I have had quite a few people ask me what I feed my dog and whether I think home made dog foods are ‘worth it.’ If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said sure-but who really has the time to cook for their dog, especially considering that there are lots of high quality dog foods on the market that are much more convenient and less expensive? My attitude didn’t change until Sulin, my 12 year old Australian Shepherd, had an intussusception in her intestine a couple of months ago and a mixed tumor consisting of osteosarcoma and adenosarcoma was found after surgery. After many sleepless nights and hours of researching homeopathic remedies, I discovered that not only is a low carbohydrate diet essential to fighting cancer (cancer cells ‘feed’ on carbohydrates) but that most store bought dog foods (including the expensive, high quality kibble) consist of a much higher carbohydrate content than what dogs actually need. The reasons for this are that carbs are more abundant, have a longer shelf life, essential to the kibble making process, and much cheaper. This is not to say that carbohydrates are necessarily harmful to dogs without special nutritional needs, but more to say that the amount of grains and starchy vegetables you will find in most commercial dog foods far surpass the quantity that would be beneficial for your dog.
What are the benefits of a home made dog food? First and foremost, you are cutting out a lot of ‘filler’ ingredients, which makes for a more nutritionally dense food. Your pet will be much less likely to have a food related allergic reaction since he/she will be on a limited ingredient diet and you can also choose appropriate nutrient sources if a particular protein seems to be a problem, for example. Store bought food also has to be cooked at a high temperature for shelf life, killing many nutrients. In a nutshell, some of the benefits you may notice in your pet will be higher energy levels, better weight maintenance, a reduction or elimination in skin/coat issues, and fewer problems with fleas/ticks.
Is it more expensive to cook for your dog? It is roughly the same price as a high quality pet food. I paid $32 total for about a month’s worth of food for Sulin, which is actually cheaper than some of the brands that I have tried. You could certainly pay less if you have a freezer and are able to stock up while the ingredients are on sale.
How can I ensure that my dog is getting the nutrients that it needs? Every dog is different, but the basic rule of thumb for a home made dog food is 50% protein, 25% vegetables, and 25% grains. I have modified this for Sulin since she has to have a low carbohydrate diet. Ask your vet if you have any questions concerning your dog’s nutritional needs and modify the diet or give a nutritional supplement if needed.
Can I freeze the food? Yes! I keep a 4-5 days’ supply of Sulin’s food in the fridge after preparation and I freeze the rest and thaw out as needed.
Isn’t it time consuming to cook for your dog? It takes me about 1 1/2 hours to cook a month’s supply of food. I think it’s a small sacrifice to make for Su’s health and well being 🙂
Why is Salmon the only fish listed in the recipe? Because other fish, such as Tuna, can have high levels of mercury and can lead to poisoning. If your vet OK’s another kind of fish for your dog, go for it! I just do not feel comfortable endorsing it 🙂
Are there any ingredients I should not put in the food? Absolutely no grapes, raisins, onion, or garlic!
Can I add fruit? In small quantites, some fruits are beneficial. I like to give Su berries and apple because they have high levels of antioxidants and Vitamin C and are low in sugar content.
How much do I feed my dog? Typically between 2 and 3 percent of their body weight. Adjust according to your dog’s needs-Sulin has a fast metabolism, so I give her a couple of extra ounces.
I do not feel comfortable going completely ‘home made’. Can I mix this with my dog’s kibble? Yes! I personally believe in a 100% home made diet for dogs, but your dog will certainly still receive benefits mixing it half-half with his/her regular food.
I have tinkered with a few dog food recipes and found one that Sulin LOVES and that is nutritionally beneficial to her. I asked for my veterinarian to look at this recipe to ensure that she is getting all of the nutrients that she needs considering her condition before posting this. Just to be clear, however, I AM NOT A VET! I cannot emphasize this enough-please check with your vet before any dietary change concerning your pet. Assuming that your pet does not have any pre existing conditions, this diet will be perfectly fine. However, if your dog has a kidney failure, for example, this recipe will need to be modified.
This recipe makes about a month’s worth of food for Su, and she weighs 33 pounds. You can modify this to make more or less, depending on your preference.
6 1/2 pounds of cooked meat * – I use a mixture of chicken and stew meat (you may also use ground beef, turkey, salmon, or lamb)
1 lb frozen chopped kale (may also use spinach or collard greens)
1 lb frozen carrot, cauliflower, and broccoli mixture (may also use red, green, or yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, or asparagus)
12 boiled eggs (don’t throw away the shells-they are an excellent source of calcium when ground into a powder)
24 oz cottage cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut oil (great for your dog’s skin and joints)
28 oz of pumpkin or sweet potato **
8 cups of healthy starch (potato, rice, barley, or oatmeal) ***
Cook the meat and cut into small bites. Boil the eggs and save the shells. Place eggshells into a food processor and grind into a fine powder. Place veggies into a food processor and puree (you may skip this step if your dog likes vegetables-mine, however, is a spoiled brat and will not eat veggies if they are detected 🙂 ). Melt coconut oil over low heat.
Place meat, eggs, eggshell powder, veggies, coconut oil, cottage cheese, and pumpkin into a large bowl and mix thorougly. Place in storage bags and keep a 4-5 day supply in the fridge and freeze the rest.
* Some people swear by a raw meat diet for their pets, but I am squeamish and paranoid. My vet said that cooked meat would be fine for Sulin. If you want to feed a raw diet, ask your vet about any precautions you need to take.
** I eliminated the starch from this recipe because of Sulin’s dietary needs.
***If your dog has a loose stool after eating, add a little more pumpkin or sweet potato for added ‘bulk’. As with any dog food, make the switch gradually.