As a college student, budgeting can be especially tight. If you're a pet owner that's struggling to...
One of the biggest acts of love and gratitude you can give your dog is a well-rounded diet. While kibble is typically marketed as a cost-effective solution, the Woof Team agrees that we all generally prefer to cook for our pups. Check out this guide for some tips, tricks, and helpful information we've learned as college student pet-owners.
The regulation that is placed upon feed grade ingredients meant for dogs only is significantly different from that designed for human food consumption. Pet feeds are allowed to contain what is called “4D” meats. These meats are sourced from dying, diseased, dead or downed animal material and meat ingredients sourced from non-slaughtered animals - with no disclosure requirement.
The FDA says, “Processed pet food, including pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, goes through high heat processing, which is designed to kill harmful bacteria...”
Rendering is one of the processing methods of sanitizing otherwise putrid, inedible animal by-products and animal waste. Many ingredients in pet food today are from rendering plants.
Many of the bioavailable nutrients in kibble are lost during the high-heat process, so in order to make sure dogs will eat it and that it is balanced, fats, flavor enhancers and synthetic nutrients are added to replace what has been lost. Different types of acrylamide and other carcinogens are created in this process that could be detrimental to your dog’s long-term health.
Kibble is a low-moisture product, which puts a dog in a constant state of dehydration. Think of it like this- you sit down for a meal of a bowl of Saltine crackers with nothing to drink. The dry food absorbs all the moisture in your throat, stomach and intestines leaving the dog with a minimal amount of fluid to churn the food into something that moves through the digestive system. When a dog gets dehydrated, they can experience several harmful symptoms:
-Loss of appetite
-Reduced energy levels and/or lethargy
-Sunken, dry-looking eyes
-Dry nose and gums
-Loss of skin elasticity
Would you want a bowl of kibble for breakfast everyday? Me either. Keep reading for our favorite alternatives:
The optimal diet for your dog also includes healthy fats, high moisture (around 70%) and is a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients. Taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to cook for your dog is so easy, you can do it while you make your own meals!
Feeding dogs a diet made with natural, real ingredients, such as beef, chicken, lamb, peas, spinach, carrots, and blueberries, can do wonders for their overall well-being — promoting heart health, increasing energy level, making coats shiny and breath smell better, improving eyesight, and even impacting a dog’s stool.
In general, your homemade recipes should contain a high-value protein source (muscle meat, eggs, fish, liver), a fat source (safflower, olive, canola or fish oil; the best and most easily available fish oils are salmon and cod), a fiber-containing carbohydrate (brown rice, sweet potato, oats, barley), and a phytochemical source (fruits, vegetables, herbs). Substitutions can be made; for example, if you know your dog likes whole-grain pasta, substitute pasta for barley as a carbohydrate source. Some dogs, like some kids, hate veggies but will eat fruit, so use fruit instead; fruit can complement meats just as readily as vegetables can.
Yogurt, cottage cheese, beans and tofu can occasionally be used as protein sources, but keep in mind that not all dogs can tolerate dairy products; beans or soy may make them flatulent or cause them to experience other gastrointestinal “issues.” Test your dog's tolerance with small quantities.
When you cook a batch of homemade food, let it cool, and—if you make more than your dog can eat within a couple of days—portion it into reusable, washable containers, then freeze and defrost as needed. You can safely keep cooked food in the refrigerator for three days; after that, spoilage is a concern.
By adhering to the basic guidelines, you can be creative, provide great homemade meals and know that the ingredients are wholesome.
The benefits of a raw/fresh diet include:
-Better coat condition
-Improved skin health
-Increased energy levels
-Smaller, firmer stools
-Improved dental health
-Stronger immune system
-Lower risk for allergies
A study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden by Dr. Kollath showed that young animals fed a cooked, processed diet initially appeared to be healthy, but once they reached maturity, they began to rapidly age and develop degenerative disease symptoms. The control group that was raised on a raw, uncooked diet did not age as fast and showed no degenerative disease symptoms but remained healthy.
Another study out of Belgium used data gathered from more than 500 domestic dogs over a consecutive five year time period (1998-2002). The authors, Lippert and Sapy, were able to statistically show that dogs fed a homemade diet, consisting of high quality foods used from their owners’ meals versus dogs fed an industrial, commercial pet food diet had a life expectancy of 32 months longer – that’s almost 3 years!
We believe spending money on good food saves you money on vet bills down the line. With that being said, it is doable to make a fresh diet budget friendly. Here's some of our tips:
-You'll want to avoid is using prime cuts of meat. Your pup really doesn't need human-grade cuisine. They won't even be able to tell the difference.
-Local butcher houses are a great source for raw food ingredients. These establishments work with raw animal meat on a daily basis. Because they're serving human customers, a lot of the beneficial ingredients you read about in the previous section are throwaways.
-Alternatively, you can check with the meat department of your favorite grocery store. They may offer similar options. Some grocery stores also sell meat products at discounted prices before a new shipment is brought in.
-Sometimes, you can get a great deal on meat products if you buy in bulk. We know you may not have enough freezer space, but it does make a difference in cost over time to buy in bulk.
-Be smart about where you're shopping. Walmart and many discounted grocery stores are great options for purchasing your dog food ingredients at a lower cost.
Inexpensive Dog-Safe Ingredients:
-Chicken feet, chicken necks, chicken backs, chicken carcasses that have had the breasts removed for human food, and chicken “giblets”
-Beef face meat, beef tracheas, esophagus, beef lungs, beef heart, beef kidneys, and beef pancreas.
-Pork intestines, pork neck, and pig heads (sawn in half).
-Eggs, plain raw yogurt, and beef trimmings (beef fat).
-Anything that you might have available locally: lamb necks, lamb tails, whole fish, deer, rabbit farms, etc.
-You can also use vegetable peelings (blended to a consistency similar to rumen contents), extra vegetables from your garden, free bruised fruit and vegetables from your supermarket, and some table scraps (see below for a list of foods your dog definitely cannot eat).
If you really don't have time to cook, there are multiple fresh or raw freeze-dried or dehydrated options that are highly rated by numerous veterinarians, rescues, and holistic sites. Raw frozen dog food is minimally processed and free from artificial preservatives. You do have to store it in the freezer, and you’ll need to thaw it before meal-time. Freeze-dried dog food is a healthy, convenient way to include raw food in your dog’s diet without paying the price of a full menu of raw frozen food.
Some generally affordable options include:
There are a variety of foods that we love, but our canine companions don't! Avoid:
1. Grapes, raisins, prunes
3. Avocados - toxic to some dogs, so avoid giving to all dogs.
4. Sugarless Gum/Candy/Some sugarless Peanut Butter and Protein Powder - contains Xylitol which is VERY DEADLY and can kill dogs in about 20 minutes. Read the ingredients on any sugarless item you buy, xylitol can also be called birch sugar or birch sugar extract
5. Chocolate, the darker the chocolate the more harmful
6. Treats or food made in China – contain toxic preservatives. Must check where food is produced, like U.S. or UK, NOT distributed from.
7. Rawhide Bones - they can splinter and swell and get stuck inside of the dog's throat.
If you see catch your dog in the act of eating the bad food, give 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Every dog has a different tolerance and stomach sensitivity, but, generally speaking, if your dog begins to act lethargic or generally unwell, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Here's a link to a calculator where you can input the amount of chocolate eaten, your dog's size, and the type of chocolate to determine what response is needed: https://www.vets-now.com/dog-chocolate-toxicity-calculator/
Some common symptoms of food allergies in dogs are:
-Frequent scratching or itching of the ears and stomach
-Excessive licking or chewing of the paws, abdomen and groin
-Hot spots on the skin
-Poor bowel movements
-Lack of energy
-Bacterial infections (if left untreated)
The most common food allergens in dogs are proteins, especially those from dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy or gluten (from wheat).
It is also possible the presence of storage mites in the kibble are causing a skin reaction called atopic dermatitis, similar to a food allergy reaction. Storage mites thrive in environments where there is moisture or increased humidity, but are most frequently found in dry food items such as flour, grains, dried fruits, cereal, and dry dog and cat foods. Most contamination of dry pet food by storage mites occurs once the bags have been opened.
Allergies to storage mites are common in cats and dogs. Pets are exposed to this mite through ingestion or inhalation when consuming contaminated foods.
There are multiple fantastic, budget-friendly resources available to pet owners looking to switch to a fresh diet. Here are just a few, but we always encourage you to do your own research to find the best solution for both you and your pet: