The following is an interview my good friend Maggie graciously spent the time to answer. She and her partner feed their Dogs homemade Dog food. They feed what would be considered an “all natural Dog food diet”. In my post on homemade Dog foods I questioned many aspects of making food at home for the Dogs. I wondered just how much work it actually involves, how expensive it is, and just how time consuming is it to prepare yet another set of meals.
Maggie has been preparing healthy Dog foods for their two Dogs (hey dudes), for quite some time now. If you have ever wondered just what goes in to preparing homemade Dog foods, should it be cooked or raw, and the many questions that surround it then read this fascinating interview and a lot of your questions will answered.
Tell us a little about your Dogs
We have two – Gnasher and her son Spit. Our friend Nat the Leg found Gnasher in the road with 11 puppies and over 200 ticks, she had nasty chain marks around her neck too. She was quite difficult in the early days but always polite and affectionate. She is still assertive but thankfully now much more relaxed in her new life. Spit is a lean machine, always on the look out and just as affectionate but he has to pick his moments or else Gnasher will come and gnudge him out of the way!
Firstly what inspired you to make homemade Dog food?
We had had the dogs for about 6 months and I was (unusually!) browsing in the charity shops when I spied a book called “Give Your Dog a Bone” it was priced at 50pence so of course I could not leave it on the shelf.
The logic inside was irresistible:
• although dog behaviour has changed dramatically their entire digestive system and most importantly the way they utilise the food is fundamentally the same as it was when they were wild scavengers,
• that by serving cooked food you not only destroy most of the goodness available to your dog but you can convert parts into dangerous chemicals which promote cancer and other degenerative diseases over time,
• and finally that you would not expect to eat a perfectly balanced meal each time you sit down to a plate of food and nor should your dog.
Dr Billinghurst reckons pretty much any commercially manufactured dog food falls down on all these points (and more but don’t get me started!) It is cooked not raw so it’s a product your dog is not designed for and nor does it provide a balanced diet over a period of time as the dog would do in the wild.
Also as everything is mixed in one big dollop you may find too much of some essential elements and not enough of others and in any-case which ones will/can the dog digest with so much bombardment? It’s like a Russian roulette of feast or famine on a plate, every day. Would you do that?
Do you feed mostly raw food or a combination of the two?
We feed mostly raw food as recommended in the book. They call it BARF – Bones and Raw Food. He suggests 60% raw meaty bones balanced by a combination of lots of raw vegetables, some offal and meat, eggs yoghurt, brewers yeast, small amounts of grains and legumes and some table scraps. We do sneak in the odd bit of cooked food. For example they love chicken stock (no salt !) so I use that to mix in with lots of raw veg on the basis the veg is more important. I have a funny feeling Sir Alph knocks up the odd Dogbetti Bolognese when I’m not looking and one Christmas we made them a goats head stew (with eyes and tongue – dude, it was green!) and I have to tell you they went WILD.
Just a note re the raw veg, Spit has eaten it since early days and views it as normal grub but Gnasher is more suspicious so we have to disguise it more for her!
Was it easy to learn how to make all natural Dog food?
Yes! The difficulty is tracking the raw meaty bones. In England most butchers get their meat pre-prepared (don’t be fooled by those stripey aprons they probably have no idea how to gut a chicken!) and here in Spain they sell the bones for quite a lot of money. We rely heavily on chicken carcasses and whole chickens. Luckily our butcher is generous with their bones and they usually give us a doggy sack. In England we buy a product called Duck which is frozen raw food and then have to root around for bones to supplement it.
Does it take a lot of time to prepare homemade Dog foods?
Longer than shaking croc out of a bag. Depending on the meal it might take 10 or 15 minutes. We always remove the spikey bit (Do you want a video??** Mrs. Three Dog Blogger could oil us) from the leg bone of the chicken and although it’s tempting to chuck ‘em a carcass each we tend to chop them up a bit first. The veg meal is more of a palava. Dr Billinghurst says that the veg (or indeed fruit) should resemble to contents of a wild animals stomach –i.e.raw and totally crushed.
You have to break down the cellulose walls because dogs don’t digest cellulose so they get little to no value from the veg and they simply pass straight through (ever seen a bit of carrot in their poo after left over stew?) This means using a juicer, an old fashioned hand meat mincer (I have two!) or a food processor (providing you run it for long enough so it is crushed not just chopped). Other than that it can be like making mud pies which I have always enjoyed!
How long have you been feeding a non commercial diet to the Dogs?
About 5 years now and I cannot see us changing back.
Have you seen an improvement in Gnasher and Spit since you began feeding them
homemade Dog food recipes?
Well it’s tricky to say as we have been feeding it to them pretty much the whole time. People (and vets) often remark how good their teeth look, especially Gnasher who is about 8 now and could be the star player in any toothpaste advert that you care to mention. When we go to England I’m surprised at the number of times people say how fine they look and what do we feed them – but perhaps this is being doggie polite UK style?
At 6 months old Spit caught Lischmania which is a horrible degenerative disease of the Mediterranean. He is now 5, completely recovered and despite the life-long essentially toxic, treatment necessary to keep the parasites at bay he is fit and healthy and displays none of the long-term side effects such as slow to heal or skin problems.
One other thing – poo. Often people say to me, I can’t give my dog liver/bones/eggs as it will give them the runs. Never a problem here, all very consistent and easy to deal with, their system is used to a variety and can cope!
Do you think it is more expensive to feed the Dogs natural homemade Dog food
It shouldn’t be but for urbanites it generally is, depending of course of how much you pay for your commercial food. It takes a bit of investigation but it is usually possible to find an inexpensive source of raw meaty bones and the rest is pretty cheap. I doubt if there is any data to support how much you might save on vet and especially dental bills by providing a BARF diet but there will be a balance somewhere there. Also as the book says, the commercial food gives out enough for the dog to get by on but it is later in life that things begin to tell. So I guess it’s a bit of an insurance against the future too.
Can you give us some examples of recipes for Dog food?
Well I use the book quite a lot, there are plenty in there and even a section for vegetarians. Other than raw meaty bones and chicken my standbys are:
• Chicken stock, crushed raw veg topped by a few speckles of mincemeat
• Yoghurt and raw egg
• Raw egg, veg and mincemeat (A.K.A Steak Tartare –Alphas pay good money for this in restaurants I tell them)
To all of the above I add a crushed kelp tablet and a teaspoon of brewers yeast which are the two supplements I use.
Would you recommend feeding homemade dog food for other Dog owners?
Yes, yes and yes and at the very minimum some raw meaty bones every week. When we do mess up and have to feed them some croc they are noticeably hyper-active afterwards, bit like kids after burgers and coke.
Anything you would like to add?
Thank you Mr Billinghurst for writing such a fab book – buy it!
Many thanks to Maggie for taking the time to answer my questions. As any regular readers know I have talked about the benefits of raw meaty bones for your Dogs teeth and the fact that it stops bad Dogs breath, as well as the many heath benefits. Maggie only confirms this with her experiences over the last five years.
It was Maggie who graciously opened our eyes to the benefits of raw bones by lending us the above mentioned book. We have not, however, switched to only making all natural Dog food. Learning how to make Dog food at home does not seem quite as complicated as I once thought and I am sure that after a few attempts it will become easier and easier. I am also quite surprised that the actual time taken to prepare the food is not longer, which definitely makes it easier to consider as an option.
Do you think preparing all natural Dog food that consists of mostly raw food is something you may now consider?
How about making sure you at least supply some raw meaty bones once a week?
May the Doggie Force be with you all.