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Pet food - Commercial vs Homemade


 By Andrea from Mai Co, for more information please visit:

Something that we are faced with on a weekly basis by visitors to our stall are the following statements: "Our dog has a terrible skin condition", "Our dog keeps scratching", or "Our Cat has such an itchy skin"! This seems to be to affecting our furry friends increasingly these days.

Why you may ask?

There are three major culprits - and in no particular order…..

1. Food

2. Flea Treatments

3. The dreaded 'V' word……Vaccines

For now, let us concentrate on the food culprit.

One of the most important things to realise is that the skin is considered to be the largest organ of the body, and in most cases, a skin condition is always an outward reflection of what is happening on the inside. So to fully treat the skin, you need to start treating the inside. The reason why the skin is so difficult to treat and takes so long to heal, simply put, is because it is the last to react. First waiting for all the other organs to become clogged and overtaxed with the toxins and chemicals, before the only outlet for the toxins, is the skin….and VOILA…a skin condition is 'born' - itching, hair falling out, sores, bleeding, infections!

So now you ask the question - What does the food have to do with the skin?

Easy: In today's 'fast paced, quick stop, instant relief, one size fits all' society people have turned to the convenience of dried kibble. Of course there are high quality (and even grain free) kibble diets available, which are specifically formulated to provide consistent and necessary nutrients for the animals specific needs and stages of life eg.: growth, pregnancy, lactation, older pets, urinary problems, joint mobility issues and diabetic control. This gives the owners peace of mind knowing that despite been rushed off their feet, the pets nutritional needs will be met. After all - rather give your pet a high quality commercial food, than an unbalanced homemade diet. Right?

But, what about the negative aspects of commercial food?

Commercial foods may be highly processed, contain dyes , flavourings, colorants and preservatives to enable the products to be stored longer, increase visual appeal (to the owners), and increase palatability.

After all the more the pet likes the food = the more the pet will eat = the more the owner will buy = which makes for a very lucrative business.

The food may also be cooked, dried and heated at such high levels, which change the structure of most of the ingredients, forming potentially health-damaging compounds that have a negative effect on the immune system and the entire body. As the liver is known as the cleaning factory of the body, and therefore forms a vital part of the immune system, it is placed in the unfortunate position of having to deal with these colorants, preservatives and toxic compounds by trying to clear them out the body. But after having these compounds replaced over and over each time the pet is fed, the liver becomes overworked, bogged down, confused and simply put - it feels like a chameleon in a smartie box. The toxins take over and build up to such an extent, that eventually the only place it can go is the skin.

Remember that animals and humans react in a similar way to colorants and preservatives in food, resulting in behavioural problems like hyperactivity OR physical problems like altered immune responses such as allergies. Eating a poor quality kibble has been described in the following way - imagine eating fast foods, every single meal, every single day! You would eventually become overweight and miserable, ill and at great risk for potentially life threatening diseases……

This is what our poor pets face every day!

pets 2

So what is the alternative?

A well balanced, nutritionally appropriate homemade diet (ie: one that suits the needs of your particular pet) and a pure source of food that will not leave toxic residues in the body.

It is not as complicated and time consuming as it may seem if just a few basic guidelines are remembered!

  • Remember the specific requirements of your particular pet need to be considered
  • All food has an energetic quality, or in more correct terms, vitality. However the more it is cooked, processed, and additions like flavourings, artificial colorants and preservatives are added - the more vitality is lost and depleted.
  • With large breed dogs it is important not to overdo nutrition as this may lead to accelerated growth spurts resulting in bone / joint problems.
  • The quality of your homemade diet - is only as good as the quality of the ingredients and produce that make up the diet eg: be aware of corn products like mealie meal as most of the corn products tend to be genetically modified.

The 5 Basic food groups to making a homemade diet:

  • Proteins - meat (lean); eggs; cottage cheese; organ meats eg; liver*, heart kidney, tripe, gizzard; lamb; chicken; fish.

Meat should be raw or lightly cooked so proteins are not denatured excessively.

*Organic liver is recommended, as the liver is known to be the cleaning factory of the body and therefore will contain all the hormones and chemicals fed to the animal.

  • Carbohydrates - brown rice, corn, wheat, potato, barley.

Mainly provide energy but some sources also provide protein, fibre and fats.

Sources are best served cooked to provide digestibility.

  • Fats - provide essential fatty acids and a dense source of energy. Cats generally need an energy dense diet and therefore require more dietary fats than dogs. Too much fat in the diet could however lead to obesity so it is important to keep a balance. Changing the cut of meat may change the amount of fat in the diet. If very lean meat is used then an addition of vegetable fat maybe used eg: flax oil (for extra Omega 3).
  • Vitamins & Minerals - Raw veggies may be placed in a juicer, blender or grater to pulverise and breakdown plant structure so they are easier to digest without destroying the valuable vitamins during cooking.

Raw meaty bones (not cooked as they may splinter) do provide good dental exercise, keeping the teeth and gums healthy and providing some calcium if crunched up and eaten.

Microminerals (eg:kelp, alfa alfa powder, spirulina and barley green) are also valuable additives .

Additional supplements:

  • Probiotics - Boosts digestive & immune system
  • Essential Fatty Acids (Omegas - Flax) - for Healthy skin and coats, promotes cognitive function, growth, development in puppies and younger dogs.
  • Coconut Oil - With its Antiviral, Antifungal, Antibacterial properties - it is an easily digestible fat which is easily converted into energy. Some pets may even lick it straight off a spoon.

There are various websites and computer programs available that have built-in formulations to help you set up the most nutritionally balanced homemade diet for your pet, by simply entering your pets details.

Most pets love these diets and thrive on them magnificently. Some pets, like cats - can be quite fussy eaters and perseverance will be key. It may be advisable to gradually introduce the homemade diet by adding it to the kibble before gradually reducing the amount of kibble over time.

It’s time to gets your creative juices flowing and let the chef in you come out!

Do not forget - the success of any recipe is a tablespoon of fun, a shake of imagination, and a whole handful of love!

Your pets are worth it! ;)


  • The Healthy animal Handbook - Dr Viv Harris

Mai Co

By Andrea & Family


Herbal & Essential oil products

028 313 2251 /083 419 4964  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*PO Box 353 Hermanus 7200

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