Here is a typical meal that I feed my dogs- well, typical as it gets since they get something different every day. I make their food fresh, “from scratch” each evening. But, it’s really, really easy. This is because, I believe, dogs are evolved scavengers and can live, and thrive, off of almost anything (the fact that most commercial kibble is so full of junk, but so many dogs do OK on it is the ultimate testament to that). So, I follow no recipes, I don’t worry about what AAFCO defines as the daily minimum for niacin or phosphorous; and I don’t really even worry much about the raw versus cooked debate.
Instead, I just feed them whole foods, and shoot for as wide of variety as possible. Because I’ve read that dogs don’t break down fiber well, I do cook their grains, and mostly steam their vegetables. I feed their meat raw most of the time, but they certainly get cooked meat too, and I’ve recently switched the most elderly dog to mostly cooked. I don’t avoid much of anything, except I minimize onions and grape products (recent evidence indicates they’re toxic to dogs in large quantities) and the nightshade family plants (tomato, eggplant, potato) because those contribute to inflammation.
This particular meal has bananas, some leftover bits from a salad, some leftover waffles, duck eggs, and beef liver. The meat I use most is ground turkey, because I can get it the cheapest. But I try to have them eat red meat at least once a week, as well as organ meat once a week, and canned fish once a week.
I feed them a small piece of meat in the morning (a chicken drumstick or back, usually) and their evening meal is about 1/3 veggies, 1/3 meat and 1/3 grains and legumes. These are very rough proportions. I do add some supplements– glucosamine for the old dogs, and vitamin C, vegetable and fish oil for all. For three of the dogs, I add a supplement powder mixture of lecithin, alfalfa, kelp and nutritional yeast (my 4th dog seems to be allergic to one of these things, so she doesn’t get this). I try to give them raw meaty bones from the butcher once a week too.
Often-very often-they get leftovers. That’s the best part about all this homemade feeding thing! If we make a recipe that doesn’t turn out so well, or forget to eat some leftovers, or buy too much of something, I never throw it away. It all goes in the dog food. So, pretty much nothing goes to waste in my kitchen. Refrigerator cleanouts go straight into their bowls. They don’t mind things that are a little “off” with too much enzyme activity for our tastes- in fact, I think they digest things better when they are already headed down the path of decomposition!
The results: super healthy dogs that veterinarians always compliment. Their teeth stay healthy and clean without any brushing or anaesthesia -cleanings. Their coats look great. They heal from wounds fast, they have loads of energy for working, rarely injure, and stay robustly healthy, despite frequent exposure to other dogs at shows and trials. I rarely have to vist the vet. They tolerate fleas (yes- tolerate, like a normal animal should!). Their “output” is small and less offensive than kibble-fed dogs: more like coyote scat. They aren’t perpetually hungry like they were when they ate kibble, and they maintain good weights naturally and easily. And, my old dogs are old: 12+ and 15, and they still look good!
I have been feeding my dogs this way for about 9 years and am so pleased with the results. Once, I did the math, and convinced myself it costs about the same as kibble. For all the people out there who are struggling with disease, dental problems, allergies, infections, behavior problems and other chronic illness in their dogs, I really think this is the way to go. Diet is probably the foremost contributor to all disease in the world, and for us in this country, it’s so easily changed! Plus, I just enjoy making it for them and seeing how much they love eating it. Bon appetite! 🙂
19 thoughts on “Dog Food”
Neat! 9 years is along time too and well worth taking into consideration, IMO!
I feed Lil-Lea raw ground meats from the grocery store and veggies. She also gets some of whatever we are eating. I have noticed a change in her activity and alertness level since I took her off all commercial foods.
I tried the home cooking and it is just way to complicated and unrealistic to me and she did not want it after I cooked up a whole batch (months worth) Even people do not require that much complication, so why on earth would a dog or cat!
I also tried pre-pared raw and she stopped eating that too! Made me wonder if it was the vitamin smells. Or *China* smells LOL
She willing eats her raw ground meats and I switch to make sure she gets a rounded out menu, from chicken, pork, turkey and lamb (when I can get it) She seems to have an allergy to beef though and with all the issues with beef, I am just as glad really as it is one less thing I have to worry about her getting sick from, LOL!
It was nice to see someone who has been feeding the way you have, long term and have healthy dogs as I am also of the same mind-set with regards to this as you are.
Don’t let my Lets Talk Pet Foods name, name fool you. I actually do research on Commercial Pet Foods and help educate pet owners who (want to feed, or feel they need to feed,commercial pet foods)about them and the companies that produce them, and try to help them to pick a better one than , perhaps what they are currently feeding.
I REALLY enjoyed your article !
Hey thanks for the comments, Pam! I too am not into overly complicated feeding- it has to be easy for me for sure!
My mom and I both learned about homemade food at the same time, but she has gone in a much different direction than me. She puts a lot of work into major juicing sessions, and cooks big batches of treats, meats and grains in one session, then freezes them for later use. It works for her, but I’m not keen on spending my Saturdays that way, and I have bigger, and more, dogs than she!
So, I really just throw things in a bowl. I am lucky in that my dogs will eat just about anything mixed with anything, so they are easy to please. I always say, if you know what to feed kids, you can’t possibly go wrong with a dog!
I do think it’s important to take seriously a dog’s preferences though- if they have an aversion to a food, I believe it’s for a reason. I imagine they either aren’t drawn to it because they don’t need what’s in it, or they remember it making them feel poorly the last time they ate it.
I think that’s the beauty of making food at home, is that if you have a dog that’s sensitive to things, or is struggling with a lot of chronic illness issues, you can just pare them down to something like oatmeal for a week or two, get them baselined, then start adding foods back in until you can figure out what’s good for the individual.
My mom found this to be the case with a very sickly Corgi she had. He almost died of undiagnoseable autoimmune problems, until she switched him off of commercial foods. That’s what really got us started with this subject, was seeing how much better that dog did on “real” food. I truly believe it saved his life.
At the time, I had two dogs that I considered heatlhy, but I switched them anyway, and I felt that their overall health improved greatly. And, one dog that had a bunch of miscellaneous but “normal” issues– allergies to fleas, ear problems, teeth tartar, etc- all that went away after about a year on homemade food. So, I guess it takes a while for the body to clean itself out, but eventually it does!
great post…one I like to see…be very careful to warn people that you are not just feeding leftovers. If you just quickly scanned your post it sounds like you basically feed left overs (okay I am guilty thats almost what I thought!!) so many of us eat horribly processed fatty foods and we would make our dogs FAT feeding them table scraps. I see after reading a little closer that you are very selective in what left overs you do give them…I have tried this route off and on over the years but I was more like your mom which was a very tasking job!! I have never completely gone off commercial kibble as a foundation for my feeding…only when I went completely raw a few years back (boy was that costly!! I had 6 English Bulls at the time!!)
I have been trying a variety of different holistic kibbles this last one with really good results (Taste of The Wild) but I would rather feed completely homemade but I am nervous of this, because of the teeth cleaning issues etc.
I may have to look into this further thanks to your article. Personal experiences go a long way with me…much further than professional opinions!!! (ones that are paid for their expertise)
Hi Clasidog, thanks for the comments. I think I’ll write a new post to address some of these thoughts-great discussion!
Great, great thoughts. Thank you. Been feeding all natural homemade food for 20 years. Never had a problem with my dogs teeth, allergies or digestive issues.
I have been involved in rescue for years. I have also seen very sick dogs get well with all natural foods, homemade from good meats, vegetables, good whole grains and oil.
These are thoughtful posts. I never, ever feed kibble no matter if it’s holistic, organic or all natural. Kibble is kibble. It would be like feeding your kids Cheerios every day for their diet.
Thank you for these posts.
I have been told that chicken bones are bad for dogs as they are hollow and can get caught in the throat. Have you had any trouble with that? Thanks for the article!
Sarah, I think most of the aversion to feeding any kind of bones to dogs is that most vets/people only have experience seeing what happens with cooked bones. Those indeed can cause trouble- they are brittle, break into sharp-ended shards which can puncture internal organs, break teeth, or pack up in the intestines and cause a blockage. Raw bones, however, are completely different. Raw poultry bones are so soft, dogs easily crunch them into pieces, and the stomach completely breaks them down. When they come out the other end, they have been reduced to chalk- just powdered calcium. I have been feeding them for about fifteen years, and have never had an issue. I think the other good “truth test” is to just think about what coyotes eat: they regularly eat whole rodents and birds, and clearly we don’t see coyotes dropping dead from bone ingestion- their bodies and digestive systems are specifically designed for this and handle it with ease.
Thanks! That makes sense!
You actually feed your dog’s raw meat? I’ve been home making our dog’s food for a long time and don’t think I could ever do this to him. Once we fed a dog left over chicken drumsticks we has that evening…by morning…it was the worse death I had ever seen. The poor dog’s rear literally exploded and you could see where the sharp chicken bones ripped through. This dog was healthy so it wasn’t anything else bit what we saw with our own two eyes. My vet told me feeding dogs raw meat is not good for them. Could he have been wrong?
Sure thing, Mike, I have been for over 15 years. One key distinction with bone-in poultry is that it must always be fed raw. Cooked poultry bones become brittle and sharp and are very risky to feed (and this is somewhat true of all bones). But raw poultry bones are completely digestible. All that comes out of the back end of my dogs is barely-recognizable chalky material from the calcium in the bones, but never any remnants of the original shape of the bones, they are completely broken down by dog’s very acidic stomachs. Probably another consideration is gradually introducing them to dogs; I would always start with wings or something small, and let the dog learn to chew them properly, and start with small amounts to introduce their bodies to the new food. I’m not sure what happened with your dog, whether they were cooked bones, or he ate a lot of them at once, and perhaps gorged them down because they were novel? My dogs all eat a raw chicken drumstick every day, it’s their favorite food!
Raw versus cooked is certainly a controversial topic that probably ranks up there with religious debates! 🙂 But, raw feeding is nothing new. Some niches of dog husbandry, like sled doggers, have always done it. The main advantage of raw meat is the natural enzymes in it, which are very fragile and often destroyed by the heat of cooking. And, food just changes chemical composition when cooked, which changes its digestibility. Some feel that especially the fats are better for dogs consumed raw. For me, these are part of the picture, but also, it’s just less work to not have to cook the meat! I do cook their grains, of course, and gently steam their vegetables; as dogs aren’t good at digesting raw veggies. Some people are also trying to mimic as closely as possible a wolf’s diet; though I think that is misguided, as dogs are quite diverged genetically from wolves, and are really more of an evolved scavenger at this point. They are self-designed to eat the by-products of the human food chain, which includes plenty of grains, and both raw and cooked meats. I read recently that someone even showed that dogs have a gene modification that’s geared towards grain digestion that wolves lack!
There are many vets who recommend raw meat feeding, or are at least not opposed to it. Any vet that’s not at least aware of the debate and the pro’s and con’s, I would say, has outdated knowledge, because raw feeding is HUGE nowadays. There are dozens of books on the topic, and scads of discussion forums on the web. But, we have to remember that many/most vets get their education on nutrition from professors who are often funded or sponsored in some way by the commercial dog food industry; so they often get a very narrow perspective that’s hard to break away from. But plenty of vets have, and some have gone on to write whole books on the subject! One of the more famous ones is Ian Billinghurst.
Just found your bog and am loving it!
I looked into a raw food diet b/c I own a Westie (notorious for skin allergies). I tried batch prepping but fell off the wagon.
Nightly prep has a lot of appeal!
Here’s some ideas I used (after some research – but please do your own!)
When I make chicken stock, the dogs get the cooked chicken, veg and bone cartilidge.
Canned pumpkin / Roasted squash
Chunks of frozen salmon fillets
I wish my Walmart would carry the frozen pork bones again tho – great treat.
Karen, it does take a while to completely absorb the habit… But once you do, it’s just automatic. I’ve been doing it so long now that feeding kibble would seem very foreign. It definitely can help with allergies, though it can take a long time. I had a border collie rescue that had all sorts of issues, and it took about a year on a homemade diet for him to clean out. But, he did, and was healthy the rest of his life.
I go through a lot of raw material, several hundred pounds of meat per quarter now, so have to find less expensive sources, but your ideas are great for a small dog! And certainly our dogs get a lot of leftovers of stuff we inadvertently don’t finish out of the fridge in time, so they eat pretty darn well!
Hi there! I love your blog. After rescuing a 3 year old male BC I’ve been doing a lot of research, plus my own observations of his behavior. Aside from intense daily exercise, the two biggest things that have made a difference in my pup’s behavior was learning about pack mentality and taking him off cheap kibble. Now he is behaving better and seems happier. Cheers! And thanks for explaining about the raw vs. cooked poultry bones.
Thanks for the comments Teri, I agree, feeding good food can make a big difference in health and behavior.