Leilah's and Copper's Diets
Copper is now gone and I've simplified Leilah's diet a bit further. At 11 years old, she's still doing great on it.
THESE DIETS, OR ANY OTHER YOU FIND ONLINE, MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR DOGS. They're individuals and just like humans, what works for one might not work for another. If I had switched my dog's diets with each other, neither would do well since one needs low protein and the other needs high protein. The idea of home cooking Leilah's food started when she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (skin cancer). It turned out to be a false alarm, if you're interested, you can read about it on Leilah's Melanoma Page.
These diets are tailored for my dogs, but I've had enough people ask about it so I thought I'd just put it online. Plus it will now be harder for me to misplace these recipes and links. Of course you're welcome to show this to your vets. Notice I will say NOTHING about saving any money here, I am just trying to do the best I can for my dogs' health.
ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR VET but be aware that he/she may not be thrilled with the idea. You still have to at least let them know so they can be on the lookout for any deficiencies or other problems in your animals. My own wonderful vet was not very encouraging about a homemade diet at first, but once the numbers started coming back he realized that Leilah is doing much better this way.
In their defense, please realize that your average general practice veterinarian deals with so many species that nutrition for any one of them often isn't their strong point. It can't be, after all there's only so many hours in a day and why should they be too concerned anyway when there really are adequate complete diets out there? Reading up on newest surgical techniques or drugs have to be a priority. Some dogs manage to even live long lives on cheap kibble. But too many don't, and I want my dogs to have better.
I personally prefer a holistic vet for nutritional advice since they'll have often studied nutrition more. Since they are bound to the same 24 hour day as conventional vets, I'd guess that's probably at the expense of other services that a conventional vet might offer. You will still need to work with your usual vet, holistic or conventional, and any necessary specialists. The combinations can bring your dog the best of both worlds.
I STRONGLY suggest a full blood panel baseline before you start a home made dog diet, then get another after a month or two on a new diet. This way you'll be able to tell better if it helps or hurts. For instance it made a measurable difference for Leilah, and none for Copper. Yes it's expensive, but well worth it if it turns out that the diet is aggravating a problem.
Keeping a little Kibble in their diets
I do not feed them a 100% homecooked diet. Leilah is free fed regular Canidae kibble and on average it's maybe 10% of her diet. Some days it's up to 50% if she's stressed, such as when another dog looks at her bowl or she has to protect it from that evil printer near by. Both problems are easily solved by moving the bowl and temporarily limiting the total kibble available that day to about 1 - 1.5 cups. It all evens out eventually since more often she chooses to eat no kibble at all. There no law that says a dog must get the same amount of food every day. Copper ended up on about 50% homecooked, 50% low protein Wellness kibble. His was measured into his meals.
For the decision process on how I chose their kibble, see Shopping for Leilah's Food.
Here's why they get kibble in the first place:
1) Just like with my hard drive, I want backup, backup, backup! I want my dogs to stay used to kibble so it can be a back up. I've been fortunate in that none of my dogs has had any serious problems over a kibble, such as allergies, so it's an ideal backup for the homecooked food, especially when travelling. But suddenly changing a dog's food can cause stomach upset, which of course can look like a gazillion other possible problems. No thanks. I also need to keep kibble in my earthquake kit and the last thing I'd need after a disaster is wondering what's really causing those digestive problems.
I found that another alternative backup is baby food, and I now keep a couple jars of that handy too. I tried it to see if it would it cause any upset. But Leilah had no problem with a half jar, then a whole jar of meat/veggie baby food with a little kibble added. Gone in 60 seconds and no after effects. So this is what I'd likely use if I run out of homemade. Not something I'd want to use more than a day or so, but it's there if we need it.
2) I'm not positive enough that these are 100% complete diets, and they're definitely not if I make a mistake with the recipes. That's happened a few times now.
3) Making it is a lot of work for me in my tiny galley kitchen. It's hard enough as it is and it would get pretty onerous if I had to make even more and realistically I don't think I could keep that up.
4) I can only make up so much in advance due to freezer space when I do have time.
5) In spite her worries that the evil printer is a threat and the best way to guard her kibble is to eat it, Leilah is extremely good at self regulating her kibble intake and keeping an ideal weight. It lets her decide how what she needs on any given day, independant of what I've made for her. If I use a lot of training treats that day, or it was a slow lazy day, she'll eat less or none. If she needs more calories, she'll eat more.
About the Cooking:
"The only ones who like my cooking are the dogs!"
I am as hopeless as can be in the kitchen, you have no idea. I skidded out of control on the learning curve when I started to cook for my dogs. It's so bad that the holistic vet even has stories about me she tells other clients now (with my blessing). Like the time she told me to feed barley to Copper and I wondered if I was supposed to be picking up so much of it in the backyard. Ohhh, it needs to be cooked? How do I do that? Make sure you FULLY understand any instructions the vet gives you.
Thank goodness also for understanding and bemused friends who came to my rescue with explanations ("Help! How do you bake a turnip??"). Both the holistic vets I consulted with, unlike some others, prefer the food to be cooked, not raw. They feel this is safer for both my dogs and myself. If I remember correctly, one mentioned a Scandinavian study that showed microperforations from raw bone, but I never got the details. It seems a general rule of thumb that these diets are about 50% meat, though I would assume there are exceptions.
All the food bowls are Pyrex, the water is filtered with a Brita Pitcher. I had a plastic horse bucket for water, kept fastened to a leash attached to a coat hook on my closet for stability as well as an easy way to pick it up. I put a large glass cookie jar inside it which is what they actually drink from now. The main advantages to this is I can still fasten the bucket by it's handle to keep it from being spilled, it protects the glass cookie jar insert from rambunctious dogs in a crowded space, and can I still pick it up easily. It. A secondary advantage I found is any water that Copper drips is usually confined into the bucket as well as keep me from making a mess when I'm adding water with the pitcher. If we are away from home, they have to settle for L.A. tap water, often in a plastic bowl, and I'm not gonna worry about it.
Limit use of plastics and microwaves when possible, for various holistic reasons, and especially don't nuke something IN plastic. That said, the only practical way for me to do this is with baggies for the indivudual servings. And I now use the microwave for the cooking too. We are so very inundated with radio frequencies, including the microwaves that the neighbor's TV satellite recieves. I also have some technical background in radio and am more aware of RF characteristics than most. I've now decided that while it's holistic heresy, using a microwave oven is making a huge difference in how difficult it is to keep this up year after year, and that I am not going to worry about the small risks of microwaved food.
Like the holistic vet said on my first visit, any positive changes I can manage are better than none at all.
Leilah's Diet 2008:
Leilah is now an 11 year old 31-32 lb Vizsla/Beagle mix with a Vizsla metabolism. (She lost about 2 lbs after Copper died probably since she's defending her kibble less. He couldn't reach it but she never realized that). She still does well on a middle/high protein and fat content and she maintains her girlish figure very nicely. I've needed to make no adjustments to her diet for aging, her blood work every six months is usually just about perfect. Her health problems were mild luxated patellas and lax hips, she's prone to mild colitis, some dandruff if the weather's been real dry for a while She's had mast cell cancer twice, as well as the melanotic tumor that started all this. She also has some age-related hearing loss in one ear as well as a damaged leg muscle from a limpoma surgery, which means she has to wear wrist supports for agility and other fast moving activities. Still, not bad for an old gal!
Canidae kibble, free-fed.
Night before: Take 2 servings chicken/veggies out of freezer and put in fridge to thaw.
1 Cosequin DS Tablet, fed separately as a treat either right before or after.
In her bowl:
One ½ c. serving chicken/veggies (recipe below)
Mondays and Thursdays only: 1 Vitamin A capsule 8000 IU
Top it off with 1/4 cup (one nupro scoop) water and serve.
1 Cosequin DS Tablet, fed separately as a treat either right before
Whisk all that together, then add:
½ c. serving chicken/veggies
Top it off with 1/4 cup (one nupro scoop) water and serve.
Leilah's diet 2008
Leilah's main diet is 50% veggies and 50% ground chicken, or ground turkey
if I can't find the ground chicken. While I was advised to sauté the
meat, I go against the grain and microwave it. I put two lbs in a covered Pyrex
dish, nuke it 9 mins in my little cheap microwave oven, break it up some and
flip it around, then another 9 mins. I add maybe another 9 if it's frozen..
In a huge bowl, let the veggies cool a bit. After draining the fat from the
meat and cooling it in cool water, I crumble it up with the veggies and
mix it all up. Then I bag it in 1/2 cup servings into sandwich bags, along
with 1 teaspoon canned pumpkin into each bag too. She gets that for fiber content
since she's prone to colitis. Then I freeze it. This batch makes
about 20 servings or so. Every
night when I feed her dinner I pull out the next days' servings to thaw in
the fridge. She gets one in the "morning", anywhere
between 11am and 1pm on my swing shift schedule, and one about midnight.
And as mentioned above, Canidae kibble
is free fed.
If you're feeing a glucosamine supplement, be sure to check the Vit C content
in it and adjust for it. Too much and they'll get diarrhea.
Vit A 2x week (mondays
and thursdays), 8000 IU. I get this from my local market. They can overdose
on this stuff, so be careful to keep your days straight!
Note that the following Nupro and the Herbal vitamin powders are easier to
use when stored in reused parmesan cheese containers.
Herbal Vitamin powder, 1 teaspoon. From Merritt Naturals
Fish oil caps, 2 of them, also from Merritt Naturals
3V Caps Skin Formula for Med/Large Breeds, 1 capsule. These have more DHA than the ones above
side effect of all these oils, you rarely see a cancer dog around here with
a poor coat!
Treats and Training Goodies:
Available at most pet supply stores:
Temporary meals for sick dogs
It is FAR from complete so should not be use for more than a few days without veterinary supvervision.
50% cooked ground chicken
Include 1 mg calcium suspension once daily when used.
Leilah seems to mysteriously go off her food a couple of times a year, but never longer than a meal or two. Usually I find that she's had some diarrhea and then she's fine.
If my dog refuses a meal and doesn't appear to be real sick, I will usually try again in a few hours. If the gum and eye color, and temperature, is good, no coughing, etc, and they refuse that and the next meal, I will give them this chicken and rice mix for a day. If there's no improvement after a day or so, we're off to the vet. I also used this for a starved stray mastiff that walked up to me, for whom a 1/2 cup serving was just a morsel. He had no problems with it when given a serving every few hours.
My vet's acid test of a very sick dog is if they refuse fast food broiled chicken, such as El Pollo Loco or KFC (no breading!). Something about how it is cooked and spiced is often more appealing to them than homemade. Copper did much of his gall bladder surgery recovery on El Pollo Loco chicken and flour tortillas, at first only eating even that if I took a bite first.
CAUTION: If "sick dog foods" are fed too much, a smart dog like Copper will learn quickly to try to manipulate you for these kind of foods after they are better. It can be a very hard habit to break in the best of times, and almost impossible if they can't be allowed to go without food long enough (up to three days) to get real hungry and return to their normal diet. I never did get Copper back to his then kibble-only diet and he became a hard keeper. I ended using a half serving of Leilah's food, or a little cottage cheese, mixed into his kibble.
Update 5/2004: The recipe for the homecooked portion of Leilah's diet hasn't changed other than I now mix the spinach in with the other veggies before cooking, and I've stopped adding the pasta and oatmeal. She gets enough carbs in her kibble, which is now measured.
Leilah is a 5 year old 33-34 lb Vizsla/Beagle mix with a Vizsla metabolism. She needs a middle/high protein and fat content. Her health problems are mild luxated patellas and lax hips, she's prone to mild colitis and some dandruff if the weather's been real dry for a while, and she is at high risk for cancer.
Canidae Kibble, free fed.
Dinner, 1/2 cup homecooked food w/ supplements:
Homecooked Leilah food:
2 lb ground chicken
1 - 32 oz bag Vegetable Medley
1 - 6 oz bag spinach
1/2 cup salad macaroni
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 can canned pumpkin (ummm, 12 oz can? Might be 16 oz. Small can isn't enough, need the big one). Not pie filling, which has spices added.
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
olive oil for cooking the chicken, maybe 4 or 5 tablespoons.
A REALLY big bowl for mixing, or else you'll have to make it in smaller batches.
Large Veggie Steamer
Thaw one bag at a time and feed with 2
black fish (fish oil capsules, fortunately she just eats them straight),
1 T. Nupro Supplement, 1 t. herbal vitamin supplement, and 1/2. t. Barley
Dog powder. 2 oz water is optional, I use the Nupro scoop. Water
makes it easier for her to get all the powders cleaned up since she insists
on getting all the fumes. Fish oil caps ("EFA Skin and Coat Formula") and
Herbal Vitamin Supplement are available at Merritt
Naturals. Nupro is available from JB
Wholesale and many other places online. Barley Dog is available
at most any pet supply store in real life and online.
Chop the spinach in food processor, use the slicing blade and keep it stuffed it into the chute tightly for best results. Put a couple inches water in the bottom of the steamer, bring to a slow boil. Put the spinach in, cover it, let steam for about 5 mins. Put aside. Yup, it's a mess, try to drain as much water out of it as you can.
Put chopping blade into food processor. Peel the garlic and chop together 2 cloves garlic and parsley. Divide in 2 parts, put aside.
Chop rest of veggies together, if you're steamer's big enough to put all of it in, do so, or else do all this in halves. Put pasta in a couple inches water at bottom of steamer. Put oatmeal on top of veggies. Cover it and steam for about 6-8 mins, then stir it, steam about another 6-8 mins, then take off the heat and let it cool. Drain the pasta, break it up if it clumped together. .
I cook the chicken one package at a time. Use low/med heat, on my electric stove the dial at about 5:00 position works well. Use a frying pan with a cover. Let pan get hot, put about 2 tablespoons olive oil (a "dollop" works for me), then half of the parsley/garlic mix. When it's sizzling, put in the chicken. After a few seconds, use a spatula to flip it over and start breaking it up. Leave covered for about 5 mins or so, then stir, flip over larger pieces, and break it up some more. Keep this up, cooking covered and stirring, until there's not the slightest bit of pink left, this might take maybe 15-20 minutes. I tend to leave it on a few extra minutes after I see no pink, just to make sure. When cooked, dump chicken into a colander (strainer) in the sink to drain off water and fat, and rinse quickly with cold water to cool it down. Be extra sure to wash your hands well, and utensils and counters if necessary, after handling raw chicken.
Put the cooked veggie/oatmeal mix in large bowl. Crumble the chicken into it. Add pasta and spinach. The spinach doesn't cooperate, it clumps up and it will not mix very easily, use a fork to break it up. Mix it all up. Get out the baggies and open the canned pumpkin. I put 1 and 1/2 teaspoon canned pumpkin into each baggie first, just wipe the spoon off on the inside of the baggie. Put 1/2 cup of mix into each, seal it and freeze it. Since snack baggies aren't real thick, I put them into tupperware type containers for freezing.
All done cooking and bagging? Now take the collar off the dog. That way her tags don't hit the big bowl edges and bother her when she pre-rinses it.
Thaw one bag at a time and feed with 2 black fish (fish oil capsules, fortunately she just eats them straight), 1 T. Nupro Supplement, 1 t. herbal vitamin supplement, and 1/2. t. Barley Dog powder, 1 300mg Glycoflex. 2 oz water is optional, I use the Nupro scoop. Water makes it easier for her to get all the powders cleaned up since she insists on getting all the fumes. Fish oil caps ("EFA Skin and Coat Forumla") and Herbal Vitamin Supplement are available at Merritt Naturals. Nupro is available from JB Wholesale and many other places online. Barley Dog is available at most any pet supply store in real life and online.
Two batches of this takes about 4 hours for me to make and lasts about 6 weeks.
In the end, this didn't do a thing for Copper's problems, but it didnt seem to hurt. I can say I tried and he did enjoy it!.
Copper had a chronic skin problem, epidermal inclusion cysts, for many many years, since before I got him, and it occasionally requires surgery, it's quite an ordeal when they get infected. He's had almost 50 removed in 2 big surgeries in the 3 years I've had him. Conventional vets, including 2 different dermatologists, don't know any way to prevent it or slow it down, so I'm trying a nutritional approach.
Copper is an 11 year old, 51 lbs Australian Shepherd. He needs a low fat diet for weight control, as well as low protein to avoid kidney problems. His health problems that can be addressed through diet are high kidney creatinine levels, urine crystals, arthritis and other spinal bone scars (we think he was in some kind of accident as a pup), and hopefully this will help his skin problem, epidermal inclusion cysts but it's too soon to tell [see update above]. In addition to the vitamin C in the glucosamine, he gets 1/8 teaspoon Solid Gold Scorbate Vitamin C powder in each meal for the crystals, they are now gone. The kidney levels are now normal since I put him on low protein, and he's lost over10 lbs since I started less food and lower fat for him when I got him. Because he's on low protein diets, my regular vet prefers he keeps on a couple extra pounds, otherwise ideal weight for him would be about 48 lbs. He also has PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), but nothing will help that.
Breakfast: 1 cup Mother Hubbard's Wellness Senior Super5 Mix, 1/8 teaspoon Vit C powder, Glycoflex II DS, 1 T. Nupro
Dinner: 2/3 cup Mother Hubbards Wellness Senior Super5 Mix, 1/2 cup homemade food, 1/8 teaspoon Vit C powder, Glycoflex II DS, 1 T. Nupro
Homemade Copper Food:
3 cups dry measure pearl barley
2 lb ground extra-lean turkey
2 medium yams or sweet potatoes
1 medium turnip
1 bunch dandelion greens
Olive oil for cooking the turkey (about 4 or 5 tablespoons)
Vegetable oil for cooking barley (about 2 tablespoons)
Large Rice Cooker, preferably with non stick coating.
Very large bowl for mixing
Cook barley in rice cooker, 3 parts water to 1 part barely. My cooker will do 3 cups barley and 9 cups water at once. Put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the water to help keep it from boiling over. This takes about 45 mins-1 hour. Makes about 10 cups barely when done. This can be done in batches if necessary if you don't have a big rice cooker, or in a covered pot which requires more supervision. It's done when the barley has absorbed all the water.
Poke holes in yam and turnip skins with a fork. Bake yams and turnip on a cookie sheet in pre-heated oven, 400 degrees, about 45 mins. They're done with you can poke them with a fork and they're soft. Let cool. Mash yams, grate or chop turnip.
Sauté turkey w/ olive oil.
Chop greens, steam for about 5 mins.
Mix all together, bag in 1 cup servings,
freeze. Makes about 2 weeks' worth. I make 4 batches at a time, takes most
of the weekend (I take lots of breaks!).
Wash the greens in lots of clear water, using a salad spinner is handy to dry them . A fingernail brush works well to wash the root veggies.
Put barley in rice cooker, 1 part barley to 3 parts water. Turn it to "cook", it should shut off or go into warming mode when its done cooking. My cooker will do 3 cups barley and 9 cups water at once. I found that doing this outside in the yard is less mess too in case it does boil over. Put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the water to help keep it from boiling over. This takes about 45 mins-1 hour. Makes about 9 -10 cups barley when done. This can be done in batches if necessary if you don't have a big rice cooker, or in a covered pot (but I've never done this in a pot) which requires more supervision. It's done when the barley has absorbed all the water or when the rice cooker says it's done. If you're new to rice cookers, read the instructions and beware that their measuring cup is only about 3/4 a standard measuring cup. So, a 22 cup cooker is not really 22 standard cups, but it will cook a batch of what I need for this. If you've ever been on a tour of a brewery, you'll recognize this smell!
Put a couple inches water in the bottom of the steamer, steam the greens for about 5 mins.
Poke the yams and turnips a few times with a fork. Put them on a foil lined cookie sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven. At about the 45 min mark, poke them with a fork in a few places, if they're mushy, they're done. Let cool.
Put the shredding blade into the food processor. Cut the turnip in quarters, and feed into the food processor. You can peel it or not, my processor won't do the skin very well so I peel it first
Peel the yams, mash them with a fork. This stuff is really gooey and sticky, I usually wash out one of the styrofoam turkey trays to do this in, then I can just toss it. Mash the shredded turnip into the yams.
I cook the turkey the exact same way I cook the chicken for Leilah except no garlic and parsley. I cook it one package at a time. Use low/med heat, on my electric stove the dial at about 5:00 position works well. Use a frying pan with a cover. Let pan get hot, put about 2 tablespoons olive oil (a "dollop" works for me). When it's sizzling, put in the turkey. After a few seconds, use a spatula to flip it over and start breaking it up. Leave covered for about 5 mins or so, then stir, flip over larger pieces, and break it up some more. Keep this up, cooking covered and stirring, until there's not the slightest bit of pink left, this might take maybe 15-20 minutes. I tend to leave it on a few extra minutes after I see no pink, just to make sure. When cooked, dump turkey into a colander (strainer) in the sink to drain off any water and fat, and rinse quickly with cold water to cool it down. Be extra sure to wash your hands well, and utensils and counters if necessary, after handling raw turkey.
Mix all together in mixing bowl, crumbling in turkey, adding yam/turnip mix LAST because it's so sticky. Add a little, then mix a bit, keep going until it's all in. Put 1 cup servings into baggies. The snack baggies are too small, the sandwich size works well for this. I've found spraying the cup occasionally with PAM helps with stickiness. Freeze. Since the baggies aren't real thick, I put them into tupperware type containers for freezing.
Makes about 2 weeks' worth. I make 4 batches
at a time, each takes about 3 hours, so 4 batches takes most of the weekend
(I take lots of breaks!).
I hope I got it all!
Please don't write me and ask me questions about this, I cannot advise what other people should feed their dogs. Each dog will have his or her own needs. This is more for my own record than anything else. For more info on feeding, see: Leilah's Bookmarks - Feeding.
Last updated 9/23/02