Cooking for your dogs doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and with just a little information, is really quite simple. In the end you may find that your dog is healthier and happier on a homemade diet. If you are using a top-quality PREMIUM kibble, you may even mix the two together like I do for my four yorkies.
Dry dog foods can be 50% or more carbohydrates, and some people began to notice that there was an increase in skin, intestinal and joint inflammation related to allergies and arthritis while on these diets. Homemade diets, especially those HIGH in protein and LOW in carbs, are often easier to digest and lead to a longer, healthier life.
The MOST IMPORTANT ingredient to any homemade diet is the addition of CALCIUM!!!! It MUST be added to keep bones healthy and strong. Without it, they will weaken and eventually break. There is not enough calcium in ANY food other than bones to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. Adult dogs need around 800-1,000 mg of calcium added per 1 pound (that’s about 2 cups) of food. Any form of calcium can be used. I actually make my own by saving old eggshells that I have rinsed thoroughly, and when I have enough I toast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until they are a light brown color. Let them cool slightly, then grind them up into a very fine powder in a coffee grinder. Use ½ teaspoon of this ground eggshell per 1 pound of food each and every day. Or you can use this formula based on the weight of the dog…which is the one I use:
10-50 pounds: 1/8 teaspoon
50-75 pounds: ¼ teaspoon
75-100 pounds: ½ teaspoon
100 pounds +: ¾ teaspoon
You can add it to the food you make in bulk or to each day’s feeding, as it is not affected by storage. Bone meal can also be used to supply calcium, but because it contains phosphorus as well, you will have to give a little more than when using plain calcium. Add an amount of bone meal that provides around 1,200 mg of calcium per 1 pound of food.
If you do use commercial dog kibble, all dog magazines will tell you to ROTATE BRANDS and protein sources to provide variety and better nutrition. I actually am using TWO BRANDS at the same time, mixed together. One of them has salmon as the protein source, and the other has lamb as the protein source. They only get a small amount of kibble with their meal though…just enough to add some crunch to their homemade dinner. When I prepare the homemade meals, I will rotate the protein source that I use….salmon one week, then maybe pork, then beef, then maybe venison the next time. Since Millie is allergic to chicken and turkey, I have to stay away from those two. Occasionally I will fix them a meal with sardines….which is VERY good for them….but their breath is VERY STRONG (hahahaha) and I can hardly stand for them to kiss me on those days….but sardines are VERY GOOD for doggies!!!
Liver is very rich in nutrients and should make up around 5% of the total diet, or around 1 ounce of liver per 1 pound of other meats….but I will confess that I have never given them liver. You should feed it to them in small amounts; frequently….not all at one time or it can lead to loose stools. Heart is another organ meat that is good to feed…although again, I’ve never tried this one! Garnish any meal with a spoonful of yogurt or cottage cheese for extra flavor and nutrition. Every meal does not have to be nutritionally balanced, as long as it is balanced over time.
Protein is what gives our babies their healthy skin and coat, aids in wound healing, supports their immune and nervous system and promotes lean muscle over fat. By increasing the amount of protein in the diet, you can help to calm HYPERactive dogs and ENERGIZE the sluggish and overweight dogs. Animal protein is especially important, as plant proteins are incomplete and harder for them to digest. Homemade diets should be at least HALF animal protein (meat, eggs, fish and dairy) and no more than half plant products (grains, vegetables, legumes).
If you want to be really, really sure that the foods you are using are free from bacteria, you can start CLEANING your food. Dr. Hazel Parcell developed a system of cleansing food of pesticides, fungi, parasites, bacteria and heavy metals using bleach. Use ½ teaspoon of Clorox to 1 gallon of water. Fruits and vegetables are soaked for 10 minutes, then rinsed. Fill up the sink and soak them again in fresh water for 10 minutes. Drain, dry and store. Eggs are soaked in the Clorox bath for 30 minutes and then rinsed as above. Meat can be placed into a colander and soaked from 10-15 minutes, then rinsed as above. You can also use Grapefruit seed extract in place of the Clorox if you prefer.
Animal fat is better than vegetable oils…although cholesterol is not usually a problem for dogs like it is for people. Fat is used for energy, so very active dogs will need MORE fat, and less active dogs need less fat…but DO NOT feed a very low fat diet unless your doggie requires this! Too little fat leads to a skin conditions and a dull, lifeless coat….it also leaves him feeling hungry all the time, which can introduce behavioral problems.
Carbohydrates come from plants such as grains, vegetables and fruits. They offer an inexpensive source of calories, have less nutritional value than foods from animal sources, and can also contribute to weight gain. Many health problems in dogs MAY be linked to a high-carb diet. If your dog suffers from allergies, arthritis, seizures, urine leaking, chronic ear infections or digestive disorders…omit grains and starchy foods from the diet for a while and see if he/she improves.
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Most fruits can be fed raw, but try to choose the very ripe ones that are easier to digest. Vegetables need to be fed cooked or pureed in order to break down the cell walls…raw veggies proved very little nutritional value. Grains, legumes, and starchy veggies such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes must be fully cooked in order to be digestible.
NEVER feed your dog grapes or raisins as these have been linked to kidney failure in dogs…for the same reason, avoid grape juice too! Garlic and onions have two different properties and while it is NEVER OK to feed your doggie onions, many people will agree that small amounts of garlic (no more than 1 small clove per 20 pound of body weight daily) is fine. Garlic has actually been shown to be helpful in boosting the immune system and is found in MANY pet treats, including our beloved Dr. Beckers!
NEVER feed doggies cooked bones of any kind…beef, chicken or fish…although the fish bones in CANNED fish are very soft and safe to eat. Cooked bones will break into jagged splinters that can pierce your doggie’s digestive system, causing serious injury. Some sources say raw bones are safe to eat. But do not feed your doggies fish bones and chicken bones, raw or cooked, to be on the safe side of loving and caring for your baby. Sharp bones can get caught in their throats and digestive systems causing great pain and harm, it is not worth it.
So that our pawrents don’t run the risk of going to prison like the UK pawrents…..here is a guideline to follow to keep your fur-baby fit and trim. Feed this amount twice a day. If your doggie’s weight falls somewhere between these ranges, adjust the amount accordingly.
SMALL DOGS (13 pounds): 250 calories (Twice a day)
MEDIUM DOGS (35 pounds): 500 calories (Twice a day)
LARGE DOGS (80 pounds): 1,000 calories (Twice a day)
The most important supplement to add to any diet is fish or salmon oil (NOT cod-liver oil) which supplies omega-3 fatty acids. This will contribute to a healthy coat and skin and support the immune system, the heart, kidneys, and brain. A recommended starting dose of fish oil is 500 mg (small dogs) to 1,000 mg (large dogs), 1-2 times daily. This dose applies to the amount of active omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) noted on the label rather than to the amount of fish oil. Cod liver oil can be added to supply vitamins A and D; feed no more than 100 IUs (small dogs) to 400 IUs (large dogs) of Vitamin D daily. Your dog can also get his/her daily Vitamin D by sitting in the sun every day for 30 minutes!!! They will need 750 IU daily (per 10 pounds) of Vitamin A.
Whenever you add oils to the diet, you also need to add a vitamin E supplement as it works synergistically with omega 3 fatty acids. Give your dog around 100 IUs per 20 pound of body weight daily, or every other day….but not more than 400 IU regardless of weight. 4-8 IU per pound of body weight per day is the general rule. Clearly, vitamin E has a strong influence on the immune system, and is widely recognized as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from damage. Vitamin E aids circulations, healing of wounds, aids in arthritis, helps normal functioning of the nervous system, improves athletic performance, prevents cell damage and may prevent aging. It should always be given when your dog has surgery or vaccinations or has experienced serious injury or shock.
It is best to add a vitamin-mineral supplement to all homemade diets. There are many high-quality ones available from holistic vets to high-end pet supply stores. You can also use supplements made for humans and adjust the amounts to match the size of your dog.
One concern with over-processed foods is that they are stripped of naturally occurring enzymes that help in the process of digestion. Adding an enzymatic supplement such as “Prozyme” to your dog’s kibble can help to increase the absorption of the nutrients. I use this with my doggies at every meal!
A Probiotic is also helpful for supporting a healthy digestive system. I use a probiotic for my yorkies and actually use one made for humans. Whenever possible, I try to use human-grade supplements as they have usually been tested more rigorously than animal versions. Probiotics are also helpful after treatments with antibiotics and also for dogs prone to diarrhea. Lactobacillus acidophilus is a good probiotic to add, but supplements that provide more than one kind of beneficial bacteria, especially Lactobacillus sporogenes and Enterococcus faecium, are even better!
Apple Cider Vinegar is another holistic additive that when added to your doggie’s diet can help to flush out toxins, oxygenate the blood and kill germs and bacteria….a real health booster! But you have to get the kind sold in health food stores….the kind with the cloudy sediment in the bottom of the bottle….the kind that contains “the Mother”….which indicates that the vinegar has not been over-processed. Add a teaspoon or two to your dog’s daily water for the full effect. (Make sure that your dog does not find the taste offensive and that he/she will still drink it!) I also use this with my doggies. I add a tiny dribble to their food every so often.
Canned Pumpkin is a must-have in your pantry…but only the PLAIN kind….not the pumpkin pie mix. Pumpkin is a very effective and natural remedy for diarrhea. It is also very filling, and can be given to a dieting dog to create a feeling of fullness.
Bottled Spring Water or filtered water should be given to all dogs. There are too many articles written on the ill-effects of tap-water use for our fur-babies. Their skin, coats and general health will thank you! Us four yorkies only get filtered water….never EVER TAP WATER! Mummy makes it herself with a reverse osmosis machine…if she is out, she will run up to the store and buy “Nursery Water”, the kind of water used to prepare baby formula.
Honey in its raw form, used once a week is a great pick-me-up for all doggies. It aids in the digestive process and acts as wonderful tonic for a stressed dog. A Tablespoon once a week for an 80-pound dog brings color back to the gums….adjust as needed for the weight of your dog. It should only be used in its raw form as heat processing kills the health giving enzymes that it contains. You can get this at your local health food store…do not get the kind at the grocery store….this kind is no good garbage.
Blackstrap Molasses is used for its high potassium content and to balance out the rest of the minerals. Besides potassium, it contains many other trace minerals and some of the B complex vitamins. Old-time breeders use blackstrap molasses together with seaweed or kelp to keep the pigmentation of the nose, eye rims and mouth dark…..I use this for my yorkies…..a tiny bit in their food about once a week. Either the honey or the molasses can easily be spread on one of the recipes that I have for “Breakfast Pawcakes” that your furbaby is SURE to gobble down with glee!
This is just a small tutorial on the basics of cooking for your dog. There are literally hundreds of books available to assist you in cooking healthy meals for your fur-baby…and you can make it as simple or as complicated as you wish. The point is for your dog to be healthier, but for it to be fun for you as well. You should check with your vet if you are unsure about any diet changes.
Happy cooking! ~~Millie LaRue
The Holistic Dog Book by Denise Flaim
The Healthy Dog Cookbook by Jonna Anne and Mary Straus
Supplements for Home Cooked Diets by Joanne Carson, PhD
Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog by Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown DVM
The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care by CJ Puotinen