As carnivores, dogs require the protein derived from real meat. To ensure your dog's diet contains real meat from quality sources, you can prepare his food easily and economically at home. All it takes is a desire to give your best friend a wholesome diet featuring natural, human-grade ingredients.
Lean Meats in the Canine Diet
Lean meats are considerably higher in protein than fatty meats. The following lean meats are interchangeable: skinless chicken thighs, skinless chicken breasts, chicken giblets, chicken livers, chicken hearts, skinless turkey breast, skinless turkey thighs, turkey giblets, turkey hearts, skinless duck breast, lean chuck beef, lean ground beef, beef liver, beef hearts, mackerel, tuna, salmon and various other fishes. Combine the lean meat with high-protein grains such as oatmeal, barley or cornmeal and vegetables, along with appropriate multi-vitamins or nutritional supplements -- for example, the "healthy powder" recipe found in Dr. Richard Pitcairn's "Complete Guide to the Natural Health of Dogs & Cats."
Lean Meat Entree
For a super-easy, delicious entree featuring lean meat, combine 5 cups of cooked couscous or 6 1/2 cups of cooked old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 cup of cooked or raw lean ground beef, 1 cup of cooked or raw chicken livers, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 cup of grated raw carrots. Add a canine vitamin or nutritional supplement and serve. This meal may be halved, doubled or made in large batches and stored in the freezer in individual, meal-sized portions. The daily ration for different-sized dogs is: toy, 1 1/2 cups; small, 3 to 3 1/2 cups; medium, 5 cups; large, 6 1/2 cups; and giant, 7 to 8 cups.
The fatty group of meats is also interchangeable, and includes the following: roaster chicken with the skin, fatty beef heart, brains, regular hamburger, fatty chuck, sirloin steak, lamb or pork. If you are preparing a meal with the fatty meats, reduce the amount of oil you would normally use in the recipe by about one tablespoon for every cup of meat. Since cuts of meat vary, use your judgment in evaluating the degree of fat in a meat.
Fatty Meat Entree
Savory roasted chicken is the centerpiece of this fabulous, cheesy polenta that elevates your dog's home-cooked food to gourmet. To prepare, bring 1/2 cup of low-fat powdered milk and 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Quickly whisk in 1 cup of uncooked coarse cornmeal and blend until smooth. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes, until the cornmeal is cooked to a soft and mushy consistency. Remove the cornmeal from the stove and fold in 1/2 cup of low-fat, shredded cheddar cheese, 2 large beaten eggs and 1 cup of chopped roasted chicken breast and thighs with the skin on. Let the polenta cool for about five minutes, then stir in 200 IU vitamin E and a canine vitamin, or nutritional supplement. Pour the polenta into a casserole dish to set and cool completely. Cut into squares to serve. This recipe makes about 5 1/2 cups. The daily ration for different-sized dogs is: toy, 1 to 1 1/2 cups; small, 3 to 4 cups; medium, 5 to 6 cups; large, 6 1/2 to 7 cups; and giant, 8 to 10 cups.
Variety is the spice of life, so your best friend will appreciate you rotating fresh, organically raised chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and pork in his meals, served alongside or mixed with oats or other high-protein grains, and an assortment of veggies. Different meats offer a different blend of nutrients; for example, pork is hypoallergenic and contains more of the essential amino acids dogs need for building muscle and repairing tissue.
For optimal nutrition, feed different meats and cuts at the same meal, including muscle and flesh meats, such as ground beef, chicken and turkey, as well as some organ meats, such as liver, heart and kidneys, or giblets.
Emphasize purer sources when selecting real meat for your dog's diet. According to Dr. Richard Pitcairn, a veterinarian he knew who worked as a meat inspector observed that turkeys, ducks and sheep have lower cancer rates than chickens, cattle and hogs. The vet suggested the difference could be explained by the meat meal fed to each species. Based on this, it would be wise to choose organically raised chicken, pork and beef, or feed turkey, duck and lamb most often.
Meat is the food most likely to be chemically contaminated, produced at a significant cost to the environment and suffering by animals raised in the modern farming industry. Because meat is naturally the most important food for carnivores like our dogs, choose the meat you use in your dog's diet with care. If you can, select free-range chicken, cage-free turkey and beef that is raised without antibiotics.
When following a recipe for a homemade dog food containing meat, one pound of ground meat is equal to about two cups.
When switching your dog from a commercial kibble to home-cooked food with real meat, transition slowly by adding only a little of the home-prepared food to the kibble, and increasing incrementally over a period of one to two weeks, depending on how your dog is accepting and tolerating it.
- Dr. Richard Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats; Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. and Susan Hubble Pitcairn
- Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, The Ultimate Diet; Kymythy R. Schultze
- Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog; Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown, D.V.M.
- John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images