My Dog Eats Better than I Do

Note: This is a guest post written by my darling mother, Janette about her discovery that she could make her own dog food instead of buying store-bought, corporation-produced, puppy chow.

My running joke – Tiger Lily must have a bladder the size of a pea!  That is, compared to Tinkerbelle who could hold it all day. This led me to ponder about the difference between my two 11 lb. dogs and their ability to process their food/water. Was it their breeding? Or perhaps their age? Or maybe it was their individual temperaments? Or maybe, just maybe, Tiger Lily has us wrapped around her little paw?   (Well, she does, but that’s another story.). I have always lived with larger dogs, so these tiny digestive systems were all new to me.

Tiger Lily (or “Lil” as we call her) is my high-class mutt: a Shiz-tu, Pekinese, Toy Poodle, Maltese mix; i.e., a highly-sensitive, and may I go as far to say, “bougie” creature. Tink, on the other hand, is my perfect storm: a Chihuahua , Mini-Doberman Pinscher rescue, who developed her toughness wandering the streets of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Tink is a member of the “clean plate” club

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Anyway, I am a New Englander, brought up on a farm where I saw dogs as “just animals”; born to serve the needs of humans, and to survive on table scraps and the neighbor’s trash. This was my attitude, that is, until Lil got sick, losing her effervescent energy, playfulness and zest for life.  She could barely get up, slept all day and the yellow puddles on the floor became more frequent.  After taking her for repeated trips to the veterinarian, we discovered that Lil had Anaplasmosis: a tick-borne illness more deadly than Lyme Disease. In Lil it caused joint pain, heart problems and weakened her immune system, to the point of a raging urinary tract infection.  At the vet’s, I peered into the microscope and saw the Stuvite crystals that came from her urine, and learned that my high-class mutt was indeed more vulnerable to bladder infections than most other canine breeds.

As a result, the vet prescribed a series of antibiotics and a very expensive brand of (corporate-produced) kibble, which could only be purchased (of course) from the vet himself. Since I had already been feeding my dogs a grain-free diet after losing my previous dog, a German Shepard-Chesapeake Bay mix, to mouth cancer (which I believe was due to her corn-based dog food), I was taken aback that I had to buy an even better, and healthier dog food. I bit the bullet and purchased the food, and, slowly Lil started to improve. The medicine and the diet seemed to do the trick, but the idea of paying a fortune for this food just rubbed this farm girl the wrong way.

I didn’t think too much about it though until one day I stopped to read the labels on some of the “good “, AKA organic, all-natural foods. The main ingredients consisted of brown rice, chicken parts, blueberries, carrots, sweet potatoes, canola oil, etc.
And it occurred to me, why not just give my dogs real food, instead of highly processed kibble? Indeed, what would I rather eat?

So, like a responsible dog mom, I took the internet and jumped down rabbit holes looking for a homemade dog food recipe specifically designed to prevent Stuvite Crystal formation. It was fairly straightforward, and I easily able to purchase all of the required ingredients from the grocery store. Next, came the taste tests.  I wondered which food my dogs would like better and hoped for the best.  I wish I could tell you that I did a double-blind bowl test, but they wouldn’t stand for it, so I prepared two dog dishes, one with kibbles and one with my homemade mix.  I had each dog, individually, sit at the end of the room and then I set down the two bowls.  Then I switched the bowls around and had them sit again.  You can guess what happened then. The dogs went straight to my mix, and ate it with incredible vigor and excitement. They continue to eagerly anticipate meal time, and it’s fun to be able to make them so happy and healthy. Tinkerbelle used to have a bit of weight problem, especially in the winter when the Maine weather reduced the frequency of her walks, but that is the case no longer. Now they are forever both full of energy, easily maintain healthy weights, and their coats and eyes are bright and shiny.

Homemade Dog Food Recipe

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Disclaimer: I am not a dog food expert. However, there are many great websites out there with all sorts of variations that can work for your dog and its tastes and dietary requirements.  The important thing to remember is that dogs have different nutritional needs, so do your research and ask your vet if you have questions or are unsure about something.

I can tell you one thing, for me it has to be easy and convenient. So this is the recipe I make:

*Quantities will vary for the size of your dog, but below is roughly the ingredients and amounts I use.

  • 1/4 cup Black rice: I purchased it in 25 pound bags from the local Asian market.  I make two cups in my rice cooker once or twice a week.
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup Chicken, Ground turkey, Tuna fish or Cottage cheese: I cook a whole chicken, then clean off all the meat; this lasts about a week for my two pups. Or I cook some ground turkey and mix it with the rice.  ( I personally don’t feed the dogs tuna because I don’t want to support the fishing industry and Tink’s stomach can’t tolerate dairy; but these are viable options that may work for you).
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Hard-Boiled Egg: It’s easy to boil a dozen at a time and save them in the fridge until you need them.
  • Low-Salt Chicken Broth added to the rice-cooker: Make your own or use a high-quality, low salt bouillon.
  • 1/4 cup Vegetables: I use frozen carrots, peas, or green beans. Sometimes I bake sweet potatoes. (And my best trick is to buy all the canned pumpkin when it goes on clearance in the spring).
  • 1 teaspoon of Canola Oil: Make sure it is cold-pressed.
  • Couple shakes of Brewers Yeast: This is important to add because it creates an environment in the bladder which prevents infections.

I make the ingredients in bulk quantities to save on time, and keep them in separate containers in the fridge until they’re used, and then mix everything together in the dog’s bowl when it’s time for them to eat.  Luckily, it doesn’t take long  to make (probably the same amount of time as a smoothie), and the trick is keeping all the ingredients stocked and close together so that you can grab everything at once.

To make:

-Either throw all the ingredients into their bowl and stir (approximately 5 minutes)

-Or cut everything up into tiny pieces (like my husband insists on doing; which takes upwards of 15 minutes)

And Lil? She has recovered completely and LOVES her food.  Just watch the video to see!