How I Got Into Making My Own Dog Food
(Me, Gertie, Tacos, Betsy, Mather, Molly)
There’s a lot of debate out there about what to feed our dogs. There are people who believe kibble is the way to go. Others are into raw feeding. Some like their canned foods, ketogenic diets, dehydrated, homemade and all sorts of variations of these. It’s up to you to make the right decision for your dog but there’s so much information out there that it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s just a lot of hot air. Everyone I know loves their dog and just wants to do what’s best for them but it’s hard to know what’s right.
For me, it was several heath issues with my dogs that led me down the path that I’m currently on. I have 4 dogs and I was dealing with food allergies, hair loss, scratching, cancer, benign lumps, bouts of puking or diarrhea. I’ve had dogs my entire life (and that’s a long time) and never before had I dealt with so many health issues at the same time. I just felt deep in my heart and soul that something was wrong.
I remember someone talking to me about raw feeding at a dog park on the Upper West Side years ago and thinking she sounded insane. She was telling me how she fed her dog whole chickens from a farm upstate and my mind just could not wrap around this idea. Kibble was the way to go! If you give your dogs raw chicken they could get salmonella or choke on the bones, right? I put it out of my head. Just another crazy person in a crazy world.
Well look at me now. I’m one of those crazy raw feeders.
I guess it started small. I saw online that it was good to give your dogs veggies so I’d toss them a little chunk of broccoli sometimes when I was cooking. One of my dogs would eat them and the others would sniff the broccoli and walk away. Clearly not to their liking. Then I heard that you should mix some real whole human foods in with your dog food so I tried it. I cooked some veggies in chicken broth and put them in with the kibble and the dogs gobbled that up. Then I saw a recipe for how to cook a meal for your dogs so I did. Of course my dogs loved it. It was a tasty stir fry of chicken and veggies in chicken broth. What dog wouldn’t love that? But something inside me clicked when I fed that meal to my dogs. This made sense to me. This was real food that I was feeding my dogs. What is in that bag of kibble? I read the bag of expensive kibble that I was so proud of investing in for my dogs. I’m a good dog mom so only the most expensive kibble would do! All those weird words on the bag that didn’t bother me before suddenly really bothered me. I started googling each ingredient and even after googling some of them I still had no idea what they were.
I went back to the grocery store and got a lot more meat and veggies and made a huge batch of stir fry and put it in huge containers in my fridge and for the next few days my dogs ate that instead of the kibble. I would walk past the bag of kibble and just look at it. What had once been my friend, suddenly seemed ominous and disturbing. One thing I am is frugal so I mixed some kibble into the dog food until that bag was gone and then… I just never went back.
I would take photos of my huge batches of doggie stir fry and post them on Facebook and friends would comment, “Your dogs eat better than I do!” “That looks delicious!” I found people on Facebook who were making their own dog food and started following them. There’s a whole world of people out there making their own dog food and their dogs are not only surviving, they are thriving. I reached out to one of the experts I had found online and showed him my batch of cooked dog food and he said, “How about you try NOT cooking the next batch?” What? Anarchy! That’s insanity I thought. What about everything everyone has told me about salmonella and bacteria and… OK so I tried it. I made a huge batch of stir fry but I did not cook it.
Dealing with raw meats can be a stinky and slimy prospect depending on the meats. I went to a thrift store and got a glass cutting board for all my various meats and I made a huge batch of raw food using a recipe for a balanced dog meal that I found Facebook. I had to order a few things off of Amazon like kelp powder and hemp oil but I got it all together and I started making raw, balanced dog food for my dogs. My dogs loved it of course. I mean they will eat poop, so what do they know, right?
But then a strange thing happened. My dog Betsy who had so many food allergies (regular allergies too) stopped scratching. I had been making separate batches of food for Betsy to cater to her allergies to beef and pork and one day I fed her beef. She was fine… no paw licking, no scratching… so I started feeding her the same as all my other dogs and she wasn’t allergic to beef or pork anymore. Was this a miracle? Had the Virgin Mary come down from heaven and cured my sweet Betsy of her food allergy? Possibly a miracle, but I decided to check Google just in case. I read story after story about people whose dogs were supposedly allergic to certain foods when it came to kibble, but not when it came to feeding them the actual meat in its natural form. Some speculate that when kibble is made the ingredients are cooked at a high temperature for a very long time so that it will last for months or years on a shelf. Since the cooking process removes a lot of the natural nutrients in the meat, supplements are added to the kibble to put the nutrients back into the food. Some say that the dogs are actually allergic to the supplements that are added to certain meats to meet their daily nutritional needs. Other people claim that it’s the dyes in the dog kibble that can cause an allergic reaction as well.
I spoke with Thomas Sandberg at the Long Living Pets Research Academy and told him my story. He shared his personal opinion on this with me. “ When you cook meats it de-natures and becomes a foreign substance to a dog’s digestive system and they start fighting it. This creates in some dogs a huge amount of oxidative stress and that is, in my opinion, the root cause of most diseases. Some of the amino acids can also become permanently locked into chains during the heating process and the body sees these as foreign objects too. These are often stored in the fatty tissue, hence why fatty lumps are so common in non-raw fed older dogs. By feeding the meats raw these issues are resolved and most dogs can handle most meats just fine. I have seen this many times.” Thomas stressed that this is just his opinion but this makes perfect sense to me and pretty much mirrors my personal experience with processed and raw food. Thomas went on to say, “ This intolerance to meats has been a misunderstood subject for a long time and too much medication is given to dogs that could have been resolved with a raw food diet instead.”
I’m not a scientist but I can tell you that once I took Betsy off kibble she could eat all of the foods I had been told she was allergic to with no problems at all. No more scratching, hair loss or paw licking! No more expensive allergy meds for Betsy and more money to invest in my homemade dog food adventures.
So now it’s been almost a year of making my own dog food. I’ve read several books, follow experts on Facebook and read articles about homemade dog food. I experiment with different ingredients and supplements and mostly I have fun making the food for my dogs. I post photos to Facebook and many of my friends have started giving their dogs whole natural foods and cooking for them because of my posts. They’ve told me so! That’s how a movement starts. Some people try it out and share their experiences with their friends and family and then more people try it out and share with their friends and family and so on. I really feel like I’m part of a growing movement that is making the lives of my dogs and eventually (hopefully) all dogs better.
Some people claim that there is just no way for regular pet parents to make a dog food at home that is nutritionally balanced for their pets. It’s just utterly impossible! Well to those people I often say, “Isn’t it funny that we can raise human children to be thriving adults on food from the grocery store and yet you find it so hard to believe that we could do the same for a dog who will eat poop and trash if given the opportunity. Are you telling me that a dog’s physiology is somehow more complex than a humans?” I mean, call me crazy, but this line of thinking makes absolutely no sense to me at all.
I’m not perfect. Every batch of food that I make is not perfect. I use different ingredients and I experiment. Sometimes I buy raw food and luckily I’m in Los Angeles so I have access to some of the best and most affordable pre-made raw dog food in the business. I’m learning something new just about every day, reading as much as I can and then just trusting that it’s all going to be okay. I know for a fact my dogs are healthier than they’ve ever been. None of my dogs has to take daily medication anymore which gives me more money to invest in their dog food which does not cost that much to make to be honest with you. I’m spending about the same as I was on those expensive bags of dog food from the store depending on what I can find on sale at the grocery store each week. I got a small freezer for the garage and now I can prep several weeks of dog food in one day and put it into perfectly proportioned containers for my dogs. This makes it so easy on my dog sitter when I’m out of town.
Living with dogs is an adventure. I learn so much from my dogs about love and forgiveness — it’s truly humbling. All I have ever wanted to be was a better pet parent and I really feel like I’m on the right path. This path feels right to me. This path makes sense to me. It may not be for everyone and that’s okay. I’m not here to tell you that you are bad or judge you for feeding kibble to your dog. I know that you love your dog and are doing the best you can for your dog. We all are. There’s too much judgment out there for pet parents who are doing their best. I want to spread the love, not the judgment. Our love for our dogs should bring us all closer together, not divide us. So, as a fellow pet parent I just want to say that I love you and your pups and thank you for reading my post.