Recipe for a home made dog food, grain free or gluten free, canine nutrition, (C) perfect cocker spaniel book and advice for English cocker spaniel owners, diet, grooming, training / Natalia Ashton

Feeding your dog during self-isolation & panic buying | Part II: a home made recipe for stay-at-home hounds

Happy meals for happy dogs, that’s the way to go! Yesterday I shared a list of ingredients to prepare a home made meal for your beloved hounds. Today I am going to share a recipe for the spaniel (or any dogster) in your life to keep him healthy, satisfied and content even if you run out of dog food, have to self-isolate or simply feel like cooking him a special meal.

If you don’t have all of the ingredients, don’t worry. I’ll give you alternatives to get everything covered. The recipe itself can be found at the end of this post. But if you are a bit of a nutrition geek, keep reading the part where things get a little “science’y”.

I called this dish a “Happy meal” because the idea is to give the dog something without excessive quantities of protein to prevent hyperactivity, yet provide correct balance of proteins and carbohydrates, and most importantly – sources of amino-acid tryptophan and essential co-factor nutrients including vitamin B3, B6, B12, folic acid, iron, chromium, zinc, magnesium and Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. Together these special ingredients will help the brain to synthesise and maintain the levels of happy hormone serotonin known for its ability to keep the dog relaxed and calm.

Turkey is the star ingredient of the meal because it’s one of the best sources of tryptophan. It is also a very good source of iron essential for the transport of oxygen between cells and tissues, nourished coat and strong immune system. We will be using the breast meat to reduce the amount of poultry fat, which would allow an addition of other sources of fatty acids to meet your dog’s daily needs and get as many benefits as possible, too.

Chicken liver makes a fantastic addition because it’s a wonderful source of retinol (or vitamin A) for strong immunity, eye, skin, bone and hormonal health, and B12 to support DNA synthesis, healthy heart and enzyme production, and also contains plenty of iron, folic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin C Liver is the “cleansing” organ, so it is important to choose organic to avoid an unnecessary overload of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and any other toxic waste that the body had to deal with.

Liver and the added egg yolk are two sources of choline, a “brain food” that keeps it healthy by supporting the cell structure, ability to communicate with the rest of the body and may help to reduce anxiety levels. The levels of choline decline with age, so it’s important to top it up through food.

The biotin in egg yolk will support healthy coat, skin and nails without the need to use supplements because those can lead to toxicity.

Adding buckwheat helps to meet energy requirements for complex carbohydrates and fibre without the need to include regular grains, which some terrier breeds may not tolerate well due to their genetics. To our benefit, buckwheat is one of the few “faux grains” that contains substantial quantities of tryptophan as well as the necessary “transport” for the amino acid to cross the blood-brain barrier and actually reach it’s destination. It is full of folic acid, vitamin B3, manganese, calcium, zinc, chromium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium essential for the immune and nervous system. The “grain” is one of the wonderful sources of quercetin (often referred to as rutin) known to prevent and reduce allergic response and inflammation in the body, supporting heart health and reducing the risk of several cancers.

Buckwheat can be replaced with rice or oats.

Oats are used to provide both soluble and insoluble fibre as well as protein, biotin, zinc, chromium and magnesium. Oats are also high in tryptophan and are often referred to as sleep-inducing grain. Biotin will improve the coat and skin, zinc will take care of the immune system, hormones, wound healing, DNA and hundreds of enzymatic reactions throughout the body. The chromium in oats will improve the body’s resilence to stress, control blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart problems and support metabolism.

Oats also work as a natural prebiotic since we are not using any in a supplementary form.

Rice is a source of carbohydrates and fibre. It also contains B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and iron.

Sweet potato is another special food packed with vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, calcium and fibre. Besides supporting production of serotonin, the vegetable will help the dog maintain healthy eyes, skin, reproductive hormones, strong bones and reduce the risk of cancers thanks to beta-carotene

Organic cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil and cold pressed flaxseed oil will ensure that our dog gets Omega 3 as well as plenty of linoleic Omega 6 acid – the most essential fatty acid for canine health. It helps to maintain cell membranes, supports the immune and nervous system, skin and coat. Dogs cannot produce it and rely on food sources for the daily supplies.

Flaxseed oil also helps to balance the essential fatty acids ALA (alphalenoleic acid) and LA (linoleic acid) which is essential when the dogs are fed poultry-based meals.

Fats are also important for proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Next come a few special ingredients that are only needed in minute quantities to make a big difference to the dog’s well-being.

Unlike green tomatoes and tomato plants that are known to be toxic, fully ripe tomatoes without seeds do not only add beta-carotene, biotin, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin C, molybdenum, calcium, magnesium and iron, but also lycopene – a cancer-fighting anti-oxidant and zeaxanthin – another anti-oxidant essential for supporting healthy vision in ageing dogs.

Blueberries are a source of antioxidants, vitamins A, group B, C, and K, and minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium. They will support healthy heart, strong bones and  healthy digestive and nervous system.

Yoghurt will add a serenity-boosting tryptophan, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin C, choline, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. But above else, yoghurt will supply beneficial bacteria to support healthy digestive tract and strong immune system.

Manuka honey is added to the food as a source of 80 trace minerals and for it’s anti-bacterial properties. It also helps to prevent stress-reduced colitis in anxious and agitated dogs.

Seaweed is used for it’s ability to support adrenal and pituitary glands responsible for stress-handling. The nutritionally dense food is a source of calcium, iron and magnesium essential for bone health and muscle contractions.

No recipe would be complete without calcium and for this reason we are steering clear of processed bone meal or potentially gut-irritating supplements, and turning our attention to green lipped mussels or egg shell powder. The mussels will add more anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats into the diet, and most importantly, plenty of chondroitin and calcium to support healthy bones and reduce the risk of arthritis. The egg shell powder is a great back-up option.

Use the “superfoods” when the meal is cooled and ready to serve to preserve their unique properties that can be destroyed by heat.

The recipe below contains ingredients to prepare a meal to feed a healthy 10-kg dog for a day. If your dog has been neutered, reduce the quantities by 10 per cent. If your dog is very active or lives in a multiple dog household, increase the quantities by 5 per cent. Choose organic whenever possible.

HAPPY MEAL for happy hounds (feeds a 10kg adult dog for a day)


80g turkey breast mince (or replace with 70g skinless chicken or 70g lean beef or 2 eggs or 160g white fish)

30g chicken liver, finely chopped

1 small egg

100g dry buckwheat (or replace with 90g rice, dry weight, 110g dry oats or 130g sweet potato, raw weight or 80g dry pasta)

70g raw sweet potato (or replace with 70g raw butternut squash or 70g raw pumpkin)

1 tsp passata (made with 100% tomatoes, free from ascorbic acid, salt or other ingredients) (or replace with 1 tsp chopped small tomato, skin and seeds removed or tinned tomatoes made with 100% tomatoes, no salt, spices or additive)

20 blueberries, fresh or frozen (optional)

1/4 tsp cold pressed raw virgin coconut oil

3g or 1/3 tsp cold-pressed flaxseed oil (or replace with 1/3 tsp hempseed oil if you use beef as a main ingredient)

1 scoop green lipped mussels powder (we use Riaflex Green Lipped Mussel Powder) (or replace with approx. 1/2 tsp egg shell powder (read how to make it and calculate precise quantities for your dog in my previous post)

1/4 tsp dried nori flakes (we use Clear spring Japanese Green Nori seaweed sprinkle) or Plaque Off seaweed powder

1/4 tsp raw honey (manuka honey or any raw honey of your choice)

1 tsp plain natural yoghurt (cows, goats, sheep or buffalo)

1/4 tsp chopped parsley (optional, do not use if your dog is pregnant)


  1. Cook the buckwheat (or rice) at a ratio of 1 part of grain and 2 parts of filtered water.  Oats need to be cooked at a ratio of 1 part grain and 4 parts of water (or use packet instruction). Leave to cool. (If you are using sweet potato or squash – bake it in skin or steam to preserve nutrients as much as possible. Cook pasta as per packaging instructions)
  2. Wash the sweet potato, pierce with a fork, put on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 180C fan until soft. Leave to cool, then scoop the flesh into a bowl.
    Sweet potato, pumpkin or butternut squash can also be peeled and steamed instead. 
  3. Put the turkey and liver in a pan, cover with water and cook on medium heat until ready. Cool, preserve the stock. Chop the meat finely.
  4. Hard-boil the egg (or eggs, if you are using them as a main protein source), allow to cool. Peel and chop. Use the shells to make the egg shell powder.
  5. In a large bowl combine buckwheat, sweet potato, turkey, liver, egg, tomatoes, blueberries, oils, and honey, and mix well. Add a little stock to make it sticky, if you like.
  6. Keep in an air tight container.
  7. When ready to serve, divide into two meals.
  8. Just before serving, add yoghurt, calcium source from one of the options above, parsley (if using), yoghurt and seaweed powder.


Photo credit: photo by Maria Kovaleva (C) / Shutterstock

Tottering by Annie Tempest / covid19 panic shopping / dog food / how to feed your dog when you are self-isolating / home made dog diet food recipe / published on Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / advice and tips for English cocker spaniel owners / canine nutrition tips / (C) Natalia Ashton

Feeding your dog during self-isolation & panic buying | Part I

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.

Delicious additions:

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

Image credit: with a big Thank you to wonderful Annie Tempest / Tottering by Gently / for allowing me to use this fabulous cartoon 


how to choose best natural treats and training treats for puppies and dogs / puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Collagen dog chews. Are they really a safer alternative to rawhide?

Have you heard of the new dog chews that were introduced recently? Marketed as “natural collagen chews” and a “safe alternative to rawhide”, they sounded too good to be true, so the sceptic in me got really curious.

According to the manufacturers, the “chewllagen” treats are made from “corium”, a part of the skin that consists of collagen and this is what makes the new chews different and safe compared to the typical rawhide.

It does sound really wonderful, promising, convincing and science’y for anyone not particularly concerned with the anatomy of the skin. However, being a nutritionist and a kind of dog mum who likes to get to the bottom of everything that goes into my dog’s mouth, I did think of the physiology part, and that’s when my inner sceptic got partially confused and partially frustrated.

Naturally all mammals have a very similar skin structure. The top layer may be different depending on the species and environment (for example, an alligator skin will certainly be different from the rabbit’s or pheasant, and the latter will, indeed, will look different compared to the human skin), but the layers of the skin and their primarily functions will be very much alike.

All skins can be divided into two main layers – the epidermis (also known as epithelium) or the outer layer, and the dermis (or corium) the thicker layer that lies underneath the epidermis.

The epidermis portion of the skin is very thin yet strong. It forms a barrier between the body and the environmental dangers including pathogens, chemicals and UV rays. It also supports natural detoxification and protects internal organs, muscles, nerves and blood vessels from injuries.

The corium, or epidermis, is a much thicker structure made primarily from collagen that gives the skin strength and flexibility.

The epidermis and dermis are separated from each other by a coloured and textured membrane known as a “glassy layer”.

During the leather manufacturing process the layer of epidermis is removed completely to expose the texture of the glassy layer attached to the dermis following by another phase that deals with hair follicles, glands and colour variations as well as a treatment that kills fungi, bacteria, yeast and other forms of life through the process called putrefaction. To achieve this, all hides must go through several stages that may include soaking in water, acetic acid and glycerine, alcohol processing, freezing, and using chemicals such as lime, sulphides, ammonia, aspartic, hydrochloric and butyric acids, mercuric chloride, lead acetate, and various salts (The Principles of Leather Manufacture by H.R. Procter & The Manufacture of Leather by Hugh Garner Bennett).

If the “glassy layer” is also stripped, the hides look like a white porous sheet that cannot be used for leather-making, but can be further processed and reconstituted to make, you guessed it, rawhide chews!

As a result, any raw hide chew may contain traces of chemicals, possible toxins, bacteria and pathogens. Some can also be treated with flavours and enhances. However, all raw hides are still natural, can be digested (the study that tested various dog treats concluded that all raw hides have a digestibility between 14.2 and 99.5), are a source of protein or, if I am to be precise, collagen, and free from gluten, artificial flavours and ingredients. The raw hides are said to be made from “the deeper layer of the skin”.

They can be dangerous because some dogs would struggle to fully digest the tissue, while others may be sensitive to the chemical compounds used in leather manufacturing. A typical raw hide also adds too much protein to the dogs diet, somost puppies will likely have diarrhoea as a result. Another problem with excessive protein intake in puppies is the potential rapid growth, which can cause skeletal problems in the future. Additionally, any dog may end up with an obstruction after swallowing a large chunk of the treat.

Now we have the new option. The collagen chew. The “all natural”, “high in protein”, “collagen-rich”, “digestible”, “free from grains, gluten and artificial ingredients” perfection made from “the bottom layer of the skin called corium”. In the small print, we are asked to supervise the dog whilst he is playing with the chew and, when the treat  “becomes softened and stretched” (which is also very typical characteristic of a natural raw hide chew) – cut this part off  before the dog can have the rest back. The new chew is manufactured by the same companies that produce the raw hide treats.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if we compare the notes from the basic skin anatomy I’ve talked about in the beginning of this post and the brief description of leather and hide manufacturing in the middle of my story, corium is the only layer of the skin that can be used for both the raw hides and the collagen chews. Same layer marketed under different name because it happens to have three interchangeable versions (the commonly used “deeper layer” or “hide” is just a synonym for “the derma”, “the corium”, or “the cutis”). There are simply no other layers in the skin that are high in collagen and can be rolled into a cigar or doughnut shape unless, of course, some company will take the bones and congestive tissues and reconstitute them into powder, sheets and the final product.

Which makes the new collagen chew identical to the old raw hide and leaves me feeling like the boy from the Emperor’s New Clothes tale.

I would be very happy to be incorrect, but for now I would prefer to remain very sceptical about the new option and stick with carrots and home made biscuits for my pups instead.

What do you think? Would you consider these chews as a treat for your dog?


Can my dog eat almonds / safe and toxic foods for dogs / dogs nutrition / best diet for english cocker spaniel / diet tips for dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Can my dog eat… almonds?

Since nutrition has always been one of my passions (and a job) I’ve decided to make it a permanent feature on Perfect cocker spaniel. Would be a shame not to since I hold qualifications in both human and canine nutrition, right?

I know I’ve already talked about the subject in the past discussing specific ingredients, avocados, cheese, and chocolate, talking about healthy dog treats, vegan diet, pancreatitis, and how to keep your dog’s weight under control, but it was always random. I’d like to change it and focus on the topic thoroughly.

“Can my dog eat…” posts will be a part of it. I’ll add them to the blog at least once a week and keep on going until we cover every edible and not-so-edible titbit.

Done with the prelude, lets talk about food!

Today we are focusing on ALMONDS in our dogs’ diet. Personally I love almonds very much: they are perfect on a go, full of vitamins, minerals, good oils and fibre, perfect for my skin and hormones, and make a fab substitute for flour.


The answer is NO.

Almonds contain cyanide compounds called cyanogenic glycosides, which is toxic to both dogs and humans. However, the sweet almonds sold in supermarkets and used in cooking contain very little quantities (16-32mg/kg), which makes them perfectly safe.

However, even though sweet almonds are not toxic to dogs, they may cause a few issues. First of all, almonds are not something that dogs can easily digest and can suffer from diarrhoea, vomiting, discomfort, bloating, gas, lack of appetite and lethargy. Almonds are high in fat, which can increase the risk of pancreatitis. If a dog swallows a whole almond, the nut may cause obstruction and be life-threatening.

Almonds may also be contaminated with aflatoxins (the toxic by-product produced by fungi that is often found in soil) that can cause damage to the nervous system, liver failure, or haemylytic anaemia, increase the risk of cancer and  be fatal to dogs.

In the other hand, bitter almonds (which can be found in some shops and online) provide 6.2mg of cyanide per almond, or about 1100mg/kg, are highly toxic to dogs and can be fatal if eaten.

Since, unlike humans, dogs don’t really rip any health benefits from almonds, it’s best to avoid them completely. Also remember to check ingredients labels on your dog’s food and treats to ensure they are almond-free.


Image credit:  Free-Photos from Pixabay