Joan explains that the one thing that the pet food scare taught us all is that the centralized distribution system exposed in the recall indicates that a wide variety of brands get their ingredients from one of three gigantic co-packagers and then affix their own labels.  What the melamine-laced wheat gluten (a component which can be misread as levels of protein and was in all of the recalled foods) from China did was render more than 100 different brands toxic – from the most expensive of premium foods to the most cost effective.  So the answer is no, paying more does not necessarily ensure your pets safety.  However, by preparing your own homemade diets for your pets, you can eliminate any potential for commercial pet food toxins, thereby feeding a safer food.

A large part of the book goes into recipes, ingredients, and how to best prepare your pets meals.  The section about the “pet food pie” details the correct proportions of proteins, carbs, fats, minerals, vitamins and water.  I also found interesting that there is a section about what foods are best for your breed or breed group and there are even recipes for pets with cancer, a heart diet, and a special feline kidney disease diet – a unique topic I can say I have never seen anywhere else. 

I found the book to be extremely interesting, and I will certainly try some of the recipes myself to see how easy they are to prepare.  One thing is for sure, I am certain my puppy will enjoy them.  Soon, she may be eating better than I do! 

Joan attended Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, is a nationally recognized veterinary clinical nutritionist, dog breeder and show handler.  She has also been featured on Animal Planet.