Gracie is now 13 years old!

For nine years she's eaten REAL, HOMEMADE FOOD, NOT commercial dog food. This blog shows how easy it is to be a DOGGIE CHEF and how healthy a home-fed dog can be.

July 15, 2008

Gracie's Vitamins

During my first four years as a Doggie Chef, I never gave Gracie any vitamin supplements. I figured she obtained all the nutrients she needed from high quality food, oils, bone meal powder and nutritional yeast.

Last year I decided to give Gracie daily vitamin supplements to strengthen and maintain her immune system.

After researching different kinds of dog vitamins I decided to try Doctors Foster & Smith Lifestage Select Premium Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement for adult dogs.

My greatest worry in preparing Gracie's meals was providing an appropriate calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in her diet (click here to read my post explaining that).

The vitamins I give Gracie contain, in each tablet, 50 mg of calcium and 25 mg of phosphorus – a 2 part calcium, to 1 part phosphorus ratio. Of course the actual ratio of calcium to phosphorus Gracie receives depends on how much of the nutrients her body absorbs and how much calcium and phosphorus is in the food I give her.

According to Doctors Foster & Smith, the vitamins are supposedly formulated for nutritional balance. The company also claims pure and natural sources are used, whenever possible, for many of the nutrients contained in the vitamins. And the vitamins are fortified with additional Omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil) which I believe are good for my dog’s skin and coat and contribute to her general health.

The vitamin bottle suggests three tablets per day for a dog of Gracie's weight. However, I give her two tablets each day. With two vitamins each day and her high quality homemade meals, I think Gracie receives enough vitamins and minerals to maintain good health.

I'm not sure if the vitamins are actually contributing toward Gracie's good health. Yet I feel better about feeding my dog homemade meals now. I believe if I somehow miss providing her with any required nutrients, the vitamins will make up for it.

*** POST UPDATE: Since writing this post I decided to stop giving Gracie vitamin supplements. Click here to read my 12-30-08 post explaining why.

July 10, 2008

Ground Beef Dinner 7-10-08

Gracie eats two meals each day: breakfast at approximately 7 a.m., and dinner at approximately 5 p.m.
The photo above shows what Gracie ate for dinner today.

I usually put each food item in her food bowl separately, to better figure what percentage of meat, grain, vegetable and dairy goes into each meal. Then, if required, I’ll warm the food for 20 - 30 seconds in the microwave, add any supplements, mix it all together (mashing any vegetables very well) and serve it to her. If I include yogurt or cottage cheese in a meal I don't mix it with the other foods and I add it after the other food is heated.

This was what Gracie ate for dinner today:

Cooked, lean ground beef

Whole wheat bread

Some plain Cheerios cereal

Cooked green peas (from a bag of frozen green peas)

Plain, low-fat, all natural yogurt

3/4 of the contents of 1 fish oil concentrate soft gel capsule [Molecularly distilled Omega-3 Fatty Acid Fish oil concentrate made from, sardines, anchovies and mackerel. Tested to be free of potentially harmful levels of contaminants (mercury, heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants).] I give Gracie this fish oil supplement about twice a week.

*** NOT SHOWN IN PHOTO BUT ADDED TO EACH MEAL: 1 Doctors Foster and Smith Lifestage Select Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement for Adult Dogs

***POST UPDATE: Since writing this post I decided to stop giving Gracie vitamin and fish oil supplements. Click here to read my 12-30-08 post explaining why.

July 3, 2008

"Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health For Dogs & Cats"

"Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats"
 by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Doggie Chef Rating: 4 out of 5 Bones

This book is a MUST READ for all Doggie Chefs and wanna be Doggie Chefs. Particularly the sections on diet and nutrition.

Dr. Pitcairn’s book gave me the courage to become a Doggie Chef. Although the book provides nutritionally balanced homemade pet food recipes, I never actually used one. Instead, I used the book's valuable nutritional information to create my own nutritionally balanced meals for Gracie.

In the first chapter, Dr. Pitcairn describes how he discovered the relationship between diet and pet health in his veterinary practice. He devotes a whole chapter to the topic, "What’s Really in Pet Food." The best chapter in the book is Chapter 3, "Try a Basic Natural Diet --- with Supplements."

When I first began making Gracie’s meals I worried about unintentionally making her ill, or accidentally causing her to develop a vitamin deficiency. I started formulating her meals based on Dr. Pitcairn’s explanation of "The Basic Food Groups": meats, grains, legumes, and vegetables. I also followed Dr. Pitcairn’s advice, supplementing Gracie’s meals with nutritional yeast (rich in B vitamins, iron and other nutrients), bone meal powder (to provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals) and pet vitamins.

Every meal I make for Gracie contains meat (beef, chicken, fish, or egg) and has a grain base. The "grain" is usually whole wheat bread, since it’s easy to buy and serve but I also regularly feed Gracie oatmeal (often cooked with some milk for added calcium) or rice (brown or white). I include a very small amount of vegetables in her meals everyday and occasionally include black beans or chickpeas. Three times a week I feed her: Red Star Nutritional Yeast Flakes, bone meal powder; and a specific fat (flax oil, canola oil, corn oil or fish oil  *** See Post Update below).

I also make sure Gracie eats fatty fish each week (usually canned salmon or sardines), for the essential fatty acids and other benefits they provide.

Dr. Pitcairn’s book is a good general dog care guide. It includes chapters on common pet illnesses, exercise, rest and grooming for pets, and holistic and alternative therapies. I’m dubious about some of the alternative therapies discussed (homeopathy, herbal medicine, chiropractic therapy, etc...) but some people might embrace this approach to pet care.

If you’re interested in feeding your dog homemade meals, read Dr. Pitcairn’s book. The information on diet and supplements can seem overwhelming at times, but the book will give you the courage to take your dog’s health and diet into your own hands. With a little effort, most pet owners can be very good Doggie Chefs! It's not hard to provide your dog with meals that are nutritionally superior to commercial dog foods.

In the last six years I’ve read Dr. Pitcairn’s chapters on dog nutrition and homemade dog food three different times. Each time I learn something new. It’s important for Doggie Chefs to continue learning about canine nutrition. And it’s just as important to periodically review feeding methods and practices and improve them when possible.

I recommend this book for all Doggie Chefs.

*** POST UPDATE: Since writing this post I decided to stop including Red Star Nutritional Yeast Flakes and pet vitamins in Gracie's meals.  Click here to read my 12-30-08 post explaining why. I also no longer supplement Gracie's diet with flax oil or fish oil. I believe the canned and fresh fish Gracie eats provides her with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids for abundant health.