Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven, right? Dedicated parents believe that cooking for their children contributes to good health and is an act of love. I absolutely agree, but I’d like to talk about our other family members that need homemade food – our dogs! It will often come up in conversation that I make our dogs’ primary food. I’ll supplement with kibble for our new puppy, because she needs so many calories, and occasionally I feed the dog pack high-quality canned food so that they can have a little variety, but their main food is homemade. Several years ago, I read Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts about Pet Food, and it inspired me to improve the quality of commercial food I gave my dogs.
Then I took in a mastiff puppy with a gastrointestinal problem that severely impacted her ability to digest her food so that she could receive nutrition from it. Commercial food just passed straight through, and she was starving to death, even though she ate plenty.
The conventional vet didn’t know what to do when prescription food did the same thing, and I finally took our puppy to a holistic vet that suggested feeding her homemade dog food. I was relieved that he was right; she was able to eat and thrive on homemade food, when she was starving on commercial or prescription food. Committed to our dog, and my family’s foray into homemade dog food began. For more about my learning experience with the mastiffs, read here and here.
Years later after my mastiffs died, I lazily went back to commercial dog food for subsequent dogs, paying for the highest quality food I could find. The dogs liked it and it was easy for me, but it got rather expensive. After Nutty was diagnosed with diabetes, I returned to the homemade diet. I wondered if the commercial food, which is much higher in carbohydrates, contributed to his diagnosis.Making their food is a huge time investment for me, but these dogs are not just pets, they are my friends.
I discovered that feeding my dogs homemade dog food, using human-grade ingredients, costs less than buying high-quality commercial food that uses non-human-grade ingredients. By supplying the labor, I can improve the quality of their food at the same or a slightly lower cost. I buy the ingredients in bulk at a wholesale/warehouse food store, and I have experimented a little to make things easier to cook as well as what my dogs like. I have had to buy seasonings in bulk as well, as my dogs were quite bored with straightforward meat, vegetable, and brown rice. I tried several seasoning agents before settling on basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. They want their food flavorful, after all! I avoid seasoning with onion and garlic, as these can be harmful to dogs.
The food I make is gluten-free (as is the food I eat) as I think it is healthier. I discussed the homemade food with my veterinarian, who was quite concerned that my dogs would not get sufficient calcium. However, I add a nutritional “mix-in” with each bowl, using a recipe from my 1995 edition of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. The nutritional supplement adds calcium and a whole host of vitamins and minerals.
I’m not going to share recipes here, as that there books available, and it’s a very personal choice. Some people cook for their dogs at the same time they cook for themselves, using the same or similar ingredients. That doesn’t work for me, so I have tried several other techniques. I usually cook a large batch of food in the oven or crockpot. I find that when I grill the chicken, the dogs really love it! Sometimes I’ll throw in some bacon or sausage into the beef I serve, too, trying to add a little special flavor for them. Figure out what works for you and your dogs, but I encourage you to give homemade food a try.
As a serving tip, I’ll add that I quickly discovered that dogs don’t like cold food. It has no smell, and the scent is what tempts them to eat. So, you guessed it, I warm it up in a skillet before serving it. Our mastiffs were happy with a cup of hot water over the top to take the chill off, but they would eat just about anything; my current pack is a bit pickier. Bon appetit!