Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kibbles be Gone! How to Make Your Own Dog Food

The joys of sharing your home with a dog - the loving, the silliness, the cuddling, the burping (err, I have a pug); they're such great companions. Dogs, like us, need to eat well in order to feel well and live a long, healthy life. Nowadays when dog food is readily available in huge bags at every grocery store, most of us take the easy way out, struggling through the front door with a 25-pound bag of pelleted "Chicken and Carrots". I too have done this, feeling like my dog was somehow proud of me for carrying the sack into the kitchen where it would slowly be depleted that month. But I'll admit (and this is rare): I was wrong.

In fact she was probably dreading the arrival of that huge bag, thinking "oh no, you've got to be kidding me. I haven't pooped in a week thanks to that food!", snorting her way to the backyard to sulk. The reality of processed dog food wasn't really one that at the time I was interested in, but as they say, the more you know...

Commercial dog foods are filled with all sorts of things, and mostly the sorts of things that aren't good for your dog. Like what, you ask? Oh, I'm happy to share!
  • Meat By-Product: this refers to any part of an animal (cow, chicken, etc.) that is not muscle. Essentially, it's heads, feet, tails, things like that. Yes seriously, ground up cow eyeballs in your dog's food. (Note: I'm all for using the entire animal if it must be consumed, however these have no nutritional value for a dog.)
  • Digest: either in "poultry digest" or "meat digest" form, is a nice way of saying "roadkill" and "euthanized pets". Yes, seriously - hold back your vomit - you could be feeding your dog ANOTHER DOG!  
This all with any number of rice, wheat, corn and soy that has discarded and not usable for anything else, aside from churning it up with eyeballs and turning it into the chow that you put in Fluffy's bowl.

Okay, so you're probably asking yourself, are there any dog foods that don't contain this crap (quite literally)? There are, you can find a list of some of the top ones here (conversely, a list of the worst ones are here). Are they cheap? Depends. How valuable is your dog's nutrition to you? You may be paying double for that 25-pound bag of food, but in my view, it's worth it.

There is another option however, one that takes a little more effort but your dog will love you SO much that you will probably stay motivated to keep doing it: make your own dog food! It's pretty easy and most importantly, good for your furry companions. If they had opposable thumbs they'd probably be doing it themselves.

A trick to making this a bit easier on yourself is to prepare a week or two of food in one batch, then freeze or refrigerate the rest in individual containers or baggies (be sure to reuse the bags though, pretty please!). Pull out a frozen one in the morning for it to be defrosted by doggy dinner time and you're all set! Your dog will go nuts for this (if your dog is a messy eater, be prepared - depending on the ingredients used you might want to use a newspaper under the bowl unless they're good at cleaning up).

Here are some recipes to peruse! (Note: many contain grains which are not really necessary for dogs in a balanced diet, you can omit them if you'd like and bulk up on the other ingredients. Also make sure to puree the veggies so their nutrients can be fully absorbed!) Additionally, here's a feeding chart to know how much to give your dog.

Chicken and Rice
Turkey "Casserole"
Lamb and Veggies
Meaty "Casserole"
Meatloaf for Dogs
Turkey and Rice
Another Turkey and Rice 

Here's a whole bunch of recipes for food and cookies!

Here's a vegan recipe (yes, dogs can thrive without meat!)

I'd love to hear about your experiences going kibble-free, please leave your tips, recipes or comments below!  

(that's my furbaby, Ollie!)

UPDATE, OCTOBER 21: the dog LOVES her food. The cat is having difficulty adjusting and it's tough going. We're being patient with him and encouraging him. Strange as it seems, though he has meat in his bowl he doesn't know/recognize that it's food. He is so used to eating crunchy pieces of cat food. (Ugh I feel so guilty.)

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 4: Ollie is still massively in love with her homemade food. She goes #2 once a day without difficulty. I've noticed she's been drinking less water but peeing just as much - I think it's because the carrots I use are pureed with water so she's still getting a good water intake. Around 7:30 in the evening she starts the "kitchen sniff", her way of letting me know that she hasn't yet eaten and is waiting EVER so patiently. :-) The cat... still slow going. We've axed the dry food and he took wet food after he refused to eat for three (terrible, horrible) days. He's on wet food now and we're slowly putting more and more chicken in it. Currently he gets about 3/4 tbsp of chicken mixed in with his wet food and it's always gone when I check the bowl... so he's eating it! Hooray!

UPDATE, DECEMBER 5: The dog is going strong. The "dinner dance" has been put into place, which involves running around the house, tail chasing and general craziness when the dog sees me preparing her meal. She gets so excited about it! She's pooping once a day, everything is normal, she seems incredibly healthy and happy. No seizures in 5 weeks, to boot (may not be related). The cat is still getting mixed food, but we're still going strong. He's a tough nut to crack!