A Sliver of Liver

One of my friends, who specializes in natural remedies and supplements for dogs, gives her trio of bassets a “sliver of liver” whenever they suffer tummy trouble. Something so simple, I’m always willing to try. Just a one-inch piece, once a day, for three days. That’s all there is to it!

Another one of her nuggets of wisdom is to treat what ails with that food—if one of her bassets is having heart troubles, she gives a sliver of heart. Kidney for kidneys, and so on.

As a matter of habit, I like to give my boyos a couple of tablespoons of organ meat once a week. We’ve made it part of our cooking day ritual. Tino guards the stew simmering on the stove, and Sammie oversees the selection and thawing of the organ meat.

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.

Essential oils that are good for your dog

Not all essential oils that are safe and helpful for humans are safe for pets. Before using any essential oil with your pet make sure it’s safe. Also remember that our pets have a much more acute sense of smell. A little oil goes a long way!

Choose the right oils

Also, many dogs and cats groom themselves, and many essential oils should not be ingested. Use therapeutic grade oils when applying them externally. If you’re giving your dog or cat essential oils internally, make sure the oil is food grade and safe for your pet.

Our pets are especially sensitive to smell

You can help you pet adjust to the aromas without becoming overwhelmed by wearing them yourself or diffuse the oils in spaces where they spend time.

The oils listed here are generally safe for use with dogs. Cats react differently to oils, and not all oils that work for dogs are safe for cats. Take extra care when using oils with cats. Our pets are individuals so watch for potential allergic reactions.

Applying oils to the skin

  • Dilute the oils before applying because some (like peppermint) can irritate the skin if applied directly.
  • Avoid applying oils on or near sensitive areas like eyes, nose, ears, and genital area.

Some essential oils for dogs

  • Ginger—calms digestion, eases pain of arthritis, strains and sprains (use in small amounts, always dilute)
  • Lavender –antibacterial, helps with anxiety, car sickness, and insomnia
  • Niaouli— antihistaminic, antibacterial (safe alternative to tea tree oil)
  • Peppermint—stimulates circulation, helps with arthritis, strains and sprains
  • Roman Chamomile—relieves muscle pain and cramps, calming (not for cats!)

Arsenic in Rice

In the last few years, information has been published about the dangers of arsenic in rice. The dangers are especially significant for children because of their smaller bodies. While I haven’t seen any research related to feeding rice to pets, I’m going to guess that the risk to our dogs is also higher because of their smaller bodies.

Amounts of arsenic in rice

Consumer Reports assigned “rice points” to different foods made with rice, and the new rules recommend no more than 7 rice points per week.  Half a cup of uncooked white basmati or sushi rice from California, India, or Pakistan equals 5 rice points. All other types of rice (uncooked) get 10 points per ½ cup. So, rinse your rice before cooking!

You’ll also get the added benefit of kicking off the sprouting process by soaking the grain, which makes the rice even easier to digest and provides additional benefits.

Rinse away the arsenic

Rinsing and soaking the rice before cooking can reduce the arsenic content by about 30% according to Consumer Reports. Use about 6 cups of water to one cup of rice, and rinse the rice after soaking.

Vary the grains you feed your dog

By varying the grains you feed your dog, you’ll also help reduce the risks associated with arsenic in rice. My favorite alternate grains include:

  • Pearl barley
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat

 

Foods Not to Feed Your Dog

Cooking for my dogs made me more nervous when I first started down this road than cooking for my son when he was an infant. Based on everything I know now that I didn’t know back then about what foods are good—and what foods aren’t good—maybe I should have been more nervous. With my son, though, I felt pretty familiar with foods people could eat. I knew the basic signs of allergy. And when he spit something out, I took that to mean he didn’t like a particular food.

My dogs like a wide variety of foods, but just like babies, they spit out foods they don’t like. I guess that’s the first category of foods not to feed your dog. Skip the foods they tell you they won’t eat. Sometimes those aversions are caused by allergies.

Allergies can show up at any age. Signs of allergies would be an indicator of the second category of foods not to feed your dogs. According to WebMD, signs of allergies in dogs include:

  • Red, moist, scabbed skin
  • Itching or scratching
  • Red, runny eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gassy, grumbly stomach

The third category of foods not to feed your dog are the ones that have been determined to be dangerous or toxic for dogs. These foods include:

  • Alcohol
  • Apple seeds
  • Artificial sweeteners, especially xylitol
  • Avocados
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Bones (cooked bones can cause choking and slivers can lacerate the digestive tract)
  • Candy, gum, and other sugary foods
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee, tea, and other products containing caffeine
  • Fat trimmings
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Milk and other dairy products, including cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Nutmeg, paprika, and pepper
  • Nuts in general aren’t recommended, but especially macadamia nuts
  • Onions and chives (most broth contains onion so don’t make dog stew using broth from a store unless these ingredients aren’t listed. I’ve not yet found a broth without them.
  • Peaches and plums (the problem is the pits)
  • Raw eggs
  • Salt and salty foods like chips and salted popcorn (dogs do need some salt in their diet but not the amounts found in most snack foods)
  • Yeast dough

Although many sources recommend against garlic, there are others saying garlic is safe and beneficial.

This list isn’t exhaustive, so if you’re feeding a new food to your pet, it’s best to do some research beforehand. Just like people, your pet might have a food sensitivity or allergy even to foods that are generally considered safe for pets. Pay close attention to how your pet reacts to any new food and try to introduce new foods one at a time.

Let’s face it, some of these foods aren’t particularly good for people either, but most dogs are smaller than a full-grown adult and what seems like a small amount to us has a much greater impact on the dogs’ smaller bodies. Even small amounts of many of the foods listed above can cause organ damage, seizures, anemia, and a host of other problems. Whether feeding a home-cooked diet to your pets or supplementing kibble, the foods above should be avoided.

 

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.