A RISING number of dog owners are ditching canned food in favour of lovingly prepared homemade meals for their cherished pets.
Two-fifths of people with dogs are now making food for their animals at home, shunning alternatives such as wet canned food or dried “kibble”, amid concerns for their pet’s nutrition and weight.
A study from Mintel found the market for bought dog food has seen a 7 per cent decline over the past five years, dropping from 744 million kilograms in 2009 to 694m kilos in 2013.
Pet experts say that while the trend for home-prepared food was growing, even more people were buying in frozen, raw meals for their animals such as lambs’ heads and chicken carcases, which have far fewer additives than the ready-to-eat foods.
Those surveyed said they worried about salt content in ready-made foods and others said they wanted to see nutritional information such as a calorie count on pet food packaging.
Douglas Faughnan, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, said: “The pet food market faces a challenging period with volume sales across both cat and dog food expected to decline.
“This is partly explained by the high proportion of cat and dog owners opting for homemade food for their pets, while the increasing popularity of treats and snacks is also having an impact.
“The use of homemade food isn’t limited to those on lower incomes trying to save money – those in households with an annual income of £50,000 a year or more are more likely than lower-income households to feed homemade food to their dog.
“This could mean considerations other than cost are also at play for some pet owners, such as freshness or the guaranteed absence of additives and preservatives.”
Gemma Johnston, owner of specialist pet shop Just Dogs in Edinburgh, said an increasing number of customers were feeding their pets home-cooked meals – or bought frozen raw mixes – especially pets with food allergies.
“It is definitely becoming more popular,” she said. “It can be particularly helpful for people whose dogs have food allergies of intolerances. It means people know more about what is going into the food and where it’s coming from.”
Ms Johnston said her own dog had an allergy to grains, prompting her to turn to a raw food diet rather than branded foods.
“She had constant problems with ear infections and as soon as I put her on to raw food, they cleared up,” she said. “I use the ready-mixed, frozen kind, but an increasing number of people are making their own.
“Of course, if you choose to do that, you need to be careful and do your research to make sure your dog is getting the right nutritional balance.”
Abigail Erdman, a professional dog walker from Edinburgh, switched to raw food for her dogs when one of her pets had gone off his dried food. She said: “A lot of people I know through agility training are into preparing food for their animals.”