Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dog Food

Four years ago a friend of mine invited me over to help her make homemade dog food. I was hooked instantly and have been making variations of this recipe ever since.

If you’ve ever thought about making your own dog food, let me tell you that it isn’t as time consuming or expensive as you may think. The chef in me not only enjoys preparing their food but I have the secure feeling of knowing the ingredients I’m feeding them. The book I reference is by Dr. Pitcairn’s called the Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

The recipe I follow is for doggie oats, and I double the original recipe so it lasts an entire month. This makes so much at one time I actually mix it in the sink, then pack it into freezer containers, using one container per week.

First, you need to mix your Healthy Powder. This rich mixture of nutrients is used in all the recipes by Dr. Pitcairn. The recipes by themselves provide necessary protein, fat and carbs, but to make sure your dog is getting the adequate vitamins and minerals they need, we add this health powder – which all of the ingredients can be found at most natural food stores like Central Market and Whole Foods or your local herb store. If you just wanted to blend this health powder together and add it to your dog’s commercial dog food, use 1 to 2 teaspoons per day for small dogs, 2 to 3 teaspoons per day for large dogs.

Healthy Powder
2 cups nutritional or brewer’s yeast
1 cup lecithin granules
¾ cup kelp powder
4 tablespoons bone meal powder
1,000 milligrams vitamin C (ground) or ¼ teaspoon sodium ascorbate

Measure all these ingredients together in a 1-quart container and refrigerate.

Now for the dog food! When I begin making this each month my two dogs Madeline and Cole stand at my feet just waiting for me to drop something. They have become accustomed to the sounds, the smells –and know once I get everything mixed to the right consistency, they get to sample the new batch!

These are the ingredients for the doubled Doggie Oats: 10 cups raw oats, 6 lbs ground turkey, ½ cup vegetable oil, lots of raw fruits and vegetables, ¾ cup health powder, 1 tablespoon of bone meal powder, 800 IU vitamin E, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 cloves garlic. For veggies I always add a small bag of carrots, zucchini and squash are great as well as apples. Lately I’ve been adding a bag of carrots which is important for vitamin A, a zucchini or two and then two or three cans of veg-all.

Start by putting all the oats in a big bowl and covering it with warm/hot water. I used to bring water to a boil and add the oats, but the purpose here is to make it really mushy, it doesn’t have to be cooked to perfection. Add a lot of water and let it sit to turn to mush. Oats are a good choice of grain for pets. Not only are oats quick-cooking, but they contain more protein per calorie than any other common grain. Keep in mind that it’s best to add some variety by substituting other grains at times. I’ve used rice and lintels in the past.

Defrost your meat if you have purchased the $1 logs of frozen turkey. Mix it up every now and then, use half ground chicken, half turkey, throw in some ground beef if you have it. If I find a container of chicken liver, I throw that into the cuisinart and puree before adding it to the ground meat mixture. Note that the recipe calls for raw meat and many vets don’t see anything wrong with a raw diet for dogs. Madeline and Cole have been on this raw diet for years until a recent vet visit changed my mind. Madeline has a few medical issues which I need to pay special attention to. To be safe and feed her the cleanest, healthiest food possible I’ve begun to cook the meat before adding to the mixture. I don’t want to take any chances with her. Another excellent point my vet brought up is if your dog has an accident in the house or even scoots their bottom across your carpet, you could have fecal matter in the house and if the dog ate raw meat and it was infected, you could have a serious problem if you had kiddos crawling around on the floor – or really for our own adult safety. Have I convinced you to cook the meat yet?

Back to the recipe: Once your oats are soggy, throw that in with the meat. Now you need to start pureeing all your fruits and vegetables. Cut everything up in small pieces, remove the stems, seeds and add in batches to your cuisinart.

Measure out the other ingredients and add it to your sink. Vegetable oil, health powder, bone meal, vitamin E, soy sauce, garlic.

Now is the gross part when you dig in with your hands and mix it up really good. You want this really moist, so if you need to add water to make it like thin oatmeal, do so. I don’t want the consistency to be soupy, but thin oatmeal is the best analogy I can come up with.

My dogs are both under 15 lbs, so they are fed ¼ cup each in the morning and ¼ each at night. This totals one cup of food per day consumed by both dogs. Back in the day, I would scoop exactly one cup of food into a ziplock bag, flatten the bag, seal, and put in freezer. I would have 30-40 little bags of food at the beginning of every month, and pull one out every night to defrost on the counter, then feed my dogs the next day from that bag. Over time, this process got tedious and wasteful of all those ziplock bags. So, my new method which I’ve used for eight months now is to scoop seven cups of food into a ziplock container. This gives me 4 or five containers of food that each lasts me a week. It has worked out much better for me.

What really gives me great joy is to watch my dogs excitement as I pull out the tub of dog food in the morning. Cole starts whining and Madeline stands on her back legs and begs for me to feed her. They gobble their food up every time, which gives me a great feeling.

Cole gobbeled his "sample" and then looks up at me asking for more. My pumpkin is too cute!

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