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Making Dog Food at Home

Posted on August 14 2018

Check out Basil Hayden helping make her dinner!!
When we were informed by our vet that the best way to help Bordeaux's allergies was to put her on a homemade food diet we were a little hesitant to say the least.  I mean, who has the time to source all the ingredients and make dog food??
But let me back up.  Bordeaux had been taking Apoquel every day to help with her itchiness and her licking of her paws.  About a year ago we decided to take her off of it and try to naturally treat her allergies.  We tried different foods.  We took her to a NAET practitioner, who had to move away, so we stopped taking her there.  We then took her to a dermatologist.  He suggested that we make her own food, as sometimes dog food companies will use the same equipment for the different proteins and cross contamination can occur.  He said Kangaroo is a good protein to try for dogs with food allergies, but if you can't find it, rabbit also works.
He gave us a simple recipe and we decided on going with rabbit.  The recipe consisted of rabbit, sweet potatoes, olive oil, salt and salt substitute, an adult vitamin (we use centrum), and tums (we do not put this in as we could not find one that was not flavored).  All of that gets put into a crock pot.  We then add some other ingredients that were not on the recipe: carrots, peas, blueberries, and coconut oil.  These get added in raw (except the coconut oil, that goes in the crock pot.)
The first time we made a batch, it was a pain.  But we did not get ground rabbit.  We got whole rabbit, so spending time picking out all the little bones was time consuming and not fun.  The second batch we switched to ground rabbit and it got a lot easier.  Both girls absolutely love the stuff, Basil's little lips shake whenever it is time to eat!  
Cooking the meals was fairly easy.  And we always made enough for a couple weeks, freezing the extra in zip-lock bags in 3-day rations.  But getting the ground rabbit was a hassle.  The specialty food store that carries rabbit is out of the way and it just wasn't convenient for us to do that every couple of weeks.  So we went looking for a place online that would ship to us.
Marx Foods has a great selection of specialty meats (including Kangaroo, though at the time of this writing they are out of stock on that).  We had also noticed that Basil had started getting in the habit of eating dirt and we attributed that to a lack of nutrients, specifically iron.  Marx Foods has rabbit liver, so we ordered some of that along with the ground rabbit to add it raw to their food hoping this would help with Basil's dirt obsession.
Another change we made along the way was rice.  Both Basil and Bordeaux started eating a lot of grass and again we thought it was to make up some nutritional need (lack of fiber is one reason dogs eat grass).  So far it seems that adding in a little rice to each meal (we keep it separate until it is time to feed them) keeps them from eating grass.
A great side effect is that both seem to be the healthiest weight they ever have been.  Our vet thinks they look great and both in great spirits!  Though they aren't the little plump piggies they once were!!
We don't really measure anything out but here is a rough breakdown of what we do.  This is by no means a recipe, and though this is working for our dogs, we can't recommend it for you.  If you want to try it, maybe speak with your vet first to be sure it is right for your dog.
1 package of ground rabbit from Marx Foods
4-5 yams or sweet potatoes depending on size
2-3 tbl of olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp of salt
1/4-1/2 tsp of salt substitute
3-4 centrum tablets
2-3 tbl of coconut oil
a little water
All the above goes into the insta-pot until the meat is cooked.  We then add in while it's still hot:
Frozen peas (a couple handfuls, until it looks like a good balance)
Frozen Carrots (about the same as the peas)
Frozen blueberries (about half as much as the peas)
All of the frozen veggies should cool down the food so it is no longer hot.  At this point we add 1/4 of a package of rabbit livers.  We keep the liver frozen as it is going right back into the freezer and we don't want bacteria to grow on it.
We then measure out enough food for 3 days and put that amount into a gallon zip-lock.  Both our girls weigh about 17lbs so we feed them 3/4 cup of this food along with 1/4 cup of cooked white rice.
We can fit a double batch in our insta-pot and this usually lasts us a couple weeks, and the most time consuming part of the whole process is peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes as everything else is frozen when added.
If you are thinking about going the home made route, but are wary of it because you think the time commitment is too much, I am here to tell you it is not that bad.  It only takes a few hours a month to get it all together.  But please do talk to your vet, and watch your dog for signs that they may be missing out on something.  We are not dog nutritionists, and are kind of making this up as we go.  But seeing how happy our girls are when it's time to eat is worth all the efforts in figuring out what works best for them!
There are also great companies out there, like Ollie, that make fresh dog food for you delivered right to your door.  If it wasn't recommended that Bordeaux be on a rabbit diet, we would totally use Ollie, and were in the past.  They are a great go to for those not wanting to make their own food but want fresh healthy meals for their pups.
If you have any question, or experience in making your own dog food we would love to hear all about it!