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Friday, March 10, 2017

Food Friday: Homemade Dog Food, Round 1

So I finally got educated enough to make my first batch of (presumably) nutritionally balanced homemade dog food. I had a lot of help. Specifically, I joined the Home Cooked Dog Diets group on Facebook. They're like wizards over there. They're not all about sharing recipes, either. This is a place you go to learn how to develope and evaluate your own dog food recipes.

Nutrition Data

Ingredients for a home-cooked dog diet laid out on the counter.
Ready to cook!
Nutrition Data is a free online tool you can use to evaluate the nutritional content of a recipe. You just search for your ingredients, add them to your recipe in the right amounts, and then his "analyse". The results include what percentage of the calories come from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also gives you a good idea of the calcium and phosphorus content so you can add supplemental calcium as needed. You can continually change a recipe and reevaluate it, so you can add or subtract ingredients, or change amounts, and see how it affects the analysis.

The food processor is your friend.
This tool is absolutely amazing because it allowed me to alter my dog food recipe on the fly. I went into the grocery store with the plan to buy the cheapest meat to start with. I expected this to be a bone-in pork picnic shoulder, a super fatty cut. Turns out they were having a special on boneless sirloin chops, a significantly leaner cut. I stood there in the meat department, fiddling with the recipe on my phone, until things looked right. Here is what I ended up making. This recipe has a fairly high fat content because my dogs do well with that. It is also grain-free, because quinoa doesn't count as a grain

Finding Balance

The Home Cooked Dog Diets group has an amazing library of files to help both beginner and serious dog food geeks. One of my favorites was a nutritional analysis of homemade bone broth. Turns out it has a lot more phosphorus than I thought!

The file I use the most so far is the checklist for a balanced food. It helps me remember that my recipe needs either fish or fish oil to make sure I have the right omega fatty acids in there. It reminds me how much calcium I need to add, which always matches the amount I calculate from my Nutrition Data results. There are quite a few other important bits in there, and between that list and the nutrition tool, I'm pretty confident in my ability to formulate recipes for my dogs. The Home Cooked Dog Diets group gave me a whole lot of confidence because they encourage newer members to post their recipes for critique. They also post various recipes from around the web for members to practice analyzing. So very geeky!

The Results
Weighing homemade dog food for portion control
Portion control done right.

I baked porkchops and butternut squash in the oven, and cooked the quinoa, eggs, and pureed liver and veggies in a pot on the stove. The cooked meat and squash went through the food processor, and then everything got mixed in a big bowl with seaweed calcium, cottage cheese, and canned salmon. I could probably get away with chipping things finely for the girls, but Ru would definitely avoid veggies unless everything was very well mixed.

I weighed out everyone's portion, Godzilla and Zip got 3% of their bodyweight while Ru got 5% because chihuahuas are not fuel efficient. Everybody loved it! Even Ru! He dove right in and gobbled down the whole bowl. That never happens. Of course, I offered him the same thing a day later and he took a few bites and then lost interest because the only food he really loves is tacos.

Financially, this is not a viable way for me to feed my dogs everyday. Gone are the days when my beloved Brisbane and Ru could eat the same tiny portion of food and I could feed them both on half a cup of kibble a day. These days, we're going through closer to 4+ cups, and the cost of food is a much bigger consideration. This batch of food cost me $20 to make, and fed all three of my dogs for three days with a bit left over. It was a lot of fun to make though, and I do plan to include more home cooked meals in their diets. If you are interested in making your own dog food, I highly recommend the Home Cooked Dog Diets group as a wealth of information!

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