Kirby's meals probably comprise of 90 percent home made and 10 percent quality commercial foods. He gets less than a 1/4 cup of crunchy kibble in the morning in one of his interactive toys. He eats roughly one cup home made every evening. I mix his vitamins/minerals into his evening meal. I do a lot of research so I know he is eating a healthy diet and, just to be safe, he sees his veterinarian several times throughout the year and he has a full round of blood work every two years.
He is now nine years old with a sparkle in his eyes and the energy of a puppy. His easy to manage coat is soft and shiny. He has no skin problems or allergies of any type. He doesn't have bad breath and his teeth are still white. I do brush them two to three times a week using a finger brush. He rarely becomes ill, and when he has, we were able to find the source - a recalled treat, a recalled kibble, a shared can of Vienna sausages, some chocolate he got into, and a nasty dog bite when he was a year old. His weight has always maintained around 15 to 16 pounds which meant he could stand to lose a pound or two but was still an acceptable weight. Last year we adopted Kenzie who keeps him quite active during the day when I'm away from home. His vet says he is now at his perfect weight of 13 lbs since she can feel his ribs beneath a thin layer of fat.
As you can see from my recipes I prepare large batches which I then freeze in pint size mason jars which portions out to two meals per jar. Some will say you must measure this and add that to achieve a balanced meal. The main guidelines I follow are simple.
A homemade diet should include a variety of meats (beef, lamb, deer, chicken, turkey, fish), vegetables (green, yellow, orange) and grains. I like to use various dog friendly herbs and spices because, one, he enjoys the flavors, and two, there are many health benefits. I was surprised to discover how much he likes cayenne pepper! I also mix in organ meats, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, and applesauce throughout the month. For the most part I avoid pork since it's fatty which can attribute to pancreatis.
I also keep his consumption of commercial kibble to a minimum amount. He loves the crunch so I really need to devise a recipe since commercial kibble is extruded meaning the moisture has been removed. A dog needs at least 70 percent moisture in their diet. Digesting this kibble requires his body to provide sufficient moisture to reconstitute the food in his digestive tract which becomes stressful to multiple organ systems but most notably the kidneys.
Dogs are descendants from wolves which eat an almost entirely meat diet hence they are carnivores. Yes, dogs can survive as vegans but I do not believe they would thrive at their ultimate best. Wolves will kill an animal and eat everything save the large bones. This includes the stomach of animals that eat vegetation and grains so they become a part of the wolf's diet. Since the vegetables and grains have been digested I always finely chop or puree vegetables to break them down for Kirby's body to absorb the nutrients.
Another controversy I've come across is that dogs do not require carbohydrates as they don't supply as much nutrition to dogs as animal products do and are difficult for dogs to digest. A recent study by evolutionary geneticist Erik Axelsson from Uppsala University in Sweden finds that dogs have evolved to eat a more varied diet than their wolf ancestors.
Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist who studies dogs at the University of California, Los Angeles, but was not involved with the work, is also pleased with the study. He says he gets contacted often by pet owners wondering if dogs, like wolves, should eat primarily meat. "This [study] suggests no, dogs are different from wolves and don't need a wolflike diet," he says. "They have co-evolved with humans and their diet."
I personally think Kirby needs carbs to maintain his high energy. I do help along the digestion aspect by soaking the grains for several hours to break them down and then rinsing to remove a lot of the starch before cooking or adding them in his meals. I also cook them to the point of mush rather than el dente.
One more note is even though many think when their dog has a skin allergy it's grains but more often it's usually a protein causing the skin allergies. Eating the same protein day in and day out can cause a dog to become allergic to that very protein. I'm leaning toward the reason Kirby has not developed any allergies is because he has always eaten a rotational diet.
I make sure that meat makes up at least half, if not more, of his diet. I've noticed when Kirby has a steak by itself, he becomes a bit lethargic and at times has gas which tells me his body is working hard to digest it. By feeding a wide variety of different foods, I feel we are achieving an overall complete and balanced diet.
An important element when feeding home made meals is that you must supplement calcium especially if your dog is not receiving raw bones on a regular basis.
Adult dogs need around 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium per pound of food fed. They also require the calcium to be supplied in a proper proportion to phosphorus. The ideal calcium:phosphorus ratio in the canine diet is between 1:1 and 2:1. Meat contains a lot of phosphorus, so the more meat a diet contains, the more calcium will be required to reach the correct calcium:phosphorus ratio. Adding 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium will provide the correct calcium:phosphorus ratio even for a high-meat diet, unless you use a calcium supplement that also contains phosphorus. In that case, moderately higher amounts of calcium may be needed to balance out the additional phosphorus contained in the supplement.
My solution is ground eggshells. One large eggshell provides one teaspoon of ground eggshell which contains 2,000 mg of calcium. I add a 1/2 teaspoon ground eggshell per each pound of meat used in a recipe.
Every time I crack an egg I save the shell, rinse it to remove any membranes, shake off the excess water, and place it in an egg carton in my cabinet where it will dry. Once the carton is full I then grind the eggshells in a coffee grinder. Make sure the eggshells are completely ground to a powder for proper absorption and store in an airtight glass container in a dark cabinet or pantry. To be safe I have a coffee grinder specifically for Kirby's herbs and spices so there's no chance of accidentally mixing in coffee or some other toxic ingredient he can't have.
Just like for humans, I find a complete multi-vitamin and mineral supplement made for dogs is needed to round out the daily nutritional requirements. I don't have the time or knowledge to measure and account for every vitamin and mineral Kirby needs every day. He did take a pet multi vitamin for almost nine years but I have switched him to Dr. Dobais SoulFood, GreenMin, and GutSense which I mix into his evening meal.
I eat healthy foods and fed my children a variety of healthy meals along with a daily vitamin. I treat Kirby the same way.
I am not a veterinarian or nutrition expert so I am not advising anyone on how they should feed their dog! I am a pet parent who, through extensive research and practice, am raising a healthy, vibrant animal in the best way I know how. I simply believe that when good food goes in, healthy benefits shine out.