Bone Appetit!

January 08, 2009, 12:08 AM

March 22, 2007— -- If you smell the aroma of dinner emanating from Lori Perrotti-John's kitchen, it's possible that meal may not be for her. It's likely for her dogs.

For the past nine, years Perrotti has been whipping up home-cooked meals for her three golden retrievers. And not just any old table scraps… she actually cooks turkey, free-range chicken and organic veggies just for her dogs and she serves it to them warm. She'll even throw in some yogurt, bananas and apples.

"I have much healthier, happier, animals," says Perrotti-Johns. "My vet actually thinks I'm crazy."

The Food and Drug Administration will review the latest details in the tainted pet food recall Friday, March 30, at 10 a.m. ET. Watch the news conference live on ABC News Now.

Perrotti-Johns spends about $50 a week and is in the kitchen every three days making meals for her furry friends. It's a little bit pricier and more time consuming than buying typical pet food, but she says it's worth it.

"I noticed the difference in his coat. He didn't get the hot spots like he used to, he didn't get the digestive problems, he didn't get the diarrhea and the runs. That all stopped … when I switched his diet," she says.

So when pet food came flying off the shelves in last week's recall, she didn't worry about her dogs. And she wasn't the only one.

Since 1998, Mary Straus has fed her dogs a steady diet of raw meat -- chicken, turkey and beef. Straus says that when her dog was 6 years old, a raw diet worked wonders for the pup's arthritis.

"When I switched her to a raw diet with no grains, I was able to take her off the medications, and her arthritis was actually better," says Straus. She has since had to put the 15-year-old Sharpei back on medication.

Straus and Perrotti-Johns are among the small -- but growing -- segment of American pet owners who are making home-cooked meals for their pets.

"I'd say it's [a trend that is] growing all the time," says Nancy Kerns, editor-in-chief of the Whole Dog Journal. Kerns says most people find out about the benefits of a home-prepared meal when pets face a medical issue and both dog and owner learn to stick with it.

In recent years, there have been books and Web sites like that are dedicated to canine and kitty cuisine. Even food guru Rachael Ray has a monthly pet recipe column in her magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray.

"Our readers love it," says Maile Carpenter, Every Day's executive editor. "Rachael has been cooking for her own dogs for years and many of our readers are doing the same," she told ABC News in an e-mail. (Try one of Rachael's recipes here .)

With the recent pet food recall, some experts believe more people may turn to home prepared pet meals as an alternative.

"This may be the tipping point. The thing that makes them decide, 'Well, gosh, you have so little control when dealing with commercial food,'" Kerns says.

Menu Foods of Canada recalled 60 million containers of dog and cat food for contamination. So far, at least 16 animals have died and possibly hundreds more have become sick. The recalled "cuts and gravy" style pet food is packaged and sold under 95 brands. Menu Foods is still investigating the source of the contamination.

Veterinarians like Dr. Julie Churchill at the University of Minnesota say a home-cooked diet has benefits but one wrong ingredient could put pets in peril.

"The nutritional needs of pets are complex, and unique to each species, their life stage and lifestyle," Churchill explains in an e-mail. "A dramatic change in diet can also cause intestinal upset for many pets."

Veterinarians say cooking works great for animals with certain medical problems or food allergies that are hard to manage with commercial pet food. In those cases, cooked food is better for the pet. But on the other paw, veterinarians warn that pets can't eat everything that humans can. Owners can cause serious health problems if they don't follow the pet's specific dietary needs.

"We do see cases occasionally of somebody attempting to do what they think is right but give the dog, you know, nothing but chicken meat, for example, and really depriving the dog of some necessary nutrients."

Some foods pets should avoid include alcoholic beverages, chocolate, onions and onion powder.

"For example, with cats, you have to know that they are obligate carnivores -- they do need meat above all," explains Kerns. "When feeding dogs, feeding fish oils is very, very useful for a number of things, but you have to know to balance that ? with adequate supplemental vitamin E, because feeding fish oils depletes the supply of vitamin E in the body."

As complex as it may sound, Kerns says it's not rocket science.

"If you can feed yourself, if you can feed your kids, you can learn to feed your dog."

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