As it turned out--although Porter's teeth and breath improved by leaps and bounds--Moe's skin only improved marginally. And, at least in the setup we have now, the logistics were a nightmare.
- Even if I broke the food down fairly well, the dogs couldn't or wouldn't keep whole food (e.g. chicken legs/wings, turkey necks, etc.) in their bowls inside the house. Call me a germ-o-phobe, but it took a week and lots of bleach for my kitchen floor to feel clean again after the first time Moe basted it in raw chicken.
- So we moved meals outside, which created its own problems. It takes awhile for dogs to eat bony food--that's part of the point. Additionally, the relative higher value of raw food (i.e. dogs like it more than kibble) meant that my dogs had a tendency to squabble over it. All of this lead to me sitting outside for long stretches watching the dogs gnaw on bones--mildly annoying at this time of year, downright unpleasant in January.
- This all eventually lead to attempting to feed a prepared raw diet. Two words--expensive and smelly!
- And generally, throughout the whole experiment, the thing I hated most was that I never wanted the dogs to kiss or lick anyone. I admit it, we're a pretty "kissy" family, and it's not pleasant to bury your nose in your pups whiskers knowing you might be getting a big face full of salmonella.
In the end we decided to go back to kibble, but incorporate nice big "recreational" bones once a week or so to keep Porter's teeth pretty.
In all of my reading about raw food, I also came across some information about home-cooked dog meals. It seemed like it might resolve a lot of the problems discussed above, however after months of experimenting with raw food I was just exhausted of thinking about it all. Although I continued to do sporadic reading, I never really acted on any of it.
Until this pet food recall business came along. Over the past week I've done a much more through re-reading of both Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats and Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets by Donald Strombeck. After said re-readings I decided to begin with the recipes in the Strombeck book for several reasons:
- I found it easier to understand. It has a chart of how many calories your dog should have based on it's ideal weight. Each recipe then has a corresponding number of calories, so with just a little math you know exactly how much to feed.
- Except for two items (a pet multi-vitamin and bone meal powder) all of the ingredients in the Strombeck book are things I can get at my regular grocery store. I think the easier I can make this, the more likely we are to stick with it.
- The Strombeck book has several recipes that include eggs. This is important to me because we can get organic eggs (and even fresh eggs on occasion) fairly cheaply, whereas organic meat, not-so-much. While dogs cannot live on eggs alone (har-har) it is nice to have that to fall back on.
- Although the Pitcairn book says its recipes can be cooked, it suggests using raw meats. The Stombeck book is based on cooked food, which appealed to me more based on my past experience.
After making those decisions, it was time to do a lot of math.
Based on the chart in the book, Moe needs 725 calories per day and Porter needs 1116--altogether I need to be feeding them a total of 1831 calories with Porter getting about 3 parts to Moe's 2 (i.e. I divide each recipe into fifths, Porter gets 3/5ths and Moe gets 2/5ths). The first recipe I decided to try was the "Eggs and Rice Diet", which includes eggs, rice, sardines, vegetable oil, salt substitute, bone meal, and a multi-vitamin. It totals 964 calories so I figured that I needed to make about a double batch to meet both dogs calorie requirements for a full day.
I was worried about Porter picking around the multi-vitamin and bone meal, so I ground them up with the sardines and oil in my tiny food processor. Next I ground up the hard boiled eggs and added them to the vita-sardine mixture. Lastly, I added the rice. I mixed everything in my big Pyrex measuring cup, so when I was done I could tell that I had very close to 5 cups. I divided that in half (since I was only feeding the pups dinner) and put the other half in the fridge for tomorrow. I divided the remaining 2 1/2 cups into 5 parts (a half a cup each)--Moe got 2 parts (or 1 cup) and Porter got 3 parts (or 1 1/2 cups).
Overall, the pups reaction was good, but there were some things I could have done better:
- Blending the eggs gave the mix a sloppy consistency, that was a little hard for Porter to eat because she didn't want to get her nose in it. Next time I think I'll just roughly chop the eggs.
- I bought sardines in water instead of sardines in tomato sauce as the recipe called for.
Additionally, I think, after this week at least, I'll do better to do my dog cooking on weekends. Trying to cook people food and dog food at the same time was a little chaotic.
My next step? I'm going to wait 24 hours (sorry pups, that means kibble for breakfast) to see how Moe and Porter's tummies react. If we're not having any problems, they'll get the remainder of the eggs and rice for dinner tomorrow.