Increasingly, owners are choosing to feed their pets on homemade dog food. Preparing healthy nutritional meals from scratch means you can be certain of exactly what's in your pet's food and whilst it may be a little more time consuming, the additional benefits for your dog make it well worth the extra effort.
In the past, there have been many dog food recalls, but unfortunately for some of our pets these recalls came too late and in 2007, at the height of the problem, many pets became sick and sadly many died.
Eventually it was discovered that some pet foods were contaminated with melamine which was causing kidney failure.
Thankfully many dog food manufacturers have learned from their mistakes and are continually improving the quality of their ingredients and manufacturing processes; however, many have yet to get it right - which is one of the reasons why the homemade dog food diet is still popular today.
Take a look at the ingredients listed on manufacturer's packaging. You may be shocked to see how much of the food is stuffed with 'fillers' (such as corn) and how many artificial chemicals, colorings, and preservatives the food contains!
By making your own homemade dog food you know exactly what goes into it - nothing but fresh, good quality ingredients to help your Cocker Spaniel's coat and eyes shine, keep his skin clear and healthy, and give him strong bones, teeth, and lean muscle.
Homemade dog food prepared with fresh, good quality ingredients will help your Cocker to live a
happier and healthier life - now that works for me!
So, what can I feed my pet?
The short answer is - the best quality ingredients you can afford!
Basically a healthy homemade dog food diet is made up of proteins, in the form of human grade meat, fish or eggs, fresh vegetables for vitamins and minerals, essential oils and fats, and oatmeal, pasta, rice or potatoes for carbohydrates.
Proteins can be found in meat and fish such as, lamb, beef, rabbit, turkey, chicken, pork, offal (including green tripe), salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and tuna. Any of the tinned fish (preferably in water), bones and all, is ideal.
Beans and eggs are also packed full of protein, although they should be used in moderation.
I occasionally give my Cocker Spaniel a scrambled egg mixed with white or brown rice and a few vegetables (cooked or raw, it doesn't matter) - he's not interested in the nutritional value; to him, it simply tastes good!
Essential fats and oils can be found in oily fish, nuts, grains, vegetables, and most meats, but take care, too much fat in his diet can lead to him becoming overweight so if you're to keep your Cocker Spaniel trim, keep a close eye on fat in his diet.
Fresh, healthy vegetables such as potatoes (peeled), carrots, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, baby spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, peas, asparagus, celery, peppers, cucumber and broccoli will provide your dog with essential vitamins and minerals and some carbohydrates.
Watch out though, too much cauliflower or broccoli can give your dog gas!
Max loves red pepper and peas mixed with his rice, add to that a small tin of sardines and dinner's ready!
Any of the above foods can be mixed with whole grains, (only if your dog doesn't suffer from allergies) oatmeal, white or brown rice, (or a mixture) barley, pasta, quinoa, potatoes or cous-cous to provide a satisfying, well-balanced, nutritional meal.
All these will need to be cooked first in plenty of unsalted water and no oil, possibly with the exception of the oatmeal.
Don't be tempted to add salt or any other flavorings to your Cocker Spaniel's diet - he doesn't need it and too much salt in a dog's diet isn't good for him. For extra flavor, it's safe to add fresh or dried herbs, such as parsley or rosemary.
If you're worried your dog's not getting enough nutrition from his diet (oils, vitamins, minerals), you can buy specially prepared omega oils for dogs, as well as vitamins and supplements from most good pet stores.
Let your vet know that you're planning to feed your Cocker on homemade dog food and ask him to recommend something for you rather than just going out and buying it yourself.
I'd also check your dog's weight against his ideal weight and monitor it regularly - if he begins to put on a little beef, or he's over his 'ideal weight' you can either exercise him more or reduce the food you give him.
Don't feed your pet with foods high in butter or feed him too much cheese - they're not good for him and can cause pancreatic problems, although the occasional morsel won't harm him.
Cottage cheese and yoghurt can be used in his diet but only in small quantities, for example a tablespoon or two of yoghurt will help to moisten a meal.
This is where it can get confusing because there are many differing
recommendations out there from so called experts - even most vets can't
agree on ideal ratios of protein, vegetables and carbs!
Important Note: Puppies and nursing bitches require slightly different ratios to ensure their bodies get the correct levels of nutrition. Puppies, for example, will need around 29% protein while their bodies are developing and growing.
I'm not an expert and I don't claim to be, however, when I prepare Max's food I use the following ratios: between 18 and 20% protein, (he's 7 years old and castrated so needs less protein) and equal measures of vegetables and carbohydrates, probably slightly heavier on the carbs, say 50:30.
I don't feed him homemade food every day, he still gets kibble when I'm too busy to cook or prepare meals for him and I'm happy with that.
But you must do what's right for your dog - so take a wander over to your vets and have a chat with him so that you can both decide what's best for your pet, including how much (weight wise) your pet needs for his stage in life!
If you decide making dog food is something you'd enjoy, there are many types of diet to choose from.
There's the organic dog food diet where all ingredients used are natural.
The animals have led a good life, usually raised free range and without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics, and vegetables are grown free from pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers.
The natural dog food diet is very similar to the organic diet except the ingredients are not necessarily organic.
Then there's the raw dog food diet, which is sometimes also known as the 'BARF' diet. It consists mainly of raw meat and bones and can include a small amount of raw fruit and vegetables. Eggs, including the shells, cottage cheese and plain yoghurt may be included because they're an excellent source of calcium.
Holistic dog food takes care of the entire body and raises the overall level of health. Also known as natural dog food it also contains high quality ingredients without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Before you begin making your own homemade dog food, it's essential to be aware of the everyday foods that can be poisonous to our dogs so you can exclude them from his diet.
If you'd like to see a selection of tasty, healthy homemade dog food recipes that are a hit with Max, just follow the link.
Important Note About Homemade Dog Food:
It's important to understand that not all dogs have the same nutritional needs. Simply throwing together scraps of meat and leftover dinner from family meals won't necessarily form a healthy, nutritious diet.
Talk to your vet and let him know what you're planning. He'll give you advice that's relevant to your pet and can help you plan your Cocker's meals - he may even have some delicious recipes to pass on too!
If you've got a favorite homemade dog food recipe, why not share it with us?
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