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Dog Food & Treats


Jenn’s Notes
On Food, Treats and Chews, including how to make your own!

FEEDING FRESH FOOD IS EASY AND AFFORDABLE! 

I have been feeding my dogs fresh foods for 14 years (ever since one of my dogs came down with severe food allergies) and I can not imagine going back to feeding my dogs commercial foods.  By making your own, you control the quality, and your dogs get a meal they look forward to.  While it does take a little effort (and I mean VERY little), it is not any more expensive than feeding a premium dog food, and your dog will REALLY look forward to meal time! I am not a nutritional consultant or doctor of any kind, but (after researching how others have done it and why) I have fed the following recipe to my dogs for 14 years and they are as healthy as can be.  So, if you would like to give it a try, here is my recipe and what I have learned about dog food and dog treats in general. 

                                                 -Jenn Andersen, HPHS Dog Program Coordinator


Jenn’s Dog Food

Basic Ingredients

  • 1 part meat, either cooked (if deboned) or raw (with or without ground bones) and shredded or cut into smallish bites
  • 1 part winter squash (pumpkin or butternut squash works well), yams or sweet potatoes, or a combination of any of these, cooked whole in water or broth (yep, seeds, skin and all) and pureed or mashed
  • rolled oats, uncooked
  • finely ground egg shells or ground calcium pellets (I use a spice or coffee grinder to grind them to dust)  Omit this ingredient if your food contains raw ground chicken bones.  They have all the calcium the dog needs.

·         OPTIONAL ADDS: 
  • Ground flax seed, keep in freezer until needed to ensure it does not go rancid  (good to help balance Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids)
  • Brewer’s Yeast (good for B vitamins)
  • Kelp Powder (good for trace minerals)

·         NEVER ADD
  •         Salt, raisins or garlic

Putting It Together

  1. Stir together the meat and squash (and/or yams and/or sweet potatoes).
  2. Add enough oatmeal to soak up the liquid and thicken the food so it isn’t too soupy. 
  3. Sprinkle the top of the food with the finely ground egg shells or calcium pellets as though you are salting the food heavily (again, omit this step if your are using ground raw chicken with bones). For instance, for 5 pounds of pork butt, you would need about ¼ c. ground egg shells or calcium pellets.
  4. OPTIONAL ADDS:  If you are using the flax seed, brewer’s yeast and/or kelp powder, add them in the same quantity, or slightly less, than you did with the egg shells.  Don’t overdue on these as the flavor may put your dog off. 
  5. Stir it all together.  Your done!
  6. Store the food in containers and freeze any containers you will not use in three or four days.

Isn’t this a lot more expensive than commercial food?

Not really.  You can feed your dog a fresh food diet for about $1 per pound if you shop carefully and don’t buy organic vegetables or organic or  pastured meat.  For instance, Howard's Meats in Klamath Falls sells ground raw chicken backs and necks for 99 cents/pound, and you DON’T pay any sales tax on that like you will in California for commercial dog food!  I also make a pork-based dog food using organic butternut squash (at $1.29 per pound) and pork butt for $1.89 per pound, so the pork-based dog food costs me $1.59 per pound (using left-over egg shells that I have baked in the oven at 220 degrees for 20 minutes and then ground to dust). 

Despite the fact that fresh food has more water in it then commercial dry food, it also has more food value, so dog's eat about the same quantity of it by weight, sometimes less.  Therefore, you can compare the cost of fresh vs commercial food by the pound (as I will do in detail at little later on).

How can I be sure my dog is getting everything s/he needs?

By feeding a variety of foods and treats! You can even add vitamins if you want, although I use the OPTIONAL adds instead. 

This brings up an interesting question though.  Is your dog really getting all s/he needs with commercial foods? How can you be sure?  In my opinion comparing fresh food to commercial food is like comparing a steak dinner to breakfast cereal.  In order to make kibble, dog food companies HAVE to use a lot of starch to make it hold together.  There is simply no other way to make dry kibble.  The problem is, your dog does not need ANY starch!  Starches (wheat, rice, potatoes, tapioca, corn, etc) just make them fat, like they do you and I.  Why pay for something they don't need?

The other thing you need to know about commercial foods is what they mean when they say "Chicken" vs "Chicken Meal" and how they stack ingredients to fool you into thinking their food has more meat protein than it does.  Here is some info on that. 

FRESH MEAT:  For instance, when the label says “Lamb” or “Chicken” instead of “Lamb Meal” or “Chicken Meal”, that means they weighed the ingredient when it was FRESH (with all the water in it) so that it could be put higher on the Ingredient List, making you think that there is more meat in the kibble than there is.

GRAINS AND FILLERS:  The other trick is to include a variety of grains or fillers (like chicken by-product meal, which has little food value) in the food, so although individually they weigh less than the meat protein, when you total them up they far outweigh the meat protein. This allows the manufacturer to place the meat protein first on the ingredient list, even though it may only be a small percentage of the food when all the other ingredients are added.  So, even if the bag says “Chicken Meal” as the first ingredient, if it then contains “brown rice, barley, and oatmeal” as the next three ingredients (as does the premium dog food brand Blue Freedom shown in the chart below), then it might be nearly 75% grains.  Should you really pay $1.57 per pound for grain?

MEAT PROTEIN CONTENT: Finally, there is no real way to tell how much meat protein a bag contains because there are few standards regarding what can go into “Chicken Meal” or “Lamb Meal”.  Does it include the whole bird or lamb (bones, skin, beaks, feathers or hair and all)?  How much of that is really digestible?  Also, if an ingredient is “Meat and Bone Meal”  (as Pedigree Complete contains as its only meat protein source) how much of it is meat, and how much is bone?  Also, what is the meat?   

VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR.  Given that, what is your dog really getting for your dollar?  If you make your own food, you know.

Here are the prices on some common dog foods (prices are primarily from Amazon.com), not including sales tax.  I have also included my analysis of the ingredients list of each.  
Brand
Key Ingredients
(as presented on bag)
Unit Size
Unit Cost
Cost per pound
Taste of the Wild, Grain Free 
Although they do use the misleading tactic of placing fresh meat on the ingredient list, they also include two meat meals as the second and third ingredients followed by more meat protein sources later. 
To be sure our puppies receive enough protein,  HPHS has chosen Taste of the Wild’s  puppy formula as the brand we use for our rescued puppies.   -Jenn

Buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, egg product, roasted bison, roasted venison, beef, natural flavor, tomato pomace, potato protein, pea protein, ocean fish meal,
30# bag
$48.99


$1.63
Nutra-Nuggets, Super Premium Lamb Meal and Rice
Lamb Meal, peas and egg product are all good sources of protein for dogs. Flax seed and fish meal are good adds. No corn or by-products used. 
For all of the above reasons, plus the cost, this is the food HPHS feeds our adult rescued dogs. I wish we could afford to feed the adults Taste of the Wild though.  –Jenn

Lamb meal, peas, ground white rice, rice bran, wheat flour, dried yeast, egg product, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), fava beans, dried beet pulp, flaxseed, natural flavor, fish meal,
40# bag
$28.00


$ .70
Blue Freedom Life Protection Dry Dog Food
Misleading use of fresh proteins to list them higher on the ingredients list. There are also a lot of grains and filler here. Tough to justify the price.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Tomato Pomace, Peas, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids),

30 # bag
$46.99
$1.57
Hill's Science Diet, Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food
There are a lot of grains and filler here, and look at that PRICE!


Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Sorghum, Soybean Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Pork Fat, Soybean Oil
15# bag
$30.99
$2.06
Diamond Naturals Adult Real Meat Recipe
Not terrible as there are two animal protein sources fairly high on the list (beef meal and egg product), but still there are a lot of grains and filler here.

Beef meal, peas, ground white rice, egg product, dried yeast, rice bran, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea flour, dried beet pulp, natural flavor, flaxseed
40# bag
$31.99
.80
Rachel Ray Nutrish
Misleading use of fresh proteins to list them higher on the ingredients list. There are also a lot of grains and filler here.

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground Rice, Soybean Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Brown Rice
40# bag
$38.78
.97
Iams ProActive Health
Misleading use of fresh proteins to list them higher on the ingredients list. No meat meal at all. Everything else is grain and filler.


Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp,
38.5# bag
$36.99
1.29
Pedegree Complete
Product lists whole grain corn as first ingredient, then lists more grains and fillers after that.  The only clear potential for animal protein is the “Meat and Bone Meal”, which is the second ingredient, but it then says this is a “source of calcium” (doesn’t mention protein).  “Chicken by-product meal” is not a usable protein source, so where is the meat??


GROUND WHOLE GRAIN CORN, MEAT AND BONE MEAL (SOURCE OF CALCIUM), CORN GLUTEN MEAL, ANIMAL FAT (SOURCE OF OMEGA 6 FATTY ACIDS [PRESERVED WITH BHA & CITRIC ACID]), SOYBEAN MEAL, NATURAL FLAVOR, CHICKEN BY-PRODUCT MEAL, DRIED PLAIN BEET PULP, GROUND WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT
40# bag
$18.39
.46
Purina Beneful
Misleading use of fresh proteins to list them higher on the ingredients list. Lots of grains.  “Chicken by-Product Meal” and “Poultry By-Product Meal” are not usable protein sources, so where is the meat??

Beef, Whole Grain Corn, Barley, Rice, Whole Grain Wheat, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Beef Fat Naturally Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Soybean Meal, Oat Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal
15.5#
$13.24
.85



How much should I feed my dog?

This actually depends on the dog.  Fresh food has very high food value (good usable calories), so dogs don’t usually need as much of this in comparison to dry or canned dog food, which has a lot of fillers (no food value).  Your dog may initially FEEL like s/he is still hungry when you start this diet, but that is because s/he is used to a lot of bulk if they have been eating dry food.  They will eventually be very satisfied with what you give them if you follow these instructions.
The test to determine how much to feed your dog is the same (whether it is fresh or commercial food). First, you need to determine if your dog is a good healthy weight.  Most pets are overweight due to the amount of starch in commercial pet foods. Dogs do not need ANY starch in their diet, and too much of it makes them fat, just like it does us!  Being overweight causes the same problems in dogs as it does in us.  Do them a favor, keep your dog at a healthy weight by regularly running the Weight Test below.

WEIGHT TEST:
  1. Look at your dog while it is standing calmly.  Can you see its ribs?  If yes, then the dog is underweight. Ribs should NOT be visible on a dog that is standing in place no matter the breed. Skip the remaining questions and double the food recommendation in the chart below.
  2. Pet your dog’s side with slight pressure.  Can you feel its ribs without pressing down hard?  If yes, your dog is at a healthy weight. Skip the remaining question and follow the food recommendation in the chart below.  You may end up raising or lowering this ration, depending on whether your dog gains or loses weight over time, but this is a good place to start.
  3. Did you have to use firm pressure to feel your dog’s ribs?  If so, your dog is overweight.  Start them off with half the food recommendation in the chart below, and gradually raise or lower it depending upon how well your dog is doing losing weight.  You don’t want them to drop their weight too fast, but they should begin to lose weight in a month, and be at their ideal weight (as determined by the Weight Test) in 6 months.
Dog Weight
Amount to feed twice daily
Under 15 pounds
1/8th  to ¼ cup
15 to 35 pounds
¼ c. to ½ c.
35 to 60 pounds
½ c. to 1 c.
60 to 90 pounds
1 c. to 2 c.
Over 90 pounds
2 c. to 3 c.

EASE INTO IT:  For the first few days you can also feed the above ration along with half the dog’s normal dry food ration, but slowly lower that to nothing over the course of a week or so. Like us, dogs get used to having a certain volume of food in their diet, and may still feel hungry if the quantities above are a lot less than they were getting before. After a week on the fresh food, your dog is likely to shun the dry food in any case, assuming they are getting enough calories with their fresh food.  NOTE:  Pick up and discard any fresh food not eaten by your dog in 20 minutes, and reduce the dog’s ration accordingly at its next feeding.
Every week or so, repeat the WEIGHT TEST and slowly adjust the dog’s food ration accordingly.  Be sure to also adjust how many treats and “Tasty Sides” you give them as well.  All of that is food!

What do you mean, “Tasty Sides”?

Along with the fresh food recipe, we regularly give our dog a little something on the “side” (not mixed in with their regular fresh dog food).  This adds interest and variety to their dinner, and makes us feel good because we know they are getting a special little something.  If you want to, try adding these  to their dinner bowl:

  • Chicken or beef heart and liver, and chicken gizzards (organ meats are GREAT for dogs, so we give this side fairly often.  We usually do a quick saute on them and serve them medium rare.)
  • Beef liver or heart
  • Eggs (we serve them raw, but you can scramble them if you want to)
  •  Plain yogurt (whole milk is best)

We might also give them the last of the soup, or stew left over from a few days ago, or some other little treat that we are not going to eat.  Even milk that is going sour is eagerly eaten by your dog.  Speaking of treats, see below!

What makes a good Treat?

If you are trying to distract them so you can watch your TV show try these:
  •         Fresh, Raw Beef  Bones.  I often give my dogs a raw beef bone as a treat instead of their regular food or as an extra treat.  If you do this, just remember NEVER GIVE THEM A COOKED BONE, not even a cooked knuckle bone.  The calcium in cooked bones is not digestible, and even if it does not splinter, they do granulate as they are chewed.  A little granulated bone is not going to hurt your dog, but a lot of it will, and controlling how much cooked bone a dog eats in a sitting is tricky business.  It is best not to go down that road.  Even raw rib bones can be tricky as some dogs will gulp them whole (not good).  If your dog is a gulper, give them a HUGE RAW KNUCKLE BONE and take it away from them when they wear it down.
  •         Bull or “Bully” Sticks.  These leather chews are unbleached (which is important) and don’t fall apart when your dog chews on them.  Make sure your dog doesn’t eat more than a few inches of a bully stick (or any leather chew) in any one sitting as it can cause an impaction in the intestines. For this reason, you should also not feed your dog leather chews that are made of chopped up pieces of leather that are then pressed together into cute little shapes.  These are too easy to eat and can cause impactions in the bowl (which have to be surgically removed, ask me how I know!).  The purpose of leather chews are to get them to CHEW, not EAT. 

If you are using the treat for training purposes, try small pieces of the following (I have listed them in the typical order of dog preference).  These are better than commercial treats because they are typically cheaper per pound to use, the dogs love them, they are soft so there is no worry about the dog choking on them as they gobble them down, and they can be quickly eaten so the dog is ready to continue training right away (no waiting for them to chew).

1.      Roast chicken or turkey pieces
2.      Cooked bacon pieces
3.      Hot dog pieces
4.      Cheese pieces
5.      Fresh or raw beef pieces
6.      Ham pieces

What do you mean when you say“one part” in the recipe?

A “part” can be any measure (a pound, a spoonful, a cupful, etc).  It is not critical to get everything perfect in this recipe.  Whatever your measurement, that is your “part”.  You will find you will usually use pounds in this recipe, because we buy meat by the pound.  So, if you have 5 pounds of pork butt (before cooking), buy 5 pounds of winter squash or yams (or a  mixture of them) for this recipe. 

Can I use something other than winter squash, yams, and/or sweet potatoes?

Yes, but winter squash is best, and yams and sweet potatoes (which are the same food in North America) follow as a close second-best because they do have a higher starch content.  All of these vegetables are good for your dog because of their carotene content, palatability and digestibility.  However, you can substitute any of the following for half the squash/yam/sweet potato puree.
  • Apples, cooked or raw, pureed or ground (ie: unsweetened applesauce)
  • Any cooked green vegetables, pureed or ground (cooking and pureeing makes them more digestible).  I would not use cabbage as it can cause gas.
  • Vegetable pulp left over from making vegetable juice (I often make myself carrot juice for example, and the left-over pulp is good roughage for the dogs).
  • Cooked split peas (as in split pea soup)

What kind of meat can I use?

ALL KINDS!  But here are the easiest to get hold of:

PORK:  I usually use a whole pork butt or shoulder that I have cooked in the oven overnight at 250 degrees (takes approximately 8 hours).  That way, I can pull off some of the pork for myself (makes great pulled pork BBQ) and use the rest in this recipe.  Note that there will be a lot of fat and liquids in the pan after you cook it.  GREAT!  Just drain the pork (keep that liquid!) and use your hands to shred the pork and fat and mix it all together.  Use this as the base for your dog food.  Now, for the liquid, it will have a lot of fat in it.  You can use all the liquid (broth + fat) to cook your squash, or you can skim off most of the fat for another use if you want to.  Your dog will be happy to eat the fat and will have no problem metabolizing it (it will not make him or her fat, don’t worry), so don’t separate the fat on his or her account, but I sometimes pull off some of the liquid fat in the winter to feed to wild birds (mixed with bird seed), or to cook with myself.  Up to you.

CHICKEN:  Dogs can eat chicken cooked or raw.  If cooked, remove ALL the bones.  The cooking process makes the calcium in the bone indigestible and the bone brittle.  Brittle bones tend to get caught in the intestines.  If you have fed these to your dog in the past without a problem, you have been lucky.  Trust me. 

Now, a raw bone is different.  Many people feed whole raw chicken to dogs without any problems with the bones getting caught.  This is  because chickens are very young when they are slaughtered and the bones are easy to digest when they are raw.  However, if I am going to feed raw chicken, I have it ground, bones and all, before feeding just to be sure.  Howard’s Meats in Klamath Falls (Oregon) sells ground chicken backs and necks for a very good price (99 cents per pound as of April 2018), and I use it in this recipe all the time.  Remember though, DO NOT COOK IT, because then you would be feeding your dog a COOKED bone.  NEVER DO THAT!

BEEF:  Dogs LOVE beef!  Who doesn’t?  You can use it raw or cooked in this recipe, ground or cubed. 

Can I used cooked rice instead of uncooked Oatmeal?

Yes, but the main point of adding uncooked oats is to soak up the extra broth that might be in your food.  Cooked rice will not help with that.  However, the second reason to add oatmeal is to add roughage to the dog's diet.  Cooked brown rice WILL help with that.  If you use cooked white rice, then you are only adding it as a filler.  This is okay, particularly if your dog is not fat, but only do this if your budget requires stretching the food dollar because white rice has little food or roughage value for dogs.

Should I give my dog vitamins?

You can, but I am not sure how much good it does.  If you are using the optional items I list in the recipe, you shouldn’t need to anyway.  I don’t give my dog vitamins.