Is Cooking For Your Dog Crazy?
I have had dogs all of my life. I have bought dog food all of my life. Whatever was on sale, whatever looked good, whatever was convenient. Dog food was just dog food, right?
A few years ago, if someone would have told me that I would be cooking for my dogs, I would have been quite confused. I loved my dogs, but never entertained the notion that I could feed them something else besides what was in their dog food bag. It’s not that I didn’t care about their health, but I was busy working and with the everyday stresses of life. It wasn’t until the massive amount of dog food and dog treat recalls that I began to question what I was doing. Why was I putting their lives in the hands of others? How could I trust what these companies were telling me? Made in China? When did this happen? Was I too busy to care about their lives? NO. This had to change, and I was determined to find another way of feeding my dogs.
Deciding to stop feeding my dogs commercialized dog food was not a decision I made overnight. First, I researched the history of dog food and when it became a staple of all dog parents. I began to wonder, how did dogs survive before this? Were there dog food bags in the wilderness that kept them alive, or did they eat real food? Why hadn’t I thought of this before? When did the term “people food” come into use? Isn’t real food a basic necessity for all of us? So many questions, Yes, I was busy, but I made the time to educate myself, consult veterinarians and find out what nutrients they needed. No, this was not impossible. And I refused to believe it was as impossible as the dog food companies were telling me.
During this process, I was dealing with a sick dog. A rescue dog named Peanut Butter Brickle who had a picky appetite, numerous bouts of stomach ailments, itchy skin and ear infections. These episodes had been going on since we adopted him. Our other rescue dog, Digby Pancake also had chronic ear infections and was destined to live a life on antibiotics. I never attributed it to their diets, but as I slowly began feeding him less dog food and more “people food”, real food, miraculously, every single one of these issues disappeared. I really couldn’t believe it. Was it this simple? I was frustrated with myself and with all of the money I had spent on vet visits. But my frustration propelled me onward to spread the word! This was not complicated, this was not hard. This was rewarding. The thought that I could add years to their lives by cooking for them was all the motivation I needed.
So where do you start on the the path of cooking for your dog? I believe that everyone’s path is different. Go to the library, read all you can. Consult a veterinarian of course, especially if you have a dog with special needs. And know the basics.
First of all, what should I not be feeding my dog? Let’s get that out of the way first. The ASPCA website has a list of hazardous foods for dogs including avocado, raw bread dough, chocolate, alcohol, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, moldy foods, onions and xylitol. Not too hard so far. So what can I give my dog? That list is so much longer, and we could not list everything. But again, do your research, and gradually introduce new foods to your dogs. Start with unsweetened, plain yogurt, lean proteins, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples, green beans or peas. The pawsibilites are endless!
The first new food that I introduced to Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake was soup. I mixed unsalted chicken broth, ground turkey, quinoa,carrots, green beans and sweet potatoes in a pot and cooked it. I was so excited that I was making comforting, nurturing soup for my furkid. They loved it. And their tails wagged uncontrollably. This was the first meal I cooked for him. I will never forget it. The petfood industry has a term that they use called “happy dance”. They are referring to all the jumping, wagging, purring and pawing that hungry dogs and cats do when anticipating a meal. They work hard for this “happy dance” factor with marketing and advertising. But does it really happen? I don’t know about you, but my dogs never got this excited over that bag of dog food. It made me realize that all living things deserve real food. I was eating better, my dogs would too. This was the start of a life change. And longer lives for my dogs.
Have my dogs loved everything I have cooked for them? No way. Does it take preparation on my part, especially during the week to do this? Absolutely. But feeding ourselves takes preparation too! Often, I modify what we are eating for dinner for the dogs. It makes prep work easier. Do I ever cheat and feed them dog food from a bag? Not for over two years. And they are healthier and happier than ever.
Again, some may think it’s crazy to cook for your dog. Yes, some things do make me crazy as a pet parent. I like to dress up my dogs in funny costumes. Crazy. I like to speak for them in funny voices. Crazy. But cooking? No way. Getting back to basics, thinking for ourselves and wanting what is best for our dogs is not crazy. Our dogs depend on us for food, unlike their ancestors. It’s our responsibility to ensure their food’s safety and not to wait before the next set of recalls. We simply cannot rely or trust others or companies to do this for us any longer.
Your Dog’s Diner and 2 Traveling Dogs LLC