Thursday, February 4, 2010

Healthful Dog Food

I've talked about my dog, Dakota, on my writing blog -- and those of you who've been reading awhile know she has digestive problems that have led to me making her food from scratch. I've received emails from several people asking about it, and have had folks IRL interested as well, so decided that a post is in order. After all, our pets are kids, too, right?

I used the recipe for Spot's Stew from the Halo Pets website (actually, I found it in the book, "The Whole Pet Diet", but it's on the site as well.

Halo Pet's Spots Stew

Yield: About 8 Cups

2 ½ pounds whole chicken
¼ cup chopped fresh garlic
1 cup green peas
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
½ cup coarsely chopped sweet potato
½ cup coarsely chopped zucchini
½ cup coarsely chopped yellow squash
½ cup coarsely chopped green beans
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 tablespoon kelp powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
11 to 16 cups spring water

For dogs only: Add 8 ounces whole barley and 6 ounces rolled oats, and adjust the water content to a total of 16 cups or enough to cover the ingredients (According to Halo Veterinarian, Dr. Donna Spector, cats require zero carbohydrate content in their diet, so this would be an unnecessary addition for cats).

Instructions: Combine all of the ingredients in a 10-quart stockpot (stainless steel, please) with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat as low as possible and simmer for 2 hours (the carrots should be quite soft at the end of the cooking time). Remove from the heat, let cool, and debone the chicken. With an electric hand mixer, or using a food processor and working in batches, blend all the ingredients into a nice puree; the stew should be slightly thicker for dogs and more soupy for cats. Using zip lock bags or plastic yogurt containers, make up meal-sized portions. Refrigerate what you’ll need for three days and freeze the rest. Be sure and seek your pet’s advice (and your vet’s) on ideal meal sizes.

Serving Size: Amounts will vary depending on age, activity level, current health, weight, and season, but here are some guidelines: The average adult cat will eat roughly 1 cup a day. Because dogs vary so much in size, consult the table below. The amount shown should be split into at least two meals daily.

Dog’s Weight Total Daily Portion
Up to 10 pounds 1 to 1 ½ cups
11 to 20 pounds 2 to 3 cups
21-40 pounds 4 cups

For each additional 20 pounds, add 2 cups. Remember, all pets are individuals, so let your intuition and observations guide you, and always consult your vet.

As always, I changed things up slightly. Here's what I do (I spread this out over two days because it's easier).

Start with two whole chickens (they weigh approximately 9 lbs)

Boil until cooked then remove from broth. I put them in a HUGE bowl with a lid I have and put them somewhere to cool (currently this is the garage). I put the broth into containers and let it cool, too, in my outdoor refrigerator (the only good part about winter!):

The following day, I cook the rest. I scoop the fat off the now cooled broth, and dump the broth into a pot. I add some of the hardest veggies (I frequently use sweet potato in place of the pumpkin, and use whatever type of summer squash I can easily find. I also use potato in place of the barley or oatmeal sometimes) -- celery, carrots, sweet potato, white potato.

I'm a big believer that raw food is healthier, so the stuff I can mush without cooking, I leave uncooked: the peas, green beans and squash.

While that is cooking, I debone the chicken and make sure it's in fairly small pieces.

Then... when it's all cooked and ready, I feed it all through my Kitchen Aid meat grinder (after pouring the broth into the bowl). Dogs have a shorter digestive tract than humans do ... if you don't grind up the veggies, they won't digest them as thoroughly, therefore missing out on some of the nutrients.

This is what it looks like when I'm done.

Now I pull out my other additions.

And scoop a day's worth of food into several containers, then put the correct amount of vitamin, oil, kelp, probiotics, etc., into each one.

(As an aside, I'm looking for appropriately sized glass containers to use, since it appears I'll be doing this for the next, oh... eleven years or so. I'm well aware that plastic is NOT a healthful choice to use.)

DD stirs, and we put them into the freezer.

Dakota helps by washing the dishes:


For the cat, I cut back a little on the veggies and add half fish, half chicken (because my cat prefers fish), don't add the starch and then puree it until it's smooth.

It may sound like a lot of work, but I get more than a week's worth of food, and it's only really an hour or so of actually working time (as opposed to the cooking time). And it's worth it. Look at this face and tell me you wouldn't do the same:


  1. This looks like my kitchen table. LOL!

    I don't use the additives, but I do add rice or oatmeal as a binder, as well as whatever veggies I've frozen from the garden.

    PS What an adorable puppy picture of Dakota!

  2. I tried brown rice, but Dakota just passed it right through ... so I stick with oatmeal or potatoes for a starch. Funny thing -- the cat was initially not thrilled with her new food, so I broke down and bought a couple cans of Wellness Core. When she finally finished the homemade stuff, she wouldn't even TOUCH the new canned food!