Make Homemade Dog Food with your Slow-Cooker
Awhile back, I told you how we had gone the way of homemade dog food. It isn’t just that my beautiful pup is fast approaching 60 pounds and feeding him is a bit burdensome. I also love knowing exactly what is going into his food. Here is the slow-cooker technique my husband designed to keep fresh and healthy food going into the kibble bowl.
Most experts agree that your dog needs an adequate diet of meat or other digestible protein, vegetables, and grains. I’ve found that having a ratio of three equal parts of these works best:
Meat can be expensive enough without having to buy it to also feed your dog. We have found several good workarounds for this purpose. The majority of the meat we use is safe for human consumption, but not exactly tasty. By this, I mean that we utilize cuts that have been in the freezer too long or processed wild game meats, such as deer, that we just can’t use up. This is also a good opportunity to befriend your local butcher and find out what cuts go on sale during the week. Manager’s special items that you might not feed your friends (hindquarters or shanks) can make excellent dog food.
Veggies are the most fun to use up. We keep a scrap bowl on the counter for all fresh veggie scraps to go into. Nothing edible is wasted, and my kids have fun peeling carrots into the bowl or adding some scooped-out squash pulp. Anything that is edible and unspoiled is generally good for dogs to eat.
Carbs are necessary for a healthy and active dog. The most popular ingredients for making homemade dog food include brown rice, oats, millet, couscous, and barley. Rice works well for us, but may not be tolerated by some dogs. Stay away from hops for obvious reasons.
Starting with your meat, place it in the bottom of a large slow-cooker. Add your grains, veggies, and enough water to almost cover the food. Grains will expand during the cooking process, so don’t overfill your slow-cooker! If you need to add more water as it cooks, feel free to do so. As your meat cooks, extra juices will be added to the mixture.
Cook on low for 6-9 hours or until the meat is tender and falling off of any bones. (Warning: If you used any game meats or meat with freezer burn, this may smell unpleasant! I do my cooking overnight and spray lots of air freshener the next morning!) Remove the bones from the mixture with a slotted spoon. Large bones will now be soft, and if it is OK with your vet, can be saved for special treats. Make sure the entire mixture is mushed up and blended as well as possible, and allow it to cool. Portion out each serving in a plastic baggie or other storage container for freezing. If you plan on using it all up in the next two days, you may store the entire batch in a clean ice-cream pail in your fridge and scoop out what you need each meal.
As far as how much to feed your dog, that will depend on the size, age, activity level, and breed of your dog. Here is a rough guideline for a daily amount of homemade food per dog, per day. For dogs up to 10 pounds: 1- 1½ cups, 11-20 pounds: 2-3 cups, 21-40 pounds: 4 cups. For every additional 20 pounds, add 2 cups. Let your dog tell you if you’re feeding enough or too much! It is also important to make sure that you are giving your dog crunchy foods or treats to supplement their homemade meals. Good dental health is important!
(Note: Several common household foods may be dangerous to your dog in even small amounts. Others may just cause you some unpleasant stomach symptoms, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Items to avoid include onion, grapes, raisins, raw eggs, dairy products, avocado, broccoli, wild mushrooms, nutmeg, nuts, green potatoes, unripened tomatoes and foliage, excess salt, pits and seeds, raw salmon, large portions of liver, chocolate, rhubarb, and cassava root. Very small amounts of garlic can have health benefits, but it must be used with caution, and preferably with the supervision of your vet.)