Pet Hack: Semi-homemade Cooking For My Disabled Dog
I always feel sad that Stan can't run around off leash with other dogs, or play the way he wants to, or even run around by himself anymore because he's a disabled dog. His little disabled legs and bad back definitely hold him back. Even play dates or meet and greets on the street have to be highly monitored so no dog jumps on Stan.
He has a good life, but he's physically limited. It bums me out, and I think it started to bum him out, too. Stan's life in a nutshell was: go for a walk, healthy dinner, nap, hang with his people, walk, healthy food, nap, walk, bed. I imagine Stan was following the same lifestyle plan as many Hollywood starlets, and he was equally cranky.
In my mind Stan's dry kibble/healthy treat diet is akin to eating salad for every meal, without dressing. He was never excited for "dinner" and pretty much just ate to live. I decided we were going to enhance his uber healthy diet with fresh foods like chicken and veggies.
It's incredibly important that your dog continues to get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals he or she needs, why is why I am sticking to his kibble for now with some fresh add-ons, or what I like to call Semi-homemade doggy dinner. We also tinkered with the quantity of kibble vs whole food until it seemed just right to maintain his weight and still provide a mostly kibble diet (for now).
Here's what Stan eats twice per day, most days:
A pinch of Libby's Pumpkin
(Tip: freeze it in batches and press the water out when you defrost it in the fridge)
A tablespoon of boiled Trader Joe's chicken tenders very finely chopped
A few steamed peas and carrots, or a bit of steamed broccoli which I mash up with a fork. Average 5 or 6 peas and 4-5 carrot bits per bowl. Don't want too many veggies!
I usually boil one chicken tender and steam the veggies. Then I cut up the chicken, mash the veggies a bit and store them in a container to use for the next few days:
The ratio is a bit off in this picture because I didn't mix the food up well. There's a lot of chicken under those veggies! Stan usually gets 90% chicken with 10% veggies, if I had to estimate. Per Steve Brown's advice I also buy smaller bags of dog food more frequently so they are very fresh, which costs a little more but Halo always has coupons on their website.
Treats include Trader Joe's Organic Chicken and Rice Sticks, Mini Zukes and occasionally a small piece of boiled chicken, broccoli, or a blueberry now and then. Oh, and organic no salt peanut butter in a kong (about a tablespoon). I always make sure his treats are made in the USA, are well reviewed, and include prime ingredients (ex: chicken rather than chicken meal) first on the list.
Do Your Research, Monitor Your Dog
If you're interested in adding fresh food to your dog's diet or cooking for your dog do your research first and talk to your vet. Creating a balanced, nutritious diet for your dog is tricky business, which is why I chose to stick to the healthy Halo kibble and enhance it with fresh food. Start slowly, one food item at a time. Your dog could have allergies you don't know about, so be careful!
Pekingese are often chunky monkeys because they are generally good apartment dogs who loathe long walks and extended play. Stan has never been chunky, and he loves long walks, but he started to get a bit chunkier once we enhanced his food and he licked his bowl clean at every meal. Monitor your dog's weight as you add food. Also, your dog might eat very fast when introduced to new tasty additions, which could lead to digestive upset, bloat, etc., so you need to slow them down.
Remember dog's can't eat certain fruits and veggies. Examples: onions, garlic, seeds of anything, grapes, raisins, apple skins (according to some), avocados. Don't take chances, learn what they can't eat.
Is It Expensive?
I probably spend $10-13 (coupons!) for a 4lb bag of food that lasts Stan 4-6 weeks. He maybe eats one Trader Joe's chicken tender per week, and a 1/4 of steamed peas and carrots that I buy in a $1 frozen bag at the grocery store, so it's really not that expensive in my mind. Under $20 per month, treats included, and well worth it.
Resources I've enjoyed so far:
Steve Brown's website and books: http://www.seespotlivelonger.com/
As I continue researching the best fresh foods for my dog I hope to enhance Stan's diet even more. Next up, how we eased into a supplement routine and added interactive toys into Stan's routine to improve his health and quality of life.