Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: Dinner Pawsible

Dinner Pawsible is a cookbook for people who want to make healthy and nutritious meals for their dogs and cats. It is a collaborative work between a veterinarian and a pet food safety advocate. Both have been using these recipes to feed their own animals for years, and they want other pet owners to understand how manageable that really is.
cooking for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

I really like the premise of this book. Most people don't eat dried 100% complete and balanced food at every meal. We provide our bodies with all the things they need by eating a wide variety of foods over time. By not limiting ourselves to a narrow diet, we can avoid nutrient deficiencies and compensate for less-than-perfect foods.

It makes sense that we could do the same for our dogs, fellow omnivores that they are. All we need to do is provide them with enough variety, and things should sort themselves out, right? A lot of homemade pet diets are limited to just a few ingredients, though. Homemade pet food tends to be deficient in one way or another, whether it's calcium, phosphorous, or vitamins it lacks.

Dinner Pawsible is intended to take all the guesswork out of feeding your dog a homemade diet by providing an entire book of recipes made from a wide variety of ingredients. There are directions on how to choose, store, and prepare each ingredient, from fish to liver to carrots. Readers are advised to use as much variety as they can when planning meals for their pets. The book promises that not only will our pets will be healthier and happier eating real food cooked just for them, but it will also save us money.
Dinner Pawsible book and dog
We saw a squirrel.
Photo by Erin Koski
Before purchasing Dinner Pawsible, I wondered if there would be any recipes in there suitable for Brisbane and his chicken/turkey/duck/egg allergies. I went as far as emailing one of the authors, and was told that there was absolutely nothing wrong with substituting pork, lamb, rabbit, ostrich, or any other Briz-safe meats I could get my hands on. Cool.

My enchantment at this new, less expensive way of feeding my beloved dogs lasted until the book arrived and I began reading the ingredient preparation instructions. The book instructs us to use organic free-range grass-fed everything, and includes ingredients like oysters. Do you have any idea how much oysters cost?! Knowing that nutritionally the differences between organic and conventional foods are basically non-existent, I decided to stick with meats I could actually afford.

I actually read the entire book cover to cover in a few days, just to see what sort of substitutions I would need to make. I knew I could pretty much swap any meat for any other meat, but what was a good substitute for eggs? Next I wandered over to the book's Facebook page, where several other people had similar questions. The general attitude of the authors was that any vegetables would do, eggs could be left out or added in all willy nilly, and that following the recipes to the letter wasn't really in the spirit of the Dinner Pawsible.

"Wait a minute," I thought to myself. "If any meat and vegetables in any amount will do, what's the point of even having recipes? I thought this stuff sort of mattered a little." Still, I was determined to cook for my dogs. When I went to actually select a recipe, I realized something I had missed on my first read-through. The recipes in Dinner Pawsible are VERY carbohydrate-heavy. They are all based on either rice, pasta, or beans. For those who wish to avoid grains, the authors recommend substituting sweet potatoes. The ratio of these to actual meats just feels wrong, though. These recipes generally have something like 2-3 cups of cooked rice/past/beans/vegetables and maybe half a cup of meat.

I've been feeding my dogs mostly grain-free foods since I discovered raw feeding over a decade ago. While I've softened my stance on grains and their place in canine diets, it's tough to shake the feeling that a decent portion of their food should be meat. Dinner Pawsible wants me to feed one part meat to six parts starches and veggies, and that feels wrong. No, I have nothing to back this up other than a gut feeling.

Between the unappealing idea of feeding my dogs rice with a little meat mixed in, and the number of substitutions required to make the recipes suitable for my allergy dog, I can say my enthusiasm for Dinner Pawsible has waned significantly. I will still spice up my dogs' dinners with raw and cooked meats, cottage cheese and yogurt, cooked vegetables, and maybe even oysters, but this wasn't the book I needed to make the jump into cooking entire meals for my dogs on a regular basis.

Do you ever cook for your dogs?


  1. It's weird that they say that replacing egg with vegetable matter or carbs is okay, considering that egg is a complete protein. Shouldn't egg be replaced with meat or food combos that equal a complete protein? Like rice and beans?

    1. Exactly! I appreciate that precision isn't necessary when feeding a lot of variety, but there at least ought to be some guidelines or something. I want this to be more scientific.