Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cats and Dogs and Pets--Oh, My!

I talk a lot about animals in my interviews and on this blog.  I guess that’s only natural since I was raised on a farm.  At one point my husband and I travelled around the country in a tiny motor home with two cats and one dog.  Now we live with two cats (the house is theirs—we lease from them).

I thought it might be fun to include some thoughts about the pets that own us and those that find their way into our writing, so for the next several weeks this blog will be dedicated to all things pet.  This week the writer Jackie Vick shares with us a recipe for dog food.  When she sent it to me I was struck by how similar it was to a recipe I used with my cat.  I’m certain it kept her alive for years and contributed to her svelte body.  Maybe I should have used it on myself!

Jackie makes some important points about how careful as humans we are about what we eat, but are we as concerned about our pets?  Do we know what is good for them?  Jackie gives us an easy way to insure good health for them.
Author Jackie Vick

Chemicals and Corn in Dog Food: Oh, My!

Next time you visit the grocery store, take a look at your fellow shoppers. You’ll see them carefully scanning the labels searching for gluten-free foods, low sugar content, or whatever meets their dietary needs. These same well-informed consumers will move to the pet aisle and pick up whichever dog food is on sale!

Did you know that corn is hard for dogs to digest? Yet it’s a top ingredient in many dry foods. Then there are sinister-sounding chemicals, and words like “meal” and “by-product”. What exactly is the by-product of a chicken??? And the recent pet food recalls are enough to scare any pet parent.

That’s why I decided to make my dog’s food. Internet sites offered varying (and often militant) opinions. One site suggested adding garlic powder as a deterrent to fleas, while another swore this ingredient would kill your dog!  I was lucky enough to find a class offered by a local woman with a degree in animal nutrition.

Her recipes included grains, veggies, and meat, as well as additions like brewer’s yeast, calcium, flax seed, and the highly-debated garlic. I don’t add yeast because Buster’s tummy gurgles so loud I can hear it in the next room. You can clean, dry, and grind your own egg shells for calcium, but I’m lazy and buy bone meal from the health store. I do add the flax seed, but I avoid garlic, just in case.

When I rave about making my own food, most people respond with, “I haven’t got the time!” I’ve found with a few pots and a microwave, it really only takes a half hour. You can find 8 ounce storage containers and lids at Smart-n-Final, and they sell bulk meats, veggies and grains, so the cost isn’t prohibitive. Bone meal and flax seed are kept in stock at health food stores.

Here is a recipe I use for Buster. It’s adjusted for his colitis (lower protein), and I give him a doggie multi-vitamin just to be safe. I’m not a nutritionist or a vet, so keep in mind that your own dog’s needs might be different. Check with your vet. It’s great if you can find a class locally, but make sure to check the person’s credentials. 

Bone Appetite!

Thanksgiving Dinner

5 cups of cooked rice. (Brown or white will work.)
16 oz of green beans. (if canned, buy salt-free or rinse)
12 oz of butternut squash (I use frozen from the grocery store)
3 lbs of ground turkey
A handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries. 
1 TB of Bone Meal. 
2 TB of Flax Seed

Cook the rice according to package directions. If you have a microwave, the rice cooks up easily while you’re doing the other steps.

Brown and crumble the turkey until it’s thoroughly cooked.

Steam or boil the squash and green beans together.

Dump the rice into a large bowl when it’s finished.

Finely grind the turkey, cranberries, and veggies in a food processor (in batches). Add to the rice.

Sprinkle on the flax seed and bone meal.

Mix well.

Once it’s cool, put into containers. Keep a few days worth in the refrigerator and freeze the rest.

I’ve been known to toss everything into one pot and cook it on low until the turkey is done and the rice has absorbed the liquid. Like I said, easy-peasy!


  1. Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I can't imagine traveling around the country with Buster. He's afraid of the car and cries the whole time!

  2. Now, if only I could get someone to do all that cooking for my dog! I'm afraid this would keep me very busy!

    Morgan Mandel

  3. If you double the recipe, leave it cook while you're writing or doing housework, and then package it up, you're done for two weeks! I now put the food in two big containers--one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer--and then just measure it out. Saves time. :)

  4. I've known about Jackie's struggle to find Buster a healthy food that will help with his intestinal problems. If this works for him... you'd best give it a try. And I've recently been advised to stay away from corn in cat food as well (my Maine Coon has problems similar to Buster's). The food he now eats has peas and potatoes. Huh! It's working. Good luck on your funny Pet Psychic book too, Jackie.

  5. Thanks for the recipe, Jackie. Theh only thing that bothers me is using a microwave oven. I've taken an alternative medicine course and know that microwaving destroys the food value and can cause intestinal, blood and other disorders. You might want to try a jet stream oven, crock pot or other appliance to cook Buster's food.

  6. For my Doberman I did a lot of raw feeding. When I did supplement it with commercial foods I did check labels, never bought in a grocery store and only shopped in pet specific stores.

    I was doing this before I saw a documentary on what realty is in dog food. Even the stuff that's edible is so low quality it doesn't do much good. To prove that the food is tested, they concocted a dog food that included as meat by-products shredded and cooked leather shoes. The food had zero nutritional value for a dog, but easily passed the quality tests. There's also a good chance a number of diseases and ailments our pets get as they age are partially due to the bad quality of food.

  7. Thanks Jean! I only Microwave the rice, which probably doesn't have much value anyway (I hope). I've really been using the one pot method lately--brown the turkey with the veggies and cook it until it's mush, measure the remaining water and add what I need for the oatmeal or rice. I haven't heard of a jet stream oven. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  8. P.A., I thought about raw until my vet told me how many cases of worms he gets every year from people who feed raw. With Buster's problems, I thought I better not take a chance. And that's so horrible about the leather. Funny note: I tried out some Rachel Ray because the ingredients didn't look too bad for an emergency. Buster loved it. He pooped FOUR TIMES in six hours, and I only fed him a total of 2 cups. That's a lot of filler!!!!

  9. I don't feed my cats any corn, and I read the ingredients of their natural food carefully. My female cat likes peas and beans, but hates carrots. She eats around them, and then gives me a dirty look as if to say "how many times do I have to tell you--I don't eat orange stuff?!" It must be very frustrating trying to train a human.

    Her food contains cranberries and salmon and smells awful to us, but she seems thrilled with it. We refer to it as cranberry carrion.



    1. I just read an article about how cats need something that begins with the "T" (Taurine???) and it's deadly if they don't get it and you can't replace it with once it's missing. I'd be terrified! (Then again, I tend to overreact.)

  10. Jackie, you might want to invest in a rice cooker. I bought a ten-cup electric one for $40 at Walmart or Target, which is about the size of a flour canister. It makes very nice fluffy rice in about twenty minutes.

    1. My rice cooker died a slow death. You're right. I should replace it. Once I figured out how to use it (I am that useless with appliances) it was wonderful! Thanks for the reminder.

  11. My cats get Iams brand, although the female has decided she only wants the canned food, which of course costs more than the dry. I help feed the neighborhood cats and for a while I bought the cheap generic food. At one point the cats stopped eating so I changed to the regular (more nutrious) brands. Cats know what's good for them!
    Sally Carpenter

    1. When Foster had his accident, Buster went on dry food. I made the switch abruptly, but he handled it like a trooper. I think cats are smarter about that stuff. Buster will eat almost anything, though he will spit out his green beans if something tastier is on the counter. And congrats on your first Sandy Fairfax mystery, "The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"!

  12. Interesting blog. I'll have to copy the recipe down for my collie's food. Both my collie and one of my two cats beg when I open tuna fish to make tuna salad. I always open two cans, drain the juice, add a little water to the juice and then divide it up between the collie, the one house cat who likes it and a barn cat that comes running when I call her name and said "Tuna juice!" really loud. I've heard lams is a good brand for cat food. There's another brand of dog food, too, that is supposed to be much better. I can't think of the name of it now. I make sure the dry food I buy has no artificial coloring. I guess I'd better read the labels a little better.

  13. Catching up on the e-mail!

    Well, Ive never made dog food before (and I don't have a dog right now). I'll hold on to this, however, in my Pets file. I do hope to get a new dog sometime this year (my beloved Charley died two years ago).