In this day when everything seems to cost so much more than it did twenty or even five years ago and we all work harder than ever to make ends meet, I just can’t stand waste. Beyond that, I think I was born with a love for efficiency and resourcefulness. These are traits I highly esteem in individuals and strive to accomplish myself, and I know Hugh appreciates that I am able to stretch our dollars further than many others know how to do. So, let me share how I apply this to our beloved and useful dogs.
While I know there are some who see little to no benefit in having dogs, I do not agree. Obviously, people who feel this way have not been attacked by a wild animal, pack of unruly domesticated dogs, or a human and the had their dog(s) jump between them and the attacker(s) or at least help you fend off the attack. While this situation may not be common, I have personally experienced this situation twice with two different dogs of different breeds. My dogs serve as early warning of any visitors or stranger on the property. Those who are walking on the perimeter of our property with no obvious reason to be there are well warned to walk on the other side of the road, and they do! Friends are sometimes a bit nervous but learn that those who our family welcome are received with enthusiasm rather than hostility. That’s not the case with those of ill intent, and I am most grateful for this. My dogs deserve my loyalty and care, because I need theirs.
However, it is costly to feed and care for our canine friends and to give them the very best at the same time without some clever intervention and may seem impossible in a TEOTWAWKI situation, but I don’t believe it is. This clever intervention is what I have learned from others and want to share with you. I have stored purchased dog food away, but the dogs always prefer fresh and find the homemade treats and food I make to be special “treats”. These “treats” are very nutritious as well as good motivations and supplements to the purchased food that will help purchased foods last longer or may become their sole diet, as our farm increases. One of the benefits of our homemade food is that it has no preservatives and is grown organically. I know what is going into my dog, and it is basically (or close to) the same thing that is going into me. At least it is from the same plants and animals, even if it consists of different parts of these plants and animals.
I am a gardener and a livestock raiser, and I highly encourage all of you to begin practicing these skills also. Even, if you just begin with a few planters on an apartment patio, you should consider beginning to the skills right away. I truly hope that most of you are working gardens to not only provide most of your family’s fruits and vegetables right now but are producing enough to put some away for the future. If you are gardening and raising even small animals, such as poultry or rabbits, you can have a sustainable source for most of what you need to begin making nutritious dog treats by using mainly scraps from your “products”.
As I’m preparing foods, I have scraps or leftovers or, most often, rejects that get popped into freezer bags until I’m ready to grind everything up for tasty treats. (It’s just easier to make it in large batches, so that’s my preferred way to do it, but it isn’t necessary.) In a TEOTWAWKI situation where there is no freezer available, I imagine I’ll find myself chopping things up and feeding them as the items are available or at least grinding what’s on hand every day or two.
There are some key components to my dog treats:
When processing chicken, we don’t eat the organs, so those get set aside for the dogs. There is cartledge and skin (gelatin) and some meat that just isn’t pretty with blood spots and so forth that I may cut away; that gets set aside for the dogs. When I cook a chicken, I often boil the chicken carcass to get more of the meat and make broth. Invariably, there is some meat and cartilage that is not particularly appetizing to my family that the dogs love. Even if you buy your chicken breasts at the store, there is usually some cartilage and fat left on them that has to be cut away (along with a little muscle (meat). This is the part that goes to the dogs.
When we have beef butchered, we get the liver for the dogs. I like eating it, but I don’t like cooking it and I’m the only member of my family who’ll eat it, so it goes to the dogs too (but in small amounts as in large amounts I understand it can cause Vitamin A toxicity.) We also get the bones cut up for the dogs to eat on; there’s a surprising amount of meat left on some of them and the marrow is so very good for them as well as the calcium for their bones and teeth. (Never feed poultry bones to dogs though, as they can splinter into needle-like pieces that puncture their digestive system.)
Rabbit, squirrel, venison, fish, and other “varmit” can be used for feeding dogs also in a TEOTWAWKI situation. Any meat, cartilage, and even thin skins can be cut and ground up to provide protein and gelatin for their muscle, skin, teeth, and joints. You can also use canned meats, such as tuna, or peanut butter. Just be sure you get canned products that are absent or low salt/sodium and sugar.
The two fruits that my dogs like best are pumpkin and apples. Homemade pumpkin puree gets used in almost all of my dog foods and treats. It’s a wonderful and healthful ingredient for dog food and treats. In puppies, it is helpful in dealing with diarrhea and nausea when they don’t want to eat anything at all. I just mix a little pumpkin puree (2-3 Tbsp ) with some cooked rice (about 1/3 cup) and add some chicken broth (about 1/2 cup) and the puppies slurp it up; diarrhea is gone and puppy’s strength is regained. Chopped apples or applesauce are also great. Chop the peels if you want, after you’ve made an apple pie and pop them in the freezer until you’re ready to bake some dog treats. Then, pull them out to be ground up with the dog treat ingredients.
Dogs need vitamins A, C, and B, as well as minerals, so they need some orange and green vegetables. I most frequently use carrots and peas. When I bring in carrots form the garden, I scrub them well and peel them. the peels and tops go to the chickens, but the ends get set aside for the dogs, along with any carrots or pieces that are deformed shapes or require trimming. I throw good peas in, because I don’t ever have bad ones, but the pods can also be finely chopped up, too.
Don’t forget to add some parsley from your garden into your treat mix. It aids in their breath and digestion, just like it does ours and provides a little more green and minerals. Other vegetables can be added, but not onions or peppers and most won’t have much to do with broccoli and leafy greens.
Starches are necessary to hold it all together and they can help provide fiber and nutrients, too. I have used a combination of rice and potato flakes or leftover mashed potatoes. I’ve also used some freshly ground whole wheat, flax, oatmeal, and cornmeal when I have ground just a bit more than I needed in my recipes. (I like to use it freshly ground rather than storing cracked grains and flours; if I do store them, I do so in the freezer and only for short periods.)
I almost always use coconut oil, because it is so healthy and is good for their digestive system, teeth, and breath, but I would imagine you could use just about any other vegetable oil that is available. (I use coconut oil with some tumeric mixed in as toothpaste for my house dog, and she has beautiful teeth and gums.)
- 12 cups of raw meat, ground
- 1- 1 1/2 cup of vegetables, ground or finely chopped (usually carrots and peas)
- 1/2 cup of ground or pureed fruit (usually apples and/or pumpkin)
- 2+ cups of starch (usually potato flakes, cooked rice, or mashed potatoes)
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil (preferably coconut oil)
- 1-2 Tbsp dried parsley
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Blend all ground ingredients together with a mixer.
- If not a thick paste, add more potato flakes. If too dry to blend together, add more fruit, broth, or water.
- Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
- Drop a spoon full of the treat mixture onto the parchment paper and mash down util about 1/4” thick. Spoon another, leaving space between them.
- Bake about 30-40 minutes, or until they begin to lightly brown on the edges.
- Let cool and place in airtight container or ziploc bag.
- They will store several days in cool temperatures, or can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator.
- Chocolate. It is seriously dangerous for dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, abnormal heart rate, and death. Don’t use it!
- Onion. In large doses it can cause anemia
- Green part of potatoes. They are toxic to all animals. Only use the white, red, or yellow parts of potatoes and cut off any green on them; toss the green part, as it isn’t useful.
- Raisins and grapes. These are toxic to dogs for an unknown reason. Avoid them altogether in dog treats/food!
- Walnuts and macadamia nuts. There can be serious consequences, such as tremors.
- Salt. It’s not necessary for their taste, nor is it helpful to their health.
- Sugar. Like salt, it’s not necessary or helpful.
- Liver, in large quantities. Cooked liver can become toxic, so keep it to small servings and not as a daily main ingredient.
- Dairy. Like humans, some dogs have issues with dairy products, so be cautious using it and watch closely for any reactions; almond milk can be substituted.
While I have made up my own recipes, I have heard there are some great dog treat and biscuit recipe books out there. One that I have seen recommended and highly reviewed is the Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook by Bubba Rose.