There is a store near us where we buy most of our daily food from. The vendors, who are husband and wife, have become good friends of ours. We get our fish, meat, and vegetable scraps that we use for our do-it-yourself (DIY) pet food from them.
They know that my daughter and I have a lot of animals that we care for. They also know that I am hardly making ends meet since the pandemic began. That is why they understand why I ask for their scraps and why they are willing to give them to us for free.
They have three dogs of their own. Through the years, we have shared with each other whatever “tried and tested” knowledge we have in caring for our own animals. And, lately, I am amazed at how one of her pups has grown in a few months. They call the pup Bongbong (yes, after BBM). He is an aspin (asong Pinoy). He is only 10 months old but he is already as big as an adult dog and weighs about 14-15 kilos and he looks very lean (like the ‘all-muscles’ kind of lean). His paws are really big. When I asked her furmom what she gives him, she said she mainly gives him raw meat and fish. Although, there are also times when she cooks their food. But most of the time, she gives it to him raw.
This made me think a lot because come to think of it before human civilization came to be, dogs were just as wild as their wolf ancestors. They ate everything raw as well. And we must admit that the general health of most living beings then (even with humans) was far much better— longer life span, fewer “extremely rare” diseases, among others This was before all of the food processing and artificial food additives came to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying development and technology are not good. It is good. It made life easier, and more convenient for most things. But if only it was all based and used for all good intentions.
The only problem with DIYs nowadays is, despite our easy access to an extremely wide array of knowledge (with the internet, of course), many are still too lazy to do proper research before trying out something. That’s why things usually go haywire for these guys.
Knowledge is the key. If you plan to go homemade, do it right and do not guess. Dog nutrition may be a bit confusing, especially for those who treat their dogs like true family members. They sometimes forget that not all human food is ok for their dogs and tend to unconsciously give them whatever they are also having at that moment.
Also, if one plans to switch to homemade dog food, it is always best to consult your local vet nutritionist first before anything else.
What to consider in making DIY dogfood
Harriet Meyers , in her American Kennel Club (AKC) article, “Homemade Dogfood Recipes: Choosing Balanced Ingredients” (22 November 2021), stresses what the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) warns everyone regarding the special dietary needs of dogs. The size, age, health, and breed of the dog are said to be important factors. They generally do not recommend homemade diets for a dog less than one year old. Significant bone defects may develop in young dogs if they do not get the right amount of calcium and phosphorus, warns Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC’s top veterinarian. In addition, he also claims that dogs who are expecting or nursing have special dietary needs that might not be met by an online recipe.
In her article, Meyers presents ACVN’s study on the alphabet of a balanced dog food meal. They tell us that the following ingredients below must consciously be included in the canine diet.
The ACVN states that dogs need protein in their diets because it contains 10 essential amino acids that their bodies are unable to create on their own. This is required to produce glucose, which is converted into energy. Salmon and several other fish, such as whitefish, herring, walleye, flounder, and Arctic char, are sources of protein. Chicken and turkey are also sources following the removal of the bones, fat, and skin.
Fats and fatty acids are essential for dogs. Animal fats and plant seed oils are the main sources of fat in a dog’s diet. The fatty acids that the dog’s body cannot produce are obtained from a balanced diet. Fatty acids support the structure and function of cells, maintain the health of skin and fur, and improve food flavor. Plant-based oils such as corn, soybean, canola, and flaxseed oil as well as fish oil are sources of fatty acids.
Carbohydrates, such as sugars, starches, and dietary fibers, give dogs some of their energy. Sources include quinoa, oats, pasta, and rice.
Dogs must consume fiber to keep their gastrointestinal (GI) systems healthy and prevent weight gain. Carrots, pumpkin, apples, dark leafy greens, brown rice, and flaxseed are healthy food options for dogs in terms of fiber.
The vitamins that dogs need are vitamins A (carrots, pumpkin), B vitamins (liver, green vegetables, whole grains), C (fruits and vegetables, organ meat), D (liver, fish, beef), E (leafy green vegetables, liver, bran, plant oils), K (fish, leafy green vegetables, fish), and choline (liver, fish, meats, egg yolks).
Take note though, numerous health issues can result from vitamin deficiency, but excessive amounts of these nutrients can also be harmful.
With minerals, dogs need the 12 essentials:
• for strong bones and teeth, they need Calcium (tofu, green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower) and phosphorus (meat, and eggs).
• for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signalling, they need Magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride (fruits, vegetables, whole grains); Sulfur (meat, fish, molasses) for healthy skin, coat, and nails.
• for supporting red blood cells and the immune system, they need Iron (red meats, poultry).
• for a healthy thyroid, they need Iodine (dairy, kelp, seafood).
• for the immune system, healthy skin, and coat, they must have Zinc (eggs, lamb, liver, brewer’s yeast).
to boost the immune system, they should have Selenium (meat, vegetables, seafood, brown rice).
• for healthy bone growth, Copper (whole grains, seeds, and seafood).
• Lastly, never forget to provide fresh, clean water all the time.
It is crucial to provide precise preparation and quantity guidelines. This is why speaking with a local veterinarian nutritionist is essential.
About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 15 years now because she is the wife of a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.