Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Basic Dog Food Recipe preface:

My opinion on dog food is no secret, but its certainly not widely accepted either. I can only hope that somewhere out in the internet world, someone will decide to hear me out, and give this recipe a try, or at least be open minded enough to try to improve their dog's nutrition.

Before you get the recipe, there's some basic background that you need to know.
For starters, although we consider them carnivores, the domesticated dog should by slightly more omnivorous than their wild counterparts, the wolf.
Why? Consider this: in the wild, wolves are opportunistic hunters and scavengers. They will often survive by hunting small game, such as rabbits, or by "cleaning up" the leftovers of some other animal's dinner, or by picking the weak from a herd of large game, particularly if one is isolated, injured, or ill.
Now that sounds fairly carnivorous to me, and it is, but theres two factors usually left unmentioned; Variety, and Source.

Variety is about the range of food in the diet. While there may be a favorite, or a most common meal, a wolf will often have multiple protein sources. Perhaps rabbit one day, goose the next, perhaps deer after that. Part of being in the wild means there is very little regularity, and therefore a significant variety in the diet. When comparing this to the domesticated dog's diet, there is a single source. In fact, most people stick to a particular brand of dog food. But different protein sources have different vitamin and mineral content, and so by sticking to one variety of dog food, you're sticking to one level of vitamin/minerals.
To be fair, chicken is usually a pretty well-balanced option.

Which brings us to Source. Wild wolves, with the exception of an occasional raid on a human neighborhood, eat wild animals. Wild animals also enjoy the benefits of variety in their diet. Therefore the wolves eat the wild animals that have grown up eating a variety of things and the wild version of, for example, a rabbit, would have significantly improved nutritional quality compared to a captive rabbit that gets fed rabbit chow. In addition, the source of the prey determined physical fitness, which effects it's fat level. This is where the chicken that was a decent option for Variety becomes a less desirable one. The chicken commonly used to make dog food is pretty much always the bottom of the barrel. commercially raised with less than ideal nutrition, then processed and poor enough quality that the FDA or USDA won't approve it for human consumption. Thus, while the free range garden fed chicken might have been an excellent option for dog food.. the actual chicken that gets used to make the dog food is far from ideal.

To offset this effect, we can utilize a number of countermeasures. First, we can vary the proteins we feed our dogs. Second, we can identify better sources for that protein.

Please don't misunderstand, unless you have a truly impressive grocery store, you're not going to be able to call them and recommend that they find a better source for their in-house brand of dog food.  The only way to really do this is to stop using the poorly sourced dog foods.

So you can switch to a better dog food, but "more expensive" does not always equal "better".. and beyond that, the best quality dog food in the world isn't worth much at all when your dog has an allergy to one of the ingredients.

To start, you'll have to do some research, but, fortunately, a lot of it has been done for you already by scientists and breeders alike. This website is a great start, and any good breeder will tell you to stick to the "premium" dog foods, and most show breeders will tell you to stick to 5 and 6 star foods only.

Which brings me to a new subject:
"I'm not planning on showing my dog, He's just a yard dog, so I don't have to feed him this fancy mess"
This sentence makes me cringe. But, for now, suffice it to say, yes you do. I'll save the rant for another day.

Now back to the task at hand.
The best way to know for a fact that you're providing variety from a good source is to make your dogs food yourself. In fact, many show dog owners feed a "BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet", and I would strongly reccomend that as well. Again, the "why" will be saved for another post.

So, we've finally reached the point.
Dog food needs to be better. Your dog deserves better. If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Every dog is different, and this recipe should be tweaked according to your dogs breed, activity level, and specific health requirements. If you'd like to see how to tweak this recipe for your dog, feel free to contact me and i'd be happy to work with you to figure it out.

Basic Dog Food Recipe:
3 parts Whole, Raw Bone-in chicken thighs
1 part Vegetables

Mix and Serve.

Yes. That's it.

It's really that easy.

Then, you vary according to what's in season, what's on sale, and what your dog needs. In deer season, throw in some venison. Went fishing? Throw in some fish. Chickens laid extra eggs? Soft boil them, then throw them in. Zucchini on sale? go for it. Having turkey for thanksgiving? That bag full of yuckies is perfect for the dogs.
It's that simple, and it's still better than dog food.

Of course, you'll want to read up on the foods you can't feed your dog, but it's a relatively short list.

Before you go feeding this every day, please be aware than just like a human, changes in diet can lead to tummy trouble. Particularly since this is raw food, your dog has likely never had raw food before, and therefore lacks the enzymes required to digest it. The result is a very unhappy pup, and probably an unhappy owner. You can add some of these enzymes back into the diet in the form of supplements.
The Great Dane Lady is a great resource for picking out supplements and you can find her here:

Even with supplements, there will be a transition period, especially if you feed grocery store dry food now. I would strongly reccommend gradually switching to a super-premium dry dog food, then using that exclusively, then gradually switching to the homemade diet. The entire switch should take a month or so, depending on the dog.
Still, I volunteered to create a recipe, and while most variations on the ratio above will suffice, a recipe it is not.
So, bearing in mind that the dog I make this for is significantly larger than most, this is my recipe, I encourage you to make smaller batches.

6 Raw, Bone in, Skin on Chicken Thighs
1 Raw chicken back with livers attached
1 cup green beans par-boiled
1 cup chopped cooked carrots
2 soft boiled eggs, still in shell.

mixed with the following to make a gravy:
1 can Low sodium chicken broth,
a pinch each of rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley
1/4cup frozen, thawed blueberries
1/4 cup plain yogurt
4 dog multivatamins, crushed.

This recipe is based off of what I had in the fridge at the time, and what I was planning to eat for dinner that night. Being the frugal not-quite-housewife that I am, I like to buy whole chickens, and cut them up for meals, especially when they're on sale. I also like to stock up on thighs and legs because we prefer dark meat, and it's also pretty cheap on sale. I think I got these thighs for 69cents/lb..
The rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley are all herbs from my own garden, and each have health benefits, especially parsley. Green beans and carrots are pretty much the easiest veggies to find, and pretty cheap too, so I try to keep them on hand as much as possible. The 4 multivitamins is actually the recommended dose for my huge dog, so please dont feed that to yours because you'll probably make him sick with vitamin toxicity.

You'll notice there are no grains in my recipe, and that's because i'm pretty strongly against them. The only reason to feed a dog grains is to keep costs low, which is not a good enough reason for me, especially when the largest portion of the recipe is only 69c/lb. In the winter, and for some cases, i would recommend adding peeled potatos or pasta to the mix, but in general, why bother?

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