Book Review: Pet Food Nation

Pet Food NationAfter the pet food recalls, many people asked what should they feed their pet and what is good and what is not good? Pet Food Nation, written by Joan Weiskopf, gives a perspective on what is the easy and healthy way to feed your pet.

Weiskopf is a veterinary clinical nutritionist, dog breeder and show handler. She attended Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

In Pet Food Nation, Weiskopf says the best and healthiest way to feed your pet is to home cook.

For those who question if home cooking for pets is advantageous, Weiskopf answers back against the cons of homemade pet meals. The major arguments against cooking for pets at home are economic, dietetic, and pragmatic. She says that homemade pet food is not more expensive than buying commercial food. Ingredients to prepare pet food can be purchased at a cheap price. She feeds six of her adult pedigreed dogs for six weeks on about $300.

With the dietetic argument, Weiskopf states that not only do pet food companies say that home cooking is not nutritionally sound for pets, but also the American Veterinary Medical Association agrees. AVMA President Roger Mahr says that table scraps should not be a part of your pet’s diet. He adds that gravies, meat fats, and poultry skin can upset a pet’s stomach and can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. He also warns against bones and chocolate. In response, Weiskopf states to just be intelligent and not feed pets chicken skin, fat drippings, cooked bones, and chocolate.

The AVMA also states that pet nutrition is so complicated and “implies that the commercial pet food industry is so on top of these complicated issues that an intelligent person cooking at home can’t possibly match what’s in the can, pouch, or bag from the supermarket.” Weiskopf disagrees and says that a pet owner can be educated on what healthy pet cooking is and can prepare adequate and tasty meals for their pet.

Pet Food Nation offers some tips on feeding a homemade diet: grains and meat should be cooked, vegetables should be steamed or served raw, oils should be refrigerated and fruit should be chopped.

Weiskopf also lists some human foods that should be avoided in pet food: chocolate, onions (can cause hemolytic anemia), garlic (it is not particularly harmful, but since it is in the onion family, it should not be used in excess), grapes and raisins, cooked bones (only raw bones should be given to pets), certain dairy products, soy products (pets can’t utilize the amino acid complex from soy), bacon, citrus fruit (too acidic), white potatoes (they are not harmful, but they have little or no nutritional value for your pet), and sugar.

Weiskopf does understand that not every pet owner can cook homemade food for their pet. She says that if one has to buy commercial pet food, owners should educate themselves on how to read a label and understand what the ingredients mean for your pet. She advises to look for meats that are human grade, natural preservatives, whole grains (no “hulls”), and avoid “beet pulp” which is an artificial stool hardener and high in sugar.

Weiskopf also advises against raw food diets. She says that cooked grains and vegetables are an essential part of a pet’s diet. She also states that a consistent diet of raw meat and bones can possibly increase a pet’s risk to salmonella or trichinosis.

In Pet Food Nation, Weiskopf also shares some of her own recipes for homemade dog and cat food and explains the different minerals and vitamins that are important for your pet’s health.

16 Responses to “Book Review: Pet Food Nation”

  1. Mrs. P. says:

    I am going to call the local bookstore (I no longer do business with Amazon) and ask them to order this book for me. The more info I have the better.
    I am homecooking for my remaining pets and they are doing well, even the two “struvite” cats. I was originally told my only choice was c/d or they would get blocked and die.
    Why doesn’t the AVMA tell me where I can get safe vitamins, rather than saying I’m too stupid to homecook?

  2. catmom5d says:

    How can the AVMA tell us not to put certain things in our homemade meals when the pet food industry puts such garbage in theirs? I cannot believe Mahr would say that . . . doesn’t he realize that those of us who have chosen to become informed understand exactly what’s in the commercial foods? Hello! We’re not the naive, uninformed, believe the ads kind of pet food buyers anymore. Ingredients from rendering plants are more wholesome and safe than ingredients we buy from a human grade grocery store? JEEESH!!!

  3. Pukanuba says:

    I really had to chuckle….no fats, no chicken skin…..even if a little of that got into my dog’s home cooked meals, like it would be less wholesome than the garbage that goes into commercial food. WTF…….

    I will look for this book. Have been home cooking for a while now & it probably is a bit more expensive than commercial & certainly takes up more time to prepare but I’d rather go without than take a chance on any of those bags or cans.

    It’s really a crying shame that commercial pf has become garbage……it certainly was a great idea & so easy for pet parents. The worst part of this is that some of the small companies who had a quality product…..when the demand for their product went way up……sadly the quality went way down.

    No matter what any vet or the FDA (like I’d believe anything those jackasses would say) try to tell us, I believe I can do a lot better than commercial pf, even without being a whiz on animal nutrition.

  4. Captn' Carl says:

    Get ready folks. Here we go again! Another individual who stands to PROFIT from the sale of pet food, bemoaning the horrors of not feeding your pets her product. And, as usual, plenty of official backing with excerpts from old and worn out past used ploys.

    Chicken skin, chocolate and the rest are all well known by pet owners already.

    Stating the already known and obvious is also not a new ploy.

    The dust has not even settled yet, and another wonder food is trotted out with magical claims. BS!

    This is just another one after your money under the guise of protecting your pets!

    Run this one out of town on a rail with tar and feathers! Didn’t even have the decency to wait until things were resolved here. GREED!

    Bottom line: Feed your pets home cooked food. You do not fool with additives or magical vitamins or any hocus pocus minerals that have been proven to do nothing, and you will not poison your pets. Common sense above all. If it will hurt you, it will hurt your pets a lot sooner.

    They eat what I eat. If they die, I die!

  5. Mrs. P. says:

    Wow, Capn’ Carl. I buy books. I take vitamins. I homecook for my pets. I supplement their diet with taurine and supplement to keep their phosphorus/calcium/magnesium in balance. Those are my choices. Other people feed raw and some still feed commercial. Those are their choices. Give people a break. They have thought out their choices, too.
    Yeah, I’ll buy a book. If I like it I’ll keep it, if I don’t it’ll go to the thrift shop. I’d rather take a chance on a $10 book, than pay $50 to the AVMA link for pet food recipes. It’s my choice to use recipes meant for pets, not humans.

  6. Betty says:

    Captn Carl you are right.

    I bought the book and found it a bit fluffy. Mrs P I think you are missing the point about what got said. Of course anything is always some persons choice. Along with the choice to state an opinion without being attacked by someone else.

    The opinion is not for profit. The book is. Some of it is just common sense and some of it is actually misinformed and gives the reader wrong direction.

    And some is such fluff like I said. From the book;

    Rex (cat breed)
    These are the cats that some believe came from somewhere else—like outer space. Actually, they come from two places in England, Cornwall and Devon. They have a distinct, pixie-like head, and the coats are mostly down.

    I won’t even go into the commentary about ’spotted cats’ .

    It was a brilliant marketing coup.

    She tells you to look for USDA meat?

    Too much fluff and banter. Not enough information IMHO.

    And yes, it can be your choice to knock my choice to make this post LOL.

    Comments from people who have read the book I feel have the most value. But Captn is right on the mark with this one. Degrees and titles don’t make a reputation - not everyone graduated at the top of their class. Beware frightened consumer - a lot of people out there will try to swindle your money.

  7. Ann says:

    Eagerly ordered this book from B&N because it says has kidney care
    receipes for chronic renal failure cats, which I am now treating two cats
    for. Ran the two receipes by my veterinarian, who said not to use either
    receipe as the salt content from canned clams, canned sardines, and a pinch of sea salt is too high and could complicate high blood pressure problems in crf cats. I don’t have the background to judge the receipes in the book. But I cannot find an internet address for the author, Weiskopf, or the publisher, HarperCollins, to ask for a response or salt-free substitutes in the receipes. So at this point I have to conclude that the kidney care receipes included in Pet Food Nation could possibly do more harm than good.

  8. Betty says:

    a good book to consider:

    Super-Nutrition For Dogs n Cats…. Preventive Medicine for your Pets

    Dr. Howard Peiper and Nine Anderson

    It truly gets more into nutrition and herbs, etc. A good blend between Western and Eastern approaches.

  9. Casey says:

    Another good one to look at:

    See Spot Live Longer

    It’s a GREAT basis for all companion animal nutrition, and part of our “training manual” at work — a holistic, all-natural pet food store.

  10. vkb says:

    It is in the best interests of the dog food industry that a pleasant fiction should exist supporting the use of commercially prepared food-and they are right -the average Joe or Jane cooking in their kitchen certainly would not know how to get meat by-product de-natured with carbolic acid- which we all know is as vital an ingredient in dog food as rancid fat and melamine-(this is sarcasm, for those not privy to what goes on in commercial food processing)
    Is this fiction any different from the vets who tell you not to buy from PetMeds because the stuff is bogus? I called Meriel and they said they stand behind all their products sold by PetMeds- the vets were just trying to retain their exclusivity- and thus their high prices on flea and tick products.
    In addition , as an FYI- the British Veterinary Oncologists recommend a diet, prepared at home, complete with recipes for dogs/cats with cancer- siting these diets as superior in freshness and content to industry packaged food. We have been using Wellness brand- but in the winter we cook turkeys and boil them, remove the bones add brown rice,carrots,celery,and garlic and we all eat-dogs, cats, people-and we have rescued alot of dogs- this also aids in staving off food allergies- which may, for all we know, be a reaction to denatured meat by-products and other garbage put in pet food.

    It is a crime that the very people who can barely afford to feed their families, let alone their pets, get to pay money for what are essentially rancid by-products sprayed with fat-so they think they are doing the best they can for their pets, but are really poisoning them,perhaps leading to increased veterinary visits??????
    Good Luck to All Pet Guardians!!!

  11. Katie says:

    It is very sad that Ms Weiskopf decided to make big bucks off of pet parents who have suffered in the hands of PFI, FDA and unknowledgeable vets. If she cared, she could have put up a free online site.

    Prior to March 16th, I was afraid to add any human food to my dogs commerical food bowls. I believed the lies; vets telling me it was a bad thing to do. I would mess up the highly balanced nutrition of pet food. Make my dogs sick! Ha, Ha, Ha!!! Still trying to figure out how much protein is in styrofoam….

    We are now into the fourth month of home cooking. I was scared in the begining. Last months blood tests were really,really normal! My dog is energetic, no skin or coat problems, teeth are cleaner and brighter, her eyes shine, no lose stools, no goopey eyes.

    Anyone who is concerned with how to home cook, there are several really great Yahoo groups on pet nutrition: K9Kitchen,K9Nutrition,K9KidneyDiet. Dr Pitcarin, Dr Strombeck both have books out: and they didn’t come on the scene in the past two months to make money off hurting pet parents.


  12. Stefani says:

    Re: “says that cooked grains and vegetables are an essential part of a pet’s diet”

    I don’t agree with this statemetn as applied to cats. I have never seen a feral cat chowing down in a corn field. As obligate carnivores, grains and cooked vegetables have no important place in a cats diet.

    As for the AVMA, they represent a lobby whose interest is to exploit and profit from society’s use of animals, so anything they say should be assessed cynically. This is not to say that there are not INDIVIDUAL vets who are good, conscientious and committed - there are. But as an organization and lobby, the AVMA is all about profits, not about helping us prolong the life and health of our pets.


  13. abc says:

    I’m a little suspicious… It says she “attended” Tufts Veterinary School, and yet I see no DVM after her name. Surely if she were actually a vet, she would include this in her title. Also, despite being a “nationally known” nutritionist, I couldn’t find any articles she had written online, or really any mention of her anywhere except for in regards to the book or as a breeder.

    Also, I listened to an interview with her and she sounded like an idiot.

    I think she’s cashing in on the pet food recall and intentionally giving people the impression that she’s a vet and knowledgeable when she isn’t. Shameful–people need real information, not more people trying to make a buck.

  14. Kevin says:

    I have been feeding my cats raw food for several years using Celestial Pets supplements. My animals do not eat any commercial food although I do keep some on had for emergency situations. Celeste Yarnall Ph.D. has raised 10 generations of Tonkinese cats on her regime. She has written two books, one for dogs and one for cats.

    There is no way I would trust the pet food industry. My cats are very healthy and my vet is amazed. If your looking for additional information and resources regarding home prepared meals for your pets, I would recommend that you review her work.

    Also, please review the articles regarding Pottenger’s Kittens.

  15. Patricia says:

    Anyone out there old enough to remember the Ayds diet candy from the “70’s? I had an almost full box of chocolate flavor on an open shelf behind our bar. One night, while we were out, our “I am starving - you never feed me!” dobie/collie found the box. When we got home, the open box and some waxed paper were all that remained - along with a smiling (yes, collies really do smile) dog. In total panic, I woke my wonderfull old world Italian vet at home. When he stopped laughing, he told me not to worry if he wasn’t too hungry the next day.

    So much for the chocolate will kill your dog theory. By the next evening, KiKi was his usual ravinous self. I’m not suggesting chocolate as a nutritional ingredient in dog food (many edibles are lethal in large enough quatities) but it certainly isn’t as bad as what the PFI has added!

    If raw/home cooked wasn’t an adequate diet over the past centuries, where did all of our dogs and cats come from?

  16. Joan Weiskopf says:

    I am the author of Pet Food Nation. I have clients all over the world with which I consult without a fee! I am available via e-mail 24/7 for all that wish to comment or seek assistance. There is NO completely correct answer and NO RIGHT OR WRONG that is 100%

    The art of medicine for any living creature is just that, an ART, helped by science. Our medical community is pressed to the limit and completely lacking in nutritional information. Medicine whether human or animal is dictated by big business including pharmaceutical giants.

    The pet food industry is self-regulated so don’t be fooled. Great advances as far as requirements have been studied and great information has been learned, but the application by these giants has been not as wonderful.

    Requirements can be met in many ways…natural or not. I attempt to make you think and remind all owners of our dear companions that in the not-so-distant past we did NOT have isles of fancy packaged feeds there for the picking. I remind you that dogs and cats were developed in specific regions for a specific purpose. People domesticated dogs to work for them at some task. Originally dogs came to man’s campsites where they ate what the humans ate. Early man hunted and scavenged, did not have refrigerators and microwaves but did have fire.

    This book is meant to make you think, to give you the confidence to feed your pets on your own. I do not condemn anything or tell you one way is perfect.

    Vets for the most part are good men and women, but not perfect and they have just so many tools at their disposal. YOU are the providers and all decisions reside with YOU in the end. Think,people,ask questions, don’t just follow blindly.

    Good health and good nutrition are a lifelong quest. No meal is perfect every day. It takes a lifetime to fall into some disease states and 1 pill or 1 shot or 1 bag of prescription food will NOT cure the ills.

    My last comment is that a bit of time spent in thought or preparation here is another way to build your bond. Enjoy and love your companions, as their biggest flaw is the brief time they are here to share with us! No medicine can ever change that!

    My e-mail is and I am happy to help beyond feeding with general health issues or supplements or whatever you seek to question.

    My publisher, Harper-Collins, well all I can say is…there are a group of people in that company so caring and so dedicated to provide help for our companions that they pushed this book out without sleep for many of us , not with profit motive but with genuine concern in their hearts; at least one was saved because of this and for me, one is a giant step!

    Enjoy and remember I am not a stranger, I am a voice and can be found through e-mail or at many dog shows across our beautiful country. I am a real person just like most of you, terribly concerned for the lives of favorite 4-legged souls.

    Joan Weiskopf
    Author: Pet Food Nation

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