Cooking for your dog
By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
The veggie portion of the diet before the cooked meat is added – an hour or so on a Saturday morning provided enough food for a 20 lb dog for about six weeks.
My constant companion, a 13-year-old Jack Russell/Beagle mix named Rocky, seemed to age overnight. Now admittedly she’s already pretty old for a dog but her eyes were becoming cloudy and dazed and she was walking with a pronounced limp in her right rear leg. Her heart murmur, which was a Grade 1 when I adopted her at age eight, had progressed to a Grade 4.
“What are you feeding her?” asked Dr. Tadeusz ‘Bart’ Sikorski of Harwood Veterinary Clinic in Vaudreuil-Dorion when I brought Rocky in to have her hip assessed.
“Raw food and kibble,” I answered. He shook his head.
“Cook for her,” he replied, handing me a simple preprinted recipe.
Dr. Bart, as he is known to his patients, explained that raw food tends to contain an excess of calcium as the bones and organ meats are all ground up into the mixture. Too much calcium in the diet can contribute to arthritis.
A 2019 study by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed a correlation between certain brands of dry kibble and the development of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Despite the fact that some breeds are genetically predisposed to DCM, the association of the illness with dried food was supported by the FDA’s findings. Around the same time, raw food began to be touted as a healthier option compared to kibble which is cooked at high temperatures up to 400° C. “That cooked through the protein,” Dr. Bart said, “and the lack of the protein and certain molecules present in this food could cause different diseases. So people started looking for alternatives.”
But the raw food diet is controversial. While proponents argue it more closely resembles dogs’ natural carnivorous diet before domestication, Dr. Bart points out that dogs have evolved and been domesticated for long enough that their digestive systems are no longer designed for raw food.
“Raw food can cause other issues. It lacks certain vitamins, micro-elements, amino acids, and fatty acids.” Dr. Bart also said organ meats and bones can potentially cause seizures, diarrhea, heart disease, different bone disorders, and anemia due to the lack of B12. He added that allergies can also be linked to poor digestion of food which can stimulate the immune system. “Food allergies are a major situation now.”
The presence of bacteria and parasites, which are not destroyed by freezing, also pose potential dangers, including possible contamination passed to humans in the form of E. coli, toxoplasma and salmonella.
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Placing a layer of plastic food wrap over the muffin tin before you add the food mixture will allow for easier removal once it’s frozen.
Fortunately, I enjoy cooking and as the mom of three boys I’m used to cooking en masse for the family. I have the largest of skillets, stainless steel mixing bowls, and a whole selection of muffin tins so after buying ground turkey, lean ground pork, and some frozen salmon, I set out to cook up a big batch of dog food on a Saturday morning.
The rest of the menu consisted of squash, sweet and regular potatoes (you don’t need to peel them) green beans and peas (either fresh or frozen) carrots, and red (or green) lentils which must be puréed after cooking. The aim is to create a good balance with a range of vegetables. Don’t add any onion or garlic – they’re toxic to dogs. Cook all other veggies until semi-firm. Combine the cooked veggies with the cooked meat at a ratio of 20 to 30 per cent meat (depending on the dog’s age and activity level). Dr. Bart also recommends adding a scientifically-tested veterinary probiotic to the mixture after cooking to aid in vitamin absorption and for the general balance of ‘good’ gut bacteria.
Roughly ½ pound each of ground turkey, lean ground pork, and salmon combined with the veggies at the four-to-one ratio, resulted in about six weeks’ worth of meals for my 20-lb dog. I laid down plastic wrap over a muffin tin and filled each cup with the mixture and placed it in the freezer. When frozen, transfer all the ‘pucks’ to a Tupperware container and take out a couple the night before to thaw in the fridge. The cost is on par with, or even less, than that of her previous commercially prepared diet.