For about a year, I’ve been supplementing our dogs’ quality kibble with homemade turkey burgers (along with whole-wheat pasta and cooked vegetables). Our three dogs eat twice a day; at each meal, our largest dog (45 pounds) gets half a burger, while the two smaller ones (30 and 25 pounds) roughly share the other half.
I developed the recipe myself, and while I tried to cover the bases in terms of appropriate canine nutrition, I had no particular agenda in mind—I mostly just wanted to make our dogs’ meals a little more interesting for them. Curious about the burgers’ nutritional value, I turned to Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, RD, professor at Central Michigan University and devoted Akita person, to find out how my culinary experiment stacked up.The Recipe
Makes approx. 36 3-inch patties, each about 3.5 ounces
Total prep time: 20 minutes
Total cooking time: 1 hour
Preheat oven to 400°
Mix well, making sure all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Shape into 3-inch patties, place on lightly oiled (with spray oil), rimmed baking sheet(s). Optional: Spread little ketchup (about 1/8 tsp.) on top of each patty.
Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. A longer baking time will produce a drier and easier-to-crumble burger.
Tip: Deglaze the baking sheet with water, which makes a great gravy that can be used to moisten the meal. This recipe makes around 1 1/2 to 2 cups of this gravy. It’s also an easy way to help clean the baking pan.The Analysis
By Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, RD
There is much controversy within the veterinary nutritionist community about commercial pet food and home cooking. And, since manufacturing standards for canine food are so much different than those we apply in our own kitchens, it’s difficult to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Nonetheless, using proprietary nutrition software, it’s possible to determine the relative values of the major food components of Claudia’s recipe with those found in commercially produced dog food (in parens).
Analysis (per patty)
Note: All measurements are given in terms of 100 kilocalories (kcals) against measurement standards used by commercial food manufacturers.
Protein: 7.5 grams (8 grams is considered high protein)
Calories: 5.3 kcals (5 or more kcals is considered high calorie)
Fat: 2 grams (a low-fat food contains less than 2 grams, so this is neither high nor low)
Sodium: 30 mg (anything less than 100 mg per serving is considered low-sodium)
Fiber: 0.75 grams (neither high nor low)
Moisture loss with one hour covered cooking time is approximately 10 to 15 percent. High heat and long cooking time will destroy 90 percent of the thiamin and up to 50 percent of some of the other B vitamins in the burgers. On the bright side, it will also kill pathogens, so you don’t have to worry about the contamination that’s a concern when it comes to undercooked meats.
Used as a “topper” to both to increase palatability and provide calories, protein and other nutrients, the turkey burger is a great addition to a complete commercial dog food. Feeding turkey burgers as toppers may also be helpful for older dogs, who often have poor appetites, or dogs who have been ill or malnourished. In those cases, the turkey burger need not replace the commercial food, but rather, could be fed in addition to it.
As the recipe is given, it would not be advisable to feed turkey burgers as the sole source of nutrition because they may be too high-calorie for some dogs, and also because they’re missing some of the other nutrients dogs need. Obesity is becoming an epidemic among dogs, as it is in humans. Caloric restriction and regular exercise are important for weight maintenance, particularly as a dog ages.
As always, choose the best commercial food you can afford. To educate yourself on the options and issues, try out one of the online dog food evaluators; Dogfoodadvisor.com is a good place to start.
The Background: Canine Nutrition
Dogs, who are omnivorous, require the same sorts of major nutrients—proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and vitamins and minerals—as human omnivores, but in different ratios. For example, they have an absolute requirement for linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, and for nearly a dozen amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These amino acids range from the complex (arginine and phenylalanine) to simple (leucine and valine).
We and our four-legged companions get all 22 amino acids from protein sources such as eggs or meats, which contain varying percentages of each one. Some protein sources contain most of them, others only a fraction. Meats, eggs and fish are among the best sources of complete amino acids, and their proteins are highly digestible; this means that the amino acids are absorbed more readily from the gut.
Standards for minimal nutritional composition of food for dogs are based on percentages, which are determined by a dog’s physiological status; the percentages are higher for dogs during growth, reproduction and lactation stages, and increase as the weight of the animal increases. Usually, the amount fed to achieve the minimal percentages required for maintenance of normal physiological function in the dog is based on dry matter per kilogram of body weight. That is why labels that show the number of cups of food to be fed per day base the measurement on the size of the dog. Companies formulate their foods to provide a specific amount of protein, linoleic acid, and calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.
If you’re cooking for your dog and want to do your own analysis, a number of websites allow you to do that, but none can be considered foolproof. For example, there’s the USDA Nutrient Database. This is a food calculator only, and doesn’t contain information on ingredients that one might use in a dog-food recipe, such as eggshells (a free web calculator that includes eggshells can be found here: nutritiondata.self.com).
Healthy home-cooked meals for your dogs
In the April/May 2011 issue of The Bark, we interview Barbara Laino about the nutritional benefits of feeding your dog home-cooked meals in addition to, or in lieu of, commercial dog food (see “Home Cooking with Barbara Laino” April/May ’11). Here are two more recipes cooked up at Laino’s Midsummer Farm in Warwick, N.Y., that are sure to please your pup’s taste buds and keep her healthy:
Homemade Dinner Recipe for Dogs
This recipe feeds 2-3 large dogs for 7-10 days.
Grind the following ingredients in a meat grinder. Alternate ingredients so the grinder does the mixing for you. For instance, grind six necks, one carrot, a handful of pumpkin seeds, then six more necks and so on. Mix with a large spoon as you grind.
Add a couple of the following items. Have these ready on hand as you are grinding and add a sprinkle here and there of each so you can thoroughly mix the batch of food.
After grinding and mixing all ingredients thoroughly, keep the food in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Midsummer Farm Homemade Fish-Based Dog Dinner
(The below recipe is for 1 medium dog for 3 days, about 10 1-cup-size meatballs) This recipe can be made in larger batches for efficiency sake. This raw food can easily be frozen in meatball shapes appropriate for the size animals you are feeding.
Serving Sizes of Raw Meatballs:
Keep in a well-sealed container in fridge. Scoop out appropriate amounts for your pet, or if you made a very large batch that is more than can be consumed in about 5 days, roll into meal-sized meatballs and freeze. Then you can just take out whatever number meatballs you need and defrost them a couple days before you need to feed them. Meatballs will last at least 3 months in the freezer.
To learn more about homemade dog food and its many benefits, see our interview with Barbara Laino.
Note: We've omitted the garlic originally in this recipe.
Fast, easy and nutritious turkey feast.
It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to give thanks! Working in animal rescue, I’ve seen a lot of heartbreak, but I’ve also seen and experienced the love that a rescued animal can bring to a human and vice versa. Each one of my rescued dogs gives me so much joy and love every day—cooking for them and making sure they are healthy is the least I can do to say thanks. This recipe is chock-full of nutritious and delicious ingredients that help keep your beloved pup healthy and happy.
Makes 4 servings for a 50-pound dog
2 tbsps. olive oil
1. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the turkey and cook until it is browned. Drain any excess fat and set the turkey aside to cool.
2. Prepare the barley as directed on the package. Set it aside to cool. You should have about 1 cup of cooked barley.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. If using the garlic, add it and sauté until it is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté, stirring frequently until wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
4. Once cooled, puree the spinach and garlic mixture in a food processor and set it aside. You should have about a 1⁄4 cup of spinach puree.
To Make One Serving
1 1/3 cups cooked ground turkey
In your dog’s bowl, combine the turkey, barley, spinach puree, with beef heart, pumpkin, salmon oil and parsley. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
For a serving chart of proportions for different size dogs, see bowmeowraw.com
Home Cooking for Your Dog by Christine M. Filardi © Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013
Note: We've omitted the garlic originally in this recipe.
Dehydrating food is all the rage these days — great for summer’s fruit, berry and vegetable bounty, and for making sumptuous, healthy treats for your dogs (not to mention yourself). While it’s possible to dehydrate food in an oven, it’s much more efficient and convenient to use a dehydrator. And making it in your own home means you don’t have to worry about contaminants or adulterated ingredients. (We hear you can also make yogurt in a dehydrator — wouldn’t your dog love that!)
Here’s a recipe for every dog’s favorite: chicken jerky. Before you start, make sure you have a very sharp knife. Also, partially frozen meat is easier to slice, and the thinner the slices, the less time they take to dry.
It will probably take between 3 and 12 hours for the strips to fully dry, depending on how thick you cut them and the exact temperature of your dehydrator. After the first hour, start checking the strips on an hourly basis. To determine the dryness level, remove one strip from the dehydrator, cut into it with a sharp knife and examine the inside. When the meat is completely dried, you won’t see any moisture and it will be the same color throughout. If it needs more time, put it back in for another hour. As it gets closer to being finished, check every half hour.
When your chicken jerky is done, store it in air-tight containers; zip-lock bags work great for this. Refrigerate the containers for an even longer shelf life.
Sweet Potato Chews
Dehydrate at the highest setting 145-155 until done. Drying approximately 6-8 hours will leave them with a chewy texture. For crunchier treats dehydrate longer until the desired consistency.
More Recipes from "Dog Cookies"
Every dog deserves the occasional cookie, but some treats can trigger allergies or tummy trouble. Dog Cookies comes to the rescue with 30 easy-to-follow recipes for healthy, allergen-free treats—including vegetarian and gluten-free treats—so you can find the perfect cookie no matter your dog’s diet.
For the gluten-free Amaranth Waffles recipe, see the Summer 2011 issue of The Bark.
Baking time: 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven
Any type of fish can be used for this recipe, so use whichever your dog likes best.
Caution: Ensure all of the bones are removed from the fish.
Regardless of which fish you use, these biscuits should not be stored for too long. Salmon, for example is quite high in fat, so there is a risk it may go rancid. Store the biscuits in an airtight container, and do not keep them for any longer than two weeks.
Baking time: 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven
A perfect recipe for summer
Stepping out with our furry friends during the sunniest time of the year makes for hot and hungry dogs. This quick, simple recipe is designed to cool off your pup, while providing a delectable, tasty treat! Makes 30-40 cubes, enough to last the summer. Feel free to add other tasty items like raspberries and strawberries, or any of the superfoods listed here (yogurt-fish-honey pops, anyone?).
4 cups yogurt (flavored or plain, non-fat if needed)
Melt peanut butter in microwave for about 30 seconds
Place all of the ingredients into a blender, mixer or food processor and mix well (until smooth)
Pour into ice cube trays or Popsicle trays.
Freeze until firm.
Pop out of the tray (you’ll need a knife) and let your dog enjoy this frozen treat!
Recipe from Pet Guide
Yummy Picnic Recipes
Summertime means picnics and cookouts … and burgers and watermelon for everybody, even our dogs! Next time you gather around the picnic table plan on packing something special for the pups. Bark contributor Natalya Zahn shares her recipe for a dog-delicious burger/bun combo, sweet potato chips and watermelon pops …
BIG DOG BURGER
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (mix with hands). Form into “burgers” and space 1" apart in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes. Cool before serving and store in refrigerator.
PB & JAM THUMBPRINTS
Combine all dry ingredients, then mix in peanut butter, bananas and water. Mix until dough forms. Shape dough into 1" rounds, place on baking sheet and press thumb into centers. Bake at 350˚ for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Heat jam in a saucepan or microwave until liquid in consistency. With a spoon, drip the jam into the center of each cookie. Let stand 1 hour for jam to set. Store in an airtight container.
LIVER CRACKER “BUN”
In a bowl, combine flour, wheat germ and parsley — set aside. Briefly blend liver in a food processor. Add liver to dry ingredients, then mix in oil and water until a sticky dough forms. On a greased cookie sheet, shape bun rounds — about 3" in diameter and 1/2" thick. Brush with egg white and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top. Bake at 400˚ for 15-20 minutes. Buns should be slightly soft in the center when pressed. Cool before assembling burger and serving.
WATERMELON FREEZE CUBES
Cut melon into roughly 3/8" slices. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes out of the flesh of the melon and place on a freezer-safe plate. Chill for 4 hours. Remove from freezer, transfer treats from plate to Ziploc freezer bag and store frozen until ready to eat.
SWEET POTATO CHIPS
Slice whole potatoes into rounds: a 1/4" slice will create a crispier chip, a 1/2" slice will create a chewier chip. Place on a foil-lined sheet. Bake at 250˚ for 2 hours, turning over once. Allow to cool on sheet. Chips should be stored in an airtight container.
Treats that pack a punch
What dog doesn’t love peanut butter? Granola Peanut-Butter Crunchies are a good way to satisfy that craving and add nutritious foods to the mix. (The smell is irresistible, too.) The crunchies can be broken into smaller bits; on our park outings, I put just a couple in my pocket to treat all three of my dogs. Whole or broken up, they pack of punch of flavor. Homemade peanut butter is great, but store-bought is also fine (see this easy peanut-butter recipe). I used a blend of almond/coconut milk to add even more flavor, and for dogs who might be lactose intolerant.
Substitutions: Grated veggies suchas carrots or zucchini can be used instead of the fruit.
Preheat oven to 325°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, or butter and dust with fl our.
Grind all the seeds slightly in a food processor or blender. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Heat the coconut oil and honey long enough to soften. Beat an egg in a small bowl. Put the peanut butter (best at room temperature) into a food processor, add the almond milk or yogurt and process; add the egg, oil and honey, process again.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing with a wooden spoon. The mixture should hold together well enough to be easily shaped into balls; if it seems too wet, add some whole-wheat fl our. Shape into 1½-inch balls and place on the baking sheet; they can be spaced closely. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.
(Optional: halfway through, turn each granola ball over so they brown evenly.) Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight jar. These treats can also be frozen.
Makes about 3 dozen
Whether you use it for baking treats, making pills more enticing, making a cool frozen treat*, Kong snuffing, or simply letting your dog lick a dab off your finger—dogs love their peanut butter. What better way to ensure that this delicious food is safe and nutritious than to make it yourself? It couldn’t be simpler to do.
Small Batch PB
Process until the PB is the desired consistency. It is important to note that PB goes through different stages: starting with a crushed “blob,” then to a paste with the consistency of a pie dough, and to a thicker paste before it finally becomes a creamy "butter." It can take around 3 minutes for the oils to be released so the "paste" can become a butter. When I first made PB I wasn’t aware of all the stages, so stopped at “thicker paste” which made it difficult to spread, even though the dogs didn't seem to mind! But only a minute or two more processing time results in a perfectly creamy peanut butter. Lesson here is to keep processing. If your blender or food processor gets too warm, turn it off, and let it cool, and continue processing. It seems like almost magic once you get to that buttery stage.
For crunchy style PB, chop up ¼ cup or so of peanuts, then using a spatula, add to the finished processed PB.
Use a cup of peanut butter, 1/2 mashed banana, mix with a little water. Put into ice cube trays (silicone ones work well). Freeze for a few hours. Dogs love these delicious lickings.
HOW TO DO IT
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Measure wheat fl our and oatmeal, mix with baking powder.
3. Add eggs, yogurt and sunfl ower oil, stir well.
4. Carefully add the washed blueberries.
5. Take off clumps with a tablespoon and place on an oiled baking pan.
6. Bake about 25 minutes.
Stick a toothpick into a scone. If dough still sticks to it, bake the scones a few more minutes.
TIP: For a small dog, use a teaspoon and make small scones. Reduce baking time to 20 minutes.
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