Canine Cuisine During the Pandemic—A Chance to do Better!
People seem to be going a little nutty with their cooking these days, closed in their houses and apartments with no restaurants to go to. We all seem inspired to try new cooking ideas. People are baking, experimenting with recipes, and adding new flavors or garnishing touches to everyday dishes that we used to make without giving it much thought.
How about our dogs? Are you really still feeding just a bowl of dry kibble, meal after meal? I’d love to inspire you to use this sequestered time to start thinking about giving your dog more variety in flavors, textures and ingredients as I’ve been doing for my dogs (and recommending) for fifteen years. Ever since I did all my nutritional research for The Dog Bible I’ve been urging people to mix and match different proteins, brands, and forms of food for their dogs. It’s more fun for you and your dog—and it is also a much better way to expand your dog’s nutritional profile and keep him/her as healthy as you possibly can. Within each brand of food it’s really valuable to change the dominant protein with each new bag or box—that keeps it interesting for your dog, but also expands the range of nutrition source from fish to poultry to beef, venison, etc.
Remember the saying: we are what we eat, so put some thought and effort into making it the best it can be (which does not mean feeding only one brand of premium kibble, BTW!). What we feed our dogs is also the only measurable way we can contribute to their health and longevity. Spending all day together with your dog over these past months should be the motivation you need to give them a better, more varied diet from now onward.
You Get What You Pay For
All pet foods are working on a fairly slim margin of profit. Nobody is “making a killing” on what they’re selling in a box, bag or can. All the pet food companies know they are in competition with each other for your business! They don’t want to price themselves out of the market so they have to charge enough to cover their costs and make a relatively small profit. The only way to charge less is to use lower quality ingredients or proportionally fewer of the premium quality meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy grains or “grain replacements.”
Please don’t choose your food based on another food “that looks the same and costs less.” Truly high-quality dog food (sometimes called “super-premium” but that’s not really a “category”) is appropriately costly, based on what ingredients are in it. It’s as simple as that: using cage-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, humanely-raised, and/or deboned meat is expensive!
For example, if you’re going to choose a fresh cooked/frozen/shipped kind of food, then note that several companies use an equal proportion of the first-named protein to potato or rice. You’re going to get less than what you’re paying for! See are a lot of diced potatoes? You will be paying “lamb prices” for potatoes. It’s a balanced diet—all commercial dog foods are balanced—but I’d rather buy the well-crafted protein and use top-notch kibble for the carbohydrates, not potatoes or rice! That’s why I chose Evermore over other companies in this niche of freshly-cooked-frozen-shipped food: I can use their meat-dense food mixed in with high-(quality) protein kibble and know I’m feeding a nourishing meal.
What I Stock in My Own Canine Larder
Here is a list of foods I rotate daily, weekly and monthly. I highly recommend you buy a variety of foods and start cycling them together into your dog’s dish. Most dogs eat two meals a day, which allows you to give quite different combinations. There’s no reason to feed the same thing at both meals! There are many great pet food companies making quality food—these are the ones I choose because of how their companies are run, the ideology at the top, and the quality of the products. I’m sure you’ve noticed that my choices are aligned with the pet food companies that sponsor my NPR radio show DOG TALK® (And Kitties, Too!) which is logical. Those are the companies I have actually invited to be part of my show because they support my advocacy for pet wellness and informed nutrition—which reflects well on superior companies.
I pump Iceland Pure fish oil onto every meal —just as I take fish oil capsules. All of our diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids: the best way to meet that essential dietary need is with a carefully sourced supplement.
I always have low-fat cottage cheese, eggs and plain non-fat yogurt on hand, too.
DRY FOODS (change the protein with each new bag):
Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused comes as grain-in or grain-free. This gorgeous kibble plus freeze-dried raw pieces mixed in, comes in a dizzying array of flavors—from Great Plains (beef, salmon, chicken, lamb, rabbit) to Pacific Catch (salmon, whitefish, trout) and Game Bird (turkey, chicken, duck, quail).
The Honest Kitchen Whole Food Clusters
100% human grade cluster-shaped kibble that is mixed in small batches, cold-pressed, slow-roasted, and dehydrated.
The Honest Kitchen dehydrated foods (chicken, beef, turkey, fish) come with grains or grain-free and pack a serious punch of ground, then dried recipes using human-edible proteins, vegetables and fruits which turn into a lovely porridge when mixed with warm water.
Weruva – 14 recipes made in a human food facility from high-quality ingredients, a bit pricey for larger dogs but you’re paying for predominantly-protein. My sister’s 2 small Brussels Griffons eat Weruva as their main wet meat and can share a large can for a couple of days. With my big dogs, the Weruva is a treat and protein boost I give with their evening yogurt. Paw Lickin Chicken
Merrick makes 59 versions of canned food, so I’m concentrating on their new “slow-cooked BBQ” line of four different proteins: “Carolina style with smokey sausage,” “Memphis style with Glazed chicken,” Kansas City style with chopped pork,” “Texas-style with braised beef.”
Evermore Pet Food freshly ground humanely-raised, antibiotic-free meats and organic vegetables. [More carefully sourced ingredients than what I can buy for myself!] The meals are low-temperature cooked in pouches, frozen, shipped to your home.
What Goes in the Bowl
I use large glass Pyrex pie pans as my dog “bowls.” For a fast eater (Wanda) it means she has to work at getting it all; for a finicky eater (Maisie) she can pick out what she wants. The glass pans are easy to keep clean and heavy enough they don’t skid around on the floor.
Here’s how I mix and match dog foods myself. I use kibble as a base for half the meal, because I have large high-activity dogs and those carbs fuel and satisfy them. I add an equal amount of protein from a can, frozen or dehydrated food. Often I will substitute some of the nutritionally balanced wet food for cottage cheese or scrambled eggs.
Every evening after we humans eat, I give the dogs a cup of plain nonfat yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of added protein. I either use our leftovers or one of Weruva’s fancifully-named proteins like Lamburgini (lamb and pumpkin au jus) or Bed & Breakfast (chicken, egg, pumpkin & ham in gravy). This sends them to bed with something special in their tummies—a boost of protein and a digestion aid.
IMPORTANT NOTE about where to buy your pet food!
No matter what you feed your dog—or whether you choose to try some of the foods I give my own girls—I urge you with all my heart to make your purchases online or by phone with any independent pet store still in operation near you. Some of them have survived the pandemic by offering curbside service—others may now be able to invite you into their stores (with a face mask, please!) Please give them your business! Show them your appreciation for their dedication to pet wellness and buying options.
Please do NOT automatically go to the big online pet food sellers that:
1) are in some part to blame for small “mom and Pop” stores being pushed out of the business over the past 5+ years,
2) Do not need your business right now since e-sales are the backbone of purchasing of all kinds during the epidemic and they are thriving during it (often so overwhelmed with orders they are barely able to deliver pet food 5 times slower than previously)
3) Do not have personal involvement in the individual relationship you have with your dog the way a small personally run store can have.
Independent stores are owned and run by passionate, knowledgeable pet lovers whom we can thank for having stocked and promoted the products of smaller companies over the years—especially when these foods were starting out and needed advocates to encourage people to try unfamiliar foods and brands. Independent pet stores were struggling to stay in business before the COVID-19 pandemic. They need your support now
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Evermore Pet Food, Iceland Pure, Merrick, and Weruva are sponsors on Radio Pet Lady Network, by our invitation.
photo credit: wuestenigel Portrait of happy cur dog via photopin (license)