With so many dogs occupying a major status in families these days, more attention is being paid to what goes in Fido's bowl. And increasingly, pet owners are modeling their pooch's diet after their own.
Nutritionist and chef Gayle Pruitt is a two-time author of books on preparing joint meals for pets and humans. Her latest cookbook, “Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast, and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch,” posits that not only is it time- and money-saving to feed a dog the same dinner as yourself but that it's healthier for the animal too.
"Fresh human grade food for dogs??? What a concept! Saves money in the long run," Pruitt writes on her Facebook page, adding "with less large vet bills."
The tome offers recipes for 100 different human-dog meals, including spinach kale lasagna, curried beef sliders and salmon Florentine.
But Dr. Amy Farcas, a small animal clinical nutritionist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine counsels that altering a dog's diet to reflect what a human feels like eating on any given night could be problematic.
"The nutrient requirements of dogs are somewhat complicated--there are approximately 40 different essential nutrients--and are different than human nutrient requirements," said Farcas. "When pets are fed the same meals that their owners eat, the result is usually--every time I’ve evaluated diets like this--lacking in essential nutrients for dogs. The same is true for most recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs available to pet owners."
Farcas also cited a recent study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association of 200 home-prepared diet recipes for dogs from the Internet, pet care books, etc.
"In this study, 95 percent of recipes evaluated were deficient in at least one essential nutrient," she said. "Rotation among ingredients and recipes is unlikely to correct these deficiencies because most of the foods used in home-prepared diets for dogs have similar nutritional profiles and therefore similar deficiencies."
Another new entrant onto the pet food market may provide a more consistent alternative.
Innova Nature's Table is a new line of "grain-free, natural" dry pet food and treat recipes sourcing lean proteins, such as farm-raised turkey, cold water salmon, wild herring or ranch-raised bison, and combining them with fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots, and carbohydrates such as lentils and peas.
"We want consumers to feel good about the food they feed their pets,” said Kari Liu, senior scientist in formulation and diet design, in a statement. “Each ingredient found in Nature’s Table recipes serves a specific purpose, like high-quality animal proteins for lean muscle mass, omega fatty acids for a shiny coat, healthy carbohydrates like lentils and peas for sustained energy, and nourishing antioxidants like vitamin E to help promote a healthy immune system.”
While Farcas argued that there is no research suggesting that grain-free diets are superior or inferior to those that include grain, she did state that lean cuts of meat from any source of protein are always preferable. Alternative proteins, such as bison, are typically chosen to prevent and combat adverse food responses in dogs.
But perhaps you are living a meat-free lifestyle and want the same for your pet? In that case you will need to focus your search. But vegan dog bakeries do exist.
Boston Baked Bonz offers organic and animal-free cookies and treats for man's best friend. The handmade goods range from peanut butter crunchies to wheat-free cranberry clove muffins to quinoa cookies and gingerbread snaps. And you don't have to live in Beantown to let Fido indulge. Orders are available online too.
Farcas told ABC News that vegan treats are fine for dogs.
"Use of vegan food items as treats is acceptable for most dogs," she said. "Like any other treats, these should be given in moderation, with treats not exceeding 10 percent of a pet’s total calorie intake."