Allow me to introduce you to my puppies.
Indiana is our 12 1/2 year old Yellow Border Collie. He loves belly rubs and chasing tennis balls, licking Chris' knee (except just after he's showered) and removing the squeakers from toys with surgical precision. He hates (and fears) slamming doors, balloons and the smoke alarm.
Diego is 7, a huge 110lb mix between a mother German Shepherd and a father Chocolate Lab. He likes snuggling…on my bed…right against me (and half on top of me)… all night long. He also loves chewy bones, having his ears scratched, escaping out the front door to go pee on the neighbor's bushes and 'talking' to us.
He dislikes being told no. And is very vocal about his displeasure.
My furbabies :)
So, let me just say that while I firmly believe that living and eating paleo is a wonderful thing, I never expected that I would be switching over my dogs to paleo as well. Logic (which I am not always on friendly terms with) said that if we were to provide their food, free of fillers and preservatives and stablilizers, that the dogs would benefit just as much from a diet that is more natural and suitable to their bodies as we have. But I was still buying the 40lbs of dry kibble every month for the dogs. Because it was convenient.
Last spring, we tried switching to a different brand of food because it was cheaper. Both dogs developed severe allergies- they were scratching, licking, and Diego developed a nasty case of what the vets call 'elephant skin'.
We suspected the culprit was the wheat/soy/corn fillers in the dog food, so we switched brands and went back to their original, and things cleared up…until one night we were desperate, completely out of food and the store didn't have the brand we needed. So, with fingers crossed, we tried another kind…only to find that it, too, caused an allergic reaction in both dogs as well.
Can I just say that I find it somehow amusing that both of my dogs have a wheat sensitivity, much like I do?
Amusing in that funny-but-not-very-funny way.
Once more we switched to back to the original brand, but a few other issues recently have made it a priority that we take the dogs off manufactured pre-packaged dog food and switch to making our own. Conveniently enough (for this Cavemom, anyway), the best homemade dog food is essentially paleo- no preservatives, no fillers, just plants and animals
I did a tiny fist-pump of satsifaction over that. Paleo WIN!
Side note: You know all those people (and I apologize if you are one of them) who freak out and get all puffed up because they say dogs shouldn't be fed 'people' food? I can't help but do a snarky nyah-nyah and point out that I can feed my dog all the table scraps I want, because what I'm eating is better than what most dogs are.
What follows is the rough recipe and basic method I use for my dogs: altered, tweaked, fiddled with and ultimately approved by the vet. If you attempt to make food for your pets, be sure to consult a vet's advice first!
My adult dogs need about 20% (roughly) of their diet in protein. This is based on a whole slew of scientific calculations that the vet laid out for me, roughly 2grams of protein per kilogram of the dogs weight per day, with slight variables depending on activity level age, bone structure, etc. I just nodded and went 'uh huh, sounds good.' when he explained it. Once he approved my recipe, my eyes began crossing with all the numbers and factors and stuff.
The protein sources for the pups are pretty much whatever I can find on sale at the store. Usually it's chicken; occasionally I'll get a pork roast for a really good price. If I find some really good deals on ground beef, I'll mix a little of that in as well.
Organ meats are especially good for the dogs (and cheap!), and I can usually find chicken livers, beef liver, and/or chicken gizzards and hearts for a good price, so I include those 2 out of every three batches of food I make.
Other than meat, I buy a ton of veggies. My cart is usually loaded with kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, carrots, celery, beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes- some for us and some for the dogs!
Once a week I layer my huge roaster pan with some kale on the bottom (it cooks down in the drippings), then I layer chunks of roughly chopped veggies to fill up the pan. The top layer is the meat…the organ meats get covered by the chicken thighs, a butterflied chicken, or whatever other meat I've picked up at the store.
It all goes into the oven for about 2 1/2 hours at 325, with foil covering the pan so that everything steams. By the time the veggies are tender, the meat is always thoroughly cooked.
After it's cool, I remove as much of the meat, skin, fat and cartilege from the bones, saving the bones for bone broth. I pour off all the drippings into a pot and add a bit of water to equal 8 cups, and then boil that, adding 4 cups of white rice and cooking it. I also toss in any tougher chunks of veggies that just didn't cook down all the way, to help them soften up.
The rice gets dumped out over the meat and veggies to cool, then the whole thing is mixed up and portioned off into gallon-sized ziploc bags to be frozen or stuck in the fridge.
When it comes to feeding time, both dogs get their appropriate amount of food scooped out into a bowl twice a day. Indy, at 44lbs, gets 1 1/2 cups at each meal. Diego, at 110lbs, gets about 2 1/4 cups at each meal. In addition:
*1x a day they get 1 teaspoon glucosamine on their food.
*4x a week the dogs will get 1/2 cup of full-fat cottage cheese or full-fat yogurt.
*3x a week they get a whole egg (sometimes cooked, mostly raw).
*They also get whatever meat and veggie scraps we have leftover from most dinners that we don't save for another meal (unless it's heavy on garlic, onions, or peppers).
The vet recommended that we give them olive oil, tallow or other fat, 2-3 tablespoons 6x a week. We often save the leftover drippings from roasted chicken and pour it into a container. After being in the fridge, it will separate out into gelatinous bone broth and hardened fat; we scoop a little of both onto their food.
The dogs have very happily adjusted to eating their new food without much trouble. We had a few little challenges along the way in figuring out how much food they needed to eat; thankfully they both have their ways of indicating that they are hungry and want/need a little more.
So what about cost? When you factor in that this is 'people' food, prepared at home (requiring time and effort), of course it's going to be a little more expensive. I sat down with a calculator and my shopping receipts and tallied up my costs for the past few months, and was pleasantly surprised:
10 weeks of dry dog food: $92.56
10 weeks of homemade food: $137.81
$25 a month more isn't too shabby, when it comes right down to it.
While it's not always convenient, and sometimes the added cost feels like a lot more than it actually is, I feel really good about knowing exactly what my dogs are getting, and we're avoiding the food allergy problem we encountered before.
Added bonus: When the cavekids complain about their dinner, I tell them they can always eat dog food instead. :)