Eyebright

For weepy eyes or pink eye, my favorite treatment is eyebright. It’s not for eating; it’s applied to the eye as eye drops. So it’s not food, but it’s natural. And anything that goes in the eyes or on the skin gets absorbed into the body. (Something to think about when we’re putting stuff in our eyes or on our skin too.)

I used to get herb packets from Our Earth Cures, but sadly, the wonderful herbalist who made them, isn’t presently able to do that. So…you can get capsules of eyebright or the dried herb at natural foods stores. If you use capsules, break open two or three in a cup. Add a cup of boiling distilled water and let steep for about five minutes.

Strain the solution through an unbleached coffee filter or unbleached muslin (no synthetic fabrics) to remove granules or particles and let cool to room temperature. Use an eye dropper to apply the solution. Refrigerate and make a fresh batch every three or four days. Other herbs can be added (goldenseal, bayberry, and red raspberry) or purchased in combination as EW.

Treat Tips

In addition to cooking main meals for my dogs, I like to bake treats too. Because I cook for my dogs, their food is soft so I like to give them crunchy treats. I finally found a great way to crisp up the treats without blackening the edges, and so simple! After you turn off the oven, let the treats cool in the oven. I bake my treats for 2 to 2 ½ hours (sometimes more if the batter is very moist) at 250o. If you bake at a higher temperature, when you turn off the oven leave the treats inside and crack the oven door slightly while they cool.

Tasty Treats

What I like best about baking my own treats is knowing what’s really in them. My dogs don’t have gluten sensitivities so I use wheat flour sometimes, rice flour, or teff. Here’s a favorite recipe.

Crunchy Peanut Butter and Banana Bites

1 cup peanut butter 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 or 2 very ripe bananas 1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, whipped 1 to 1 ½ cups flour

Mash the bananas and mix with peanut butter. Mix in the whipped eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. Fold in the flour. Grease the bottom of a baking sheet with butter and press the batter flat on the pan. I don’t worry about making it look pretty. I go for about ¼-inch thickness, but press to your preferred thickness. Score the dough by running the blunt edge of the knife across the dough to create square shapes.

Bake at 250o for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Longer baking = crispier treats. When the dough is hardened (but not burned on the edges) turn off the oven and let the treats cool in the oven. When the treats are cooled, break them into pieces along the scored edges. Enjoy!

Doggie Breath

Bad breath! Bah humbug! While my boyos don’t usually have nasty doggie breath, when I was treating them for tummy troubles, I found a side benefit to parsley water—fresh breath. Now I know why restaurants put that sprig of parsley on the plate.

Cooking up a batch of breath-freshening parsley water couldn’t be easier.

Recipe for parsley water

Boil a quart of water. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Drop a bunch of parsley (amount the amount you get at the store) into the water and let it soak for 3 minutes.

Pour a teaspoon of the parsley water on your dog’s food to help with upset tummies and to freshen breath.

A quart of water makes a lot of parsley water so you can freeze ½ cup or 1 cup portions for later use. Or make less and boil it up as needed.

There are lots of causes of bad breath in dogs, so—just as with humans—good dental practices like regular checkups and regular brushing are important. Parsley water won’t clean teeth or substitute for professional care.

Detailed Costs of Cooking Homemade Dog Stew

Is cooking for dogs expensive?

When I tell people that I’ve been cooking homemade dog food for my Shelties for the past 4 years, the first question I get is: Isn’t cooking for your dogs expensive?

The short answer: It’s only a little more expensive than the high-end kibble on the market.

The long answer: Yes, it’s more expensive and takes more time, but it’s worth it because of several reasons.

  • My dogs and I enjoy cooking day. Tino lays down in front of the oven and guards his dinner while it simmers (proof is in the picture for today’s post).
  • I know what ingredients are in their food, and I’ve chosen high-quality meats and vegetables. I can’t afford all organic, but I do use mostly organic fruits and vegetables. I look for meats that are hormone and anti-biotic free.
  • Just as with people, healthy living starts with healthy eating. Healthcare companies for people are promoting healthy living as a way to reduce overall healthcare costs and reduce the risks of obesity and diabetes. If that works for people, might it not work for our pets also?

Are you wondering if cooking for your pet is right for your lifestyle? Check out these factors that I’ve found important to consider in the post Is Cooking for Your Dogs Right for Your Lifestyle?

If you shop for specials on meat, it’s possible to reduce the costs of cooking homemade dog food to less that what I’ve estimated my costs to be. When I shop for the ingredients I buy to make my home-cooked dog food, I buy in bulk so I’m pretty confident about the costs I’m sharing, but there are factors that will impact your per-pet costs. Four that come to mind are

  • the size of the dog,
  • supplements given,
  • inflation (as food costs go up, so will the cost of these recipes), and
  • the cost of the ingredients. Choosing organic ingredients definitely raises the cost.

To be sure that you have a good idea of how accurate these costs are, this information is based on prices I paid at a Costco store on January 21, 2016. I’ve also figured the weekly cost assuming only one type of meat is used, but more often than not I combine meats.

For example, I use half chicken thighs and half chicken breasts. To reduce the fat content of the stew cooked with red meat, I usually mix about ½ ground turkey with ¼ bison and ¼ ground beef. A stew made with all bison would cost a fortune!

I occasionally feed my boyos fish as well, but I haven’t made fish stew. If anyone has, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Keep in mind, there are a lot of variables. My numbers are based on my choice of ingredients, and I’m sure you can cook for less and still produce a tasty, healthy stew.

Chart of ingredients and costs per week based on the ingredients I use

Ingredient Quantity Cost per/[quantity] Total cost/week
Chicken thighs 5 pounds $1.99/lb. $9.95
Chicken breasts 5 pounds $2.99/lb. $14.95
Ground turkey 5 pounds 2.79/lb. $13.95
Organic ground beef (85% lean) 5 pounds 5.59/lb. $27.95
Lean ground bison 5 pounds 7.60/lb. $38.00
Veggies, frozen mix 2 cups 1.80/lb. $1.80
Grains (averaged because I use a variety of different grains including rice, quinoa, and pearl barley) 1 cup .10/oz. $0.80
Optional supplementation      
Yogurt 28 oz. .15/oz $4.20
Cottage Cheese 28 oz. .18/oz. $5.04
Canned pumpkin 32 oz. .19/oz. $6.08
Sardines 7.5 oz. .34/oz. $2.55
Calcium I grind up egg shells from eggs I consumed so consider this free
Vitamin 3.5 teaspoons .73/serving $2.55

You can take a look at one of the recipes I use with chicken thighs and breasts as the meat ingredients.

Summary of costs to cook homemade stew for dogs

Based on the above estimates, the total cost of the stew ranges from $15.05  to $33.06 per week. At most, I use an all red meat mix once a month. On average, the cost per month for two 25-lb. or one 50-lb. dog should be about $60 – $80.

Comparison to kibble based on one friend’s experience

A friend who feeds her 40-lb. Aussie mix a high quality kibble told me it costs her about $45/month for the kibble. She also gives Misty cottage cheese with each meal because Misty enjoys it. She supplements with a multi-vitamin on the advice of her daughter-in-law who is a vet.

Additional costs

Overall costs to feed your dogs will vary depending on the additional foods you give them and the type and quality of supplements. I’ll go into more detail about the extras I give my boyos in future posts. Not all are required, but from my research, it’s very important to supplement calcium when feeding a home-cooked diet. Calcium along with a good multi-vitamin should put to rest most concerns voiced by veterinarians concerned about a balanced diet.

A note for cat owners

I hesitate to write too much about home-cooked stew for cats, but I would venture to say that costs will be similar (adjusting for weight) because the main difference I’ve uncovered in my research is the protein requirement, which is higher for cats. The books I’ve read describe some heartwarming results for cats that weren’t doing well on commercial cat food. If you are a reader or visitor who has personal experience cooking for cats, I’d welcome your insights so please leave comments and share resources you’ve found valuable.

Favorite Chicken Recipe for Home-Cooked Dog Food

Chicken, Rice, and Veggie Stew

Ingredients

2 ½ lbs. chicken breast ½ cup celery, diced
2 ½ lbs. chicken thighs ½  cup zucchini
1 cup rice, pearl barley, or quinoa ½ cup carrots
2 – 3 cups water 1 ½ cups greens (spinach or kale work well)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation

Combine chicken, rice (or barley or quinoa), and celery in large pot with water and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours. Finely chop or grind in blender veggies and salt and add to pot during last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.

 

Servings

Approximately 32, ½ cup servings

Calories per serving   112 Calories from fat    44
Protein per serving      11g  

 

My Sheltie boys weigh about 25 pounds, and I serve them about ½ c. of stew twice a day.

I serve this with 1 – 2 tablespoons of pumpkin for fiber and overall digestive support and  ¼ cup of yogurt or cottage cheese.

I also add a multivitamin to each meal and ¼ teaspoon of ground eggshell once a day because dogs eating a home-cooked meal need a calcium supplement. Neither yogurt nor cottage cheese can provide enough of this mineral. A multivitamin is often recommended by pet nutritionists to ensure a balanced diet.

I like this recipe because chicken is the lowest cost meat to use of the common choices. The next most economical is ground turkey (both under $3/lb.). I also vary the boyos diet by substituting ground beef and ground buffalo or pork roast. To reduce the fat content of the red meat, I’ll use ½ red meat (beef or buffalo) and half ground turkey.