We promised to get to the home cooking thing today, and today is the day! And it really isn’t as complicated as it can seem from the long list of ingredients on that can of dog food.
Think about it: how long is the list of ingredients on a human bag of chips or a packet of hot dogs? How long is the list on a package of crunchy nori, grab n’ go cheddar sticks, or a chicken breast?
Are we on the same page? We’re on the same page.
So let’s go!
Dogs are omnivores who evolved alongside humans, generally eating human leftovers. So while there’s truth to the idea that dogs are descended from wolves, who eat raw foods, there’s also truth that dogs have been surviving, thriving, and evolving with us sharing our cooked foods, which we cook, because we’re pretty susceptible to nasties like salmonella and e coli. Dogs are also not obligate carnivores the way cats are, which greatly simplifies things.
Already sounding convenient, eh?
It gets better: Making the food ourselves costs less than buying even the super cheap on-sale supermarket wet food. And that stuff, with its internationally sourced ingredients, meat by-products, and not-fit-for-human-consumption meats is not a great choice for your dogs’ long-term health. And the extra water and greens intake leads to better breath and less stinky poo. (Those preservatives in the store-bought dog food? They preserve the dog poo, too. If you’ve got a coprophage, poo without preservatives is less appetizing than poo with. Yech.)
Just remember that that there are some people foods that can do your dog harm. Mama1 is especially fond of recommending the ASPCA list of people foods to avoid feeding your pets. Keep a copy of the foods unsafe for dogs, specifically, printed out in the kitchen if you need one. Sometimes, it’s worth making a simple change in your grocery shopping to make the kitchen more “pack-safe,” like buying lactose-free dairy whenever possible. For special meals, Mama1 cooks the entire meal with dogs and humans in mind, and the doggos get their own portions. They love it when this happens.
To be completely honest, it’s not always special meals, either. Sometimes, Mama1’s disability means that the idea of standing and cooking for the mamas, let alone the mamas and the dogs, is enough to make her just go back to bed. It’s an executive dysfunction thing. That’s when it’s handy to know you can cook one simple meal, divide it into the appropriate portions, and everyone’s happy with a minimum of fuss.
We got started making our dogs’ food when Ada Luna had to spend a couple of weeks on a bland diet. (Should we make a post about Bland Diet? We’ll make a post about Bland Diet.) She was in dog heaven on eggs, cottage cheese, rice, a bit of yogurt, and chicken breast.
Most of the time these days, Mama1 cooks a week’s worth of dog meals all at once using a slow cooker. (Ours is actually a digital rice cooker with slow cooker functions, or you could also use a multipot.) Using a slow cooker liner in the pot keeps clean up from getting in the way of the old executive dysfunction, and during the really tough weeks, Mama1 just pulls the food and liner out of the cooker, plops it into a ceramic bowl, and throws a twist tie around the top. Into the fridge, and done.
So now you know how to cook the food and what not to cook.
What do you put in the pot?
Wow are there a lot of options, so that’s going in the next post. Just keep in mind that healthy diets are varied diets and that your dog is an omnivore.
This week, our dogs are chowing down on a relatively high protein, higher fat recipe of: beef,(1) wakame,(2) broccoli,(3) red lentils,(4) plenty of water,(5) flax seeds, and a touch of sunflower oil.(6) We did say it was higher fat!(7)
Because the diet is higher fat (and calorie), the portions of food, or proportion of food to water as “soup” is smaller. We recommend making the food into soup when the weather is hot or when your dog is relatively inactive (but still hungry!). Soup really is filling.
Our dogs get their fairly small fill of carbohydrates in the form of training and bonding treats from the humans’ meals when we’re not including grain products in their food. When the weather is cooler, and we’re all outside more, the dogs’ calorie needs increase, and so does their chow.
If your dog is gaining weight, increase the veggies and water and reduce portion sizes. (But keep feeding them those essential fats and proteins!). If your dog is getting skinny and showing signs of desperate hunger, increase the portion sizes and see how they do. (If changing the food doesn’t make a difference, by all means, get thee to a vet!)
More on the specifics of how to select and compose that varied diet in the next post.
- You can substitute bison, elk, deer, rabbit, or lamb, since this recipe is a red meat recipe.
- A dried seaweed product available readily online. We buy ours at a local Japanese market. It’s practically a natural multivitamin: iodine, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B2, and B9, omega 3 fatty acids, and loads of age-busting antioxidants
- Some dogs have trouble with gas when fed broccoli. Fruit Bat doesn’t; Elsa does, but they both love the taste. We’ve found that cooking it down more makes it more digestible.
- Red lentils, like split peas, have the hulls removed. That makes them more easily digested. Elsa has a more sensitive stomach than Fruit Bat, and when she eats whole peas, even if she loves them, they tend to come back up. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Especially in the summer time. Fruit Bat is terrible for not drinking enough water, but she will slurp down “soup” like it’s going out of style. To save space, you can make the food with just enough water to cook and add water to the food, microwave until it’s no longer cold (but not hot), and it becomes soup. Lactose-free milk watered down or unsalted broth is another trick for tempting dehydrated dogs to the water bowl.
- Dogs need omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in their diets.
- Fat content is relative. The right kind of higher fat diet can work wonders on itchy, dry skin or dull coats and helps to relieve excessive shedding.