Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homecooked Meals

I'm in a short recess between semesters, and of course, I can't actually take a break for some stupid reason, so I've taken on a bunch of projects. One of which is my new plan for feeding the dogs: homecooked meals.

You may remember that last year's raw food experiment was a failure, for a number of reasons. For example, I'm a germ-o-phobe, and it bothered me to no end to watch the dogs put their paws all over raw chunks of meat, then walk around our house. I was baby-wiping their feet after every meal.

Also, Star hates raw meat. Hates it. When offered raw meat, she runs off, hunched over, head down, tail between her legs—as if we just offered her a beating.

But commercial kibble has its share of problems too. The recent food recalls. The mysterious shortage of rabbit that makes it impossible to keep Dozer on a rabbit-only diet. The 25-lb bag of food that costs nearly $60.

So I'm compromising. I'm cooking.

I bought six chickens at the store last weekend.

It's really difficult to cram six chickens into the fridge. I got three in the meat drawer, and three where the milk should go.

Waaaaiiit a minute, you're saying. Isn't Dozer allergic to most meat proteins? Isn't that the point of the special, expensive, impossible-to-find rabbit-based kibble?

Well, here's the thing. We didn't experiment much with the food allergy. The dermatology/allergy vet started us on the rabbit-based food, and things improved, so we assumed that rabbit was the key.
  • Dozer was originally eating Natural Balance Limited Ingredient kibble of various flavors, and he was reacting to it. The meat proteins varied, and the starch/binder was usually rice or potato.
  • With the derm vet, we started him on Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, which is rabbit and potato. He was still getting staph infections, but it was much improved.
  • Then we switched to Instinct—rabbit and tapioca—and the staph infections cleared up.
  • Instinct then ran out of rabbits, so Dozer currently eats Natural Balance Alpha, which uses a combo of lamb, chicken, and rabbit, and the binder is chickpeas. He's still doing great.
So I wondered, why isn't Dozer reacting to the chicken and lamb in the Alpha?

Perhaps, it's not actually a meat protein allergy, it's a starch/gluten problem. That is, perhaps Dozer is allergic to starches like grains, rice, and potato, but does fine with gluten-free binders like tapioca and chickpeas.

Makes sense to me.

Under this theory, I could switch Dozer to some non-rabbit-based, gluten-free dog food, which would be easier to find. Trouble is, most of the foods made with gluten-free binders are still RIDICULOUSLY F-ING EXPENSIVE. But, yes, I am considering this possibility.

In the meantime, I'm testing the theory that home-cooked meals might be a cheaper solution.

I cooked four of the chickens at once. I wanted to cook all six, but my pans weren't big enough.

These chickens are nothing fancy. Wash them off, rub some olive oil on them, put them in a 425-degree oven for about 1.5 hours.

Don't they look good?? Yeah, we thought so too. So we ate some chicken for dinner! In fact, it was kind of awesome, because with only one chicken, Byrd and I would fight over the dark meat, but this time we could each have our fill of legs and thighs.

Dozer stood next to me in the kitchen and drooled while I pulled all the meat off the chicken bones for storage. (Cooked chicken bones are NOT safe for dogs to eat.)

I got a total of 8 pounds of meat off the 4 chickens. And that was after we ate at least a pound ourselves for dinner. The chickens were $5-6 each. It comes out to about $2.50-$3 per pound.

I think the kibble probably costs just a little bit less. :(

But then again, I've never seen the dogs so excited about their dinner.

Recently, we also found a new dehydrated dog food that is gluten-free and rabbit protein, and it smells delicious when you add hot water. It's about the same price as kibble. But storage is much easier because the bag is smaller, yet it still makes the same amount of food as a big bag of kibble. Modern technology!

Currently, we're doing a hybrid sort of meal. The dogs get kibble as a base. They get a serving of re-hydrated food, some cooked chicken, and a supplement. They also get various snacks during the day, like cottage cheese, egg, or chicken livers. I won't pretend it's a balanced meal, but at the moment, it's an experiment to see what they can eat without Dozer breaking out with staph and Star running away like a coward.


Shana said...

thrilled to see a post and pics, today! i just love your blog and those beautiful dogs of yours! :) you should consider writing a book when you're done with school. your blogs are interesting, informative, and often hilarious! :)

Shana in California

happypitbull said...

Yeah, it's been a while! School is killing me. And all my "free time" has been poured into StopBSL updates. Thanks for stopping by, Shana! :)

K-Koira said...

I wanted to mention that neither rice nor potatoes have gluten in them, so while there may indeed be a starch allergy of some kind, if he is not okay with rice and/or potatoes, it is not a gluten allergy.

The other thing is, I was going to suggest using a pressure cooker instead of baking. In a pressure cooker, chicken bones can be cooked to a squishable mush that is safe to feed to the dogs, which gives them the needed nutrients in the bones as well as reducing the amount of work you need to do. When I did cooked food for the dogs, it would be whole chickens or chicken quarters (depending on price, etc) cooked in the pressure cooker with water, then mushed up with cooked rice and vegetables, then frozen in individual portions. And, of course, the dogs loved it.

happypitbull said...

Great info and advice, K-Koira! Starch allergy is definitely more a accurate way to describe it.

I've considered the pressure cooker. Being a terrible cook, I haven't invested in many "special" cooking tools. But the pressure cooker sounds like a good idea.

Kari in Vegas said...

I so hope it works for you guys!

Stop on by for a visit

OrionLovie said...

I've learned that my own pit (and heard that many dogs in general) actually have an overall grain allergy (meaning not only are they allergic to gluten, but any grain, including rice). My pit was breaking out for awhile before we realized that he had an allergy to the rice in his food. We now feed him a hybrid of grain free kibble (we use taste of the wild but apparently costco has a great, cheaper grain free brand) and homemade food (usually ground beef, vegetables, sweet potatoes and beans). I definitely recommend going grain free - it's healthier for my dog at least. Hope this helps!