I am delighted to be a guest of the wonderful Ani and her friend Sue in the lead up to Christmas… Ani is well known for her epicurean tendencies and I thought that I might share some of the treats for pets that have been created in our household at this time of year.
It is that time of year when we tend to throw caution out of the window along with any slimming books and fitness apps we might have (well some of us anyway).
Unfortunately, our pets are also treated to our sense of liberation and they end up eating many things they are not used to. Also their eating patterns might be thrown out the window, and in my experience their inner body clock is more accurate than a Rolex. This does not make for happy pets.
They are also likely be stressed by all the coming and goings, being handled by other family members and friends and being unable to take power naps at their appointed time.
This adds up to stomach upsets and it is not conducive to a convivial family Christmas dinner for the dog to upchuck just as you reach for the bread sauce!
On a serious note, in the case of certain foods such as chocolate, there can be both unfortunate side effects and in some cases the risk of death.
The rule of thumb is that if it is industrially produced food (and this included the majority of dry dog and cat foods) it is not good for your pet.
There are however, some fresh foods that we eat that are safe for your dog or cat and after the ones definitely to avoid, I will give you a list of those you can give to your pet as a treat.
N.B. If you are planning to change your dog’s current food be it dry or canned, do it gradually over a few days to ensure there is no adverse reactions. Later I will give you some options for your dog or cat should you choose to prepare their meals yourself.
Here is a list of some food additives and ingredients that can cause your pet harm and applies to cats as well as dogs
Top of the list, particularly at this time of year is Chocolate. It contains theobromine which is a stimulant which can affect several of the dog’s major organs and systems including the heart and kidneys… certainly the guts. Poisoning occurs fast and if your pet has a stomach upset, is vomiting and over active then you need to see a vet.
Grapes are often served on cheese boards and raisins are in a lot of baked goods at Christmas everywhere. They are not good for a pet’s kidneys and whilst I have known beer drinking dogs, anything alcoholic or containing caffeine is not good for animals.
Onions and garlic in small doses (I used garlic in moderation topically for our dogs in mosquito season) will probably not harm your pet but if they are exposed to them on a regular basis it can destroy their red blood cells resulting in anaemia.
Xylitol is a sweetener which found in many items around the home and in the store cupboard including sweets, chewing gum, many store bought cakes and biscuits and even in your toothpaste. Quite a few diet foods are laced with the stuff and it is not only toxic to our pets but is not really fit for human consumption either. In dogs it can result in vomiting and dizziness and even after only a few days of being given foods containing xylitol it can lead to liver failure.
Now for the good news…foods that both humans and pets (dogs and cats – your python might not be that interested) can enjoy.
- Plain boiled chicken cubes.
- Cooked pieces of offal such as chicken livers, pigs liver, heart (don’t overdo them just one or two at a time. Once cooked keep some in the fridge and freeze the others. Great for training as well as good for them.
- A hard boiled egg (they tend to like that warm)
- Homemade peanut butter (unsalted) and banana ice cubes.
- Dogs and cats are partial to sweet potato and if you cook in chunks until tender and pop in the fridge they will keep for three or four days. Sweet potato is also very good if they are suffering from a stomach upset.
- Other fruits include pieces of watermelon (I do tend to take the pips out) and small chunks of banana.
- Small amounts (postage stamp sized and only 3 pieces) cheese.
- Turkey sausages cut into chunks make a good training treat.
- Cottage Cheese placed in a small cup and held for the dog to eat…keeps them busy for ages whilst they it all out.
- Cats are partial to fish and plain canned sardines in water and give small bites sized pieces, and they also love raw prawns but make sure they are cleaned. I have used frozen shrimp and taken out a portion at a time and let them defrost for a few minutes.
- Homemade natural baked treats such as these oat, banana, coconut oil and peanut butter bones.Courtesy of Quaker
Moving your dog to home cooked food.
There are several reasons why I would not use dry pet food and here is an article that might clarify that opinion: 10 Reasons why dry food is bad for cats and dogs
Sam and his adopted babies.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not something to be undertaken lightly as it is important that your pet receives a balanced and nutritious diet. If you cannot face making your pets food at home then I do recommend that you buy a good quality canned food.. I recommend Butcher’s Canned dog food which I used to keep in the larder in case I ran out of fresh meals.
Also with younger animals it is a good idea to puree the food until they are able to chew and digest chunks of meat or fish easily.
I always cooked in bulk and although dogs are carnivores, if you are going to use a grain in their diet then I suggest rice.
On the subject of rice and dogs.
There are two main standards of rice – Human grade and feed grade which is what is usually put in commercial dog food. The feed grade is what is left over after human rice products are manufactured and usually has picked up chemicals and toxins during the process. Arsnic being one of the toxins that can be found it this grade.
If you use a high quality rice, and Basmati is actually more flavoursome than normal rice and has a distinctive aroma (attractive to dogs) due to 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline in amounts around 12 times more than normal white rice. Rice and chicken is used also for dogs who have suffered stomach upsets as it helps absorb the moisture in the intestine.
All things meat including offal.
Provided it has not been salted, any meat that you consume is find for your pet. And some fat is not going to cause them a problem. I usually used minced beef or chicken for Sam, with the addition of some bits of offal such as cooked chicken liver or pork liver, or chicken giblets. I also would cook off a whole beef heart and then slice and freeze in portions as this is excellent organ meat full of nutrients. All meats were cooked in plain water without any seasoning and I would use the stock from the meat to pour over his dinner to ensure he got all the goodness from the meat.
For cats the same applies although in smaller amounts (especially the rice), with the addition of fish (carefully deboned). I used to buy frozen cheap white fillets and cook in water, flake to check for bones and one fillet would last three meals for about 50p.
Sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients and make a very welcome addition to a dog or cat’s meal. It is great for after a stomach upset but they seem to prefer to carrots and you can buy pre-cut frozen chunks and cook then mash, particularly for smaller breeds. If they will eat carrot then alternate with the sweet potato.
Hard boiled Eggs.
All the things that make eggs a healthy food for us applies to pets too. Eggs are an excellent source of choline and selenium, and a good source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin.
I started up chopping finely and adding to Sam’s meal, but as he got older we discovered her preferred, just hard boiled, peeled and still warm. He would hold between his two front paws and delicately remove the top and nibble around until he released the yolk which he ate before finishing the white of the egg. Kept him busy for ten minutes.. any other food on the floor and he had it hoovered up in seconds.
Although dogs in particular should not overdo the dairy cottage cheese has been fermented and contains less lactose. It adds another low fat source of protein and flavour to a meal and small spoonful mixed through the meal is fine. With older dogs who might be prone to arthritis you can mix a teaspoon of flax oil to the cottage cheese.
Dairy and cats.
Most cats are lactose intolerant despite them heading rapidly towards a saucer of milk or cream. It results in stomach upsets so you need to test any new cat you might give a home to with a tablespoon of milk and watch for 24 hours to see if there is a reaction. If not then repeat with a little more in a saucer and again wait 24 hours. Even then I would suggest only using occasionally for a treat. Plain water should always be down next to a food bowl.
I used to mix the different foods through to make a blend but then discovered that the secret to a food dinner for dogs and cats was the same as humans… rice, then the ground meat with some pieces of offal with sweet potato on the side and topped off by cottage cheese and flax oil.
Counting the Cost
You might think that all this works out very expensively. And whilst not as convenient as buying canned food, it worked out cheaper in the end, and I knew exactly what Sam was eating each day. I would get off cuts from the butcher at half the price, buy mince and chicken reduced on their sell by date and freeze then cook, hearts are no longer a popular family dinner (mock goose) and butchers will usually let you have cheaply… Check you local frozen food outlet for their specials on meat and chicken.
Time wise I only cooked the protein and the eggs once a week and the rice every three days. I also cooked portions and froze in portion sized containers enough to last a week if needed.
Health wise.. I had the satisfaction of knowing that he passed his medicals with flying colours, his coat was glossy and his eyes bright. He never needed to scavenge or beg for food because he was getting enough food of the right kind to satisfy his hunger and his body’s nutritional needs.
Don’t forget to do your own research before moving your dog to home cooked food (raw is a different subject for another day). Do phase any food changes in slowly, and experiment to find out what your pet’s favourites are. They have much keener smell receptors and taste buds than we do and deserve to enjoy their food.
They give far more back than they receive.
Thank you to Ani and Sue for inviting me over and I wish you a very happy December and holidays.. and as they say over here.. A very Happy Christmas.
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