I’ve had my beef with kibble for a while…dog food in the United States is highly unregulated and so often filled with bi-products that are pretty disgusting. But kibble is easy and so I’ve always tried my best to find a good brand and supplement with whole food like meat and liver whenever possible.
My dog, and the light in my life, Sansa, was diagnosed with lymphoma in early October. The vets said without chemo she would likely only live for a month or so. Joel and I love Sansa like a human child and after talking it over with the vets at UW Madison we decided to treat her with chemo. Chemo in dogs is tolerated a lot better than it is in people because the doses are a lot smaller. Doses are adjusted to make sure the dog maintains an excellent quality of life.
When Sansa started the chemo she handled it well but it made her sick to her stomach. She was given anti-nausea pills but they only seemed to help a little. Her energy level was up, she was playing and seemed like she loved life but for days after her treatment she would refuse to eat. As she began to lose weight Joel and I panicked and began to try to tempt her to eat by feeding her chicken from our farm along with organ meat. She ate these with gusto but when given kibble would refuse it. I tried buying high quality wet food. She ate this for a while and then began to refuse it as well.
I asked the vets at UW about cooking her own food for her as well as putting her on some cancer fighting supplements. They were pretty unwilling/unable to help but did suggest I go to the Whole Pet Vet on Park Street in Madison. The vets there are awesome! They know a lot about dog nutrition and suggested I purchase the Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson PhD.
One of the things I really love about this books is that it gives basic recipes for raw and natural dog food but also has specific chapters on heart healthy diets, diets for dogs with cancer, diets for kidney and liver needs, diets for dogs with pancreatitis, low-glycemic diets, diets for dogs with skin and joint problems, diets for bladder heath, diets for gastric problems and diets to support the immune system.
Lew recommends feeding homecooked in the morning and raw meaty bones in the evening. Because Sansa is immune compromised we decided to feed entirely home cooked. The book gives recipes and ideas for both types of diets.
The book explains that many cancers feed on high sugar/high glycemic index foods so the first thing I removed from Sansa’s diet was high sugar/starch carbs, (she is already allergic to wheat and corn so she was already eating grain free), potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, carrots, ect. Once I started looking around at kibble and canned food I found that most of them contained one or more of these high sugar cancer feeding foods. Although these foods are technically fine for dogs to eat, cancer is a huge killer of dogs. I can’t help but wonder if the kibble we are feeding is actually helping our dog’s tumors to grow!
The book talks about how everyone worries that if they feed their dog themselves the dogs won’t get the proper nutrients and get sick. The funny thing is we feed ourselves, and many of us don’t take vitamins and we seldom worry about if we are getting the proper nutrients. The most important thing is to give a diversity of foods to broaden the chance of including all the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy life. A multivitamin certainly won’t hurt.
So here is my basic recipe for Sansa. This recipe makes 1 days worth of food for a 50 lb dog.
-1 and 1/2 cup of muscle meat – chicken, rabbit, ground beef, lamb, goat, pork, canned mackerel/salmon or sardines in WATER not oil. Don’t feed tuna. Cook and de-bone but leave the skin. Dogs need fat. MEAT IS A MUST. You might be a vegetarian, but your dog isn’t.
Eggs- 1 or 2 per meal
1/4 cup of dairy either whole milk yogurt or cottage cheese. WHOLE MILK, not low fat.
1/2 cup organ meat- liver and kidneys, don’t feed more than a half cup as organ meat is very rich (heart is great but is considered muscle meat).
1/2 cup veggies – cooked and pureed. Cooking and pureeing the veggies is very important even if you feed dogs raw meat. Dog’s stomach’s are not made for the lengthy digestive process needed to digest un-cooked veggies.
Good veggie choices are broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, kale and other leafy greens
I avoid tomatoes and peppers as these can bother dog’s with arthritis, but for other dogs would be fine. Potatoes, peas, carrots and sweet potatoes would also be fine for dogs that don’t have cancer.
A multi-vitimin is a good idea to ensure your dog is getting a good balance of foods. Fish oil has also been proven in people and dogs to help with heart health. Kelp as a top dressing can help with micronutrients. If your dog is NOT eating raw meaty bones for at least one meal per day then they also need a calcium supplement. Without a calcium supplement the dog will take calcium from their bones.
SNACKS AND TREATS: cheese cubes, hard boiled eggs, home-made beef jerky, cooked liver
If you are at all interested in feeding home cooked meals to your dog I suggest purchasing Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson. I’ve read a few other books and this one is the best researched in my opinion.
You can make the food in big batches and store it in the freezer. Otherwise the food will keep for a few days in the fridge. Once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take that much time and the dog’s really love it. Sansa’s energy level has increased, her white blood cell count has gone back up to the normal (after being very low) and she has put back the weight she lost during chemo.