Thursday, March 25, 2010

When do you sprinkle on the melamime?

Waste not, want not

My Dad asked for my "dog food recipe" for a friend of his. I explained that I don't have one; it's a little bit like asking for the Houlie food recipe.

I didn't have a recipe for my chili, either, but when enough people bugged me for it, I made a batch of chili and reverse-engineered a set of guidelines -- here's what I did to make this batch, and it was a pretty good one. Alter at will.

So, a week of dog eats at Brandywine Farm.

I'm currently feeding five English shepherds (weight from 35-55 pounds) and one German shepherd (about 70 pounds). One ES is an easy keeper, and is pretty severely portion-restricted, two are pretty average, and two are foster dogs who were overly lean when they arrived and eat quite a bit for their sizes. The GSD is a hard keeper, very lean and eats a lot for her size. Nevertheless, the smallest ES eats almost as much as the GSD -- he's a young guy, very active, putting on a lot of muscle, and making up for stuff.

All the dogs are in lean-to-average body condition. Well, "average" is perhaps the wrong term to use, given the prevalence of clinical obesity among American dogs. Let's call it "medium" in the interests of clarity.

No one has any allergies or sensitivities or an especially tender tummy. Only one has been on a home-made diet her entire life; the rest were transitioned from kibble. We still use quality kibble when traveling or especially pressed for time.

I get the ground beef from a local slaughterhouse. It is beef scrap, hearts, and liver. It is fairly fatty and very wholesome. It is sold only for dog food, and at a good price. No, I will not tell you where or how much. They sometimes run out and don't have it when I need it as it is. I scavenge bones from them when they are cutting on the day I come by, so the availability of raw consumable beef/pork bones is variable. Right now I have a lot. The meaty bones are probably 60% meat by weight. I would not give bovine vertebrae if my source was industrially-raised cattle, but I feel confident about the local mostly-grass-fed cattle that people raise at home and have processed for their own use. I get tripe from a different slaughterhouse that is farther away, but willing to save them for me.

If I couldn't get the ground, they'd be eating a lot more chicken necks and backs, and leg quarters. I'd also be more bullish about raising a steer or three here.

Do not feed cooked bones!

Sunday breakfast
3# ground beef (raw)
3/4# (dry weight, before cooking) cooked rice
6 multivitamin supplements
6 fish oil capsules

Sunday dinner
3# ground
4 large sweet potatoes, cooked
1/3 cup ground dried eggshell
6 raw frozen chicken feet, toenails cut off

Monday breakfast
@ 5-6# raw meaty beef bones (ribs, vertebrae, other edible bones)

Monday dinner
3# ground
8 large dog biscuits
6 multivitamin tablets
6 fish oil capsules

Tuesday breakfast
2# ground
8 hard-boiled chicken or duck eggs
1/2 package frozen green beans, cooked
6 multivitamin tablets
6 fish oil capsules

Tuesday dinner
3# ground
1# (dry weight) whole wheat pasta, cooked

Wednesday breakfast
3# ground
3/4# (dry weight) rice, cooked
2 bananas
6 multivitamin tablets
6 fish oil capsules

Wednesday dinner
4 large turkey necks, raw, partly frozen

Thursday breakfast
2# ground
8 hard-boiled chicken or duck eggs
5 or 6 carrots, cooked
3/4 cup ground dried eggshell
6 multivitamin tablets
6 fish oil capsules

Thursday dinner
3# beef tripe, raw, unbleached, barely hosed off, partly thawed
3/4# (dry weight) rice, cooked

Friday breakfast
4 or 5 chicken leg quarters, raw, partly frozen

Friday dinner
3# ground
1# (dry weight) pasta, cooked
6 multivitamin tablets
6 fish oil capsules

Saturday breakfast
3# pork scraps from pig roast, cooked
3/4# (dry weight) rice, cooked
6 multivitamin tablets
6 fish oil capsules

Saturday dinner
1# beef liver and spleen
8 boiled eggs
1 can peas
1 loaf whole-wheat bread (made at home in bread machine)

Other things I feed when I have them -- almost all fresh veggies from the garden (not cabbage family -- these dogs sleep in my room), venison when we can get it, canned mackerel, any other fish when we can get it, chicken necks, pig's feet, and cut-up whole turkeys bought when they are cheap in November. (I partly thaw, cut out the breast to roast for us, and feed the rest to the dogs.) I feed more tripe when I have it; it's one of the best foods to put a glow on a dog, and just generally get them feeling good. And they love it. But it is repulsive -- looks and smells like a flood-damaged rec-room carpet after two weeks of August heat.

I usually get poultry in 40# cases from Jo-Mar in Pittsburgh's Strip. But I watch for supermarket sales, especially seasonal loss-leaders, and stock the freezers.

I use a good multivitamin supplement from Vetriscience the same guys who make Glycoflex. Some of the dogs get Glycoflex as a prophylactic, though no one has any joint issues at the moment -- including our ten-year-old SAR partner. I don't get any kickbacks from Vetriscience, though I wouldn't turn it down if they offered.

Because rice is pretty low protein and can be overly high in phosphorus, I'm going to start phasing in the bread for more meals. Since the machine makes it, the only increase in work is in the additional measuring. (We also have a rice cooker -- great convenience.) Price is comparable to rice, calorie-for-calorie. We buy both flour and rice at Costco, whole wheat flour at Frankferd Farms. (Again, no kickbacks, but I am entirely corruptible, so bring it on.) Pasta is more expensive, but quicker to whip up if I didn't plan. Bulgur is also a good change of pace.

They could probably do with more vegetables.

There are many sources of information on home-made and raw feeding on the web. Many are fundamentalist jihadi feeders -- if you aren't feeding your dog the exact way they dictate, well, then, you are an animal abuser who hates his pet. Whatever.

I don't need a degree in nutrition science to feed myself, and I don't need one to feed a few dogs. I did do a fair amount of reading, including this text, as I came up with our "system," such as it is.

We were feeding home-made well before the 2007 pet food recalls.


  1. Ha ha, funny google.

    When I hit the publish button, I got a box of ads on the next screen, trying to sell me the following:

    Kibbles 'n Bits Dog Food
    Pure All-Natural Dog Food
    Iams ProActive Health

  2. Fascinating.

    We're feeding mostly raw freeze-dried stuff. It keeps Maddy from the horrible diarrhea she used to get when she was on even the higher-grade kibble.

    When we had the other two, Helen cooked their food after the cancer diagnosis as a way of atoning for not paying enough attention to dog food prior to the melamine scare. (And then there was the tainted Chinese heparin, which we found out from our neighbor the rheumatologist.)

  3. What a HORRID little puppy - stealing baby hands from a poor, starving dingo.

  4. If I had a dog who was at all immune-compromised -- and I'm going to assume that in a cancer patient -- I'd cook the food.

    That would mean supplementing for calcium, because I couldn't feed the raw meaty bones.

    I'm intrigued by the various commercial raw foods, and would probably feed some if I had only one dog. But they are quite spendy. And I smell marketing hype over substance with most of them.

    Our economies of scale are such that is cheaper for me to put in the work to concoct my own -- and drive to the various wholesalers and butchers -- than to buy a commercial raw.

    And, especially in the case of the local butchers, I know what's going in almost to the extent humanly possible. They know me, I know them, I bid on their kid's lamb at the 4H auction, that sort of thing.

    Best of all would be to raise our own large ruminants for our own meat and the dogs'. That day may be coming.

  5. While I don't feed raw yet (and won't until I have my OWN dog, which won't be for another few years), I'd planned to use the commercial raw, but the prices! You're not the only one who recommends getting to know local butchers, the only problem being that there are basically none here in the city. The local meat market is a possibility, though. I miss living in the country...I regularly followed steaks-to-be to the rendering plants and attached stores.

    I've heard good things about Blue Ridge Beef, though. Might try them out if I'm near a distributor when I'm in need of products of that sort...they don't have pricing on the site though *sigh*

  6. If either of those two were immune-compromised, it would have been Foley, who was pretty much on prednisone continuously over the last six months of his life. His nasal carcinoma put a lot of pressure on his sinuses and blocked his sniffer; toward the end, it actually put pressure on his eyes and brain. After all, as the vet mentioned, this is a fatal condition, so the anti-inflammatory part of that is a win, even if you end up with an immune-compromised dog.

    You mentioned not feeding cooked bones. Why not?

  7. Oh, what a nightmare.

    Yup, prednisone can be one of those "keeps you alive to hate the side-effects" drugs.

    No cooked bones because they splinter. Especially important with poultry bones. This is edible bones, not marrow bones for long-term chewing, which many people boil (I do not).

  8. Don't worry about feeding that brown pup in the picture. He has obviously failed his behavioral evaluation for resource guarding. In fact, it looks like he already consumed the stick that hand was attached to. Heaven only knows what he did do the poor face poker doing the testing.

  9. Oh my God. They've eaten Sue Sternberg.

  10. LOL @ Elenor.

    Glad to see another raw feeder that's a bit more flexible with the menu plan.

    We're 5+ years and never looking back.

  11. Do you recommend that people feed their dogs like this even if they "seem" fine on kibble?

    I feed expensive gorcery store dry food supplemented with a littlemeat & fat during hunting season. But i'd have no idea if my dogs would go better on any other diet.

    I guess i'm asking if there is a philosophical component to feeding like this, or is it purely a nutritional "fuel" decision.


  12. I don't "recommend" nuthin. Nope, no sir, no way.

    This is the way I feed now.

    It's not for everyone. It is more work. It requires some research and knowledge of nutrition.

    I've seen what I believe are salutory health effects since going to the entirely homemade, raw meat-based diet.

    Most notably, Pip recovered much more quickly from her second litter (8 pups delivered at age 7) than her first litter (10 pups delivered at age 3). Got back into great hard working condition months faster, despite being solidly middle-aged. (I don't think the size of the litters made a difference -- the two litters weighed about the same in aggregate, at birth and at weaning.)

    And weaning the pups on raw went much better than weaning the first litter onto puppy food. No squirts.

    No tooth cleaning needed.

    Easier time keeping Pip lean, though portion control is challenging when the diet is varied.

    Excellent energy levels, good coats, fewer vet visits.

    When dogs and cats were dropping like flies in '07 from poisoned food, I had literally no worries.

  13. "no cabbage family -- these dogs sleep in my room"


    My "diet" for mine is a lot like yours -- except I'm lucky to be able to get great"pet meat" from the SF Raw food co-op.

  14. Emailed question: Why cut the nails off the chicken feet?

    For whatever reason, they puke up the nails, along with much of the rest of the feet, often the next day.

    If I cut the nails off, they don't puke 'em up. Nail keratin is much harder than bone, and I presume indigestible.

    These are really big chicken feet from our monstrous huge freedom rangers raised on pasture here at home. We also feed turkey feet. The nails are pretty big and nasty.

    The little soft chicken feet I've seen at markets that cater to Asian immigrants and soul food cooks probably would not need this treatment.

  15. Yep, all we've ever had to feed were softer nailed feets. And no problem digesting those. On the raw vs. kibble, the current foster, who has been on Purina, has a greasy coat, and smells "doggy" after a good roll in the snow. My three, on raw, don't have that doggy odor even when soaked, and no greasy feel to their fur. I certainly am not looking back to kibble!

    Thanks for the recipes. Interesting, we usually don't feed supplemental vitamins regularly, I've wondered if it's necessary, mine seem to not suffer from the lack. We do have a source of ground raw, at a really good price, that does include supplemental nutrients, formulated for racing sled dogs (high calorie count, so often cut with veggies). No extra carbs usually, except for treats. I guess if the dogs are healthy, we're doing something right! Certainly healthier than on the best kibble even.

    A side note, I needed to get some honking big pills down a very small, scared foster girl. Tried a bit of canned cat food, no go. Used some of the ground raw my guys were getting, that worked like a charm. Now she refuses her cheap kibble, unless I mix it thoroughly with the ground raw, to the point it's more work licking it off the individual kibbles than it is to just eat it. Took no time at all to spoil that little girl!


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