You may know healthy living expert, Jesse Brune-Horan, from his appearances on BRAVO TV, The Food Network, or OWN, in which he touts his experience as a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and certified personal trainer to offer lifestyle tips. He's also the proud father to his two dogs, Sammy and Bodhi, with whom he lives in LA.
We sat down with Jesse to chat about pet health and wellness, and why good nutrition is so important for dogs and cats. From preventing skin problems, to improving pets' energy, Jesse offers his tips to ensure your pets receive a balanced and nutritious diet.
OUT: How do you know that your pet is getting the right food?
Jesse Brune-Horan: The first answer to this question is really simple: They actually eat the food! I've learned to monitor how my pets respond to what's being served. They deseve to enjoy the eating experience just as much as we do.
I'm also mindful of their energy levels. My dogs are pretty playful and love to go hiking. In the past I've switched their food when I noticed they were consistently dragging on our hikes and acting lethargic at home.
I have an elder dog who is susceptible to skin problems, so I'm always checking to make sure the complexion on his belly looks healthy and I monitor how much he's scratching. I appreciate foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids because it really helps his skin and coat.
My tip: I will coat my elder dog's bowl with a small amount of fish oil to ensure he's getting enough fatty acids.
With so many options out there, how do you go about picking the best pet food for Sammy and Bodhi?
I choose my pets' food like I choose my own. I get the products that have the most natural ingredients for an affordable price. We shouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg to eat healthy, and the same goes for my pets. My four legged babies bring me so much joy, the least I can do is make sure they're eating well.
What makes a pet food trustworthy in your mind?
For starters, look at the ingredients! When clients ask me how to choose the right foods at the grocery store I always tell them to not over-think the process and just read the labels. The labels will tell you everything you need to know about what you are consuming. Same rule applies to my pets' food. Also, we really consider how it's made and who's making it. My husband and I choose brands we trust who prioritize a careful production process. Seeing natural ingredients is a good indicator that more attention and care went into the preparation of the food.
How has your culinary training as a professional chef translate into your pets' diets?
That's actually evolved throughout the years. When I was in my early twenties and going to culinary school, I would bring my dog leftovers from class! I laughed at the thought of having a dog with a sophisticated pallet.
Now that I'm a bit older and wiser, I'm much more focused on serving nutrient-rich pet food that tastes great. A simple way I enhance their meal is by chopping up chicken breast and folding it into their food. Another great trick I learned was to warm up a small amount of organic chicken broth and pour it over their food. The temperature of the broth makes it more aromatic and caters to their advanced sense of smell. They always dive right in!
Also, my dogs go crazy over organic baby carrots, so I'll chop them up and put it in their food. It's another simple way I can enhance their meal and give them a treat that I know is good for them.
My husband and I might put a little more time into preparing our pets' meals than some other pet owners. We like incorporating fresh ingredients into their diet and don't mind taking a little extra time to prep food that we can mix into their bowls. It's a labor of Love... and they deserve it. I mean, we're not crazy and slaving away to make a 3 course meal or anything, but a little extra effort goes a long way.
Your two dogs differ in age. Do you prepare each of their meals differently?
Not really. They both eat the same meals. The only difference is that we add certain supplements for skin and joint health into our older dog's food. I think we treat our pets like children in the sense that we don't show favoritism and make sure everyone gets served the same things. Call me crazy but I swear they can tell if the other one is getting something special added to their food. So, to play it safe, both dogs eat the same thing.
Would you say that a correct and nutritious diet affects the state of their emotional health? Can the right kind of food change a pet's behavior, attitude, or energy?
Of course it does! If you've ever felt sick, sluggish or heavy you know what an effect it has on your life. Why would we think it's different for our pets? Just because our pets can't speak doesn't mean they're not communicating.
Our little dog Bodhi will curl up in a ball if he doesn't feel physically well. He did the same thing when Sammy, our older dog went away to visit my sister for two days; Bodhi barely got off his bed the entire time he was away. He was totally depressed. I know our pets have emotional intelligence and the way they feel physically effects that. Any loving pet owner would tell you the same.
When we feed our pets nutrient-rich food, they have more energy and are generally happier all around. Good food, exercise and love are the perfect ingredients for a happy and healthy pet. That probably sounded cheesy but it's true.