Who would have thought that we will have to discuss this subject? Just a few weeks ago everything seemed fine, shops were full, commercial dog food was available in abundance and everyone could get on with life as nature intended.
Alas, things changed in a blink of an eye. I had to buy a little extra for us from what was still available. Then proceeded to get more food for the boys. Ironically, I always have good supplies of their food because I don’t like the idea of running out (and facing their quizzical facial impressions at breakfast time!) This time I decided to get a little more, just to cover a couple of extra weeks. Suddenly, there was very little available. I got shivers running down my spine. Panic-googled. Found the food. Stocked up and felt my blood pressure and breathing returning to normal.
But I couldn’t stopped thinking about people who may have to self-isolate or simply shopped “as usual” and couldn’t get supplies for their pups. So I decided to write a couple of posts to help. Today we will talk about safe and nutritious food ingredients that can be found in our fridge and pantry, or bought during with the rest of the groceries. Tomorrow I will share a recipe for a home made dog food, which should help you get by for a few days or even weeks without putting your dog at risk.
The idea is to give your dog a recipe that will provide the basic nutrients including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals from the sources that are 100%. You may need to consult a vet if you have a puppy or a dog who has been unwell or diagnosed with a health condition because their diet will be slightly different and need to be customised further and based on each individual dog.
Poultry (chicken, turkey – free-range or organic if possible) – source of essential amino acids including calming tryptophan, vitamins A, D, B3, B5, B12, folate, choline, minerals potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, small quantities of essential fats. Always choose lean meat and remove the skin. Unless your dog requires a special prescription diet, the dark meat (i.e. skinless thighs) that is often more budget-friendly, is absolutely fine. So don’t think your cocker will need to eat breast meat as a rule.
Meat (beef, lamb, venison – grass-fed is possible) – source of essential amino acids, vitamins B3, B12, minerals including iron, zinc, choline, and phosphorus. Grass-fed meat will also be a good source of vitamin E. Meat, especially venison, is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Always choose extra lean meats and remove any visible fat. If your dog is on prescription diet, do not use red meats unless it was agreed with your vet.
Eggs (free-range or organic if possible) – ideal source of protein, source of vitamins A, D, B2, B5, B12, biotin, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and iodine.Raw egg whites contain avidin that prevents absorption of biotin. Always cook them before feeding to your dog.
Liver (chicken or lamb, free-range, grass-fed or organic if possible) if your dog can eat it without problems. It’s a very condensed source of nutrients including iron, vitamins A, D, and group B, and thus should only be fed in very small quantities, never – as a main protein source of the dog’s diet and only to dogs without underlying or diagnosed health problems unless discussed with a vet.
Fish (cod, sardines, salmon, trout, herring) – dogs need more fish in comparison to meat. Bear this in mind when planning their diet. Fish is a great source of protein, one of the best sources of vitamins B12 and D, B6, minerals phosphorus, iodine and choline, and essential fatty acids.
However be careful with oily fish – the oils do have benefits, but any fatty fish can increase the risk of pancreatitis. Too much of Omegas can lead to inflammation instead of benefits and cause vitamin E deficiency. Fish may also contain heavy metals or pesticide residue.
Fish must always be cooked because it contains an enzyme called thiaminase that affects absorption of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and some fish can contain a parasite Neorickettsia helmonthoeca, which can lead to potentially fatal poisoning.
Do not feed dogs any tinned fish containing salt and/or spices.
Grains (rice, buckwheat, oats) – grains work as a source of B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Buckwheat, which is a seed, not a grain as such, is one of the best sources of rutin, zeaxanthin and lutein. Oats provide biotin, magnesium, molybdenum and phosphorus. Beside their nutritional brilliance, grains work as the most straightforward and simple way to add both soluble and insoluble fibre to your dogs diet and ensure that his digestive tract and anal glands remain healthy.
Sweet potato – a wonderful vegetable source of fibre, vitamin A, group B vitamins, vitamins C and K, copper, manganese and zinc. You can replace sweet potato with butternut squash or pumpkin, which keep longer. You can also buy frozen chopped squash cubes. They will last for months in the freezer.
You can use one of the sources for the carbohydrate part of the meal, combine them 50/50 or do 2 parts of rice and 1 part of sweet potato.
If you run out of absolutely everything above, your dog can have plain pasta. It’s not ideal but it will work for a few days.
Hempseed, flaxseed or sunflower oil (cold pressed) – a source of ALA, alpha-linoleic acid, the most important fatty acids for dogs. Hempseed and sunflower oil are to be used for dogs fed a meat-based diet, whilst flaxseed creates the right balance of fatty acids in diets based on chicken and eggs.
Coconut oil (extra virgin, cold-pressed) – another great source of linoleic acid, this oil is also a source of lauric acid known for its antibacterial properties.
You will have everything covered with the basic ingredients, but the foods below will add extra goodness to any meal. They fall into 10% of less of the total daily diet for your pooch. Really, choose a couple per day and rotate every other day.
Eggs shells – as a source of calcium when you can’t get commercial dog food with added vitamins and minerals. Collect eggs shells, clean and dry them, remove the inner membrane, spread on a shallow tray and bake at 150C for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool and grind into a powder using a coffee grinder. Store in an air tight container. If egg powder is not for you, use a supplemental form of calcium such as Riaflex made of green lipped mussels. A dog needs about 50mg of calcium per 1 kg of body weight or about 1mg of calcium per 1 calorie, which means that an average adult cocker needs about 700mg of calcium daily. 1g of egg shell provides 400mg.
Yoghurt (natural, organic, no added flavour, sugars, preservatives or sugar substitutes such as xylitol) – yoghurt will add beneficial bacteria and calcium. Most dogs can tolerate up to 1tbsp of yoghurt without any issues.
Blueberries (fresh or frozen – here goes your supply for blueberry muffins) or cranberries – it is safe to give 2 berries per 1 kilo of dog’s body weight. More can cause diarrhoea.
Passata – choose sieved (seed free) passata made of 100% tomatoes, without added salt, citric acid, sugar and spices. 1 tsp per day for an adult cocker is enough. Do not confused with unripe tomatoes or any parts of the tomato plant that are toxic to dogs.
Carrots – 1-2 thin slices, cooked or raw.
Cucumbers – 1-2 thin slices, raw, but seeds removed.
Nori or seaweed – 1/4 tsp per day.
Apples – 1-2 thin slices per day, seeds must be removed.
Honey (raw honey or whenever possible, raw manuka honey) – extra minerals, plus it’s antibacterial and antiviral.
Also a word of warning for those feeding raw. Whilst I do not advocate it for English cockers, I understand that is your choice and I respect that. Just be careful if you have to store extra quantities of raw meals because they may not keep well for long periods of time. Take extra precautions when handling it, too, especially when you are not well because your immune system will be susceptible to bacteria and viruses. Consider cold pressed food option whenever possible.
If you would like to learn more about canine nutrition for English cocker spaniels, you will find all the information in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel.