Growing Number of Pet Owners Turn to Home Cooking

A growing number of pet owners are turning to home cooking for their dogs.

ByABC News
October 13, 2009, 3:12 PM

Oct. 14, 2009— -- While some dogs look forward to the sound of kibble clanging in their dish at dinnertime, Guido looks forward to the smell of pork cooked with summer squash and oatmeal.

The 9-year-old Italian greyhound is one of a growing number of dogs whose owners have turned away from the billion-dollar pet food industry over concerns about their dogs' health and the quality of commercial dog food.

"It started out that a lot of people thought I was nuts," Joe Lascola, Guido's owner, told

Lascola, of Huntington Beach, Calif., started homecooking for Guido in 2004, mixing his ingredients in with kibble in an effort to deal with the dog's severe medical problems. But after the 2007 pet food recall, Lascola went kibble-free and, with the help of an animal nutritionist, began cooking all of Guido's meals.

"I think the recalls really woke a lot of people up," he said. "When you're mass producing something, something is going to go wrong at some point."

Dr. Richard Pitcairn has researched animal nutrition for decades and his book "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats" is considered by some to be a staple among home cookers.

Now retired from his veterinary practice and focusing on writing and speaking engagements, Pitcairn said he first became interested in the power of nutrition while in school after realizing that proper nutrition could have a positive effect on the immune system.

"To my surprise, it made a big difference," he said, "bigger than I expected."

Animals fed some kibbles long-term, he said, show signs of lessened energy and duller coats and are more susceptible to parasites and fleas.

"It's hard for the body to repair itself if the body doesn't have the nutrients it needs," Pitcairn said.

Only a small percentage of people prefer to cook for their dogs. Kurt Gallagher, director of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based Pet Food Institute, said a survey done this spring of 800 pet owners -- conducted by a third-party polling institute -- showed that just 1 percent of owners cooked and prepared their pets' meals themselves.

Angele Thompson, who holds a Ph.D in animal nutrition, and works with the institute, noted that the life span of a domestic animal has increased even just in the 29 years she's been in the business, progress she attributed to advanced veterinary care and advances in commercial pet food.

"There may be a voiced interest in a homemade diet, but over time, that's very hard to sustain," she said.