I’ve been home cooking for Risa for almost a month now. I’ve only been doing it properly for about 2-3 weeks, though. 😉 I did some research in the Whole Dog Journal, had a friend send me a pamphlet and a book on home-prepared diets (I still need to read the book), and consulted with several online friends and websites to get an idea of what I needed to do.
As much as I complained at first, it’s really not so bad. Risa’s poops were horrible at first not because of the home cooked food. They were bad because of the kibble I had been feeding as well. Even just using the kibbles as training treats didn’t work for Risa at all. There was no way she was going to tolerate kibble as an entire meal (2.5 cups) when 20-some-odd pieces were causing such huge, smelly poops!! Although I was able to find a kibble without ingredients that would bother her, it just didn’t work out. (So, along with a freezer-full of raw food she can’t eat, I also have a bag of kibble. . .)
It hasn’t been as difficult to balance as I originally thought it would be. My main concerns were calcium, of course, and a source of omega 3s. The calcium I covered originally with ground eggshells but I eventually got some bone meal to use instead. I started off using flaxseed for the omega 3s but I was concerned that dogs might not actually be able to utilize a plant-based source of O3. With Risa’s issues with poultry, I wasn’t sure I would be able to use eggs so I took it slow. She never had an issue with the eggs which was a huge load off my mind! I’m still continuing to give the flax as well (it’s supposed to help with urinary incontinence issues which Risa has on rare occasion).
The biggest pain about home cooking is the preparation time. Granted, raw feeding takes a lot of prep time too. You have to portion out meals in advance and, if you buy in bulk, you can spend a good part of the weekend cutting it up! But it doesn’t hold a candle to home cooked time. Not only am I spending a lot of time around the stove cooking meat and veggies and cutting up food; it’s taking a long time just to get each meal ready for Risa. I have to add in her supplements along with mixing everything together. Rather than simply tossing her a chicken quarter (which I haven’t done in 2 years since she developed an aversion to poultry) and watching her chow down.
Still, she’s doing great on it. Her poops have been picture perfect. She’s gaining back the weight she lost. On top of that, she really seems to enjoy it.
I’ve found out that home cooking isn’t exactly all I expected it to be. I expected her poops to be much worse than they were on raw (they’re not quite as small and smell a bit more but not bad). I anticipated this would be a heck of a lot more work. I thought that home cooked diets were heavy on veggies but they’re really not. Probably 10-25% of Risa’s diet is veggie mush. The majority is meat which it should be. I was actually surprised to see how little fibrous veggie mush she needed to have nice, formed poops. Risa always needed a lot of bone in her diet to have good poos on raw. I figured it would be the same with home cooking–but I was wrong! I have yet to do the math to see how much more expensive this is than raw feeding was but, considering she was eating premade mixes for the past 2 years (which are more costly), it’s probably not as pricey as I think it is.
The formula I use for making her meals is pretty simple and based off the sample diet given on Home Made Cooked Diets for Dogs.
Meat – I’m using mainly beef as Risa does best on it. She’s tolerating pork okay (her poops are okay on it but I wonder if it’s not still bothering her) and has also enjoyed some buffalo and lamb. I want to have some variety but I’m planning on having beef being the staple of the diet due to her intolerance to certain protein sources. Poultry is out.
Veggie mush – I started using what our TCVM vet had me make as a cooling additive to Risa’s raw diet and built on it to create the veggie mush. It’s base is squash (though I’m going to have to switch to canned pumpkin now that squash is out of season again). I’ve added carrots, celery, kale, and/or green beans. I don’t give them all at the same time and, yes, it is a lot of variety to start with. However, the only ingredient I wasn’t sure if she’d tolerate was kale. Everything else she’d had before.
Eggs – Organic eggs high in omega 3s. She’s getting between 1-1.5 eggs daily either hard boiled or scrambled.
Organs – So far, it’s just beef liver. I’m giving about a spoonful daily. I am hoping to add in beef kidney in the future.
Ground flaxseed – As I mentioned above, it’s for omega 3s and to help with incontinence issues.
Black pepper – Just a shake or two to the veggie mix.
Garlic – I occasionally add a bit to her meat when I’m cooking it.
Fruits – In moderation. I will either add some dates to her veggie mush when I cook it or give her several frozen blueberries along with her meal.
As far as supplements and add-ons go, it’s pretty basic. Most of these I was giving when she was eating raw or 50/50 raw/home cooked.
Chinese herbs – I’m still giving her the herbs to balance her gut twice daily.
Cosequin – She’s getting one tablet daily
Bone meal – For calcium. I’m splitting it between her two meals so about 1/2 tsp twice a day.
Probiotic powder – Given daily with her nighttime meal.
L-glutamine – This is good for gut health especially with dogs with IBD. I give it when I remember to. 😉
I do need to sit down and analyze her diet and check for any major deficiencies but this seems to cover all the bases for now. I’m planning on giving as much variety as I can which, of course, isn’t all that easy with her food intolerences. But we’ll make due. I think it’ll be a lot easier when I have the freezer space back again. I won’t have to cook for her every week. I’m still bummed I had to ‘give up’ on raw. But Risa’s body was telling me it wasn’t working anymore. So I did what I had to do. And Risa’s quite happy about it. 🙂