I feed my dog's a homemade diet. It's balanced, it's complete, it gets a little boring to them sometimes, I think. So on days when they've been especially good, or there's something exciting on sale at Knight's (the best butcher shop in Ann Arbor, in my opinion) I throw together a special meal for them, off the cuff. Today it's a pork loin roast with fresh plum sauce, potatoes mashed with farmer cheese and fresh rosemary, and applesauce. Sounds good, huh? It's probably not balanced, but then, it's a special day and they'll love it. They even have desert. Carob, peanut butter, and soy milk pupsicles. Tomorrow they'll go back to their regular diet.
Feeding a homemade diet is, frankly, time consuming and a little expensive, but to me it's worth it. Keep in mind that I feed 300+ lbs. of dogs every day their meals are not petite, but every time we have another pet food "incident" I'm glad I do it.
Start with the highest quality kibble you can find. There are quite a few of them out there now. We won't go into the laundry list of dog food ingredients here, suffice to say that you want a good protein listed as the first ingredient. Avoid foods that use "meal" (ie chicken meal) as their primary protein source. Also watch for foods that list different forms of the same grain (wheat, wheat bran, wheat gluten). Reason being, this food may actually contain more grain than protein. Breaking the grain down into individual components means they enter the weight of each component separately. These may, in fact, total more in weight than the protein. That's the first step. Really good kibble.
Because most dog foods are created following AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) guidelines, there are more than enough nutrients to allow you to safely substitute up to 1/3 of your dog's kibble with fresh food. What should you use? Well, it can be really easy. Throw an extra piece of chicken or a burger on the grill, chop it up and add it to your dog's food. Cook an extra egg in the morning (studies have shown that cholesterol is rarely a problem for dog's, they can eat lots of eggs, which provide an excellent, easily digestible protein source), grate or finely chop some fresh fruits or veggies and add them. Yogurt, cottage cheese or other grated cheese is also an excellent addition. Pretty much any food you're eating you can share with your dog. Below is a list of common foods which are toxic to dogs:
- Onions, leeks, garlic
- Grapes and raisins
- Wild picked Mushrooms (Amanita phalloides and other Amanita species. These can kill you, too!)
- Macadamia nuts
- Avocado (especially the pit)
- Green looking potatoes
- Rhubarb leaves
- Tomato leaves and stems
- Baby food - generally fine, but some contains onion powder
Here's an easy recipe for a kibble topper you can make and store in the refrigerator, to add to your dog's meals. This recipe can be reduced if you have a small dog, it can also be frozen.
1 lb. ground chuck
2 cups cooked rice (converted (ie Uncle Ben's is fine)
1 lb. bag frozen mixed vegetables, or 1 lb. of fresh or frozen, chopped fruits and/or vegetables
1 lb. cottage cheese or yogurt
- Brown ground beef, set aside.
- Microwave or steam vegetables
- Combine rice and vegetables in a food processor, and pulse until veggies are finely chopped
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, refrigerate. Freeze whatever won't be used within 3-5 days.
- Savor the happy grin and big tail wags when you supplement up to 1/3 of your healthy dog's daily ration of kibble.
We process the vegetables to make them more digestible. Dog's, with their short digestive tract, get more from fruits and veggies if the cell walls are broken down. Remember that these dietary additions are for healthy dog's only. If your dog has any health issues, consult with your favorite veterinarian before changing your dog's diet.