Friday, 5 May 2017

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.

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 more filler to help your dog feel fuller with less (read between the lines: more poop). It worked far 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. I started to read, research, and reach out for advice. From there we worked to slowly transition his diet to a mix with the quality rich kibble as we 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. 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.  

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 raw fruits and vegetables, which varies depending on what's in-season or readily available.  I don't add vitamin or mineral add-ins 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 daily supplements, whole food snacks, and lots of extra healthy goodies throughout the day. This mixture is 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. 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.

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, so homemade is certainly not your only path to a high quality doggy diet.  Do you make your own dog food? What got you started?  What are your favorite ingredients?  Lessons learned? Tips and tricks? Share your experiences in the comments - we'd love to hear from you!

Links which may be of interest for further reading on dog nutrition and homemade dog foods:

* Dalmatians are unique in the way that they metabolise purines, which can lead to urinary/kidney stone formation.  If you have a Dalmatian or other purine-sensitive dog, we have a special board on Pinterest where we're collecting links on Urates and Low Purine Diets


  1. My parents have even seen improvement with their small dogs in regards to their wheat allergy.

    1. That's great to hear! I know lots of fur-friends who have been struggling with allergies and food sensitivities, turning to carefully chosen diets and/or homemade foods to avoid triggers or boost their natural defences.

      Everything is case by case, but worth the time and effort if a pup is having doggy dietary issues. A trusted vet or other doggy health professional who will help trace root causes and aims for prevention not just treatment is amazing support if you're lucky enough to have one.

  2. 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.


    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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