Yesterday I started out explaining why we’re home cooking for our dog. In short: his health was a mess. We’ve been at it for a while now, mostly experimenting, but we’ve seen incredible results already.
The first thing we did was to throw out all our previous “insights” into what he could and couldn’t eat. We had been working on one thing, one issue, one symptom at a time for so long that we no longer felt confident that any of our notions were correct. I pulled a couple dog cookbooks off the shelf and flipped through. The pattern that emerged was, essentially, mixing a meat protein source, starchy stuff (like sweet potatoes), fruits and veggies, grains, and supplements. I found this article from Whole Dog Journal to be useful in weighing ingredient possibilities, especially this:
It’s important that the diet you feed your dog is “complete and balanced,” meaning it meets all of your dog’s nutritional needs. It is not important, however, that every meal be complete and balanced, unless you feed the same meal every day with little or no variation. Home-prepared diets that include a wide variety of foods fed at different meals rely on balance over time, not at every meal. Similar to the way humans eat, as long as your dog gets everything he needs spread out over each week or two, his diet will be complete and balanced.
Our next step was to start testing ingredients to see what he tolerated. We started with a base of quinoa and mixed vegetables, which we steamed, because we had fed those to him in the past with no reactions, then we futzed with the proteins. Keeping the base the same, we tested tuna, pork, and lamb. All those were good, so we added in some whole wheat pasta, then varied the vegetables. Who knew that Cooper loved Brussels sprouts so much! We then added steamed spinach to the base, which went well, then we tried steamed kale, which did NOT go well. In fact, the kale experiment was the first time in nearly three weeks that he had diarrhea. So, kale is off our list! He’s also good on sweet potatoes and white rice. Next up: brown rice and squash. We’re also going to try turkey and salmon in the next round of proteins. As for ingredient testing, this chart has been incredibly useful.
But here’s our key: We are only changing ONE ingredient at a time. We isolated a few things that we could count on and only make one change at a time. Yes, it’s making this process take forever (we need to cook a new batch of food nearly every day), but it’s helping us isolate what works and what doesn’t.
While we’ve been working through our ingredients list, I also downloaded this PDF guide from The National Academies that details the minimum daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. I know that ultimately he will get much of his requirements from his food, but while we’re testing and to be extra safe, I wanted to get him on supplements that would get him to his daily minimum. Using the guide, I downloaded the labels for a handful of supplements. I’d be happy to share my comparisons with you if you’re interested, but after a lot of number crunching, we decided on these vitamins with this calcium supplement. Combined, the two get him almost to the full daily requirements outlined in the guide. He also gets a scoop of pumpkin with breakfast and a scoop of coconut oil with dinner.
My ultimate goal is to nail down a few proteins, a variety of fruits and vegetables, some of the carbs, and a couple grains… then go to Sam’s Club and buy them in bulk. Ideally, I’d like a freezer stocked with daily portions so that we aren’t cooking every day, but I’m not willing to do that until we have a solid rotation of possibilities. On Facebook, Lisa suggested preparing batches in the Crock Pot (genius!!) and on yesterday’s post, Pamela recommended Dr. Pitcairn’s book (which I actually have), so I’ll be doing a bit more tweaking before that stage.
I read tons more, in addition to talking to our vet, but the resources I’ve linked here are the ones I found most useful.
Preliminary results: His stomach is the best it’s ever been. Ever. In four years. His coat is shiny, and his eyes look clearer. I think he seems happier, too, but John says we can’t quantify that. (But, trust me. He seems happier. )
So, there you have it! I’ll let you know how everything progresses, but thank you to everyone who shared your experiences yesterday. So helpful! If you have any more questions or comments or have a favorite recipe, please do share in the comments!