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News: Editors
Reporting Pet Food Concerns

Susan Thixton of Truthaboutpetfood.com has a very interesting post today about the increase in complaints stemming from the popular Taste of the Wild dog food. She reports that many of the complaints can be found on ConsumerAffairs.com, and 27 complaints were posted in July alone. She also notes that many consumers also went to the parent company’s Facebook page to post their complaints on Diamond Pet Food. The company (that has been involved in a few recalls in the past) denied that the food had any negative affect on the animals. Wisely, Thixton explains that the best strategy for reporting concerns about a pet food that might be the cause of an illness, is the following:

1.  File a report with the FDA.

2.  File a report with your state’s Department of Agriculture. You can find info for your state's animal feed authorities here.

3.  Call/write the pet food manufacturer.

Make sure you save all the information from the pet food packaging, including the labels. Save the rest of the food (if there is any left) in an airtight container, store in the freezer. Thixton also cautions that filling out forms might be a little time consuming, but it is definitely worth the effort. This is the only way that the food can be investigated, so others won’t eat it.

Wellness: Food & Nutrition
Cooking For You and Your Dog
Q&A with Judith Jones
Love Me, Feed Me: Sharing with Your Dog the Everyday Good Food You Cook and Enjoy

Judith Jones 1924 - 2017

Editor's Note: This following interview was published a couple of years ago, but today we just heard about the death of Judith Jones who died from complications from Alzheimer's disease. She was 93 years old. Her obituary in The Washington Post details her amazing accomplishments, including that as a young editor living in Paris, she was responsible for rescuing  Anne Frank's The Diary of Young Girl from the publisher's reject pile. We were honored to have the opportunity to interview her about the publication of her last work, the charming Love Me, Feed Me.  Her belief was that food is transformative, for both us and our precious dogs. We agree wholeheartedly.

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We chatted with Judith Jones, a renowned cookbook editor who worked with the greats—Julia Child, Jacques Pépin and Marion Cunningham, among others. Now in her 90s, she has written a delightful book, Love Me, Feed Me (Knopf), about cooking for herself and her little dog Mabon.

This sensible book reminded us of food writers like Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher: recipes plus a pinch of life itself.

After I got my compliments on the book out of the way, I asked her why cooking for her dog was important to her.

Judith Jones: There are insecure people who are a little nervous about cooking; they think, “Oh, I don’t have the precise enough measurements,” or something like that. I want people to relax and have fun, like when I’m having a steak dinner and put aside a third of it for my little friend. For me, it’s part the camaraderie I share with him. Mabon loves his meals, and he’s having what I’m having. I follow the basic one-third meat protein, one-third vegetables and one-third grain [ratio] for his meals.

CK: How about the little spot of wine you add to some of the dishes?

JJ: The wine usually boils away and is there for the flavor. Sometimes, if it is easy [to do], I hold back and don’t give him any, but if it is a big braise or a stew, I add the wine and it just burns off. Mabon has never objected. Nor does he get boozy.

He’s really incredibly healthy, and he definitely makes choices. The world is now made up of kale lovers and kale haters—I’m so sick of kale … I don’t think it’s one of the most graceful and delicate of our vegetable offerings. The first time I gave it to Mabon, I put little clumps [of it] in his dish; he pulled them out one by one, put them on the kitchen floor and walked away. So eloquent—he didn’t need words.

CK: Has Mabon turned tail on other things besides kale?

JJ: He hasn’t given up on kale, but I haven’t forced it. He loves broccoli, so it isn’t just a big prejudice that covers everything green.

CK: I loved your roasted-vegetable recipe; it seems so simple to prepare.

JJ: Mabon loves the roasted vegetables. It is easy, and roasting changes the flavor slightly because it sweetens the vegetables. The natural sweetness comes to the surface—that’s what causes them to brown.

CK: What are your hopes for the book?

JJ: I don’t want to force people to do things, because then they wouldn’t have any pleasure it in. But I think we have become a little bit rigid about our own diet. They want us to do cookbooks called “food is medicine.” It’s not medicine—it’s so much more, almost transforming. It’s sensually delicious, and you love to taste it. If it needs tweaking, maybe you add a drop of lemon juice or bit more salt. I think that I really want to bring pleasure to cooking for your dog, whether you’re alone or with a family.

CK: I think the book is also perfect for children, a great way to get them involved in that level of dog care.

JJ: Exactly. Dogs are part of your family and you should know what you’re feeding everyone in your family. It shouldn’t come from China; treats from China have killed dogs. My vet agrees that I couldn’t be doing anything better for Mabon. She risks something by saying that, as some vets would disagree with her.

And don’t you love that quote by MFK Fisher? “I wouldn’t feed my dog or cat anything I wouldn’t feed myself.” That’s all there is to it.

Judith Jones is the author of The Book of New New England Cookery and The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food. In 2006, she was awarded the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wellness: Recipes
Kitchen Tricks: New Equipment for Dog Treats
DIY Moist Dog Treats

Silicone bakeware is all the rage lately, and one type—a 16" x 11.5" nonstick baking mat aptly named the Pyramid Pan—can be used to whip up more than 500 dog treats in a jiff. The mat has lots of little pyramids and was originally intended for cooking meat using less fat. But flip it over and the pyramids become 556 little indentations, perfect molds for tiny dog treats. A friend pointed me to a recipe from Eileen Anderson's website that was designed to be used with these mats. In her preamble to the recipe, Anderson notes that you can use your favorite non-chunky treat recipe, but will probably need to run it through a food processor first. The dough should be smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter rather than cookie dough.

Place two upside-down mats on large cookie sheets or baking pans. Now comes the tricky part: filling the little holes. Using a spatula or silicone scraper spread the batter back and forth; you don’t want any on the boundaries between the holes, so it will take a few swipes.

TINY CHICKEN TREATS

  • 1 10-oz. can chicken, including liquid, or 5.5 oz. cooked, chopped chicken meat and 4.5 oz. stock or water

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup tapioca flour

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat, sorghum or buckwheat flour (or other gluten-free flours)

  • 1 tablespoon oil

Optional add-ins: Small amounts of flaxseed meal, chopped parsley, kelp

Directions

  • Blend the chicken, the liquid and 2 eggs in a food processor.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the flours and oil. The batter should be slightly thicker than pancake batter.
  • Divide the batter between two silicone mats on cookie sheets as described.
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely, and then have fun popping them out.
  • Put the treats in bags or small glass jars; freeze some and store a week’s worth in the fridge for daily use.
  • This recipe makes two full sheets, or around 1,100 tasty tiny treats.

    Adapted from Eileen Anderson’s recipe for Simple Baked Chicken Treats at eileenanddogs.com

    For the past few years, I have been using a dehydrator to make sweet potato jerky treats as well as to dry a summer’s bounty of fruit (especially luscious strawberries), tomatoes, herbs and mushrooms. It works great. Now, the experts at Excalibur® have a new product, a smaller counter-top, six-tray model, designed especially for making treats and other small-batch goodies. It comes with a pet treat recipe book, a plastic jerky gun and cookie cutters. Great for making trail mix for those summer camping trips as well! Crafting nutritious treats for yourself and your dog has never been easier (and this model is much quieter than the standard dehydrator).

    The Excalibur EPT60W 6-Tray Compact Pet Treat Dehydrator 10"W x 12"H x 8"D, around $50

    YUM-YUM LEFTOVERS

    • 1 cup meat, cooked (chicken, turkey, beef etc.)
    • 1/3 to 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
    • 1/2 cup oat bran or whole wheat flour

    Directions

  • Cut meat into small pieces, put into a blender or food processor and blend.

  • Add 1/3 cup water, then puree into a thick paste. Remove to a bowl.

  • Add oatmeal and flour, stir well. Knead dough until well mixed. Roll out the dough on a floured board, to around 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.

  • Place in dehydrator for about 8 to 16 hours or until crunchy. Or bake on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet at a very low temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until crunchy.

  • Adapted from Pet Treat Recipes by Excalibur®.

    Wellness: Food & Nutrition
    Helping to Improve Pet Nutrition

    Our good friend, vet nutritionist, Donna Raditic, DVM, and her colleagues over at CANWI (Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute) are devoted to do research into the best ways to provide nutritious, healthy meals to our pets. Their next round of study involves investigating the possible drawbacks to feeding dogs solely with high heat processed, commercial foods. All the various aspects that are involved in manufacturing pet food are important: such as, ingredients, recipes, sourcing, the manufacturing plant and equipment, even the lining of food bags and cans, but CANWI now is going to be looking at the actual chemical reactions that take place when food is processed at high temperatures (which is the case in most commercial diets).

    As Dr. Donna told us, “It is known that heat treatment of foods can cause a reaction between the proteins and sugars called the Maillard reaction which results in the formation of what is termed dietary Advanced Glycation End- Products or AGEs.” She further explains that:

    Other “Studies have shown that elevated levels of AGEs in tissues are associated with age-related diseases in humans, rats, and dogs including diabetes, cataracts, osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, renal disease, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.”

    So they are undertaking an independent study, not funded by the pet food industry (that is usually where food studies are performed). Their study will compare the levels of AGEs in processed and fresh food pet diets and evaluate the influence of feeding differing intakes of dietary AGEs. Preliminary data suggests some pet foods may contain over 122 time the AGEs found in processed human foods! Now imagine this is at every meal, on every day for the life of our dogs. It is so easy and convenient, and true that most of our dogs eat processed pet diets for their entire life.

    The study will involve a team of veterinary nutritionists, food scientists and one of the most prestigious Veterinary Colleges in the country. And as Joe Bartges, DVM of the University of Georgia notes, “The study will also serve as the foundation for more research to help us identify and improve pet nutrition. It is an exciting and novel approach to the role of nutrition in the health of dogs and cats.”

    We too are excited that this kind of study is being investigated from outside the pet food industry and by a team of dedicated (dog-loving) researchers. To get their study underway, they are reaching out to animal lovers during the week of 5/21 to 5/28 for a fundraiser drive seeking contributions (no amount is too small), so they can undertake the next phase of this critical research.

    You can do to www.companionanimalnutritionandwellnessinstitute.org for more information and to donate, or check CANWI on Facebook too.

    Wellness: Food & Nutrition
    GMO: Are genetically modified crops safe in your dog food?
    A vet speaks out on genetically modified pet food.

    Most dogs now dine on some type of genetically modified (GM) food, often in the form of corn and soy in their kibble. As these ingredients increasingly enter the food supply, we have one more reason to wonder if our shopping choices might be harming our pets.

    More animal feeding studies are needed, experts say, and a recent long-term, peer-reviewed report points out why. It found that a diet of GM corn and soy led to higher rates of severe stomach inflammation in pigs, which are physiologically similar to dogs.

    Robert Silver, DVM, a Boulder, Colo., holistic vet, tackled the issue earlier this year when he presented his paper, “Genetically Modified Food and Its Impact on Pet Health” at the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association conference in Kansas City, Mo. Why did he choose this controversial topic, one that few vets even acknowledge?

    Silver—a pioneer in the field of holistic veterinary medical practice—says he was inspired by a seminar he attended in Boulder on GM foods and human health. The speakers included Don Huber, a Purdue University professor, and activist Jeffrey Smith, who discussed problems, including reproductive difficulties, that have occurred in livestock fed GM crops.

    “I found this seminar mind-opening,” says Silver, the lone vet in attendance. “I had always believed the PR about GM foods—that they are going to feed the world and are a good outcome of our genetic technology.”

    The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the safety of GM crops consumed by humans and animals, considers most GM plants “substantially equivalent” to traditional plants and “generally recognized as safe.” Their regulation involves a voluntary consultation process with the developer before products are brought to market.

    Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, disagrees. On its website (responsibletechnology.org), he warns that “nearly all GM crops are described as ‘pesticide plants.’ They either tolerate doses of weed killer, such as Roundup, or produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin. In both cases, the added toxin—weed killer or bug killer—is found inside the corn or soybeans we consume.”

    Silver says that while “allergies, GI problems, increased risk of cancer, neurodegenerative conditions” and other ills could all be, in part, related to GM foods, “there is no objective evidence of this yet” in dogs. “However, all vets will agree that there has been an uptick in [these diseases] in the past 10 to 20 years.” The advent of GM foods in the 1990s “fits into this timing of disease increases,” he says.

    His presentation referred to studies that raise doubt about the safety of biotech crops, such as one reported in 1996 in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that genes inserted into crops can carry with them allergenic properties.

    Silver says that genetic modification introduces foreign proteins that may encourage allergies, and the widely planted Bt corn, which makes its own insecticide, “could possibly cause leaky gut, the gateway to chronic disease.” Corn is a major component of most commercial pet foods. “The big problem with commercial foods is that they are manufactured at high temperatures and pressures,” which alters them and makes them “potentially more allergenic.” And commercial foods contain industrial ingredients that are “more likely to contain GM and herbicide contaminants.”

    A study published last year found that GM crops engineered to withstand the toxic herbicide Roundup must now be doused with even more herbicide, since weeds have also developed resistance to it. Residues of these chemicals on crops can find their way into pet food.

    A 2013 study published in the science journal Entropy reports that the heavy use of Roundup could be linked to Parkinson’s, autism, infertility and cancers. It goes on to report that residues of Roundup in food can interact with, and enhance, the damaging effects of other environmental toxins. “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” the study’s researchers say.

    According to Silver, heightened sensitivity to dietary ingredients “is probably what we are seeing with GM foods. It is of concern that this may be driving the increase in GI problems in pets.” Although gluten probably does account for some problems with grain consumption, “I think that grain-free diets, if they are also soy free and contain protein from animals not fed GM crops, can help many dogs, due to being GM free—and not due to some allergy or gluten issue.”

    To a holistic doctor, food is medicine, and Silver strongly recommends home meal preparation from individually sourced ingredients to avoid feeding GM ingredients, especially to pets who have other health problems. “I am truly a holistic practitioner in that I believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

    References
    Carman, J., et al. 2013. A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. Journal of Organic Systems 8 (1): 38–54.

    Benbrook, C.M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S.—the first 16 years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24: 24.

    Ordlee, J., et al. 1996. Identification of a Brazil-nut allergen in transgenic soybeans. The New England Journal of Medicine 334: 688–692.

    Samsel, A., and S. Seneff. 2013. Glyphosate’s suppression of cytochrome P450 enzymes and amino acid biosynthesis by the gut microbiome: Pathways to modern diseases. Entropy 15 (4): 1416–1463.

    Wellness: Food & Nutrition
    Do Better Canine Diets Support Longer Lives?
    Optimal Nutrition
    Dog Food Kibble

    Veterinary nutritionists can be found in universities, teaching veterinary students and treating patients with special dietary needs. We may work in the pet food industry as consultants or by contributing to research, development and education efforts. We also work with veterinarians and their clients, providing answers or input aimed at resolving dietary quandaries.

    As a veterinarian with more than 25 years’ experience and a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN), I enjoy doing a little of all these.

    For example, I may develop a homemade diet for a Labrador with copper liver storage disease, a very particular liver problem. Or I’ll check in with one of my consulting clients to see how a picky young German Shepherd with recurring diarrhea is doing with his new diet. A presentation for a large veterinary meeting focusing on diets that can be used to not only treat disease states, but also to perhaps prevent them may be on my to-do list. Conference calls with veterinary students to discuss nutritional biochemistry and how cats differ from humans and dogs also occupy my time.

    But my favorite part of the day is reaching out to pet parents through my work with the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute (CANWI), a grassroots not-for-profit organization focusing on optimal nutrition and wellness to improve and extend the lives of our furry children and best friends.

    At CANWI, we recognize the difficulty people have in accessing companion-animal nutrition information not sponsored by the pet food industry, a multibillion dollar operation instrumental in providing the bulk of consumer information as well as in supporting veterinary nutrition research and education. While we agree that the industry’s goals align with the need for safe nutrition, we firmly believe that there is also a need for unbiased information on the subject.

    As part of this effort, CANWI raises funds for veterinary education, including forums and programs that educate veterinary technicians, students and the pet-vested community. In fall 2016, CANWI named Danielle Conway, DVM, as its first Veterinary Nutrition Resident; the organization will support her two-year formal training program at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Typically, this sort of advanced training is funded by the pet food industry. As CANWI president Patricia Micka noted when announcing the award, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a nonprofit is funding a Veterinary Nutrition Residency program. It is our intention to make this an ongoing program and not a one-time event.”

    Another CANWI mission is to fund scientific research to identify healthy, or what we term optimal or best, nutrition for our companion animals. Every day, we field queries from people interested in feeding their dogs and cats the best possible diet, one that will sustain longer, healthier lives.

    While we humans are told to eat plenty of fresh foods, most of our dogs and cats are fed processed commercial foods throughout their lives. What effect does this have— do processed foods provide optimal nutrition and support longevity?

    Heat processing improves nutrient availability, shelf life and food safety, but it is also known to cause the Maillard reaction, chemical reactions between amino acids in proteins and sugars that give browned food its distinctive and appealing flavor. Similar Maillard reactions occur in body tissues, especially with aging, and form what are termed advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. Diets high in Maillard reaction products (MRPs) have been shown to increase levels of AGEs in the body.

    Studies in humans and rodents have revealed that elevated levels of AGEs in tissues are associated with a number of age-related ailments, including diabetes, cataracts, osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis and vascular diseases. The absorption of MRPs from the diet and their accumulation in the body’s AGE pool may be one of the ways foods have an impact on age related diseases in both humans and animals.

    The role of dietary MRPs on health and disease in dogs and cats is unknown. Prior studies measuring MRPs in dry and canned dog and cat diets have shown that the intake of MRPs is estimated to be 122 times higher in dogs and 38 times higher in cats than the average intake for an adult human on a body-weight basis. In our study, we want to determine if it’s possible to modify canine and feline MRP intake by making dietary adjustments. Investigating the effects of a highly processed diet with high levels of MRPs compared to one that is more like homemade—or a whole food diet—with low levels of MRPs may help us unravel diet’s effects on our dogs’ and cats’ lives.

    CANWI has given me a forum to share my veterinary experiences and my specialty training. It is truly my honor to work with the organization, which enables me to connect my passion for education and research with my desire to share the best nutrition and veterinary care with all my beloved animal patients, present and future.

    Dr. Raditic invites you to join her in supporting this important work with a donation to CANWI, either online through PayPal or via the mail. For more information, go to companionanimalnutritionandwellnessinstitute.org.

    News: Guest Posts
    Study Finds BPA in Canned Dog Food—and Dogs
    Endocrine-disrupting chemical raises red flags

    A study by researchers at the University of Missouri finds that eating canned dog food may increase a pet’s exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA).

    While the study was short-term, the results were “very revealing,” says investigator Dr. Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Fourteen healthy pets were switched from their usual diet of kibble to canned food. Could a two-week menu change raise the dogs’ BPA levels?

    It did, three-fold, and that could really be an issue for dogs that eat the same diet every day.

    Over 300 studies have linked BPA to health problems from reproductive disorders to cancer, and now research is shedding light on how people and animals are exposed to the plastic-hardening chemical. While the FDA has reviewed the studies, they still consider BPA “safe at the current levels occurring in foods.”

    By measuring BPA’s escape from packaging, scientists are narrowing the focus. One study settled the debate over whether BPA—banned in baby bottles but used in many other items—seeps from metal can linings and taints human foods. (It does). 

    And in August, a long-term study in the UK found a sharp decline in canine fertility associated with exposure to other endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The researchers considered food packaging a possible source, finding the chemicals in a range of dry and wet foods.

    Some plastic dog toys have also been found to leach the chemical. A study at Texas Tech by environmental toxicologists Phil Smith and Kimberly Wooten found that BPA and phthalates leached from plastic bumpers into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva.

    Wooten, who wasn’t involved in the present study, says that while it isn’t clear if dog health is being harmed long-term, “it’s still important information to have since there’s so little data on canine exposure to these types of chemicals.” She knows of no other studies that have looked at the effects of a specific BPA source on the concentrations in the blood.

    “I’d say a 3-fold increase suggests that for dogs that eat canned food, their diet is the most important contributor to their total BPA levels.”  

    The current study highlights another concern; with the pet food industry being held by about five companies, it seems commercial foods aren’t as diverse as packaging suggests. Of the two (unnamed) brands in the study, one was declared “BPA-free” by the manufacturer.

    So, skip the can and spare your dog? It turned out, the dogs already had a small amount of BPA circulating in their blood, shown by initial baseline samples. The researchers then analyzed both the cans and the food for BPA. They also checked for any disturbances in gut bacteria and metabolic changes.

    Although one of the diets was presumed to be BPA-free, feeding either brand for two weeks resulted in a three-fold increase of BPA levels in the animals. At the same time, the dogs showed gut microbiome and metabolic changes, with potential health consequences. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium known to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals, according to the study.

    Bagged kibble might also contain BPA, since the dogs had some BPA in their blood before the study, possibly from their dry diets.

    “This is the point that it is not clear,” Rosenfeld says. “It could be that the food already contains BPA. However, we saw minimal levels when the dogs were on kibble.” In some cases, very low amounts can lead to equally if not greater harmful effects as high doses, she says. The greatest concerns may be at the low and high doses.

    “The doses we found in the dogs after being on canned food though were comparable to what has been linked to health problems in humans and rodents,” a list that includes diabetes and obesity, among others.

    If the dogs continued to eat the canned food, would BPA keep building up in their bodies?

    “We did not see what would happen if we took the dogs off the canned food or kept them on it longer,” Rosenfeld says. “These are definite follow-up studies.” Ideally, based on the results of this one, she says they would pursue long term studies to test BPA concentrations after long term feeding of canned food, examining the dogs for metabolic disorders—such as obesity and diabetes—and neurological ones, using MRI and behavioral testing.

    In a previous rodent study, they did find that the longer mice were on a diet containing BPA, even though it was being metabolized, it would start accumulating in their system so that greater amounts would persist over time, she says.

    In humans and primates, BPA is excreted through urine. “It is not clear how it is cleared in dogs.”

    While BPA affects the reproductive system, Rosenfeld says they did not find any gender differences in this initial study—“but we would need to test more dogs to confirm.”

    The main concern about the gut microbiome changes is that they have been linked with various diseases, including neurological, metabolic, immunological, gastrointestinal, and possibly even cancer, she says. “Thus, by affecting the gut microbiome, BPA could induce such secondary effects.”

    Unfortunately, a supposedly safe substitute for BPA, BPS, didn’t fulfill its goal. Rosenfeld says that in rodents and fish, BPS has already been shown to lead to similar health concerns as BPA. Their study didn’t test BPS in the cans. “It is not clear if some dog foods are using this substitute,” she says.

    “By feeding fresh food, dry food, and minimizing canned food, it will reduce exposure to BPA and BPS.”

     

    Wellness: Recipes
    Taking the Anxiety Out of Cooking For Our Dogs
    Helpful tips and starter recipe for making homemade dog food.
    Easy Recipe - Homemade Dog Food - DIY Meals for Dogs

    If you’re nervous about feeding your dog home-cooked food, you’re not alone. Many dog owners have concerns about the time involved, the cost and the consequences of failing to include the right ingredients to keep their furry friends healthy. On top of that, most vets frown on home cooking for dogs.

    Eight years ago, I started cooking for my dogs as a way to introduce quality ingredients into their diets and to help clients who had dogs with health problems. Since then, many clients have raved about the effects of a home-cooked diet on their dog’s health; seeing flaky fur turn glossy and the pleasure dogs seem to get from eating better is definitely inspirational.

    In the process, I found the slow cooker to be the perfect (and easiest) tool for homemade dog food meals. Combining the ingredients in the cooker and setting the time takes only minutes, which makes it appealing to those who shy away from home cooking because they think it’s too time-consuming.

    I started by using ingredients listed on the label of a high-quality canned food. I’ve also cooked chicken thighs and even whole young chickens with most of the skin removed. After 14 to 16 hours in the slow cooker, chicken bones become soft and crumbly and are a great source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins and healthful fats. (However, this isn’t true for cooked beef bones, which should never be given to dogs.)

    If your dog doesn’t have major medical problems and has tolerated food changes in the past, start the transition to home-cooked meals by preparing a small batch of low-fat food and gradually adding increasing amounts to his normal diet (25, 50, 75, then 100 percent over a four- to seven-day period). I recommend using low-fat meat or fish combined with white or brown rice.

    Because slow-cooked dog food may have more fat and vegetables than some commercial foods, dogs have been known to experience stomach or bowel upsets. Vomiting, indigestion or gas are signs that a dog’s digestive tract needs more time to adjust to the new ingredients, which can take days, or even weeks. 

    Dogs who have had pancreas issues need to eat a low-fat, limited-ingredient diet and be transitioned very carefully for a longer period of time. Remember, too, that dogs can be allergic to wheat, beef and/or chicken. Signs that your dog may be sensitive to the food include hives; excessive scratching; or red, itchy ears.

    On the other hand, if your dog seems happy and has normal stools with the new home-cooked food, increase the amount over a week’s time, as noted previously. Once you know he can tolerate the new diet, cook a larger batch and portion it into daily servings. Keep one week’s supply in the refrigerator and freeze the rest in resealable freezer bags or another suitable container. Thaw before feeding, but after that, to avoid spoilage, do not leave the food out longer than mealtime or allow it to sit at room temperature for hours (if your dog likes his food warm, it’s fine to heat it up before serving).

    In the starter recipe provided here, the protein is higher (about 50% dry matter) and the fat is lower (about 10% dry matter) than in most recipes. This mixture yields about 70% moisture, 10 to 15% protein, 5 to 7% fat, and 5 to 7% carbohydrates, depending on how much fat is in the meat and the quantity of green beans and rice used (or, 40 to 50% protein, 20 to 25% fat, and 25 to 30% carbohydrate by dry matter). 

    Starter Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Stew for Dogs
    • 3/4 to 1 pound cubed, skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, or lean beef, turkey or fish
    • 1 to 3 ounces chicken liver, hearts and gizzards, or another animal liver.
    • 1 or 2 whole eggs (source of healthy fat)
    • 8 ounces uncooked white or brown rice
    • 16 ounces green beans (frozen or canned; if using canned, drain off the liquid)
    • Bone meal, 1 teaspoon (about 1,500 mg) per pound of meat*
    • Water

    *Not needed for the trial period or if the home-cooked food is less than 10% to 20% of the dog’s daily diet.

    In a slow cooker, combine the chicken breasts, chicken liver, chicken hearts, gizzards and eggs. Add the bone meal, rice and green beans. Add water, then stir. (The longer the meat and veggies are cooked, the more water is needed. For this basic starter recipe, you don’t need to completely cover the ingredients. If you are slow-cooking chicken and bones for 14 hours, then more water is needed.) Cover and cook on low for 4 to 8 hours, until the breasts fall apart. Stir and add or drain water as needed to make a drier or moister stew. Let the mixture cool before feeding and refrigerating.

    Yield: 7 to 8 cups (60 oz.)

    Supplements (given separately or added to each meal)

    • Vitamin E: 2 IU per pound of dog daily.

    • Sardines in water: one-quarter to one tin twice weekly, or one to three 1,200 mg fish oil capsules daily. (Dose is based on 10 to 30 mg/pound of DHA and EPA).

    Note: Because it’s high in protein, this combination isn’t suitable for dogs with failing kidneys. To decrease the protein, double the amount of rice and green beans and/or use less meat (1/2 to 3/4 pound). 

    Depending on the level of fat and moisture in the food, most home-cooked diets prepared with lean meat have about 20 to 35 calories per ounce. To increase the calories, strain off some of the liquid from the stew or add some healthy fat, such as olive or non-GMO canola oil. An 8-ounce serving of this chicken-and-vegetable stew has about 200 calories. After the transition period, I recommend that you start out feeding your dog about the same amount of home-cooked food as you would canned food.

    So, to summarize, by cooking for your dog, you’re able to use the best ingredients available to you and mix them in the way that best suits your dog’s needs. If you follow a basic formula of muscle meat, organ meat, bone or bone meal, and a variety of vegetables, your dog will thrive. Home-cooked dog food can also be used to add quality ingredients to a kibble or canned-food diet. Your dog will love the variety! 

    Wellness: Recipes
    Alternative Methods for Making Yogurt for Your Dog
    DIY: How To Make Yogurt at Home
    Home-made yogurt
    Crock Pot Yogurt Method

    This is a very easy method to make yogurt. All you need is a slow cooker, milk, a live-active yogurt starter (either from a previous batch, or a store bought plain yogurt), and, a cooking thermometer (that is optional).

    Steps:

    1. Pour one to two quarts of milk (low fat or whole) into a slow cooker, cover the pot. Turn the heat on medium or high. Heat the milk slowly, it needs to get to reach at least 180 degrees (30 mins. to an hour or longer). Stir a few times while it is heating, make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and that it doesn’t boil.

    2. Turn the slow cooker off, uncover and unplug it and let the milk cool down to 110 degrees, this too can take 30 mins. to an hour or even longer.

    3. While the heated milk is cooling off, take the starter out of the refrigerator. If you are using a quart of milk use a tablespoon of the starter, if you are using two quarts, use 2 teaspoons.*

    4. Once the milk has cooled to 110 degrees, ladle a small amount (1/3 of a cup or so) into a small bowl or measuring cup with the starter, then stir or whisk. Make sure you incorporate all of it, and then slowly add that mixture back into the crock pot, stirring thoroughly.

    5. With the crock pot turned off, replace the lid, and wrap the pot with two or more towels. Make sure you do NOT disturb the pot; yogurt prefers a very still environment to go through the fermentation process. The low heat that was generated in Step 1, is sufficient for this process. This process can take 6 to 8 hours.

    6. If you are making Greek style yogurt, carefully transfer or pour the yogurt into the EuroCuisine strainer (or use cheesecloth) and refrigerate at least 4 hours. If you are making regular style yogurt, you can put the yogurt in mason/glass jars, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. If you are making Greek style yogurt, you will place the “finished” yogurt in glass jars, preserving the whey.

    Dehydrator Yogurt Method

    Yet another sure fire way to make yogurt is using a dehydrator. Following the same cooking steps in the “heating pad” method of heating the milk, cooling it, and inoculating it with a yogurt starter, the next step is to pour the milk into glass jars, cover each with a lid (the plastic mason jar lids work well) and place them on the bottom shelf of a dehydrator, first removing the other shelves. Many dehydrators have a temperature setting for yogurt. Place the cover back on the dehydrator and incubate for 8 to 10 hours at 115 degrees (or following the setting on your dehydrator). Similar to the other methods, after the yogurt has set, refrigerate at least 4 hours. You will be amazed at how different (thicker) the yogurt becomes after it has been refrigerated.

    If you are making Greek style yogurt, strained it either using cheese cloth in a strainer or the Euro Cuisine GY50 Greek Yogurt Maker method, first in the refrigerator, and then putting it into jars. Yogurt keeps for about a week.

     

    * Remember to make your next batch, use 2 tsp. from the present batch. We recently revised the amount for the starter from 2 tbsp. to only 2 tsp. In Sandor Katz's (the dean of fermentation) new book Wild Fermentation, that is what he recommended. I was so surprised that I actually contacted him about this change, as most every recipe you see will have noted the higher amounts and even in an earlier book of his that was his direction. He kindly wrote back "I use less and less! about 1 teaspoon per quart/liter these days." I've tried a few times now and yes it works much much better. 

    What is Whey?

    Whey is the by-product of the yogurt making process, especially when you strain yogurt to produce a thicker, i.e. Greek style product. Whey protein is considered a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content, so do not throw this precious liquid away! If you do not use it within a week or so, you can freeze it for later use.

    Here are some of the endless ideas for using whey protein:

    • For making smoothies (2 g of protein in one cup)

    • In baking muffins, pancakes, breads, dog treats.

    • Soaking beans or lentils (great to add to your dog’s meals)

    • Use as a “topping” for your dog’s food. *

    • As a substitute for buttermilk in recipes.

    • Use in salad dressings (it is as acidic as a citric juice).

    • Protein Shake

    Making A Super Protein Shake For Dogs

    One of my favorite uses for whey is to make a super protein “shake” for the dogs, that I mix into their meals or as a mid afternoon “slurp” snack. I was recently introduced to “nutrient extraction” super-blender appliances, such Nutribullet and Ninja. They make blending delicious and nutritious drinks and sauces so easy. For the dogs’ nutri-blasts, I use a handful of whatever leafy green vegetable, kale, spinach or chard, we have on hand, a few blueberries, a mix of goji berries, hemp and chia seeds, whey, and, for extra thickness, a tablespoon or so of yogurt—you can also add pulverized egg shells for more calcium. The Nutribullet grinds and mixes all these ingredients up in less than a couple of minutes. The dogs simply love it. If I have some cooked sweet potato, I add that too. The ingredient mixes are endless, plus it makes digesting vegetables easier for a dog’s digestive tract too.

    For more information about the other possible health benefits of whey protein, see dogcancer.net.au

    Wellness: Recipes
    Making Yogurt for You and Your Dog
    Instructions: DIY Making yogurt at home with heating pad method

    Yogurt is a wonder food, packed with probiotics, protein, calcium, B-12, and other nutrients, and oh so easy to make yourself. Being an ardent yogurt consumer (I like mine plain, thick and very sour), I had recently become dissatisfied with the batches I made using a standard yogurt maker that incubates the yogurt in little individual jars. So I went back to the drawing board (aka the Internet), and much to my amazement, there are at least three other methods (slow-cooker, dehydrator and heating pad) that produce perfect yogurt easily, each and every time. The one that I use is the heating pad method. So for that method you’ll need a heating pad, a large two-quart size glass vessel (with lid), a digital kitchen thermometer, a wooden spoon, whisk, spatula—a couple of large bathroom towels—and then the secret to making flawless Greek-style yogurt, a Greek-yogurt strainer from Euro-Cuisine (see below). That inexpensive utensil has become indispensable in my kitchen, so it’s hard not gush about it—also excellent for making homemade ricotta and other soft cheeses like quark.

    Just follow these simple steps:

    1. Heat ½ gallon of pasteurized milk (I typically use 2% but you can use whole milk as well) in a heavy pot slowly until it reaches around 185 ˚ on low to med-low heat. Be careful that you do not burn the bottom of the pot, stir occasionally but when it gets close to 165˚, stir more often. (Cooking time depends on the type of pot but can take at least 30 mins.)

    2. Remove the pot from the stove and then cool the milk to 110˚. It is extremely important that it is cooled down, any higher temperature can kill the yogurt starter. This also can take at least 30 mins.

    3. As the milk is cooling, remove 2 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt from the fridge (either from your previous batch, or store bought, but be sure to use plain yogurt with active bacteria, with no fillers) to get it to room temperature.

    4. Using a ladle, pour about a cup of milk into a bowl or measuring cup and stir in the yogurt you’ll be using for your “starter”. Whisk to totally get it blended, add the rest of the milk and whisk again.

    5. Place the container(s) on top of a pre-heated heating pad set to Medium. If you are using a pad that has a 2-hour automatic shut off (as many do), you will need to shut it back on at least 3 times during this incubation period. Or purchase a pad that does not have that shut-off feature (that type is actually less expensive). Put a top on the container, and then cover it with two thick bathroom towels, tucking the towels around the whole thing so it keeps to a reliable temperature.

    Now sit back and relax, yogurt making should take 7 hours, do NOT disturb it during this time. But at the end of 7 hours, give a peak (but not before) and see if it looks like it has thickened, if it hasn’t just cover it back up and wait another hour or so.

    6. For Greek style yogurt, carefully pour the thickened milk into the strainer (as explained above) or use cheese cloth placed inside of a colander or strainer and refrigerate for at least three hours. If you like a thinner style yogurt you can also just transfer it directly into pint Mason jars (with lids), but you will also need to refrigerate that for at least 3 hours to let it set.

    The longer you keep the yogurt in the strainer, the more whey is produced and the thicker the yogurt will be. I typically let it strain overnight, or 8 hours or longer, but that also produces a more “sour” yogurt. You can always add some of the whey back into the yogurt if you want to thin in down. Depending on the length of straining time, it will produce at least 4 cups of thick yogurt (right) and an equal portion of whey (left). Do not throw out the nutritious whey! There are numerous uses for whey, including baking with it (substituting any recipe that calls for buttermilk, such as muffins, pancakes and waffles). Good to pour a little on your dog’s food too. 

    * You can halve this recipe using only a quart of milk, but use the same amount of starter, 2 to 3 tbsps.

    See here for more recipes and directions on different preparation methods including using a slow cooker or dehydrator.

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