Don't freak out, this is not completely a crazy dog lady past. There is an element of cray-cray, but I promise I won't take you too far over the edge. A lot of people are being much more mindful about the food they eat, and that's something that is also carrying over to their pets. Pet food companies are advertising all natural product lines, and pet owners are more concerned with what they're feeding their furry bundles of joy. Some, including myself, have gone a step further and decided to make their own batches of food at home. It's not as crazy as you might think! You can control the quality of food your pet is eating, and it can save you a lot of money. Come on, follow me to crazy dog lady land...
I only want the very best for my little dumpling Oliver, so I've always tried to feed him high quality dog food. The food his breeder had been feeding him caused some vicious gas, it was a nightmare. I switched him to a higher quality food and noticed an improvement right away. After some research, I started feeding Oliver raw food (raw meat, bones and veggies). His gas cleared up almost completely, his coat was soft and shiny and his eyes brightened up significantly. There were two problems: one, Oliver wasn't always 100% down with the food. Sometimes he'd scarf it down, and other times he'd turn his nose up at it. There was no rhyme or reason, I'd just have to cross my fingers at every meal and hope it was a good day. Problem number two, it was really expensive... about $80 a month. Every time Oliver refused to eat a meal and it had to be thrown out, it was like a dagger in my heart and wallet.
My vet had been suggesting homemade dog food forever, and I always thought it would be too much trouble and too expensive. So when I took Oliver in for a follow up on a mystery insect bite (which left my poor little monkey with a swollen face and me with a nervous breakdown at the pet ER), I asked for more info about his recommendation for the home cooked food. I decided to try it out by making a small batch to try, I figured there was nothing to lose.
First step: talk to your vet! Make sure you check with your regular vet before changing your pet's diet, they can help you with picking the right kind of foods to use since there are some that can be dangerous or toxic to animals. Some of those include: chocolate, onions, nuts, garlic, grapes and raisins.
Once your vet has signed off on the diet change, you can get cookin'! I went with a simple chicken and rice dish for Oliver's first batch of homemade food. My vet recommended going to Balance It for recipes and supplement information. You enter in your pet's info and can select the kind of carb and protein you want to use, and boom, out come recipe options. There's no need to register with the site or buy their supplements, you can view recipes for free without entering any info except your dog's name, age and weight.
You can also Google recipes, just remember that the basic recipe should be about 50% protein, 25% veggies (chopped or pureed to make it easy for your pet to digest), and 25% grain. You can add in your own supplements (again, check with your vet for advice), I always add a nice omega-3 oil just before serving it up to Oliver. Okay, let's get to the cooking...
Those are my basic ingredients: shredded chicken (I use breast and thigh, boiled in water with a little olive oil, no salt or other spices), chopped/peeled sweet potato, and kale. I throw it all into a pot with some brown rice and let it simmer for about an hour.
Mmmm.... chicken goodness! Once piece of advice -- when you're shredding up the chicken, don't give any to your dog. This is like chumming the water for a shark feeding frenzy. You'll end up giving your dog way too much chicken, and he'll never leave you alone. Instead, save a piece for him to give after you're completely done. Trust me. Also, your dog can learn how to jump way higher than you thought possible, and might be able to sneak a piece of chicken off the counter when you're not looking.... Oliverrrrrr!
Once the food is done, I like to strain it and set it out in a baking pan to cool off. Just cover it up with a dishcloth or something to avoid driving hungry dogs from going berserk!
After the food has cooled off, I take a digital kitchen scale and dole out single portions for each meal into sandwich bags. Each bag is one meal, so it's super easy to serve up breakfast and dinner! I leave 2 days worth of meals in the fridge, and the rest go into a freezer safe bag in the freezer. Every time I use a bag from the fridge, I put a frozen bag in its place to thaw out. Easy as 1-2-3.
Sidebar: I also do a recipe with ground beef or turkey - same idea, just in a pan rather than a big pot. This method is slightly less time consuming, and is easier for smaller batches. I like to make about 3 weeks of food at a time, so I'll switch off between recipes each time to prevent Oliver from burning out on the same food week after week.
Proteins I've used: Chicken, ground beef, ground turkey, salmon (if it's on sale), and cottage cheese (for real, Oliver loooooves it).
Veggies: Sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, green beans, kale, spinach, and broccoli.
Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, couscous (Oliver really likes Israeli couscous), and whole grain pasta.
Of course, the most important question is... does Oliver like it? In a word, yes. He goes banana balls crazy pants for this food. Since switching over to homemade food, Oliver has never turned his nose up at it. He's excited at each meal, and licks the bowl clean.
I feel much better knowing that Oliver is getting good quality food that's fresh and prepared safely. I also feel better knowing I'm doing it without spending an arm and a leg. I did some calculations for comparison based on Oliver's size/age (30 lb, 2 year old neutered male):
Raw Food: $80/month
Mid Range Dry Food: $65/month
Low End Dry Food: $35/month
Homemade Food: $35-$45/month (depending on protein used)
So for about the same price as the low end dry food, you can give your dog good quality food made from scratch. Added benefits: no wasting food, smaller poop (the less junk/fillers in your dog's food, the less waste they produce), less gas, shiny coats, and healthier pets!
How much will your pet love you when you save money and start feeding them amazeballs homemade food?