With Cotton on pure home-cooked food (from now I will refer as HCF), I am obligatorily bound (hehe) to ensure her diet is whole and nutritionally complete. I want her to live forever, plus failure to do so could potentially result in skeletal problems, such as osteomalacia in which the body takes calcium from the bones, turning them into a rubber like consistency, that vets have reported seeing a rising trend in. Dogs suffering from long termed calcium deficiency are forced to be euthanised as they can no longer walk or run, and are in constant pain.
Hence, HCF diets aren’t an art like normal cooking, but a science, like baking, in which too much or too little of a certain ingredient can result in inedible results. Plus, you have to make it yummy for the furkid (this furkid here has exquisite tastes, even the most popular foods revered by other dogs get rejected by her majesty Cotton) — thus it’s a scientific art 😀
When we first got Cotton, we weren’t aware of the importance of giving a nutritionally balanced diet, and her meals (for the first two months) revolved around 60% chicken breast and thigh meat and 40% vegetables (broccoli, carrots, potato) , cooked in soup. There were no variations, additives or supplements such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut oil, bonemeal or eggshell powder. The lack of variations could, in the long run, have resulted in allergies.
1) Broccoli, which was a constant in her food initially, should not be fed over long periods.
As an occasional treat, it is healthy and great for your dog. But Broccoli contains isothiocyanate, which is a gastric irritant. It’s also what causes broccoli toxicity in animals. We now give her broccoli every few months and her vegetables revolve around sweet peas, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, honey beans, french beans, sweet potato, spinach, parsley and carrots — on a rotationally basis to create variation.
2) Variation is a must to prevent allergies
Most often, pet owners will say that their dogs have developed allergy or intolerance to certain meats as they grew older. This is because dogs (and all animals) are designed to consume a range of different foods, and to obtain differing vitamins and minerals from each. Changing foods, importantly the contents of those foods, every so often helps to give them the variety their bodies were designed to thrive on.
(Read more here)
3) Calcium:Phosphorous ratio should be 1:1 to 2:1
Although tedious and not the most accurate of calculations, I try to balance the amount of phosphorus in Cotton’s food with a slightly higher amount of calcium from the egg shell powder or bone meal we make.
To do so, you could try websites like Eat This Much or SELF Nutrition Data . If you’re fancier like Iggy, and without a budget, you could use Balance It — they will generate a nutritionally complete diet based on your dog’s breed, weight and physical activity, and send you supplements to help with that (not sure if it ships to Singapore).
Meat contains high amounts of phosphorous and when we cooked 1.8kg of pork for Cotton, the imbalance was nearly 5300mg (which we supplemented with eggshell powder). If not for the supplementing, this 5300mg would have been extracted from her bones, which would have been really bad for her body, rendering homecooked diet even more disastrous than commercial diet.
4) Vegetables (especially those high in cellulose) have to be ground down due to dog’s shorter digestive tract
Dogs do not have such a long and complex digestive system as we humans do (which is why they are such poop machines). To aid them with digesting these vegetables and obtaining the nutrients, grinding down before feeding must be done, else the nutrients in the vegetables are wasted.
5) Depending on the amount of activity and size of your dog, heavy carbohydrates can be added or omitted. Because Cotton is relatively small and doesn’t get crazy amounts of exercise (10 min walk in the morning and 45 mins in the late afternoons), other than vegetables higher in sugars like carrots and sweet potato, we do not give her pure carbs like brown rice (we had a weevil infestation and ever since then there has been no more rice grains in our house) or quinoa. HCF would be more expensive for a larger dog, hence good fillers like oats or quinoa could be added.
6) Organ meat should constitute roughly 10-20% of the total diet
Compared to regular cuts of muscle meat, organ meats are more densely packed with just about every nutrient, including heavy doses of B vitamins such as: B1, B2, B6, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Organ meats are also loaded with minerals like phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and iodine, and provide the important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
7) All in all, a good gauge on whether your dog is healthy (regardless of diet) is through his poop.
I personally make it a point to check Cotton’s poop daily (unless mama Tan scoops it away before I notice) to check whether her diet is good. Her poop is often brown, firm and leaves little to residue on the ground. Best of all, it doesn’t smell bad (often smelling like eggshells) and on a side note, her fart doesn’t stink at all (or perhaps she just doesn’t fart at all lol).
Donna’s owner, JX, from We Live In A Flat writes about the ideal poop consistency and provides a fecal chart, that is helpful in understanding what is the good consistency of Fido’s poop, whether he has accidentally ingested anything and whether any unwanted parasites are in his body.
If I learn more info to create better diets for dogs, I will update this post! Until then, hope this helps 😀
Remember, HCF is easy, but you need to research extensively (just like RAW feeding) before trying it out and from then on it will be a breeze 😉 For more references, you can refer to our older post on good articles or our HCF recipes.
Jamie and Cotton ❤