Feeding a Fresh Diet
If you wouldn't eat a solid diet of chemically preserved food, you probably wouldn't want to feed it to your dog. Many people make their dogs' meals because they are so dissatisfied with the poor ingredients that commercial dog food recipes contain.
While it takes time to shop and prepare ingredients, there are many benefits to cooking for your dog. Real food is healthier and more appealing than even the best commercial recipe, and you know what ingredients your dog is eating. Fresh, preferably organic, ingredients that are free of chemical preservatives and artificial colors and flavor-enhancers are best. If you have a dog with special dietary needs, you can feed her exactly what she should have and what she prefers to eat. The challenge in preparing your own dog food is setting aside the time to shop for and prepare the ingredients, but it can be done. By planning ahead, you can use the same food you cook for yourself to make for your dog.
Cook your own healthy diet in large batches to last a few days and add a few supplements for your dog's portion. You can freeze or refrigerate meals in single servings so you always have a few bowlfuls ready in minutes. In a pinch, if you run short of a breakfast or a dinner for your dog you can always use a high-quality commercial dog food as a backup.
Making your own meals gives you the flexibility to vary the menu and to modify the ingredients to suit your dog's preferences. It is best to consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist to ensure that your recipe is balanced and appropriate for your dog, especially if you plan to feed this diet for a long period of time. Here are some meal guidelines:
Protein. 30 to 60 percent of the meal should consist of fresh cooked lean chicken, turkey, duck, beef, lamb, venison, pork, or fish. Other options are eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, or peanut butter.
Carbohydrates. 30 to 60 percent of the meal should consist of cooked grains, such as rice, millet, and barley. Other options are potatoes, rolled oats, winter squash, and whole grain bread.
Vegetables. 10 to 30 percent of the meal should consist of vegetables or fruit. Feed raw veggies if they can be finely chopped, or lightly steam green beans, broccoli, summer squash, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and spinach.
Calcium and phosphorus supplements. Give puppies that weigh ten to fifteen pounds 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium and 500 to 600 mg of phosphorus per day. Adult dogs need half that amount.
Fats. Depending on your dog's weight, give him one teaspoon to one tablespoon salmon oil, flax, borage, canola, or olive oil. Fish oil is the best choice for supplementation of an omega-3 fatty acid; flaxseed oil is not as readily converted by dogs.
Natural multivitamin/mineral supplement. Use canine supplements. Ask your veterinarian the correct dosage for your dog.
A Raw Diet
Cooking at high temperatures destroys important vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants, so raw food is an appealing alternative to feeding fresh food. The Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) diet, created by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, uses raw bones and meat, some vegetables, and a few carbohydrates. It is meant to resemble a dog's diet in the wild. Recipe ingredients consist of chicken and turkey necks, backs, and wings.
Both raw and cooked bones can cause problems! Never cook bones before giving them to your dog. These are softer than raw uncooked bones and will splinter and cause intestinal obstruction or constipation. Raw bones can fracture teeth and bone shards can lodge in the roof of the mouth or become stuck in the intestinal tract and cause gastrointestinal obstruction.
Many dogs do well on this diet, especially if they suffer from allergies or arthritis, although some dogs cannot tolerate such a pure meal. The first time you serve your dog a raw diet, don't be surprised if he's not overly excited by it. Some dogs are reluctant to try new food that's an unfamiliar texture and temperature.
Gradually incorporate the raw diet into his current food and try serving it at room temperature or slightly warmed up, rather than cold right out of the refrigerator. If you think your dog doesn't like his food in big chunks, try grinding it up.
Bacterial contamination is a concern with raw meat or eggs, although organic certified raw meat raised without antibiotics or hormones is a safer option. Purchase it fresh and keep it refrigerated, and be sure to disinfect all food utensils after handling raw meat. Discuss the pros and cons of feeding raw meat and bones with your holistic veterinarian.