When Spot, my Border Collie, was five years old, he started to have seizures. It was very scary. He would run around and suddenly, without warning, fall to the ground, tremble, roll his eyes back and salivate heavily. After an eternity of a minute or two it would stop and he would become conscious again but be very confused. We consulted our vet of that time. He made tests. And more tests. And didn’t find anything. Spot kept having seizures. Not often or heavily enough for medication (yet), but scary each time it happened. It wasn’t epilepsy. We weren’t all that happy with the vet we consulted then. And so I did some research and somewhere, on some American dog forum (Germany at that time was not web-savvy for that kind of thing yet) read about similar symptoms caused by preservatives in the food.
We had fed dry kibble to Spot. Dog food never had been anything we gave much thought to. On dog forums people were saying: “Why pay for water? Feed dry kibble and give water on the side.” That sounded sensible to us back then. There were so many contradicting reports. Vets recommended one brand, reports claimed that it was the worst food you could feed… we just fed a brand that Spot liked. But, it did contain color and preservatives. And so, with a bit more research, I came across the book Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.
It had never occurred to me to cook the dog food myself, but on hindsight, that’s what people did through the ages before the dog food industry started to thrive, isn’t it?
So I thought about what would work. I didn’t want to feed raw food. And so I cooked meat and veggies, and found, through experimenting, that Spot liked it most when everything was cooked for a long time, then the meat de-boned, and everything mashed together, with the soup. A portion of this, cooked with Pasta and some extra meat, or egg, or cottage cheese added, and Spot gobbled it down happily. And wouldn’t you know it, the seizures didn’t come back. I fed this diet to Spot for the rest of his life (he lived to almost seventeen), and to Jack, and now Maia, who also likes it.
Here’s the recipe:
In a big pot filled with meaty bones, I add about 1/3rd vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and the like. I usually add an apple, too. Cook for two hours or so until the meat comes off the bones easily. Then mash everything together.
I fill this into freezer boxes, this portion shown on the right side makes two meals. I add finely ground eggshells and yeast flakes. Then it goes in the freezer. One big pot makes 10 or 11 small boxes.
For the meal, I add the same amount of water, about 250 g minced meat or whatever I have available, cook it with 250 g Pasta and that’s it. The portion on the right side is from one box and lasts for two days.
Of course I make treats, too. There are liver treats. I buy liver, usually beef liver, and boil it. It easier to cut into thin slices when it is cooked. Ever tried to cut raw liver?
The thin slices get laid out on a baking pan and dried/baked in the oven at 140°C for a few hours until crisp. I store them in a dry place and they keep several weeks. They are easily broken into small pieces and I haven’t met a dog yet that didn’t like them.
I also collect marrow bones. Where I live you can buy slices of beef legs with marrow bones, about three or four centimeters thick. We make soup from that, and I cut out the bone and don’t cook the bone for very long. I give the bone to the dog and once she’s cleaned it from sinews and tendons, I freeze the bones until I have seven or eight of them. They then get filled.
1. 100g rolled oats, 2T corn starch, 2 eggs and some beef broth. Mix and put the paste into the hollows of the bones. Bake at 160°C for an hour until the filling is hard. I make flat cookies from the rest of the filling. This is nibbled on happily, keeps in a dry place for several weeks, but needs a bit of help to get out of the bone because the filling is quite hard.
2. Same amount of oats, starch and eggs, but add 250g of minced meat. Fill this into the bones and bake until done (about an hour) This is not hard, the cookies are a bit like burgers. I keep them in the fridge, but since these don’t usually last longer than a week, I couldn’t tell how long they keep. I don’t think they’ll keep too long since they aren’t completely dry. They are Maia’s favourites.
I sometimes feed a small raw beef bone as dessert, but as of late they seem to have a bad name, as have sticks for throwing. I’m not quite sure what to think of all this. There are dangers in many things, sometimes it is not so clear where to draw the line. Dogs and wolves have cracked and eaten bones for thousands of years… but they usually didn’t live that long and healthy lives either. I’d be interested to read what my dog-loving readers think of this.