Food is many things to different people. For some it is simply a fuel for their body and serves a specific purpose and function. For me it is that but it is also a source of pleasure. It’s a pleasure to cook, to try different things and to cook for other people. I get some real satisfaction when I make something and feed someone and they love the dish; you can see when they eat it that the dish you served somehow satisfied a craving they didn’t even know they had. This makes me happy. So it isn’t a wonder that I’ve jumped on board to make dog food from scratch. I rarely fed my children processed or prepackaged food when they were growing up so it doesn’t make sense that I would feed my dog kibble that is processed, dried and lasts in a cupboard for months without going bad.
I haven’t always been on this bandwagon and we had a cocker spaniel for many years who survived on kibble albeit with a supplement of leftover chicken or pork or whatever we had that week. Eating our scraps always made him extraordinarily happy and he was spoiled often. Oddly though that it hadn’t, at that time, even occurred to me that my pooch might be better off eating what we ate as his regular source of food. It was only when Brax, our handsome Shepherd came into our lives that the issue of food even came up.
It was my girlfriend who has a shepherd husky cross who first mentioned feeding her dog chicken carcasses, whole raw chicken carcasses bones and all that I began doing some research. Since then I dove into feeding Brax a much healthier diet than I had fed our previous dog. (More about raw chicken carcasses at the bottom of this post.)
I am certainly not professing that I have all the answers or that I’m doing things the RIGHT way. I’m not even saying that kibble is bad; I’m just saying that once I started doing some research I completely converted over. And there were several self serving bits of research that helped me to make that leap.
Firstly, the amount of shedding – in my research and, in the end, actual experience, once I changed Brax’s diet the amount of hair/fur I was sweeping up was drastically reduced – this makes me happy. Not only is there not as much of a mess in the house but I believe that the reduction in shedding is an indication of overall health. I know that they aren’t people but imagine if your hair was falling out all the time, to an excessive degree, it would definitely be an indication of a deficiency somewhere in your body, yet we accept this from our pets as natural without even thinking that maybe they don’t need to shed quite that much.
Secondly, the dreaded scooping — in my research and again, actual experience, the amount of poop that is produced by a miniature horse is astounding. However, this reduced greatly on a real whole food diet. Add to that, whatever gets left behind turns white, dries up and literally disappears in just a couple of days in the event you miss a pick-up. This is just one more thing to make me very happy.
These two reasons I discovered in my research were the ones that made me rethink giving my dog kibble, though since I’ve changed over I realized a few more things.
He doesn’t drink as much as most dogs. Trust me when I tell you that he is a slob when it comes to drinking water, often he would slop it all over the kitchen floor and it was a mess. Now without all that added salt and with all the hydration of real food he rarely drinks water at all… which reduces the amount of watery mess I have to clean up every day. All in all it has been a win win!
Some of the other things I noticed include the ‘puppy craziness’ – make no mistake he is still a puppy (at 10 months) but he just doesn’t seem as hyperactive the way he was before I switched up his food. He also doesn’t give off that strong nasty big dog smell that some dogs can and his coat feels so nice… dare I say absolutely luxurious… it’s a joy to run my fingers through it. All reasons enough for me to feed him the way I fed my kids. Not to mention that making food is just the thing I love to do for my loved ones, two and four legged 🙂
I’m posting this information not to convert people but to put some context around the dog food recipes I post on my blog. (I’ll get back to people ones shortly I promise!) There are lots of resources online that will help lead one to put together a diet plan for their dog and I would encourage you to please do the research. Google terms like, “raw diet for dogs” or “BARK diet” or “homemade dog food” or any other combination of terms that will lead you to various resources. I only post this because I have a food blog… and a number of people I’ve spoken to ask me what exactly I feed my dog. I am not a hard and fast, stick to one strict plan kind of person. I go with what makes sense to me and these are the few simple things I believe in:
- Rounded nutrition I believe needs to be had ‘over time’ not necessarily exact all encompassing in every single meal. This is how humans eat and though we are not dogs, dogs pre domesticity as with all animals in the wild ate this way and managed quite well.
- If the food isn’t fresh enough or good enough that you would eat it then don’t give it to your dog.
- Though our dog eats a primarily raw diet I don’t hesitate to give him leftover cooked chicken, or most meats and vegetables that we won’t get to – BEFORE it goes bad – See point 2.
- My dog gets processed treats in about the same frequency my children would have gotten fast food. Very occasionally and in small doses. Also, as an aside, I’ve discovered while making the switch that best not to give kibble AND real food in any one sitting… seems to have not agreed with my pooch and the consequences, though not dangerous in small doses, were ugly and not good for any prolonged period of time. By processed I mean processed dog treats and any processed people food, no macaroni and cheese, no chips or left over French fries, none of the stuff I shouldn’t be eating but do sometimes anyway. 😉
- Lastly, I stick to the rules of the foods that dogs should NOT have which include, grapes and raisons, apple seeds, onions, raw white potatoes, chocolate, avocado, and cherries and give him the foods I would eat which include watermelon (not the rind) and any sweet fruit in moderation simply due to the high sugar content. I also do not give my dog bread, or pasta in any significant quantity only because his system doesn’t seem to tolerate it.
What do I give our dog? Well below is a list of ingredients that make up our dog food concoctions. I get together with a friend and every two weeks we make a batch of food, veggies and meat patties, we bag them in single servings and freeze them. This gives us an opportunity to get together and just makes the process more fun. We have it down to just over a couple of hours to get this done.
Meat patties – makes about 30 10oz baggies
- 1 large whole pork loin
- 1 large package chicken breasts (about 12)
- 1 large package chicken thighs (similar size as breasts)
- 1 package of beef or pork liver
- 1 package of tripe
- 1 beef kidney
- 1 cup of brewer’s yeast
- ½ cup – 1 cup ground flax seeds
- 1 cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup turmeric
- 1-2 cups of oats
We run all the meat through a grinder and mix all ingredients together. Our serving size has changed over time since our boys are active puppies and still growing. We’ve gone from 8 oz to 10 oz servings. All the patties go into the freezer and I bring generally 2-3 days worth in the fridge. This way they are thawed before I give them to our dog and they aren’t ever sitting in the fridge too long.
Veggie Mix makes approximately 40 8oz baggies
- 1 bag (2-3 heads) romaine lettuce
- 1 large bag fresh spinach
- 1 bunch of fresh kale
- 1 half large bag of frozen peas
- 1 half bag of frozen beans
- 1 half large bag of fresh broccoli
- 1 head of fresh cauliflower
- ½ of a large or 1 small cabbage
- Half dozen carrots
- Half dozen parsnips
- 1-2 rutabagas
- 1-2 turnip
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 large fresh cucumber
- 1-2 bananas
- 1-2 apples
- 1 of each, red, yellow and orange peppers
- 2-3 tomatoes
- Up to a dozen raw eggs (including shells)
- Up to 2 cups fresh pumpkin
- ½ cup kale or kelp powder
- 1-2 cups of steel cut or rolled oats to help sop up the excess liquid.
Grind all vegetables and mix thoroughly. Scoop into freezer bags and allow thawing time before giving to your four-legged. As with the meat, I move from freezer to fridge so that the fridge has 2-3 days worth at any given time.
I also make a sweet potato and brown rice concoction that I make every few days and he gets 1-2 cups per meal. You can do one or the other but I find that the rice gets hard if it doesn’t have something to keep it moist and sweet potatoes are good for him and it’s an easy concoction to make every few days and keep in the fridge.
Brax’s daily menu is generally…
Breakfast: meat patty, bag of veggie mix and ½ – 1 cup of sweet potato and brown rice.
Dinner: ½ – 1 cup of sweet potato and brown rice, 1 package of veggie mix and a raw chicken carcass. Depending on the size of the carcass I will sometimes also give him a duck neck or duck wing or a second carcass. (More about the carcasses below*)
I find the duck meat in the frozen food section of a local Asian ethnic market and often at a good price. I’ve also recently found pork necks in bulk for an amazing price through a butcher and have started to give him those as well.
About once a week I will add in a can of salmon or sardines, yes he loves the fish!
Most evenings he gets a small hard meaty bone (make friends with your local butcher) I found one that has organic beef, bison and pork bones cut for soup, frozen and at a good price. I stock up on those when I can and that’s how he brushes his teeth after dinner.
Also, while we’re munching and watching television late evening he will get a kong filled with peanut butter (no salt no sugar added) and I freeze it the day before (I have two on the go).
Brax is a healthy 90 lbs or so and as he grows out of his puppy stage his food intake will decrease for sure. For now he is active and growing and burns off tons of energy and so this food intake works.
Couple of last things I feel are important to add are…
Make sure you speak to your vet, as I was transitioning our dog’s food I consulted with our vet because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to miss something. Oddly when I had this discussion I heard yet another story about a dog that switched to whole foods and was consequently brought back from significant sickness and allergic reactions. Seems when you start talking to people many of them have similar stories.
Also, the ingredients for the meat patties and veggie mix are approximations. We have a couple of very big bowls and when we do this one of us works on the meat and the other does the veggies. We don’t always have all or the exact same ingredients. Sometimes we forget to buy something or add something and we just go with the flow making sure to pick up on it the next time. Again…. complete nutrition over time, we will select from what’s on sale, what we have extra of and work it into the plan so the meals are generally the same but a little different each time.
*In Winnipeg we have a poultry processing plant and once they remove the breasts, wings and legs off chickens they are left with meaty carcasses. We buy a case of fresh carcasses, about 25kgs and it costs about 45 dollars. At home we bag each of the carcasses individually and freeze them. One case gives us anywhere between 70-90 carcasses some bigger some smaller. We can also get the same product ground from the plant for dogs that aren’t huge fans of chewing but ours are so this works for us. There are also raw dog foods sold on the market though we find they are quite expensive so we make our own.
As for feeding your dog raw chicken. It is safe and will not make a dog sick if you follow the rule of ‘if it’s not fresh enough for me to eat I won’t feed it to the dog’. AND chicken bones are fine for dogs as long as they are not cooked, it’s the cooking process that makes them hard and brittle and potentially problematic for dogs. But again, don’t take my word for it…. please do your homework.
Lastly, if you’re going to go down this road you may want to consider getting a small chest freezer. 🙂 Otherwise it can get a little annoying to have to rummage though bags of dog food and bones and carcasses for something you want to take out for the rest of the family.