Making your pet's meals from scratch isn't as healthy as you think. 

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Stick with Store-Bought

A homemade dinner of protein and veggies sounds like a nutritious swap for commercial dog food, but these meals could be more harmful to your pet's overall health. "I wouldn't trust that a recipe for home-cooked food found online is properly balanced unless I knew the credentials of the person who created it. Many of those recipes are deficient in nutrients like calcium, choline, and zinc," says Dr. Angela Rollins of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Keep prep time and cost of ingredients in mind too. "Cooking for a Labrador retriever is like feeding another adult," she says. Store-bought foods can provide excellent nutrition and save on cost and prep time. "For most people, commercial foods diets make the most sense and have provided excellent nutrition to dogs for many years," says Rollins.

Check the Package

Choosing the right food can be overwhelming. Little information can really be gathered from labels, like the quality of vague ingredient names. "For example, chicken meal can be very high quality or it could have added bone that lowers its protein and amino acid content. There is no way from a label to determine this," says Rollins. Here's a tip for pet-food shopping: Look for a statement by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which is proof that the product has passed a feeding trial. "This means the diet has been fed to dogs in a controlled environment to assess its nutritional adequacy," she says. "Also remember that price does not equal quality. There are some very expensive foods that I would not feed my own dogs and some lower cost foods that are of great quality."

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When It's Ok To Consult a Pro

"Dogs with complicated medical conditions may benefit from customized homemade diet recipes formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist," says Rollins. Before switching your pet to a homemade diet, consult with a professional. Visit acvn.org to find a nutritionist.

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