I often hear from frustrated clients who are unable to find a commercial pet food that does not contain an ingredient or ingredients to which their pet may react. This is definitely a shortcoming from an industry that provides an abundance of choices. My suggestion is always to home cook and freeze meals for a week. Immediately, clients glaze over with a look of panic that they might inadvertently not provide pets their full nutritional requirements. I understand this fear as I and my veterinary colleagues make this suggestion with an appropriate warning. I am pleased that books by Dr. Karen Becker, Steve Brown and Monica Segal are on the market which provide nutritionally balanced options and I encourage readers to purchase them.
So, my recommendation is to start tiptoeing early in this process by making treats for dogs. It can be fun and quite the cost savings!
Carrots and Green Beans
Carrots and green beans are functional carbohydrates, wonderful sources of soluble fiber, not too messy, and great as training treats. Carrots also are a part of the carotenoids class of phytonutrients, and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. All you need to do is simply chop them up into small raw pieces, throw them in a baggy and off on the walk you go! They can be frozen and served directly from the freezer, if desired.
Side note: if you want to add vegetables as toppers to pet food, I prefer that you lightly steam the vegetables as this helps with digestibility. If you prefer to serve them raw, be sure to first purée them in a food processor or blender to break down their cellulose for easier digestion.
Apples and Bananas
All of us have looked at ripened bananas and thought we would make banana bread. We toss them in the freezer. Every time we open the freezer, we feel the pangs of guilt of our unfulfilled plans. Eventually, we toss them out.
Coupled with that, food waste is an increasing problem in the United States. It is estimated that 40% of the available food supply is never eaten and that 20% of the waste in landfills is food. We should be ashamed when some people are malnourished or underfed in our own and other countries!
A small step to helping our pocketbooks and the food waste issue in the United States is to make banana and apple chips. If you slice them thin enough, you can toss them in a dehydrator and have healthy snacks for your pets and the rest of your household. Also, dehydrated fruits can last up to one year.
Remember that both apples and bananas protect the heart and block diarrhea. Apples also improve brain health, lung capacity and cushion joints; whereas bananas help strengthen bones and control blood pressure.
For a quick indoor training treat, you can try fresh or frozen blueberries.
Dodds, Jean, DVM, and Diana Laverdure, MS. Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Wenatchee: Dogwise, 2015. Print.
“Food Waste Weighing down U.S. Food System.” Harvest Public Media, 21 Sept. 2014. Web. 21 June 2015. http://harvestpublicmedia.org/article/food-waste-weighing-down-us-food-system