Friday, 5 May 2017
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Behind the Scenes: Homemade Dog Breakfast of Champions!

Make it in May! Our final post of this week's special mini series is a peek at our healthy homemade dog breakfasts.  It's not a treat, but it is something homemade that our dogs enjoy every day.  If you've ever though about switching to homemade dog food or mixed feeding (this is what we currently do), why not make this the month that you look into it further and see whether it might be right for you and your dog?  Mixed feeding is honestly much simpler and more economical than I thought before we made the transition, and our dogs are wild about breakfast. Their general health has also improved with our changes in diet - both bought and homemade.

Grated vegetables in a food processor for making homemade dog food

Dalmatians love their food, but Oli has always been a particularly voracious eater.  With age, it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep his weight at a healthy level.  We turned to our vets for help, and were put on a strict prescription diet to support weight loss management, which means less quality and more filler to feel fuller with less (read between the lines: more poop). It worked better for us than preceding efforts to help him lose weight with exercise and a higher-quality controlled intake, but I was uncomfortable about the longer term prospects of the diet. I started to read, research, and reach out for advice. From there we worked, with the support of his new vets, to slowly transition his diet to quality rich kibble, which we also feed Humphrey.  Dog Food Advisor is a very handy resource to check kibble options.  

Being Dalmatians, we try to moderate their purine intake and this severely limits our locally available commercial food options. High quality foods typically include purine rich ingredients - great for most dogs, but potentially dangerous for Dalmatians. We decided to transition further and started mixed feeding.  It took us a long time to find the right balance, but we've finally settled into a feeding routine that works well. Oli's weight remains stable even as he continues to slow down with age, and his skin and coat have never been better. 

🦴 Dalmatians metabolise purines differently than other dogs, which places them at a heightened risk of kidney and urinary crystals and stone formation. Many ingredients that would be fantastic for most dogs (wild game, red meat, organ meats, etc.) are high purine.  This makes it extremely difficult to buy quality commercial dog foods and treats. We're fortunate that none of our dogs have, thus far, had issues, but it's better to lean on the side of safety and so we aim to moderate their purine intake. Our dogs get a variety of meats and fish in moderated quantities, but also a lot of less traditional dog foods, including dairy, eggs, gelatin, fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds, and more. Want to dive deeper? We have an active board on Pinterest dedicated to urates and purine information.

Our primary protein in the breakfast of champions is usually chicken, although not exclusively. Gotta keep things interesting for the doggy food critics, plus variety is good for their resilience and general health.  I'm not a fan of raw meat - especially chicken - so we don't do raw. The proteins are mixed with a combination of cooked and shredded raw fruits and vegetables, which varies depending on what's in-season or readily available. 

I don't add any vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements directly to this breakfast base, partially so I can add those things fresh daily and partially so that I can keep things flexible for variety and individual customisation to our two very different age/activity/health dogs. In addition to being mixed fed, the dogs receive supplements, whole food snacks, and lots of extra healthy goodies throughout the day.

Breakfasts are prepped in bulk, packed into double-doggy servings, and frozen. We usually make around a month's worth of the breakfast base at a time, which is perfect as its pretty much the maximum that I can reasonably accommodate in the limited space of our family fridge freezer.  I prepare small quantities of wholegrain brown rice to accompany their breakfasts separately, as it would take up too much valuable freezer space to combine it with the base mixture. We no longer include rice - their breakfasts are now protein and fruit/veggie oriented, with carbs limited to treats and the content of their commercial foods in our mixed feeding.  

My only quibble is that I hate using so plastic bags to pack up the food for the freezer, but I'm too space constrained for alternatives (suggestions?). Buying in bulk (or in some cases growing our own) and prepping their food this way is still much lower waste than the pre-packaged equivalents.

Making homemade dog food in bulk for freezer storage

Prepping their food takes us a few hours (mostly hands-off cooking time, with a little labour chopping, processing, and packing) roughly once a month. The next day's meals are popped into the fridge the preceding evening for a fresh and delicious doggy breakfast start every day. All of the ingredients that we use are human grade from the local supermarkets, butcher, produce shops, or our own garden. Cost varies depending on season and specials - it's particularly worthwhile taking advantage of meat specials - but it's very economical and I know its great quality.

Is homemade right for you and your dog?  That's a decision that you'll need to make on a individually after you investigate the options that might work for you and your dog's needs. Remember that dog's may have breed specific considerations, individual dietary needs or sensitivities, or other health factors that will affect food choices. Include your trusted vet (and nutritionist, if you use one) in the discussion.  Our personal experience has been fantastic, but being a dog chef is not for everyone or every dog! There are some excellent commercial food options on the market (especially if you don't have to consider the purine factor) both as a base for mixed feeding or as stand alone meals. Homemade is certainly not your only path to a high quality doggy diet. 

🦴 You might also enjoy our special post on why I started making our own dog treats, and the accompanying FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting mini-series on different styles of dog treat making. Although treats are a much smaller part of the doggy diet than main meals, the same opportunity for healthy informed choices still applies.

Mini-update: Over the years our feeding plan has evolved along with our boys age, activity levels, and individual needs, but many of the fundamentals remain the same.  Brands and formulas for our commercial food are still carefully selected after reading ingredients and double-checking quality. Our mixed-feeding is much the same, with the exception of the rice as noted above, and I'm still searching for a solution to zero-waste storage. Breakfast prep is always an exciting time for the boys, sniffing good smells while meat poaches in the slow cooker (also my source for free dog-friendly broth for treat making) and drooling while supervising shredding and packing:

Preparing homemade dog food in bulk for frozen storage ready use

We keep an active Pinterest board with content related to Dog Food + Nutrition. Additional links which may be of interest for further reading on dog nutrition and homemade dog foods:

Do you make your own dog food? What got you started?  What are your favourite ingredients?  Lessons learned? Tips and tricks? Share your experiences in the comments - we'd love to hear from you!

6 comments:

  1. Hi,

    I want to make my Dalmatians food, but how do I figure out how much she needs when it’s home made and how do I make it balanced to her needs? There’s very limited information available for balance homemade dog food, especially for Dalmatians.

    Thanks

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    1. I know! So tricky. With our boys, even vet staff have needed to ask for outside advice on diet/foods. If you are fortunate enough to have someone with specific dietary training at your chosen practice or able to consult with a qualified veterinary nutritionist (in person or remotely), that would be my recommended starting point. Each dog is different depending on any history of urate issues, other sensitivities, age, activity, and more.

      A lot of homemade diets aren't either are not balanced, not nutritionally complete, or not well-suited to a potentially purine sensitive Dalmatian. :(

      There are a lot of resources out there, in books and online, and unfortunately a lot of it is conflicting. Solid advice from a trusted professional (and vetting the sources of anything you read) goes a long way.

      I've been pinning to two boards on our Pinterest: Dog Food + Nutrition and Urates + Low Purine Diets. Some are good, others more just pieces of which are helpful or interesting. If you find any great resources during your own research, I'd love for you to let me know wither here or via email/PM and so we can add it to the boards for others.

      Hope that helps! Good luck, and keep us posted on how you go.

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  2. Where can i find a recipe for my dalmation puppy to make him a home made meal ? HELP !!

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    1. Hi there! Congrats on your puppy! Dalmatians have tons of love to give and will help keep you active (great pawsonal trainers...hehe...).

      Unfortunately, I don't have a perfect recipe/link to give you. I truly believe that the right fit for every dog (and their owners) is slightly different and you need to find the right combination of foods and a feeding plan that works great for you both and adapt that as health, age, activity, and other factors require over the hopefully many many many years you have together. That said, I've been pinning information that I find interesting or helpful with respect to diet to two boards on our Pinterest: Dog Food + Nutrition and Urates + Low Purine Diets. (You can find these and all our other boards at Dalmatian DIY on Pinterest) There are some really interesting reads and handy links/info that you might find helpful along the way. If you're looking for a one of recipe to try as a homemade meal, there are definitely some ideas there for you. If you're looking to make home prepared food a regular thing, then make sure it's balanced for puppy development and moderate the purines.

      Puppies have special dietary needs for development coupled with the need to be careful about purines with Dalmatians (especially males) and their propensity for other dietary sensitivities, finding the right food (homemade or commercial) can be tricky.

      If you are fortunate enough to have someone with specific dietary training at your vet practice or are able to consult with a qualified veterinary nutritionist (in person or remotely), that would be my recommended starting point. Choose one that aligns well with your beliefs on feeding methods, standard vs. natural health, etc. There are a lot of resources out there, in books and online, and unfortunately a lot of it is conflicting. Solid advice from a trusted professional (and vetting the sources of anything you read) goes a long way.

      Hope that helps! Good luck and and enjoy the crazy fun chaos of puppy! :)

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  3. Oh thank you so much for your feedback i really do appreciate the advice and information that you have provided to me i will continue to do my research and see what exactly fits my dalmation thank you so much !!

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    1. You very welcome. :) Good luck! Take it slow as you introduce new foods and with a little time and experimentation, hopefully you'll develop a great feeding plan for you and your pup.

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