Dr. Judith Herman Expert Opinion on why Home Cooking is Best

By Colin Hickey, Blethen Maine News Service, Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
Photo by Joe Phelan, April 14, 2007  

Dr. Judith Herman, posing with her dog Bryan, says, "When I switched my animals to homemade food, I saw a big difference in energy level and ... in their overall health."

The recent nationwide recall of contaminated pet food didn't affect how veterinarian Judith K. Herman feeds her animals.

Herman, who has a practice in Augusta, doesn't use commercial pet food. Her dogs and cats eat raw, homemade meals.

She recommends to her clients that they do the same. "Number one, you have control over the ingredients," she said. "Number two, the quality is the same stuff you eat."

Herman, who owns Animal Wellness Center, said such a switch does more than just protect pets from the threat of contaminated commercial food.

"When I switched my animals to homemade food, I saw a big difference in energy level and in their coats and in their stools and in their overall health."

Herman, though, is a bit of a renegade in her profession in recommending homemade food.

The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages pet owners from adopting the practice. The largest veterinary group in the world, the association features an article on its Web site that stresses the perils of fixing homemade meals.

Tom McPheron, a spokesman for the organization, said people must understand that the recall affected only about 1 percent of the pet food on the market. They also need to understand, he said, that feeding a pet properly is more complicated than putting table scraps in a bowl.

"We just recommend that if they insist on cooking for pets that they educate themselves and work with their veterinarian to ensure the pet gets proper nutrition," McPheron said.

Matthew Townsend, a veterinarian with Kennebec Veterinary Services in Oakland, also urges caution when considering the homemade food option.

"You can run into more problems trying to do the right thing for your pet," Townsend said.

"If they have the time and can prepare a well-balanced diet for their dog or cat, that can work great. The problem is preparing a well-balanced diet."

Townsend added that diet needs can vary, sometimes dramatically, from pet to pet, depending on a number of factors, including age and whether an animal has health problems.

Herman agrees that people need to educate themselves before making their own pet food. But Herman said once the knowledge is acquired, the practice is not that difficult.

To provide a dog a balanced diet, she said, "means that you have a meat source, that you have a calcium supplement to balance out the meat, and that you have the correct ratio of meat to vegetables.

Herman said that ratio generally is 60 percent meat to 40 percent vegetables.

Cats, in contrast, need a higher percentage of protein and cannot survive without meat, Herman said.

As a starting point for anybody contemplating homemade pet food, Herman recommends the book "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats."

Herman has never had a problem using raw meat, but said many veterinarians frown on that because of concerns about E. coli and salmonella.


This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to provide background knowledge on areas related to canine health and disease. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for educational purposes.


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