Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feeding Fido


If you really knew me you would know how extremely ironic it is that I have chosen to start cooking for our dog, Maggie. The dog and I have a love/hate relationship in some ways. I like her, I love that she is great with the kids, I like having a dog. I hate the dog's fur. Hate it. Of the three dogs we have had since we were married, they have all been major shedders -- two were the same breed, Australian Shepherd. I don't learn.

I also almost got rid of a dog once because I was practically cooking for her due to pickiness. She was a Corgi and she was incredibly picky, resulting in me mixing up a bunch of dog food to suit her. I refused to cook for the dog. Now I voluntarily do it. That's very much like me.

Now, for the disclaimer:

I have absolutely no knowledge of canine nutrition. I only know what I know and that is based mostly on common sense and reading dog food labels.

I believe the verdict is out on whether or not domesticated dogs are carnivores or omnivores. Wild canines -- wolves -- are probably carnivores, at least if given the choice to eat meat. Domesticated dogs, however, will voluntarily eat anything (ever see them get into a garbage can?) and commercial dog food has grains, vegetables as well as meat, and even sometimes dairy.

I contacted my vet before I started cooking for Maggie and they told me to feed her commercial dog food. They were completely unsupportive of my venture, but mostly because they also have no knowledge of canine nutrition, other than commercial. Kind of disheartening to me.

So, why would I cook for the dog? First, and primary, because the dog is overweight (aren't we all?). She has big brown eyes and she loves to beg and my family loves to make her happy. Isn't that the story of most canine obesity? Well, I thought that by cooking for her I could, one, control what is in her food, and, two, she would be happier with homemade food and thus beg less.

Well, number one might work but I learned that Maggie is a dog and dogs are never happy with enough, they always want more. I guess it is instinctive to eat as much as you can possibly get irregardless of whether or not it is "enough." So, that leaves me as in charge of portion control, and hopefully getting a nutritious low-fat diet will help enough with her weight.

The vet tech told me that we should stick with a commercial food because it has all of the vitamins and minerals she needs. Well, that may be true, but it also has a bunch of junk in it (and possible contaminants), and no matter how many vitamins and minerals she gets, the junk is still junk. I could spend a small fortune and buy the top of the line Science Diet for her, but believe it or not, cooking for her costs a lot less and I refuse to believe that the dog will be malnourished with a home-cooked diet. I have read what is in the commercial dog food and I firmly believe that if the dog food has processed meat by-product, processed vegetable by-product and processed grain, I can do better than that at home.

The reason that I even started thinking about cooking for the dog was a post written by my friend Charlotte about her little dog. I was curious, really, just out of nosiness. But then I started think about Maggie's weight and decided maybe cooking for her would be more than a culinary favor.

I read around a little bit, but by no means did much research. I decided that her food should primarily be protein, followed by grain and vegetables. It's really very simple, and takes less time than it does to prepare dinner (and it lasts for two weeks). The great thing about dogs is they don't care if you peel the carrots, use frozen veggies, or season to their taste. It's just food to them and so I kept it pretty simple. I have made her food twice now, first by using ground turkey, and the second time by using fish. The only change from the first time to the second time was subbing fish for turkey, and I used primarily carrots the second time because I have noticed that she does not digest the corn from the mixed vegetables (yuck!). You would think that using fish would be expensive, but I had several cans of salmon in the pantry, and some fish filets in the freezer that were left from various recipes and none of it would have ended up being used for use. Essentially then, it was all free (in my mind).

I did not use dairy because first of all, cheese is fattening, and dairy is expensive. If I have whey I will add it.Stick with me on this project -- I intend to continue to learn and I'll share with you what I find out.

Another note: there are some things dogs should absolutely not have and of the things that I know, a few are: grapes, onions, garlic, avocado, alcohol, macadamia nuts, and chocolate,

Homemade Dog Food

5 pounds meat (ground turkey, ground beef, shredded chicken or fish)*
5 cups cooked grain (brown or long grain rice, bulgar, barley)**
2 pounds frozen vegetables
8 eggs
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups meat or vegetable broth

In a large pot over medium high heat, cook the meat until done. Add vegetables and cook until they are tender (if using raw vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes, cook them first and then add to the meat -- they will take longer to get tender). Add eggs and cook until done. Add rice, oats, and broth and mix until combined.

Freeze food in portions appropriate for your dog -- I used jumbo muffin tins, as well as 9 x 9 pans, cutting the food into appropriate portions before freezing.

Thaw overnight in the fridge, or defrost in the microwave.

* Because I intend to switch the meats I use each time, I feel that Maggie will be getting an overall well-rounded diet. She happens to love fish, but if your dog will not eat fish, you might want to consider adding some fish oil. 

** There is some controversy about whether dogs should really have grains at all because of their inability to truly digest them (they don't chew so the nutrients must be completely digested in the intestines and dogs don't have the necessary make-up to really digest them in the intestines). I have started with a rather high ratio of grain to meat and will probably play with this a little possible reducing the grain quite a bit. I would probably increase the eggs because they are cheap and more nutritious.


Linda said...

Barb, this is a great post. Not because we have a dog...we don't. Our 17-year-old cat, Marty, died about 18 months ago. I just love the way you have thought this through. And you do love your dog, or you wouldn't have put so much time and energy into this. You are thinking just like Linda McCartney, Sir Paul's wife who died several years ago. She turned all her family AND the dogs into vegetarians because she believed it was the way to go. And their dogs were very health specimens, indeed! Good for you! :)

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

I'm sorry your vet wasn't more supportive! I can give you the number for our vet if you'd like. I need to mix up a new batch for Crouton today. I think I'm going to teach the girls how to do it. Like you said, dogs don't care about seasoning, they just want the food!

Cheryl M. said...

Very interesting post, Barbara :) I too, have a love/hate relationship with our dog. She is big, stinks (even with regular baths), slobbers too much...etc. She (and my husband) would probably LOVE for me to cook for her. There are some rather horrifying videos on youtube about commercial dog food.

scmom (Barbara) said...

I certainly don't intend to turn the dog vegetarian. ;-) dogs love meat too much and I don't think anyone could argue they were designed to be all veggie eaters. If our dog was perfectly healthy I probably would not be doing this. But I do want her to be healthy. :-) thanks for your nice comment.

scmom (Barbara) said...

Charlotte, I found some books at the library and I'm going to do a little more research. I was disappointed with the vet too, but I guess they are not trained as animal dietitians, just as our doctors are not dietitians.

I would thing your girls might have a good time making the pup's food. As long as they don't make it taste too good! ;-)

scmom (Barbara) said...

Cheryl, what is it with these dogs? I bet your husband loves yours too. And the kids. But you are the only one who takes care of her, right?

I really have not done too much research into bad dog foods but I know enough about rendering plants to know dog food must be disgusting. I also have read, however, some bad stories about pets being malnourished by owners who are just doing their best. I'm just looking for a happy medium. Stay tuned...

Cheryl M. said...

Barbara - I am not a dog or cat lover. I love chickens (they give me eggs) and milk goats (milk, yogurt, cheese) and bees (honey)...see a pattern here! HA! I do not take care of our dog (I simply lovingly tolerate her) husband does most everything for her and she loves him dearly. She waits for him to come home for lunch and after work. If he goes on a business trip the dog hardly eats...she falls into the "depths of despair." She is very spoiled for him and I think she thinks she is his wife! She is strictly an outside dog and she loves nothing more than to be working or relaxing in the backyard with us.