My dog Luna eats better than I do. It's not to say that I don’t eat well, but she eats Superfood.
Once upon a time, not very long ago, she ate high-quality kibble. She hated it. Mealtime was spent coaxing, pleading, and trying any means necessary to get her to eat. It was a battle of wills, a struggle of stubbornness, and she usually won. Winning meant a scoop of cottage cheese or a bit of chicken mixed into her kibble. She's really not a stupid dog, and knew if she held out, we'd eventually give in. Even so, she'd still poke around and begrudgingly eat it.
Then, earlier this year my other dog was diagnosed with cancer. We tried just about everything we could to cure him and make him comfortable and happy. And one of the best things we did was to take him to see a holistic vet, who suggested that we put him on a natural, homemade diet (he had a lot of intestinal issues).
Well, naturally we put both dogs on the diet. They both immediately loved it. It didn't save his life, but it certainly made him damn happy for the rest of it. And Luna embraced it. Wholeheartedly. She went from a dog that practically refused to eat, to one that asks to be fed. She can't wait for me to set the bowl on the floor.
It took some time, research, and effort to come up with a recipe that we felt would give her all the nutrients she needs. And we are still experimenting, learning what she can and can't eat, what she loves, and what she will tolerate or pick through to get to the good stuff.
It's not for every dog. And it requires getting out the pots and pans twice a week (or less if you make an even bigger batch of food and freeze it). But, she's healthier (she no longer farts us out of the room) and much much happier for it.
If you do decide to try it, and your dog has been eating commercial kibble for a while, you should ease him or her into it by mixing the kibble into the homemade food. Try to use the best quality ingredients you can find, although I admit, this is not the cheap way to feed your pet. But when my holistic vet pointed out that eating kibble would be like us eating dry saltines for the rest of our lives (albeit very healthy saltines), the inner foodie in me was horrified. Why doesn't my dog deserve to eat delicious food?
This makes enough to feed my 70-lb dog for about 4 to 5 days; you'll have to figure out how much to feed your own dog based upon their weight, age, and activity level
1 cup steel cut oats
1 small bunch kale, finely chopped
3 lbs chicken or turkey breast
3–4 medium yams and/or sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1) Add the oats plus 4 cups water to a large saucepan and set aside to soak for a few hours or up to overnight. Add the kale to the oats and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir often, and cook until the oats and kale are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
2) Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, add the chicken or turkey and enough water to just cover. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer just until the meat is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, remove the meat to a cutting board to cool. Leave the water in the stockpot.
3) Add the chopped yams to the water in the stockpot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and add to the mixing bowl with the oats.
4) When the chicken is cool enough to handle, chop it very finely and add it to the oat and yam mixture. Add the olive oil and stir everything together thoroughly. Let cool then store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you want to store the food longer, freeze it for up to 1 month. Make sure to thaw it completely in the refrigerator before serving it up to your pooch.
Note: If you don't have the time to make food yourself, Jeffrey's Natural Pet Food in San Francisco makes delicious all-natural food. They also have a great feeding guidelines chart to help you figure out how much to feed your dog based on weight.
In order to make sure Luna gets all her nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, I often make this healthy powder, which you can find in Dr. Pitcairn's book, an excellent resource for feeding your pet naturally.
Dr. Pitcairn's Healthy Powder
2 cups nutritional yeast
1 cup lecithin granules
1/4 cup kelp powder
1/4 cup bone meal (or 9.000 milligrams calcium or 5 teaspoons eggshell powder)
1,000 milligrams vitamin C (ground) or 1/4 teaspoon sodium ascorbate
Stir together ingredients and store in an airtight container. Stir a few teaspoons into the food each day.