Choosing Between Cooked or Raw Food Diets for Dogs

When I was first researching feeding options for my pups, I was introduced to a wonderful woman who was feeding her dogs raw food. After all, it’s nature’s way. I did try feeding raw meat to my boyos but decided to go with home cooked food for three reasons:

  • Raw foods carry potentially dangerous parasites and bacteria like eColi
  • My guys tried to swallow such large chunks of meat that they nearly choked on more than one occasion
  • Cooked vegetables are easier for my guys to digest

Supporters of feeding raw say that dogs have natural protections against bacteria and parasites that humans don’t have. Some of the vets I know and respect say that’s not necessarily true. I prefer to err on the side of caution so I decided to go with cooked meals. I’ve also found that cooked veggies are easier for my dogs to digest. In other words, there’s a lot less waste!

Eat Your Own Dog Food

When I first started cooking for my boyos (Tino on the left and Sammie on the right) I’d eat the food I prepared for them. I figured I should be willing to eat the food I was going to feed to them. An unexpected benefit came out of that “taste testing” exercise–I lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks, eating their high protein, low carb diet.

I sometimes still do share their stew, but I also enjoy foods that aren’t recommended for dogs. Even though some foods don’t set well with our pets, a wide variety of healthy foods suit both species. Some of our favorites include:

Protein

  • Ground turkey
  • Chicken
  • Ground beef
  • Buffalo
  • Liver and other organ meats
  • Sardines (great source of calcium too)
  • Cottage cheese

Grains

  • White, brown, wild rice
  • Pearl barley
  • Quinoa
  • Oats

Not all pets—or people—handle grains well, and dogs don’t have a dietary requirement for simple carbs so grains don’t necessarily have to be included in homemade pet food. Pumpkin makes a great substitute to ensure you’re getting fiber into your pet’s diet.

Research is also cautioning against high levels of arsenic in rice. This is a risk for people as well as pets. I’ll be posting more on this topic, but soaking the rice for a few hours or overnight can help lower arsenic levels.

Vegetables

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Green beans (high in omega-3 fatty acids and calcium)
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet potato (another great source of calcium)
  • Beets
  • Squash (acorn, butternut)
  • Pumpkin (vitamin A, antioxidants, and fiber)
  • Spinach and kale (high in iron)
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley, cilantro

Dogs like veggies but you may notice these foods coming out the other end undigested. Cooking can help, but using a blender or food processor to “pre-digest” these foods will make it even easier for your dog to digest. As far as cats go, they have almost no need for fruits or veggies in their diet according to what I’ve read.

Some of the research I’ve found suggests staying away from cruciferous veggies (broccoli and cauliflower, for example) because these kinds of veggies have been linked to impeding thyroid function. I’ve fed them to my dogs without problem, and I’ve seen them recommended on reputable sites. Moderation and careful observation of how your pet does on these foods would be wise.

Fruits

  • Cantaloupe (great for eyesight and cancer prevention)
  • Apples (seeds and core aren’t recommended)
  • Blueberries (anti-cancer and cardiovascular support)
  • Watermelon (cancer prevention and support for good eyesight)
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries

These foods are some of our pack’s favorites, but every canine is different. I watch my dogs for signs that a particular food isn’t sitting well with their system—loose stools, gas, and a grumbly tummy all clue me in that a food might not be the best choice.

If you’re cooking for your pets, what fruits and vegetables do you cook with? Which are your pets favorites? Do you have any cautions to share?

Raw, Cooked, or Kibble?

In the last years of Max’s life, the vet was more and more often recommending a cooked diet to help ease Max’s digestive upsets. I’d cook some chicken or hamburger and rice, feed this home-cooked stew to Max, and he’d quickly improve.

I’d say to the vet, “I think I’ll just keep Max on this diet because he’s doing so well.”

And the vet would reply, “Oh, no. He needs his kibble to ensure a balanced diet.”

Back and forth, round and round we’d go. Max would improve on the home-cooked diet and relapse on the kibble.

Not to mention that Max loved the home-cooked selections. I just couldn’t see how dried kibble that could sit out for months, if not years, and still be “edible” was better for Max than real food. Nervously I continued to feed Max his chicken and rice, and I hope my choice made his last years more comfortable and healthy.

Later, when I decided to adopt two beautiful Sheltie pups, I was determined to learn more about pet nutrition and provide my boys with the best possible diet I could. I’m not a certified pet nutritionist, but most of us aren’t. Whether we’re feeding pets or humans, we learn as we go and do the best we can.

My goal with this blog is to share some of what I’ve learned along the way about cooking for your pet. I’ve focused on cooking for my dogs. The guidelines for cats’ nutritional needs are a little different, but many of the basics apply to both.