For many, the start of a new year is a time to reflect and evaluate on the year that has passed and set goals or “resolutions” about the year that stands before you. Have you set any goals? Make Your Own Dog Food!
How to Make Your Own Dog Food?
Though we know that nothing REALLY changes from December 31st to January 1st, we find that it is a great time to reflect over the past year and think about where we want to be professionally and personally at this time next year.
Our goals are similar: professionally, we want to continue to help our readers improve the health and well-being of their companion animals. Personally, we very much want to do the same for our own fur-family.
Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes…
We are not perfect pet parents…far from it.
Just like you, we are busy people who have good intentions and do our best to make life better for our pets. Many years ago, we vowed to take our then singular dog (Harley), on more walks throughout the work week. We succeeded by making small changes to our routine.
When we adopted Charlie, it was the extra kick in the pants to follow through on this promise. I’m happy to say that it is a rare occurrence now when they do not go on a daily excursion.
We are firm believers that meaningful change is about determining what it is that you want and being purposeful in taking small steps toward your goal.
In 2016, we vowed to improve the diet of our boys, feeding them a higher quality, grain-free kibble in the hope of improving their allergies and overall health. Throughout 2016 and 2017, we continued to feel dissatisfied with their health. Harley especially continued to struggle with repeated ear infections, skin infections (from allergies), and though he was at a healthy weight, struggled to drop the few extra pounds that his veterinarian suggested would improve his mobility as he aged.
We didn’t know it when the year started, but our life (and the health of our dogs) was about to change.
There are so many options on the market, and many good choices for different dogs, but we knew we hadn’t yet found the right thing for our boys. That’s when Wendy Shankin – Cohen, President of Dr. Harvey’s Fine Health Foods for Companion Animals, reached out to us and asked if we would like to test some of their products.
We were very excited for the chance to try this food, but if you had asked us in this moment if we thought we would end up permanently moving toward a homemade dog food diet, we would have said “no way!”.
We didn’t know it yet, but the wheels of change were in motion. This was without a doubt the best food we had ever fed our dogs!
Although we LOVED feeding Oracle (their complete freeze dried raw diet), we weren’t sure it was feasible for us budget-wise with 2 large dogs.
Thankfully, Dr. Harvey’s also offers a variety of pre-mix’s that are used to supplement a homemade diet. We began experimenting with their Veg-to-Bowl, mixing with the boys current grain free kibble.
We knew that sticking with kibble was not ideal, but we also weren’t sure we were ready to feed a raw/homemade diet to supplement! How hard was this going to be? And how do we make sure our dogs are getting all the proper nutrition that they require?
A phone call with Wendy, was all we needed to know that we were headed in the right direction.
Rather than discourage our slow progress, Wendy assured us that we were moving in the right direction. She encouraged us to do a little better every day. Taking that advice to heart, we took slow steps to figure out a way that feeding this diet would work for us.
So what has worked for us?
We are proud to say that we have completely transitioned to preparing the dogs’ meals ourselves – and it really was not that hard!
The boys diet now consists of our homemade dog food recipe (with the help of Dr. Harvey’s of course) along with Dr. Harvey’s Oracle for special occasions/emergencies.
The Daily Diet: Our Homemade Dog Food Recipe
(Lentils, Meat, Veggies, Oil, and Vitamins)
How to Make your Own Dog Food
We typically prepare a whole weeks worth of food at one time. It may sounds like a lot of work, but the majority of cook time requires no supervision!
Meat: Raw or Cooked
Though we have used both, we generally prefer cooked (weird as it may sound, I often use the meat in my lunches). We prepare 9lbs of meat at a time in the crock-pot. We simply place about 3/4 cup of water in the bottom, set it on high, and stir a couple times over 4 hours! This part really couldn’t be any easier!
We use French Green Lentils purchased in bulk. You can really use any kind you want, but I like green lentils because they seem to hold their form better than red lentils. We prepare about 2lb at a time on the stove top in a large stock pot. Preparing lentils is as easy as measuring water, bringing the lentils and water to a boil, then turning the heat down and allowing it to do its thing for about 45 min! The trick? Buy in bulk, prepare in bulk!
Veggies – Dr. Harvey’s Veg to Bowl
Veg-to-Bowl is a lifesaver if you are going to be making your own dog food. This dehydrated vegetable mix is pre-cut saving you tons of prep time. It is also properly formulated for dog health – with added vitamins and minerals. Just add water, wait 10 minutes, and it is ready to use!
Dogs need fat in their diet, so we always add a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil to their meal.
We top things off with a scoop of Dr. Harvey’s Multi-Vitamin powder to ensure that our boys are receiving a balanced diet.
A Little Extra
Once a week we add a bit of plain greek yogurt to their food. Not only does it spice things up in their diet, but it adds healthy probiotics that aid digestion.
The Backup Plan: Oracle Grain Free Chicken or Tripe
We also keep a bag of Dr. Harvey’s Oracle on hand for when we are running low on ingredients, are short on time, or want to add a little variety to their diet.
Oracle is a complete raw dog food with protein included. It is available in freeze dried chicken or tripe. Oracle represents the easiest way to feed the Raw Diet and their no-nonsense ingredients are truly top notch. In fact, the ingredients read more like the shopping list at a local farmer’s market, rather than an all in one meal for dogs!
Preparation couldn’t be easier. Simply scoop the recommended amount add warm water and let it sit, waiting approximately 10 minutes to soften everything up and serve to your pup. Just like the Veg-To-Bowl, Oracle can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Though it looks a little soupy in first photo, over time it thickens to the consistency of a stew.
The Natural Difference: What we See
We are not exaggerating when we say that Dr. Harvey’s has changed our dogs life – and we are not alone.
Both of our boys are looking and feeling great. Their coats are shinier and softer, their breath smells better, and their allergy issues have drastically improved. In fact, this was the first Summer we have ever made it through without an ear infection or serious skin irritation requiring steroids and antibiotics.
Harley, however, has seen the most improvement. At 9 years old, Harley has more energy than he has had in years. He has dropped those pesky last few pounds and is at a perfect weight for his size. He is also having noticeably less difficulty getting up and laying down. There is NO better feeling than seeing your dog who you thought had slowed with age, bound around the house or park like a puppy.
Overall, we couldn’t be happier with Dr. Harvey’s and our switch to homemade meals. Whether or not this is something you have ever considered, we strongly encourage you to learn more and give it a try!