Monday, May 23, 2011

Homemade Dog Food Recipe

I love my dogs and do things for them I would not even do for myself.  One of those things is that I prepare their food each day.  I never thought of myself as becoming this type of dog owner, but I have a Westie which means I have in my life a breed of dog that is prone to skin problems.  Food allergies can contribute in a big way to some dogs skin issues.  This was the case with Lewey.  We went through a number of prepared foods but he was still not responding to his treatments which meant he had to stay on antibiotics for a month or more at a time.  We finally decided to make sure we knew exactly everything he ate so we could control for potential allergens.  It worked and although he still has seasonal allergies he is virtually free of his skin problems.

The number one thing that people think of when I tell them I make my dogs food is that I must spend a lot of time doing it.  Nope.  I spend about 15 minutes per day to make my two dogs a days worth of food.  The next thing they think is that I must have to cook a complicated recipe. No again.  Most of the time I am just opening up cans.  The third thing they think is that this must be expensive.  Yes.  Yes it can be, depending on the ingredients you use, but it is actually less expensive than the treatments for my Westie's skin problems.  Using the egg version of the recipe and using home cooked vegetables or better yet, garden grown vegetables I can feed my two dogs for as little as $2 - 3 per day.  The more expensive proteins and canned vegetables can raise the price to $7 - 10 per day.

One thing I found when I began to research how to make my dogs food was that there is very little information on the internet on how to make a properly balanced dog food.  You would think these creatures called dogs were some rare and newly discovered animal instead of our companions for the last 20 thousand years. 

Dog food as we know it today in the extruded dry kibble form has only existed for the last 50 years.  Before that there was an early form of dog biscuit made in the late 1800s and canned horse meat became available after World War I.  The tins for this canned meat became unavailable during World War II an as a result the pet food movement shifted to dry foods made primarily from the surplus grain by-products.  Profit and convenience has been what drives the pet food market from its start to current times.  No matter what most pet food manufacturers say about their concern for your pets health - their greatest and possibly only concern is for their profit margins.  This is why they use such substandard starting ingredients for their food.  I don't trust anything that says 'for pet food only - not intended for human consumption'.

If you decide you don't want to participate in the pet food industries product they tell you things like "You can't make a balanced pet food."  Yes, you can and it is rather easy to do so.  However, finding that information out was a project that took me several months of research.  I did not just trust what I found on the internet.   I checked with my veterinarian.  She did not know herself what constituted a balanced diet for a dog, but she did give me some excerpts from her veterinarian school textbooks.  I worked through the formulas and came up with my basic recipe.

It has worked wonders for my dogs.  They do not have nutritional deficiencies.  They are healthy and of a proper weight.  My Border Collie has been eating homemade food since we got her and she is the pinnacle of health.  People are always commenting on her soft and lustrous coat.  My vet recently commented on our Westie's health when we took him in for a checkup.  She was stunned that at his age we were able to keep his skin problem free without the use of steroids and other drugs.

Am I a veterinarian?  No.  Do I have a degree in pet food making?  No.  All I am is a concerned and determined dog owner. I know there are other dog food recipes out there.  I am just sharing with you what I have found to be very beneficial t o my dogs.   Below is the basic recipe for what my dogs eat each day.  If you have any concerns about its nutritional fitness for your dog then ask your veterinarian about it.


Grain Free - Basic Dog Food Recipe
(enough to feed 70 pounds of dog)

Protein 60 - 90 grams
Choices - use one of the following:

  1. 15 oz can of salmon or mackerel plus a tin of water packed sardines
  2. 12 oz can of water packed chicken or turkey plus a tin of water packed sardines or a 5 oz can of salmon
  3. 10 hard boiled eggs plus a tin of water packed sardines or a 5 oz can of salmon
  4.  Two cups of full fat cottage cheese plus 5 hard boiled eggs and a tin of water packed sardines or a 5 oz can of salmon
Vegetables - 6 - 8 cups of cooked vegetables
Choices - use 6 cans (use salt free variety) of the following or 6 - 8 cups of the following:
(a mixture of several is best)
  1. Carrots
  2. Peas
  3. Green beans
  4. White potatoes
  5. Sweet potatoes
  6. Yellow squash or zuchinni
  7. Turnips
  8. Turnip or Mustard Greens
  9. Broccoli 
Additional Additives - Use all of the following - never forget to add these!
  1. 1/4 to 1/2 cup plain full fat yogurt
  2. 1 adult (human) multivitamin (iron free with no more than 100% RDA for any vitamin.  I use Whole Foods 365 brand Adult Multi 1 day iron free formula) - crush it up first
  3. 1 teaspoon bone meal powder ( I use KAL brand bone meal powder)
  4. 1 teaspoon Vitamin C powder (I use Country Life Vitamin C crystals)
Mash everything together or put it in a food processor and blend.  Your dog does not have the right kind of teeth to properly chew the vegetables so you have to mush them up.  Divide the food into daily portions.  Store any unused food in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Tada!  Now you have enough food for 70 pounds of active dog.  If you know your dogs weight (or its desired weight) then divide that food into daily portions and feed your dog 2 to 3 meals of this per day.  So, for example, if you have a 10 pound dog this will give you seven days of food.  If you are used to feeding kibble it is going to look like a lot of food.  Feed your dog the correct amount - don't skimp.  Just because it looks like a lot does not mean it has a lot of calories.  Vegetables are very low calorie and they provide a lot of fiber.

Trudy's additional protein preference.

Some people say to me when I tell them what my dogs eat, "Your dog eats that?"  Yes they do with a very happy look to their faces as they snarf it all down.  We feed our two dogs three meals per day of this recipe.  They are happy, happy, happy.

Lewey's additional protein preference.

Will your dog like it? - there is only one way to be sure - try it and find out.  If your dog has been eating only kibble for a long time then introduce the food slowly over the course of several days to a week, gradually substituting this food for the kibble.

Calorie Burning Level : Medium

There is something you should know about feeding your dog this way.  The high fiber nature of this food produces... well it produces an amount of puppy poop you might not be used to seeing.  This is actually very healthy for your dog.  This is also in contrast to what I have read on some kibble packages that brag about how this lowers the amount of poop a dog creates.  Less poop?  In other words, hard, dry stools?   That is not healthy.  Would you eat a food if it was touted as giving you a smaller and more compact stool?  Sure, if you like an uncomfortable time on the toilet.  What do doctors recommend we humans have? - lots of fiber so we can have healthy and happy colons.  Your dog needs a happy colon too.  And - the added benefit of all that happy fiber filled puppy colon is that they will have less problems with their anal glands.  When they produce a larger sized stool it helps to express the anal gland as they poop.  I know - how totally gross for me to be telling you this, but its true.  Believe me - you are only as happy as your dog's anal gland is healthy.  Not having to express my dogs' anal glands by hand is one of the many, many benefits I get from feeding my dogs this way.

Calorie Burning Level : High

So now you know why my dogs look so happy.  Three meals of homemade food per day and happy, happy anal glands.

Calorie Burning Level : Tornado Dog

(P.S. Sometimes if we are too tired or busy or just want to be lazy we will give our dogs dry dog food.  We call it Pizza night.  They enjoy it like anyone loves junk food.  But we use only the highest quality dry food.  If you are looking for a quality dry dog food that is grain free we have liked Taste of the Wild brand.  We also use  EVO brand canned venison and duck for protein in the above meals.  I found a good deal at an online store here: )

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dog Toys

I have become somewhat of an expert on dog toys.  This has been a direct byproduct of becoming the mother of a Border Collie puppy.  It turns out Trudy is conducting a research project into what constitutes a rugged toy.  I am her research assistant and product procurement director.

She started off like a normal puppy, which is to say she loved to play with toys, especially the plush kinds with little squeakers inside.  We had bunches of these because this is the kind our Westie prefers. Trudy was perfectly content to squeak the little toys and chase after them as well as wrestle her older brother for them.

Toys Trudy has destroyed.

The kinds of toys she did not favor when she was a wee baby were the chew toys.  This was tragic because she had needle sharp teeth and liked to use them on my arms.  All the dog books say 'Don't let your puppy develop the habit of playing with you with their teeth' but they never exactly explain how to accomplish this.  I would say "No Bite!" as she would sink her little daggers into me and she would pause for just a second before taking another hold.  I would put a toy into her mouth to replace my arm and she would spit the toy out as quickly as possible so she could once again latch onto my arm.  I would leave the room when she nashed into me an although she wouldn't like that I left it never changed how she dealt with me.  Fixed in that little brain of hers was the absolute conviction that her teeth were meant to be on my arm.  With tremendous persistence I got her to nibble on me less and also with less intensity but she continued to consider me her pacifier.

Trudy's favorite toy.

When she was about six month old her play with toys changed and she no longer could tolerate that a toy had any stuffing inside it.  Her main task when she got hold of a toy was to find some way to create a hole through which she could completely eviscerate the interior .  To the dismay of our Westie she quickly went through all the old toys.  For a while I would restuff the toys with old socks but she soon became so adept at removing the inside of toys, the socks would only remain for about three seconds.  As a cost saving measure I began to make sock toys for her.  These could be socks stuffed inside other socks or socks stuffed with an empty water bottle.  I even put a penny into a empty vitamin bottle and stuffed that into some socks.  These worked great for a time.

Then at about seven months Trudy began to use a 'skin the prey' method on these previously sturdy sock toys.  She would stand on one end of the toy and by a dent of extreme effort pull a strip of fabric from the sock revealing the layer beneath.  She would do this with the next layer and the next until she got to the water bottle or the vitamin bottle and then she  would destroy these as well.

I began a relentless pursuit that I continue to this day.  This is the search for a chew toy that will stand up to her for more than three days.  So far she has gone through rope toys in a single day, rubber toys touted as 'for extreme chewers' in about three days.  I scour pet stores in search of the ultimate toy and I am amazed at the vast array of choices.  I am also appalled at the vast amounts of money they want for these toys.   High price does not in any way guarantee the toy will last more than an hour with her.  I might as well just roll up a wad of bills and toss it to her because in the long run it would be cheaper and last just about the same amount of time.

Of course that would teach her that money was something to destroy.  We have already paid the price for making toys out of old socks.  Now every sock in the house is in danger of becoming one of her toys.  She is quite creative and will make chew toys out of found objects in the yard.  She finds limbs quite delightful and will demolish them.  She also likes to chew on rocks, especially petrified wood.  When she is chewing on something a look of extreme relaxation comes over her.  Chewing seems to be Border Collie Zen.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Front Door Cats

We used to be reasonable people when it came to cats.  Yes, we always had a couple and sometimes more than a couple but never enough to be called crazy cat people.  Crazy cat people designation is reserved for anyone who has over three cats.   We in fact had settled down to a very reasonable two cat and two dog life and although we sometimes hankered for another dog, we never looked at one another and said "What we really need is another cat."

Not that we didn't always have applicants.  Some of the strays that came to check us out were very endearing and we were sympathetic to their plights.  Our sympathy in the past was where we arrived at the two cats we currently owned.  They both arrived as strays.  We loved them and cared for them but my husband expressed a desire to no longer have cats when the life expectancy, which could be up to twenty years, on our current two ran its course.  He was not in any hurry but he felt he had reached his threshold of catness.  He was over cats and would like to in good time just become a dog person.  "Cat's lead such tragic lives," he often mused as he would watch the plight of another stray.  There were always strays in our neighborhood.

This was what made it a little unusual when he drew my attention to a cat that had been lurking around.  "Have you seen him?" he asked me and I said no.  "I think he is an albino.  I am going to call him Bino," he said. "Oookaay," I said wondering what was happening in my husband's brain.  This was going to be interesting.


For several weeks all I saw of the mysterious Bino was a disappearing tail as I would pull into the driveway.  My husband denied feeding Bino.  "Of course not.  I don't want another cat," he said.  In spite of this Bino came around every day.  I eventually saw Bino and although he was not completely white he was a very pale cream color with a white chest.  Bino's eyes were very large and had the look of siamese heritage.  My kitty radar was letting me know something else.  I have always been able to know the sex of a cat just from seeing it.  It isn't something I consciously think about, I just know.  There must be some physical characteristics I am picking up but the kitty radar is foolproof.  Kitty radar said Bino was no boy.

This was confirmed the next week when my husband said a mother cat had appeared with two kittens.  Two starving kittens.  He had put out food for them immediately because, well because that is what you have to do even if you are 'over' cats.  I said, "Do you think it is Bino?"  He said "No.  Bino is a boy."  The next day I saw for myself.  It was Bino and she did indeed have two starving kittens in tow.  The kittens were tiny and nearly skeletal, especially the smallest one.  We immediately set up a feeding station with food and water just outside one of our windows.  We watched as Bino and her children ate but we had to be extra quiet.  They would startle at the slightest sound.  Those kittens were as wild as they come.  I was very worried our help would not be in time for the smallest kitten.  It was half the size of its sibling and very bony.  We made sure food and water were available constantly and also put out wet food to try and save the tiny one.

Beener and Beenie
It worked and they began to thrive.   It became apparent to me that at one time in her life, Bino had a home, but she was almost completely feral now.  Although she would tolerate our presence after a while, she would not let us touch her.  Her kittens, a male, a bright orange tabby we named Beener and a female, a solid sand colored we named Beenie, eventually let us touch them if they were eating.  Gradually they were getting used to us, but then we noticed that Bino was looking, well...  it was very apparent she was pregnant again.  Great.  We were at at loss as to what to do about it.  The kittens were still at a stage where they stayed with her constantly even though they did not nurse.  If we trapped her to take her in to be spayed we might lose her kittens.   Then we got distracted due to an impending natural disaster.

That disaster was hurricane Ike.  It started out as a tropical storm on September 1st and by September 4th was a category 4 hurricane.  Ike hit Cuba hard on September 7th and was into the Gulf of Mexico by September 9th.  The projected pathway showed it heading right towards us and the predictions were for huge storm surge that could potentially wipe our home out.  They called for mandatory evacuations of our neighborhood by the 12th.  We grabbed a few essentials and headed towards my father's home to ride out the storm.  Of our most precious things we had with us our dogs and our two cats, but Bino and the tiny Beenie were no where to be found.  On the last trip to the house my husband said he found the male, Beener, who was the friendliest of the trio.  He nearly had him in hand when a huge gust of wind blasted the house and Beener ran off.  We were heartbroken that we could not take them with us and expected the worst with the predictions.

Hurricane Ike
The hurricane had tremendously powerful winds which tore up quite a bit of the city, so much so that we lost power at my father's house.  In the morning the city was in shambles and most streets were unpassable.  We did not get back to our home for two days and when we finally made it there having backtracked multiple times around downed trees, utility poles and debris we came upon something we had not expected.  Our house was fine.  Aside from a tree that had crushed a back fence there was minimal damage.  There was also no evidence of any water.  The storm surge had not occurred.

When we got out of our car little Beener came running up to us crying and eager to greet us.  His tiny sister also appeared and we quickly gave them food and water.  Mama Bino appeared later.  A very slim Bino. She had given birth to her kittens during the storm.   That week due to lack of power we stayed at my father's and came by the house every couple of days.  Things came back to normal two weeks after the storm when our power was finally restored and we resumed our life.

Beener becomes Ike
My husband was now permanently bonded with Beener since that fateful day of the failed rescue.  He renamed him Ike in honor of the storm.  I decided since apparently we were now the proud owners of this new crew of cats to rename little Beenie to Sandy because of her solid sandy colored hair.  Bino remained Bino.  She also remained elusive.  Her new batch of kittens seemed to be located under our neighbors house.  We felt in time she would bring them out to the feeding station we had set up and we were certain we would be able to quickly domesticate her newest litter and find homes for them.

Beenie becomes Sandy
Weeks went by and Bino kept her kittens to herself.  Finally one day my husband said he saw one little kitten.  He said it almost seemed to glow in the light.  Day after day there was an elusive sighting of just one kitten.  So we thought she had a litter of one.  Then came the day we saw two kittens.  Okay, we said she had a litter of two, just like her first litter.  They were very skittish and we could not get close to them.  A couple of weeks went by and then magically there were suddenly three kittens.  Just how many did she actually have?

How many kittens?
Three kittens.
It turns out there were only three.  One was a bright orange tabby just like Ike.  One was solid white with gray ears like a siamese.  One was just like her mother, white chested and pale cream tabby body.  So now we had our two backdoor cats and six front door cats. Eight cats - definitely crazy cat people territory.

We started trying to find homes for our abundance of cats.  The thing is, nobody wants cats.  Oh, they might like kittens, but they don't want barely domesticated kittens.  If you say to someone, "How about a nice cat.  She is almost tame and she will probably use a litter box and she hardly every freaks out when she comes inside," they do not seem overly interested.  The thing is there is a glut of cats on the adoption market.  Many of those cats have fine qualities that would make them perfect indoor companions.  For slightly feral, past the cute kitten stage and in the awkward juvenile stage there are far fewer willing adopters.  We were able to re-home exactly one of the kittens.

Cat math equation.
So you would think this would mean that we now had only five front door cats.  No.  Cat math does not work that way.  Once you are feeding several cats, other cats join the group.  Suddenly we had an adult manx cat join our crew and he was such a goofy and inept cat we let him stick around.  We had many other candidates as well, especially tom cats who began to pester our females.

The goofy manx.
I took quick action on this and one by one took Bino's kittens in to be fixed.  Bino however remained very elusive and eventually disappeared never to return.  Then the manx who was never very hearty took a bad turn and we had him euthanized by the vet to end his suffering.  So we went back up to six front door cats and then down to four which is thankfully where we remain today.

Some people may criticize us because we do not give these cats an indoor home, but in fact they do have an indoor home.  We took our front porch, which used to be just a two columned open area and enclosed the walls.  We created special cat flaps and also made special kitty furniture for them.  They have heated sleeping nooks, shelves to sit on and a raised floor.  This summer we will install a fan and who knows, if my husband has anything to say about it they will probably get their own air conditioner as well.  See, crazy cat person symptoms.

Currently due to one of our back door cats reaching the end of a very long life we are at five cats total - two cats above the crazy cat person quota.  Break a mirror and you only get seven years of bad luck.  Adopt four kittens and you get twenty years of crazy cat person luck.  Great.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Border Land

I never set out to become the mom of a Border Collie.  It just happened sort of like an unplanned pregnancy.  Granted we were looking to adopt a dog following the death of our beloved Schnauzer but Border Collie was not even on the list of dogs we were considering.

We have had several dogs since we have been together, the first being a Mini Schnauzer who basically taught us everything we ever needed to know about being the parents of a fur child.  Dewey set the bar for any other dog we will ever have and I would tell you more about him here, but he deserves an entire post of his own.  Suffice it to say his life embiggened our own and his passing nearly crippled us.  But he was not our only Schnauzer.  During his life for reasons I will eventually reveal we acquired a second Mini Schnauzer, Chewey, who was also a peerless entity and also eventually we brought into our family a Westie, our dear little Lewey, who happily still graces our lives with his bold presence (if you are seeing a pattern to the names you are not imagining it - our next male dog will be named Stewey).

It was after the death of Chewey, an event we had seen on the horizon like the approach of a train, steaming our way unstoppable and unwelcomed.  We had always talked about having a third dog and had discussed the type of dog we wanted.  We said a big dog, something rugged and protective.  The kind of dog we wanted changed after his death when we realized that Lewey was not taking to being an only child very easily.  We decided after a few weeks to begin the search for another dog.

Here is the list of the dogs we were considering:  Schnauzer mixes, Corgi mixes, Poodle mixes, small fun, intelligent and active dogs.  I scanned the Petfinder listings daily.  We wanted to get a younger dog because we felt that would help Lewey accept them faster. Ideally this dog would be between 4 months to a year old.   I fell in love again and again with Schnorgis, Schnoodles and Porgis, but there was always something that made the choices less than ideal for our situation.  Usually it was because they were already adopted.  Sometimes the listings were out of date and the 'puppy' that was listed was now a full grown dog.  Sometimes the candidate was listed as being bad around cats or other dogs.  Sometimes they were over a hundred miles away.  We were taking our time and began to visit the pet adoption events at local pet stores.

My brain began to be consumed with the search.  I actually began to get a thrill when looking at the Petfinder listings and felt withdrawal symptoms when I couldn't check them for greater than 3 hours.  Little did I know but I was setting the stage for what came next.  I was in the zone, the trap was set and I was about to trigger it.

It was after we had spent another fruitless time searching a local pet adoption event.  We were this close to adopting a pit bull mix puppy.  I know, not at all on the list but apparently this puppy put its little feelers right into my husband's canine center (a dog shaped area just below the limbic area of the brain) and pulled really hard.  We would have gone home with that little guy except someone else had put in adoption papers on him already.  We left dejectedly.  I should have known by that event that the decision making part of the getting a puppy had ended and the universe was now in charge.

It was the same evening that I received an email from a friend regarding a puppy needing a home.  Two pictures and a sentence.  That was all it took to lock my brain in.  I emailed right back and as fortune had it we were the first of many others to request her.  We found out more about her and talked to her foster parents.  They had found her abandoned at a hunting lease in 100 plus degree weather.  She was desperately trying to survive in a dried up mud puddle.  She was 7 weeks old and according to the vet they took her to was a Border Collie maybe mixed with sheepdog.  He said she would end up being about 50 pounds.  Currently she was about 6 pounds and recovering from dehydration and about a million bug bites.  We set a time to go get her for the  next weekend.

I was all excited but also all "Dear God, what have I done".  I spent the rest of the week looking up everything I could find on Border Collies.  The news was less than comforting.  Apparently we had just adopted a furry human-dog who would need a tremendous amount of appropriate parenting or else end up as a neurotic destructive whirlwind. Also, Border Collies take about 2 years to fully mature. Great.

We picked her up on Sunday.  I think that if someone were to have listened very closely they could have heard my heartstrings being plucked.  Or probably if you want to get all scientific about it they would have heard a gushing noise from the gallons of oxytocin my brain released.  I was a mommy and she was my baby, that was what the biological imperative was screaming in my hindbrain.  Granted she was a baby riddled with mange, but my baby all the same.

We took her home, took her to the vet and treated both her and Lewey for mange (mange mites are very transmittable, but also very easily treated these days).  We found that she was obsessed with always having water available and drank about six cups a day.  We let her have all she wanted considering the ordeal she had endured.  She also needed her own fan because getting hot seemed to panic her.  She was no where near housebroken and what with all the water produced copious amounts of urine every hour.  She would only rest for about four hours at night before howling to get out.  She had needle sharp fangs and liked to sink them into my hands at will.  She learned how to sit, lie down and stay the first three days we had her.  I was absolutely head over heels in love.

But love was not the only thing offered to her.  Lewey made it very clear that "I do not like the puppy."  He also, in what I am sure was just an example of sibling rivalry, expressed a desire to kill and eat her.  She was oblivious to his clear expression of his feelings and would do her best to get close to him.  We kept an indoor kennel fence between them.  Lewey bit that fence several times the first two days.  Then on the third day as I was monitoring them in the back yard she worked her magic on him and he began to play with her.  After that he stopped trying to kill and eat her and only occasionally told us that he did not like the puppy.  After about a week she finally told us her name was Trudy.

Here are some things I have learned about Border Collies in the months since we adopted Trudy:

1. You must do routine things exactly the same way each time.  There can be no break to the pattern or there will be puppy hell to pay.
2. Your arms are just another chew toy.
3. It is possible to take apart any toy in less than an hour.  Just today the inflatable child's ball I got for her went from "Wee this is fun to chase around the yard" to deflated in less than 60 seconds.
4. She understands sentences, not just words and she speaks a very physical language that involves pokes, prods, nudges and body slams.
5. If you let her she will gently but exuberantly mouth your neck, which my husband said brought visions of being savaged by a wolf from some deep recess in his brain the first time it happened to him.
6. Everything can be herded including other dogs, people, cats, birds and lizards.  Also some bugs.
7.  Water is the best thing in the world.  It is important to stand in your water dish and dig to the bottom.  If the water is deep enough you can stick your head in and blow bubbles through your nose.  If anyone is having a bath then the resident Border Collie is allowed in the tub with them.

I am not sure if number 7 is a Border Collie thing or just a leftover from her abandonment but I have never met a dog more focused on water.  I can only water the garden if she is allowed to bite the stream.  Her first useful talent was pulling the hose around the garden for me.  So far this remains her only useful talent.

She is a delight and she is exhausting.  Every time she does something right I feel full of pride.  Every time she does something wrong I feel like a failure because I know she could get it right if only I knew better how to instruct her.  I always said if I ever had a child I would home school it.  Well, I have a child.  She wears fur.  Class is in session.