Thursday, April 2, 2015

Homemade Dog Food: A Process Part 1

I began my journey of making home made dog food in October, 2013. My 3 year old Shiba Inu began having seizures, throwing up frequently, and acting very strange regularly while my 2 year old German Shepherd/Leonberger mix was rapidly gaining weight, limping, panting and not eating very much. One night in bed I thought "What do these dogs have in common that would be making them so sickly?" and BAM! It hit me! "Their dog food"!  I immediately googled "Dangers with Blue Buffalo dog food" and found major stories all over the internet with people who had very sick pets from this brand of dog food.

Todd the Shiba Inu & Sigmund the Shepherd/Leonberger

I called my vet and took my large breed dog to have some testing. His thyroid was nearly dead with a T4 level of 0.06

We put him on a hefty dose of Thyroxine and I decided to make them home made dog food.

I found this very helpful website with recipes. I started out making the raw dog food and then I made the cooked meatloaf version recipe. The dogs liked the cooked better and it allowed me to make large batches that I could measure and freeze in portions. I also added the Dynovite and Lick-o-chops supplements that were recommended on the website. I made this consistently for about a month and then I discovered that I could buy chicken for significantly cheaper per pound than ground beef. Since I had a 100 pound dog (now he is down to 80) who needed 3-4 cups of food per day, it was getting costly.

I did not notice huge improvements, but over the course of a few months, I started to notice their hair looked better, the seizures were cut way down, the energy levels were returning, and the vomiting had stopped.

By the sixth week, I decided to start cooking the chicken recipe from this website, and meanwhile, I contacted a lady whom I knew had been making her dogs' food for many years. One of the most important things she said to me was "Would you feed your kids boxed cereal every day for every meal?" and "Make sure they get at least a yellow/orange and a green vegetable everyday". These 2 statements really struck me. Feeding my dogs kibble would be like feeding my kids boxed dried enriched cereal as their main food source and that would surely make my kids sick.

I no longer need to follow a recipe, but rather provide them with a common sense, well rounded diet.  I make 2 chickens at a time twice a week. I bake or crockpot them till the meat is falling off the bones easily. I always save the broth that naturally comes out when they are cooking. After about 45 minutes of cooling I de-bone the chickens. I save all the bones so that I can make bone broth and bone meal (Bone broth/bone meal instructions will be in another blog post).

Chicken, bone broth, bone meal, sweet potatoes & fried zucchini in Sunflower oil
I also either cook a few sweet potatoes or a small bag of carrots in with the chickens. All of the de-boned meat and bone meal goes into a container with the smashed carrots or sweet potatoes. Sometimes I will make them yellow squash and green zucchini in place of the carrots and spinach. Sometimes I will add a few spoonfuls of leftover plain rice, but mostly, my dogs are grain free and they do better on this diet. Sometimes I will dice up a cooked red potato and add with the carrots and spinach too.

Daily, when I feed them, I add frozen chopped spinach or kale (sometimes peas, zucchini or green beans): Greens consist of about 1/4 cup for my 20 pound dog and 3/4 cup for my 80 pound dog.

Basically they get 20% green, 20% orange, and 60% meat which often includes bone meal

My 20 pound dog gets 1 cup of the mixture per day (meat, orange, and green veggie)
My 80 pound dog gets 3 cups of the mixture per day

I give the small dog 1 tsp of organic raw coconut oil daily
I give the large dog 1 TBS. of organic raw coconut oil daily.

Sometimes, I will crack a raw egg over their food, if I did not have quite enough meat to give them a boost of protein.

Often, I will add a spoonful or 2 of bone broth that I made and this is great for moistening the food. I do warm their food on the stove for a few minutes till it is about room temp.

Snack Ideas:
They also love to snack on raw almonds, cashews, or walnuts. I often give the large dog a handful in the morning or before bedtime. The small dog gets about 5 nuts a day.
Sometimes  feed them some blueberries. They love blueberries as a snack.
Sometimes I let them each drink a little bit of the raw milk I buy from a local farm. They only get this about once a month and I generally will toss in a few nuts. I only do a very small amount, as a snack or breakfast if they seem really hungry in the morning.

P.S. I forgot that I sometimes use Butternut Squash for the orange. They LOVE LOVE LOVE butternut squash. You could use canned pumpkin too if you want to keep it easy. 

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