Clean eating is important to us; we limit processed food (and avoid fast food completely) and raise most of our own pastured and free range meat. We do this for both pragmatic and philosophical reasons: we want to ensure that what we eat won’t adversely impact our health, as well as being ethically acceptable to us. While we’ve radically changed how we eat, we’ve still been feeding our dog, Freya, conventional food – premium conventional food, but still commercially-produced products. It’s time for that to change.
Allergy season is upon us: eyes are itchy, throats are scratchy. Freya has been showing dermatitis-like symptoms, with redness in her neck and feet areas, and she’s been scratching and chewing herself. To the point of making her feet so sore that she’s limping. We’ve tried wrapping her feet to prevent her from chewing, wiping her feet after every foray outside, and making her wear booties to prevent contact with the ground. She’s still chewing her feet. We’ve also treated her with medicated baths, natural anti-itch sprays, over-the-counter allergy medication (one we know is vet-approved)…and yet she still seems uncomfortable and keeps licking and chewing.
Our older dog, Xena, who passed away last year, experienced periodic episodes of hair loss and itchiness. We suspected allergies. We took her to conventional vets that recommended limited-ingredient prescription dog food, attributing her symptoms to a food allergy. Frustratingly, the expensive prescription food didn’t work, and it contained ingredients we don’t think are good for dogs’ health. It wasn’t until we saw a holistic vet, who told us that food allergy wasn’t likely and began treating her for a staph infection secondary to a surgical procedure she’d had recently (and this became a recognizable pattern), that we began to see improvement.
We understand and appreciate the importance of balanced, life stage-appropriate, nutrition for our dogs. We chose premium, grain-free dog food for that very reason; and we changed brands recently. While we thought the allergies were environmental in nature (pollens), in retrospect, it’s much more likely that the new dog food triggered the reaction. Sadly, she can’t tell us that the food contains something that doesn’t agree with her (I suspect some kind of additive, like a coloring agent or preservative), so she just chewed herself silly trying to soothe the itch. Clearly, different food was needed. We purchased a premium fish-based kibble (a brand that’s highly rated in Cornucopia Institute’s Pet Food Guide) and I jumped right into making my own dog food – a vegan one, no less.
I used this Vegan Dog Food Recipe. Do I think that it’s safe for dogs to eat a vegan diet? I’ve read some persuasive arguments that support that dogs can be healthy on balanced vegan diets as long as they are nutritionally sound, including adequate levels of protein and necessary nutrients. The “proof is in the pudding”, though: I’ll be monitoring Freya closely to ensure she’s not adversely impacted. Frankly, though, I’m skeptical that there is a potential for an adverse outcome: this recipe is packed with healthy ingredients and powerhouses like nutritional yeast.
After cooking up the rice/oats/veggies in one pot, and the beans/lentils/peas in another, I puréed the beans/lentils/peas (per the author’s suggestion, for ease of digestion) and mixed the lot together. I added then added the nutritional yeast, flax seed meal, tahini, hemp protein powder, and coconut oil and stirred it together. It smelled great!
The real test was at dinnertime: would Freya eat it enthusiastically, reluctantly, or not at all? I scooped about a cup of it, along with 2 raw eggs, into her bowl. She devoured it. It’s clearly a winner with the canine critic.
This is human-grade homemade dog food, so we sampled it, too. It’s tasty – though a funky greenish color – and a bit on the bland side (to human tastebuds). I could eat this, though; it reminds me of old school health food. Way better than “nut loaf” though! We’ll be feeding a mixture of the fish-based grain-free kibble and the homemade vegan food, with the idea that we’ll gradually taper off the kibble and feed homemade exclusively if she does well on it. I think she’s happy to eat what she thinks is “human” food instead of just kibble (even kibble with bone broth on it). Everyone likes variety!
Interested in how Freya does on the homemade dog food? We’ll post an update in a couple of weeks!