What Do We Eat?
Most people think of dogs as carnivores, which is not wrong, however dogs are a lot more omnivorous than you may think. When Butler began showing an interest in making homemade dog food for me, I decided to do some light reading on the subject. I wanted to make sure she was going to be feeding me a properly balanced diet, as I do want to continue to maintain my handsome physique into my senior years. What I discovered through my research is that dogs really need to eat what you think they would eat in the wild- meat, veggies and some grain, and fats.
Let me start this article by giving you a brief tutorial in macromolecules. Dogs need the same three macromolecules as humans- proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Proteins are made from 23 smaller sub-units called amino acids which are what we use to build structures in our bodies, such as muscle, bone, tissue, etc. Dogs can make 13 of these amino acids themselves but the rest need to come from the protein in their food, preferably from meat as plants don’t contain all 23 amino acids.
- Carbohydrates are a main source of energy. Dogs (and humans) tend to get their carbohydrates in the form of starch, which is the storage form of sugar in plants. When plants make glucose through photosynthesis, they stick a bunch of the glucose molecules together to make a large macromolecule- starch. When dogs (and humans) eat the starch, we break it back down into the small glucose molecules and use it for energy.
- Fats are another (very, very yummy!) source of energy for us dogs. Not only is it delicious, but it allows many fat soluble Vitamins, like A, D, E, and K, to be transported through our bodies. It also helps keep our coats glossy and helps maintain the structure of our cell membranes. And it’s delicious. Very delicious.
So to recap: Proteins build things, carbohydrates give us energy, and fats give us energy and keep a lot of other things working. The people that make commercial dog food have measured the exact ratios that dogs need of these different macromolecules. This is how they design different foods for different types of dogs- puppy, senior, active, etc. Butler does not feed me a diet solely consisting of homemade food. She probably could, but it takes a lot more effort to make sure the proper amounts of each macromolecule are present, as well as minerals and vitamins. The dog food Butler makes is really just a wet food supplement to my regular dry food (more on that in another post), but it is significantly healthier and cheaper than most commercial wet foods.
There are a number of different recipes that I will be posting over the next few weeks. Some are pretty basic; others are a little more gourmet. You can experiment with your own food for your dogs and find out what their taste preferences are. For example, I prefer to have chicken or turkey as my main source of protein, and I’m not a huge fan of beef- based wet foods. Also, the time my Butler used Tilapia as the protein base I almost went on a hunger strike before she got the hint to stop feeding it to me. So please, take into account your own dog’s preferences.
Today’s recipe is very basic. It is quite bland and great for dogs who may not be able to tolerate the richness of commercial wet foods, or for dogs who may be recovering from a case of the upset belly. It is also a very low allergy food, so it is usually very tolerable for dogs with sensitive skin.
Basic Chicken ‘N Rice
2-3 chicken breasts or thighs
1 cup of rice (1 ½ if you want it to stretch a little further)
*3-4 tablespoons of fish oil (this is very good for dogs with dry skin and it is also great for shiny coats)
*1 cup of chopped veggies (Butler usually uses broccoli stalks that they don’t eat, carrots, etc.) Note: not all dogs like the veggies. I, myself, am not a huge fan, but the Weasel will eat them without question.
- Boil the chicken in a saucepan full of water. Don’t throw away the water once the chicken is cooked. This is amazingly flavored “chicken water” and you will later add it to the food mixture.
- Overcook the rice in a different saucepan. You will likely use more water than you normally would to cook rice for people, but in order for dogs to break down the complex carbohydrates in rice, it needs to be cooked more than usual.
- If adding veggies to the mix, boil them in a saucepan and overcook them the same way as the rice. They should be fairly mushy. Don’t throw away the veggie water.
Once everything is cooked, mix all ingredients (no bones) in a food processor. Add the “chicken water” to the mix, which will help the food blend into a consistency similar to commercial canned food. If you need more liquid, use the veggie water.
Store in the fridge for up to a week, or break into smaller portions and put some in the freezer. It is easy to pull out and defrost as you need it. Mix in with dry food when serving, or serve on by itself as a mid-day or late-night snack.
Let’s compare the cost with the Hills Science Diet ID canned food, which is designed for dogs with gastrointestinal problems or dogs recovering from sickness and surgery (and it great food, by the way!). According to the Hills website, it is roughly $2.40 per can, if you buy a case of 12. If you feed half a can (6.5 oz) once a day, you would be spending $1.20 a day. If you make it stretch and feed a fourth of a can a day (3.25 oz), it would cost $.60 a day.
For this recipe, a bag of local long-grained rice in the local grocery is roughly $1.50. Usually Butler makes at least two batches of dog food out of it, so $.75 per batch. Butler probably use $2 worth of chicken each time she makes food, and the veggies are generally the leftovers from what the humans didn’t eat. So roughly $3.50 a batch of food. A batch lasts for a week for two dogs (myself and the Weasel) that are fed 5-6 oz portions morning and evening. Roughly $.25 a day per dog. This also allows for you to feed slightly less dry food to your dogs, in turn reducing cost further. Plus, it breaks up the monotony of eating the same thing every day.
Next week I will delve deeper into my cookbook and pull out some more creative recipes. For now, keep this one tucked away. As I mentioned, it’s great for dogs who are feeling a little under the weather.