It’s not something you readily think about when changing to a paleo lifestyle, but is everyone in your family….furry friends included….on the bandwagon? Even if you aren’t following a paleo lifestyle, or are just paleo-ish, are you giving your pups the best opportunity for complete health and nutrition?
We all like to think that we are doing right by our four legged friends. We buy the expensive dry dog food, we give them the yummy treats, but how do we know that is the best option? It’s nothing like what a dog would eat in the wild….and that’s not saying that domesticated dogs are the same as a wild dog, a.k.a wolf, fox, coyote, etc. But doesn’t it stand to reason that there are some dietary needs that are similar?
I am by no means an expert on the subject. For more detailed information on canine nutrition, check out this article, or maybe this one. They give the facts on what your dog needs. However, I can share my experiences when it comes to these two goof-balls!
Even before Daniel and I discovered and embraced our paleo lifestyle, we had already made the change to a grain-free dog food for our guys. Bilbo is a chihuahua/beagle mix and tends to “beef up” (ahem) pretty quickly. Gnocchi, on the other hand, is a chihuahua/pitbull mix and had the stereotypical pitbull skin allergy issues. They’ve always done well with the self-regulation method of feeding, but it made sense to look for foods that didn’t have when I considered fillers….corn, wheat, barley….basically grains (although barley is a pseudo grain). Plus, grains were linked to skin allergies in pitbulls.
Long story short, food didn’t seem to be the issue for Gnocchi. No matter what food we switched to, he still got lumpy. At some point I will write further on it, but we found a fantastic herbal supplement that controls his environmental skin allergies perfectly!
It wasn’t until we were several months into our paleo journey that we began to wonder if we could be feeding our furry family members a bit better. Daniel started watching videos on raw diets for dogs. We understood the benefits, but was it really safe? I mean, we love him to death and he’s the biggest baby ever, but Gnocchi is a pitbull. Would giving them raw food make them more aggressive?
The answer was an emphatic NO. If anything, it made them more well behaved. And knowing more about the mind/gut connection that I learned from my paleo journey, it makes perfect sense. You give the body what it needs and body systems, including the brain, come into line.
When we started them on their raw diet, we made the decision to make it only partially raw (and we still feed them this way today). We started them on store bought raw food and keeping part of their diet as dry kibble helped diffuse the cost. Once we became more comfortable with their raw diet, I decided that it would be even more cost effective if I made their food. Their food consisted of ingredients that we have on hand already, so it’s really only an additional expense for some additional free range chicken or grass fed beef and organ meat. And if you speak to your local butcher, they may be able to provide you with scraps or less desirable cuts and organs at a discount.
There are several things to be careful of when making your own raw dog food. First and foremost, there are many fruits, vegetables, and nuts out there that are harmful to dogs. The top of that list: onions, garlic, grapes or raisins, macadamia nuts, apple seeds (the flesh of the apple is actually great for them….just be sure there are no seeds), cooked bones, and avocado just to name a few. Do your research and be sure that you are giving your fur baby something that will not cause him harm.
Second, I mentioned above about cooked bones. Bones are actually a great addition to your dog’s raw diet. Just make sure they are raw. You can give a raw bone with some meaty bits as a treat or you can grind them up and add them to their food. But they must be raw to prevent splintering and causing a perforation in the digestive tract.
Third, if you are making a large batch to freeze, do not use frozen meat. Never thaw and then refreeze the meat….even for Fido. This allows for too much risk of bacterial contamination (when I was a restaurant manager, I used to remind my kitchen staff of this constantly). If you are making a small batch that will be gone in a couple of days, then yes, you can use frozen meat. Just be sure not to refreeze it.
This last one is based on my own experience. Let your dog guide you on how he needs to eat. With only doing a partially raw diet, we still feed them some dry kibble (we check ingredients closely and get the most pure/paleo kibble we can). When we started out, we followed some recommendations that said to feed them just once a day and gave general guidelines on how much dry to raw to give. The first thing I noticed was that they would get rowdy the closer it got to feeding time. Some evenings they were desperately rowdy. The second thing I noticed was that Bilbo was turning into a little sausage!
Remember I said that our guys regulated themselves pretty well? Once I started working from home, I transitioned them back to self regulation of their dry food and then their serving of raw food at dinner time. They are now much happier! It seems that the once a day feeding wasn’t working for them. They were getting much too hungry by dinner time and Bilbo would eat as much as he could, and sometimes wait to see if Gnocchi left anything behind….thus, the little sausage-roll. His body was telling him that he needed to stock up because, you know, food wasn’t as plentiful (starvation mode). Now that he’s self regulating again, he’s returning to a healthier, leaner weight.
So, how do you go about making raw dog food? It’s actually pretty easy. I use a 75% to 25% method with 75% meat, organs, bones and 25% fruits, vegetables, supplements. This gives me a little leeway to change up their food from time to time. You can be more exact about it (60% meat, 20% organs, 10% fruit and vegetable, 5% egg, 5% supplements), but do your research and see what may suit your buddy best. Since our guys still get kibble, I don’t think I need to be as exact with the ratios. It is best to include some animal fat in the mix, but sometimes I find a great deal on boneless/skinless chicken. In those instances, I’ll add a little bit of coconut or olive oil for some healthy fats. I also add the egg shells to replace the bones. If you have a powerful enough food processor to grind the bones, by all means add them! I don’t, so I use the egg shells instead.
What does my typical recipe look like? It’s pretty easy actually:
- 2.5 lbs. of beef, chicken, or both
- 1.5 lbs. of organ meat (livers, hearts, or kidneys)
- 1 lb. of fruits, vegetables, and eggs (for example, today was half of an apple, a handful of blueberries, a half of a carrot, a handful of spinach, and two eggs)
I have a Ninja Ultra Prep that has a cracked canister (a problem that I frequently run into with Ninja products), but it still works great for the raw dog food. If you do a big batch to freeze, like I do, you can process it in several batches and just mix it together in a large mixing bowl. I then spoon it into ice cube trays and pop them in the freezer. The cubes are the perfect serving size for our dogs (one cube for Bilbo and two cubes for Gnocchi) and once they are completely frozen, I remove them from the trays and place them into freezer bags. A few hours before dinner time, I’ll pull the cubes out and let them thaw.
It’s that easy! As with any diet change, whether for yourself or for your furry friend, make sure you do your homework. Read up on ingredients that are harmful to your canine. If you’re going full raw, make sure you address all of their dietary requirements. Even if you’re not going full raw, make sure you address all of their dietary requirements. And just relax and have fun with it! There are so many ingredient combinations that your dog will love and why shouldn’t they have the fun of a culinary adventure!