Sorry for the radio silence on the ASK SARAH posts, I so appreciate your emails/questions and have so many I’m looking forward to answering! Keep em coming. I got today’s question a few times and it’s something I feel strongly about, so read on my friends…
Question: Hi Sarah, would you be willing to share your dog food recipe and your rationale for making dog food from scratch? We feed our cat Newman’s Own and are soon getting a rescue dog. I want to do right by them!
Answer: Hi Rocio! Congrats on your new family member and I think it’s so fantastic that you’re rescuing a dog. Three cheers for you! Here are my thoughts on dog food: When Bean first joined me I knew almost nothing about nutrition, but I knew that dog foods are notoriously poor in quality (it’s SCARY the things that they sneak into pet food) so I invested in the best quality kibble I could find. This site is a great source for comparing dog food brands. I have always fed my pets Orijen it gets great reviews and was recommended to me by a few people I trust. But Bean was never really into kibble. She would eat a little, then spend 5 minutes pushing it around with her snout and whining. I was constantly worried that she wasn’t eating enough. Plus, she’s naturally kate-moss thin, so it was a concern. Then when I got sick and started to learn more about nutrition I re-thought EVERYTHING.
I read The China Study and it was a major awakening (highly, highly, highly recommend you get this book). It discusses a huge study that was done on mice/rats concerning diet. In summary they found that increasing animal protein in the diet of the mice/rats increased cancer cell growth and putting the mice/rats on a vegan diet brought cancer cell growth to a halt. This applied to all sorts of modern illnesses, not just cancer. It forever changed my ideas about food.
After that I decided that I couldn’t feed the dogs plain old kibble anymore. But finding a definitive answer on what dogs need for health is like searching for a needle on the interweb. Everyone has an opinion. So, I trust my gut and after a little over a year of feeding the dogs this way and tweaking it based on watching them, this is how I feed them:
Every few days I make a giant batch of quinoa (2 cups dry) and a giant batch of veggies. It’s important to research what dogs and cats are allergic to before going down this road. Feeding them onions or grapes, for instance, could make them very ill or possibly even kill them. I feed them the following veggies in abundance: sweet potato, squash (all varieties), pumpkin, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, corn, kale, snap peas, green beans, cucumber (and the occasional apple or banana!). I try to feed them whatever seasonal veggies we’re eating, but sweet potatoes are a star player always. Lots of times they get the veggies that have gotten a little ripe for my liking. I mix the veggies with quinoa, a tablespoon or so of olive oil, 1/3 cup of dry Orjen fish kibble for Bean and half that amount for Ellie, 1 tsp of pet kelp supplement, and each starts the meal with 1/2 sheet of nori (seaweed). The LOVE it. Bean scarfs down every meal. This pooch who turned her nose at bowls full of kibble with peanut butter mixed in as a bribe eats her dinner like a champ. It took me a few tries to figure out how much they each need, based on their bathroom trips. My first instinct was to was over feed them which resulted in lots of trips outside in the middle of the night.
I also give them beef marrow bones- I will let them chew for 15 minutes or so then take them away so they last longer. These are great because they help clean their teeth. And every once in awhile I’ll splurge on some grass fed organic bison and cook that up for them. A small package lasts an entire week with how little I give them.
Now, is all of this sounding like a ton of work to you? Well, it’s not as easy as scooping kibble out of a bin, but it’s not incredibly hard either. It’s a matter of chopping up some veggies (i steam some & serve some raw) and cooking some quinoa. It lasts for a few days and then I have to do it again. It’s more work, but the idea that food is supposed to be zero effort is part of the problem we’re facing in this world- eating things that bear no resemblance to what grows out of the ground is at fault for so many illnesses and the cause of so much suffering. So yes, this is more effort but worth every bit of it. And yes, it’s also more expensive (everything they eat is organic), although I think I’ll get that back in the end with far fewer vet bills. I believe in spending more for quality when it comes to food- the idea being we’ll get paid back with good health and quality of life.
I have a friend whose dog was terribly overweight, lethargic and old beyond her years. At his house one night I got into a discussion with him and found out she was only eating 1 cup of kibble a day! It seemed crazy that she would be so overweight and uncomfortable. So he decided to try this way of feeding and said he noticed an immediate change. She used to wander begrudgingly over to her dog bowl to eat her kibble, sometimes he would even have to call her over. Then when he started preparing meals for her she started doing happy jumping dances in the kitchen while he was putting it together! She LOVED it and there’s no going back for the two of them. And the best part, she’s lost weight, has more energy, and is much much happier. She’s a true success story. If there were a Richard Simmons for dogs, she’d be all over it.
I hope all of this helps! Anyone else care to weigh in on this one? Would love to hear!!
*photo one of Bean from the day she came to live with me and photo 2 of the dogs breakfast (they get this once a day and wag their tails and prance around the kitchen while i’m making it)