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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

How to Make Dog Food

In the past, I’ve written about cooking up real food in the kitchen for Cassie the Corgi. Making your own dog food is really very easy, especially for a small dog, and there’s no question in my mind that it’s better for the dog than kibble, which is made from some very suspect products.

The idea of making dog food came to my house during the late, great melamine scare, when unknown numbers of American dogs (possibly thousands) were poisoned by tainted ingredients from China used by almost every major American pet food manufacturer. At the time I had an aged German shepherd and a greyhound. With almost every brand tainted or suspect, about the only thing I could see to do was research what dogs need to sustain them and fix my pets’ food myself.

Well, the Ger-shep was very decrepit, indeed, by this time in her life. She could barely haul herself to her feet and hobble around the house; I didn’t think she had many more months left in her.

To my amazement, shortly after I started feeding her a mix of real food—meat, veggies, and starch—she began to pep up. After a couple of weeks on this regimen, one day she was able to chase her neglected ball around the back yard. It was as though she had bought back two or three years of doggy  life.

Well, cooking dog food for a big animal, let alone for two of them, isn’t very practical. However, for a smaller one, it’s very easy and doesn’t cost any more than premium commercial food.

Dogs, having evolved with humans for the past 16,000 years, thrive on approximately the same foods that we thrive on, with a few exceptions.

They need a slightly higher proportion of meat to vegetables and grains: about 1/2 meat, 1/4 vegetables, and 1/4 starch
They can profit from cruciform veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower
Other root vegetables are good for them
Dogs are not nuts about leafy vegetables, although a little spinach now and then is OK
Some berries such as blueberries are well tolerated
Whole grains like oatmeal are healthy and provide roughage
Brown or converted rice is pretty good for them; potato is also good
Most dogs love sweet potatoes (yams)
This stuff should be cooked, not fed raw. It is not true that dogs are magically immune to pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli that live in raw meats.

Certain foods must be avoided, because they’re toxic to dogs. These include

Onions: DO NOT FEED!
Garlic: DO NOT FEED!
Chocolate: POISONOUS TO DOGS; DO NOT FEED!
Grapes and raisins: DO NOT FEED!
Bones, raw or cooked: DO NOT FEED!
Corn: Indigestible and allergenic: AVOID!
Fish: One of the most common allergens for dogs: USE SPARINGLY OR AVOID

With those facts in mind, just about anything else goes.

I usually look for the most inexpensive meat available—right now, chicken thighs are cheap, and it’s easy to remove the bones from thighs. Pork also often comes on sale. If beef prices ever come down (right now beef is too high even for me to eat, much less to feed to the dog!), some stores put certain roasts on sale, and you can have the butcher grind the meat into hamburger. This, BTW, is much tastier than the pricier burger that comes preground in packages. Ethnic markets are good places to seek out low-price but wholesome meats suitable for your dog.

Oatmeal, converted rice, and brown rice can be had very cheaply in bulk. Look in markets like Sprouts or ethnic stores that sell bulk products.

A mix of frozen veggies that contains no corn or onion is perfect for dogs. Costco markets such a blend in large bags as “Normandy Style” vegetables. In the wild, a dog would get vegetable matter from the gut of its prey, partially digested. Thus cooking vegetables lightly and then chopping them fine approximates the form in which this food should be most digestible for a predator that is not an obligatory carnivore (as is the case with dogs). Microwave the frozen veggies until they’re just barely cooked through—they should not be soggy. Then run them through a blender or food processor to chop finely.

Sometimes I combine these ingredients as we go, creating a fresh meal for Cassie each time she eats. However, the other day I decided to fix an entire pot  of ready-made dog food, containing all the ingredients in one product. It turned out surprisingly well—tastes like thick chicken stew and contains everything the dog needs.

Here’s how it went together:

1 large package of chicken thighs, preferably boned (about 5 pounds)
1 yam, cut in chunks
1 cup converted rice
2 or 3 cups mixed frozen vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots

Place the chicken in a large pot. Add the yam and rice. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then immediately turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Cook until the yam is soft and the chicken is cooked through. Remove and discard bones.

Meanwhile, microwave the veggies until just slightly cooked and then chop them finely in a food processor or blender.

When the chicken, yam, and rice mixture is cooked (the rice will swell up and absorb most of the water), turn off the heat and mix in the chopped vegetables. Allow to cool before feeding to the dog, obviously.

The finished product

Batches of home-made dog food can be stored in plastic containers or baggies and kept in the freezer for future use. The potful shown above will feed my 25-pound pooch for at least a couple of weeks, and probably more like three weeks.

The amount to feed depends on your dog, its age, its size, and its level of activity. Some sources advise feeding about 2.5% to 3% of the desired body weight. Determine what a normal weight for your dog should be (ask your vet). Then weigh the animal regularly to be sure it stays on that target. I feed the corgi about 6 ounces twice a day (morning and evening), or a little less than a pound a day. She’s neither sedentary nor overly active; her weight stays stable at 25 pounds.

The beauty of cooking your own dog food is that you know what’s in it and you know how it was prepared. If you feel any concern that your concoction may not supply all the animal’s needs, simply drop a dog vitamin pill in a bowl of food each day. Use veterinary vitamins, which are better proportioned for a dog’s needs than supplements made for humans. I rarely add them and have found the dogs thrive on real food with no added, expensive vitamins.

Cassie the Corgi

The Queen of the Galaxy

Author: funny

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9 Comments

  1. Looks good–even to me. Now you and Cassie can have a dinner a deux (too lazy to find out how to do the accent–please forgive me, French major).

    You can get oatmeal for under $1/lb in bulk.
    Converted rice is quite a bit more expensive than non-converted, so I would use the cheaper stuff for the dog food. Who cares if it’s sticky?
    Oh, I wish I had a Sprouts.

  2. @ frugalscholar: Converted rice retains more nutrition than white rice does. I use it in cooking for myself, as I don’t care at all for brown rice — you get the (to me, preferable) flavor and texture of white rice and also most of the nutritional value of less processed rice.

  3. The Mrs. started feeding our dogs raw about 5 years ago.

    What they eat:

    Chicken. The Daschunds get a raw leg in the morning.
    Mr. Dusty the 120# gets a thigh and a leg.
    It’s raw and the bone crunching keeps their teeth clean.

    Beef: beef hearts and liver.

    The Mrs. makes beef jerky on the weekends and they get it as treats in the evening.

    Dogs are descended from wolves. They eat meat not kibble.

  4. I was surprised to see that garlic and onion are no-nos. Quite a few years ago with our dog that was doing poorly and not eating, the Vet advised cooking up some ground beef with onion and garlic to entice him to eat. It worked. He ate. He thrived! So, what is the deal with onions and garlic? Why are they bad?

  5. Oh … and this same beloved dog ate many, many bones in his happy long lifetime as well!

  6. @ Deedee (how funny! That was my nickname when I was a kid! 🙂 ): Onions and garlic affect the dog’s liver and can cause hemolytic anemia. This can be fatal: http://www.vetinfo.com/dtoxin.html, http://www.metpet.com/Reference/Dogs/Health/The%20Dangers%20of%20Onions%20For%20Dogs.htm, and http://www.protocol-online.org/biology-forums/posts/14978.html).

    Found this out the hard way: Was cooking large amounts of beef and pork for the Ger-shep and the greyhound in a slow cooker. Hated the smell, and so added an onion to make the odor a little less obnoxious for the human. The resulting stew made both dogs VERY sick. Eventually they recovered, but it took awhile and it was scary.

    As for feeding your dogs bones…just depends on how much you can afford to pay the vet and how much you enjoy watching your dog suffer when its gut is punctured. When wolves ingest bones (and btw, wolves and coyotes DO die of punctured intestines in the wild), they also swallow large amounts of fur and hide. These substances have been observed to wrap themselves around the bones, protecting the animal’s innards to some degree. That is not the case with domestic dogs, unless you’re tossing an entire ungutted, unskinned rabbit into your pet’s dish.

  7. I remember reading a recipe for vegetarian dog food in “Laurel’s Kitchen,” back in the late 1970s.
    Sled dogs in rural Alaska must have evolved a different kind of gut, because some are fed a LOT of fish. That’s because fish is free (if you have a fish wheel, trap or net) and dog food has to be flown in (which is horribly expensive).
    Mmmm, fishy dog breath…

    • @ Donna Freedman: LOL! And they sure can get fishy dawg breath! M’hijito was feeding Charley a salmon-based kibble: makes for a vast stink coming out both ends!!

      I imagine if a population of canids were eating mostly fish, those with a genetic tendency to food allergies would be selected out. So probably those Alaskan dogs can tolerate a lot fish.

      Any meat protein is fine for dogs: fish, beef, lamb, goat, pork, fowl, insects, whatever. Some domestic dogs, though, are pretty sensitive to fish — if your dog has what appears to be ear infections, that often is actually the result of a food allergy. Sometimes you can clear these up by changing to foods that are free of common dog allergens, especially corn and fish. And, interestingly, beef.

  8. Well I guess my advice of over 5 years and a pack of dogs is not needed.

    Goodbye.