Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A history of dog food......part two

After Mr Spratt had started to make his dog biscuits and sell them worldwide, the next big thing to happen was to be when machines took over from horses in doing all our hard work. Around the early 1900's there were just too many horses surplus to requirements and so they were turned into dog food. Eventually horses were bred just for the purpose and sold as a tinned dog food.

The next big change was during World War II when a shortage of tin meant that the dog food manufacturers had to come up with a new idea. Essentially this was the start of the dry kibble type product we know today and what's interesting is that the nutritional needs of the dog were not considered at all - it just needed to have a long shelf life and not be a tinned product. The simple reason there are so many unnecessary carbohydrates in commercial dog food is because they dry easily, keep for a long time and are much cheaper than protein - not because it's what dogs should be eating.

In 1964 the Pet Food Institute began a campaign to stop people feeding their dogs anything but commercial dog food.

Last year, pet food companies in the US spend $16 billion promoting their products.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Too damn hot

It's still rather hot and while Ruben had a cool off in the lake, another frozen treat recipe is perhaps needed.

Fill an ice cube tray - preferably one with larger shapes - by gently pouring in natural low fat yogurt into each section. When you're done, squeeze a tiny amount of honey into the centre of every one and then place  in the freezer until solid. The honey might not completely freeze but the yogurt will. You can always make larger versions in a old ice cream tub if your dog is on the big side.

Pop one out of the tray and feed to your hot dog.

Feeding outside is fairly essential I'd say, they're a bit messy.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hot Dog

It's suddenly got very hot and Ruben is all floppy and panting in the garden.

So, it's time to cool down those hot dogs.  Just giving them an ice cube can be amusement enough but if you want to go that stage further, dissolve a low sodium chicken or beef stock cube in some boiling water and, if you have some to hand, a little chopped parsley as well. When it's cooled down, pour the mixture into an ice cube tray, either regular squares or novelty shaped, and stick in the freezer.

Feed to your dog as an ice lolly treat whenever the heat strikes.

Just don't put them in your G&T by accident.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

As fit as a butcher's dog - for real

I really enjoyed being part of BBC Radio London's Barking at the Moon programme on Thursday night and it was good to find out that presenters, Jo and Anna, are also fans of feeding a natural diet too.

I mentioned that my local butcher makes a pet food mix which is made up of all the offcuts of beef, chicken and lamb which is then mixed in with a little bit of heart which I then feed raw. It's an inexpensive meal and packed full of organic, free range meat. If your local butcher doesn't make a similar product it may well be worth asking if they would consider making one - they have something to do with all the offcuts and you get a protein packed meal for your dog. Win, win as they say.

My local butcher is

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Not just for cats

Fish and fish oils are a fine addition to a dogs diet. One of the quickest meals you can make is to open a can of mackerel and add an egg or mix in some cooked veg. Tins of sardines are also good to feed and they make for easy travel food when you want the convenience of something that can be stored and transported without mess.

Fish oils supplements are especially good for bones, joint mobility, easing arthritis and for maintaining healthy nails and skin. Dorwest herbs make a cod liver oil capsule and you can also buy Alaskan fish oil supplements which are very pure.

The lovely ladies, Jo Good and Anna Webb have invited me as 'Owner of the Week' onto their doggie programme, Barking at the Moon this Thursday 17th May on BBC Radio London 94.9 at 11pm. I shall be chatting to them about my love of feeding dogs a natural homemade diet so it should be fun.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

You're a good egg

The humble egg is one of the easiest and cheapest proteins you can feed to your dog. They are the original whole food as they contain all the nutrients that are needed for the growth of a new chicken.  The egg itself is a perfect protein, the most digestible of all the animal proteins and of course completely unprocessed. Even the shell is good to feed as it contains calcium - they can be ground up in a coffee grinder and sprinkled onto food.

You can feed them whole to include the shell or broken raw over some crushed vegetables or meat or you can feed them lightly cooked. 

Eggs are especially good for growing pups and nursing mums and if your dog suffers from skin problems, then egg yolks can be particularly beneficial.

Good old eggs.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Treat yourself

Making treats instead of buying them will mean you'll know exactly what went into them and might even save you money.

Buy some calf liver and cut it into biggish chunks. Boil it for 10 minutes, (have the windows open/extractor fan on - not the most pleasant smell!) and then place on a baking sheet and bake it in a hot oven for 10 minutes, turn it over and then bake for another 10 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let in cool it bit and then cut it into small treat sized pieces. Keep the treats in an air tight container.

Other little nibbly treats that are good and healthy are chopped up boiled egg and small pieces of a hard cheese. No need to serve on cocktail sticks - this isn't the 70's.......

Monday, 26 March 2012

Say no to carbs

So, why no carbs?

Dogs simply don't need them apart from the small amount that's in vegetables and fruit. There's nothing wrong with giving your dog the odd biscuit or to mix a bit of pasta in with their dinner but they really don't need them on a day to day basis.

In dried dog food there can be up to 75% carbohydrate - why?  Quite simple, cost.

Carbohydrates such as corn, wheat and rice are all used in dry dog food because they are much cheaper than good quality animal protein and for the manufacturer they have the added bonus of using ingredients that have a very long shelf life and are essential in the manufacturing process of dried, kibble type product.

All those bulking out carbohydrates are good for profit margins but aren't in any way based on the dietary requirements of dogs. Of course dogs can and do manage to live on kibble but their bodies really have to work hard to extract nutritional benefit and it's now thought that many diet related conditions such as skin complaints, allergies, liver and kidney disease and diabetes could all be linked with that high carbohydrate diet.

It can be very hard to decipher the list of ingredients on the side of the box too, so the only way of knowing exactly what you're feeding your dog is to prepare it yourself.

Even if you just want to make the smallest of changes, try mixing some mince or chicken in with the dried food so at least they are getting something fresh and you're upping the protein proportion.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A sense of proportion

Getting the basic proportions right is key to a homemade diet. With dogs it's all about the protein - think Atkins!

It should really break down like this:

60 - 70% protein including:
Red meat
Oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines
Dairy including cottage cheese and yogurt

(Plant based proteins such as corn,oats and beans are much less digestible - in fact only about half as digestible as animal proteins)

The protein can be fed raw or cooked - there is much debate that raw is better but I think even cooked it's still going to be much better than commercial dog food.

15 - 25% vegetables and fruit including:
Sweet Potato
And just about any other regular vegetable or fruit you can think of - no onions or grapes though as they can be toxic.

The fruit and veg needs to be made digestible by either cooking or crushing it raw in a juicer.

5 - 10% organ meat including:
Lambs liver and kidneys
Beef liver and kidneys
Chicken liver and kidneys

Again they can be raw or cooked.

If you are itching to add carbohydrates like rice and pasta keep it to an absolute minimum - no more than about 10% of the overall meal. Dogs really don't need these carbohydrates and no canine ancestor has ever been known to eat them.

Add Calcium

The easiest way of doing that is to feed raw bones. Otherwise use ground up egg shells sprinkled onto the food.

Ultimately variety is the key to a homemade diet - keep mixing it up with different proteins and vegetables but stay with the same basic proportions.

By the way, commercial dry dog food is normally around 45 - 75% carbohydrate. On the next blog I'll explain why.

Monday, 12 March 2012

I really love your tiger feet

The combination of Ruben having his hair clipped into a rather unusual style and watching the huge assortment of dogs on Crufts last night, means I have decided to come up with a more unusual breed name for him. Instead of just a plain old cocker spaniel, he's going to become a rare Turkish Slipper spaniel. A friend has also suggested he looks like an Australian Uggfoot dog..............any other suggestions welcome.

As Ruben is rather hairless at the moment I been thinking about the supplements that help hair growth and the richness of the colour when it does grow back.

One of the best is a seaweed, kelp. It's packed full of iodine and it's known to be very good for pigmentation and growing a lustrous coat.

Dorwest make it tablet form and also as a powder in their Keepers Mix. Go to:

So hopefully Ruben should be back to his usual woolly self in no time.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Oh Ruby.....

After a couple of months of trying to get to the bottom of what was causing Ruben's lameness and reluctance to go on walks we finally got things sorted this week. After X rays, a MRI scan and a CT scan (thank goodness for insurance) Ruben had an arthroscopy on both his front elbows where fragments of bone were removed and he also had a couple of tendons cut. It sounds a bit dramatic but he should much happier and pain free very soon and I have to keep reminding myself how amazing it is that a little cocker spaniel can have such specialist and precise treatment. The surgery was carried out at Fitzpatrick Referrals - home of the 'bionic vet' Noel Fitzpatrick who recently had a series on the BBC.

It's the most fantastic place and they took enormous care of him - Alan, the surgeon, even showed us a video of the arthroscopy which I have to say made me feel a bit icky!  He is back home now, resting and looking much like a poodle with shaved legs and big fluffy feet. He also had a rather fetching soft collar (much comfier than those hard plastic lampshade things) which has since been taken off when I realised he couldn't reach his dressings. This really is one of those times when you wished you spoke dog and could tell him that he'll feel much better soon!

As for post operative food he is on four small meals a day. A breakfast of oats cooked in water with some honey and natural yogurt and the other meals are full of easily digested muscle building protein so a combination of cottage cheese, raw mince beef and eggs but tonight he's having his favourite roast chicken as I think he's in need of a some special TLC.

To find out more about Fitzpatrick Referrals, go to:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Water, water, everywhere

I'll never forget the look on a friend's face when, after a long, hot walk with our dogs, I pulled out a white china bowl from Habitat and a bottle of mineral water from the car and poured Ruben a drink. In my defence, the bowl was old, chipped and always kept in the car as a dog bowl and the water was left over from an all too rare visit to the gym.

However it did get me thinking about water. It goes without saying that you refresh a water bowl throughout the day but every dog I know would much rather drink out of a puddle or stream than his own bowl. It's obviously the natural way for them to drink and I always think tap water must taste and smell even more chemically to a dog than it does to us. So I've now got into the habit of refilling Ruben's bowl with filtered water from the jug in the kitchen as well as setting down a few bowls here and there in the garden to catch rainwater.

Some dogs are very odd though. I used to own a florist shop and every day Jasmine, a very sweet staffie, would come racing in to drink out of one the flower buckets. Her owner said it was her favourite.

Then there was a cocker spaniel called Libby, who would only ever drink out of the glass of water I took to bed. Still makes me feel a bit queasy when I think about how long she'd been doing it before I noticed.......

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The bitterest pill

Dogs seem have a remarkable sixth sense for knowing when you're trying to slip them a pill and immediately become suspicious of a normally well received treat.

I've tried most things including hiding them in food (carefully ignored and left in the bowl), wrapping them in tiny bits of ham (ham sucked off, pill spat on floor) and griding them up and adding to food which kind of works but often feel there might be powder left in the bowl and it can make for a very dry dinner.

Ruben has eight tablets a day made up of various supplements including fish oil as well as antibiotics at the moment for a bad paw. So my search for a suitable way of slipping a Mickey Finn continued but I think I've found the answer. Chicken livers.

If you cook them very lightly and then whizz them up in a blender you have a very basic liver pâté. Keep it in the fridge obviously and just coat the tablet with a little of the sticky mixture. You can of course just buy a liver pâté but it's going to have ingredients that aren't so good like onion and even brandy, so this is a really pure doggie version.

I think because the mixture is so sticky the dog just swallows the whole thing without trying to lick off the coating. Anyway it seems to be working and I haven't found any tablets spat out in his bed so I think this might be the winner.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ruben the little porcupine

I think cottage cheese is a great occasional meal for dogs especially if they are recovering from an illness. Cottage cheese contains amino acids which are excellent for healing wounds and building muscle and it's also high in protein and easily digested. For all those reasons it's really good to feed to doggies that are pregnant or feeding their puppies and for dogs that work or exercise really hard (not Ruben obviously).

I feed the full fat version as the low fat one can sometimes have a higher sodium level which isn't good. Don't buy one with chives or other bits in - that's just plain silly.

Unfortunately Ruben has always suffered with his back so he regularly has acupuncture and yesterday Alistair Greenway, his acupuncture vet, paid us a visit. Ruben is extremely relaxed when he has the treatment, in fact we always laugh that he seems to go into some kind of meditative trance even before a needle goes in. Ruben also rather sweetly gives Alistair a kiss at the end of the treatment to thank him, bless him!

You can find out more about all the amazing work Alistair does at:

Friday, 24 February 2012

A dog in wolf's clothing

Raw food diets for dogs, which have seen a healthy increase over the last few years,  base their theory that a dog is essentially a wolf and as such should eat what a wolf eats. This would be an animal's carcass, organ meat and (sorry if you've just had breakfast) the contents of the animal's stomach. They would also scavenge for anything else available, be that fish, windfall fruit or honey.

So feeding raw meaty bones including beef, lamb and chicken is at the heart of this diet as well feeding raw crushed vegetables and fruit to mimic the stomach contents and a small proportion (about 10% ) of offal like liver, heart and kidneys.

I feed Ruben raw food a lot of the time but not exclusively. I think it has enormous health benefits and whatever you feed your dog, giving them a raw beef bone to gnaw on is always going to be a good idea.

I like to 'line the stomach' before they eat bones, either by feeding some other softer food first or by rolling the raw bones in bran so as to mimic the fur and skin that the wolf would naturally have to eat first.

If feeding a raw diet really floats your boat then reading The Barf Diet by Dr Ian Billinghurst is your first port of call. 'Barf' stands for biologically appropriate raw food in case you were wondering.

Or a Saturday night in Essex.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A history of dog food...........part one

To understand why commercial dog food may not always be the best thing to feed your dog, I think it's useful to know why it exists in the first place. There's really only two reasons - commercial and circumstantial.

The first history lesson takes us back to 1859 when an American salesman called James Spratt, who was working in London, watched sailors throwing their unwanted hard tack biscuits to some hungry stray dogs.  He had a light bulb moment and started producing a biscuit that was specifically made for dogs. Other products followed and soon they were sold all over the world and the dog food industry was born. Spratt's was very well marketed and convinced a public used to feeding their dogs scraps, meat and bones that what dogs really needed were biscuits.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Honey honey

Hippocrates, the great Greek herbalist doctor, had two basic remedies with which it was said he cured the sick of almost all their ills. One was hydromel - honey and water; his second was oxymel - honey and vinegar.

Although honey may not seem like an obvious dog food at first, when you think of a bear or a lion raiding a beehive it starts to make more sense.

Honey is certainly one of nature's great energisers and can give an instant energy boost especially to sick or older dogs or even puppies. It can be swirled on to an oat based meal or biscuit or can even be added to their drinking water. One of the reasons it's so effective is that the bees have cleverly done all the predigesting hard work so it's absorbed immediately into the bloodstream of the lucky eater.

Most honey you buy in supermarkets has been heat treated and as a result has lost some of it's health benefits so it's worth seeking out the pure raw stuff.  But either way, something so medicinal and beneficial never tasted so good.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Don't you know that I'm toxic.......part two

Despite my best efforts of feeding Ruben a natural homemade diet you can't blame a dog for picking up a packet of treats he found on a walk. He was very pleased with himself.

It hardly needs pointing out that anti-freeze is toxic but I hadn't realised that even the stuff that is supposed to taste bitter can still smell sweet enough for a dog to want a taste. So in this rather nippy weather be very careful to mop up any spills when topping up the car.

Thank you on behalf of dogs everywhere.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Give the dog a bone

Not the prettiest picture I know but the truth is they are one of the most nutritional things you can ever give your dog.

A generation ago it was perfectly normal to go the butcher and get bones for your dogs.  Now we give our dogs bone shaped biscuits, bone shaped toys and bone shaped treats but draw the line at giving them the real thing. Once you've seen your dog gnawing on a bone you know it's what they're supposed to eat. There are so many health giving benefits to feeding bones in terms of nutrition (including protein, fatty acids, anti-oxidants and enzymes) but they are also nature's toothbrush.

Main rule never to be broken - only ever feed them raw.

Cooked bones can be brittle and splinter and can be dangerous.

So go and make friends with a butcher today, they normally give bones away for free or certainly for very little. Beef bones are a great introduction if you're new to the whole raw feeding frenzy. Ask nicely and they will chop them up for you with their special big cleaver if your dog is only small.

All that goodness for just a few pennies. Think of all the money you'll save on those processed dental sticks in the supermarket. It's funny you know, I've never seen a wolf eat a detastix.........

Monday, 6 February 2012

Juicy gossip

One of the main problems of feeding fruit and vegetables to dogs is that they struggle to digest cellulose. They aren't cows after all. So essentially there are two ways of breaking down the cellulose and making it much easier for your dog to get the nutritional benefits. The first way is to cook them, but you can lose out as vitamins and other goodness may be leached out into the cooking water -  so always use the least amount of cooking water as possible.

The other way, perhaps best way, is to crush them. It really breaks down the cellulose and it also means you are feeding the fruit and veg raw which is also a good thing. By far the easiest method of doing this is in a juicer and it's the pulp that you would normally throw away that you use. So you can either make yourself a juice and keep the remains for your dog's dinner or make loads in one go and freeze in individual bags adding a bit of the juice in as you go. Once defrosted the pulp can than be stirred to any dog's meal.

Carrots, courgettes, celery, peppers, apples and pears all seem to juice well but you can have any combination you have to hand or use what's on special offer at the supermarket. Don't bother to peel and just remember to leave out onions or grapes as they can be toxic.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Let it snow

We woke this morning to an avalanche of snow. Well about half an inch actually.

It got me thinking about some huskies I met in Lapland at the beginning of the year. They're so suited to the snow and want to run so badly they howl in frustration if they have to stop for any reason.  Many of the dogs are given reindeer meat to supplement their diet.

As they can't stop to drink, the huskies take mouthfuls of snow as they run and unfortunately for the person sitting at the front of the sledge, they also poo while they run. Which takes a certain skill I think.

Friday, 3 February 2012

On a cold and frosty morning

It's a cold one this morning but Ruben loves it and spent most of his walk doing ice rolls....

There's something about cold mornings that always make me think of having porridge for breakfast and as oats are such a good food for dogs there's no reason why they can't have their own version.

Just add one cup of rolled oats to 2-3 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes. When it's cooled down sufficiently add a squeeze of honey or maple syrup. If your dog likes fruit you can chop up and add some dried figs too.

Central heating for dogs.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

An excellent choice

So William and Kate have got themselves a cocker spaniel puppy have they? I won't say anything about having excellent taste........

One of the things about feeding a homemade diet is to get away from the dog food company line that every meal should be complete and balanced. (Whether or not some dog food is complete and balanced is another argument). A dog's diet should be complete and balanced over a couple of days, not necessarily in one meal.

So, here's an idea for a meal that's very much on the protein powerhouse side of things.

Mix together:

Raw beef (you can cut up very big chunks if your dog is only small or use mince)
A raw egg (beaten up)
Cottage cheese (the plain one, not with pineapple chunks or other bits and pieces)


It makes an excellent breakfast for either dogs or circus strongmen.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Don't you know that I'm toxic........part one

I recently found a recipe online for a liver treat to give to your dog. They recommended soaking the liver in bourbon. Seriously.

Alcohol is toxic to dogs even in tiny amounts and especially with smaller breeds. So at home it's worth remembering not to leave glasses of your favourite tipple at a height your dog can reach, especially as some dogs are attracted to the sweetness of the drink. If you think your dog may have drunk alcohol phone your vet asap.


Remember doggies, just say no.

Friday, 27 January 2012

I'm a fool for yogurt

I love to stir a spoonful of yogurt into any dog's dinner.  It's got calcium and vitamins including the B's and A. Most importantly though it's got all that friendly bacteria we hear so much about. It's great to feed at any time with any meal but if your dog has diarrhoea or is on antibiotics for any reason (antibiotics can kill the normal bowel bacteria and antibiotics can often cause diarrhoea) then feeding yogurt is a damn good thing.

No exact measurements but per meal reckon on a teaspoon for a little dog, a tablespoon for a medium sized one and a couple of tablespoons for big boys.

When a say yogurt I mean plain, live, natural yogurt. But you knew that.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

A little mix

I think of this as a Sunday afternoon thing to do with that feeling of getting everything planned for the week ahead.

It's a simple recipe mix and works best when made in bulk and then frozen into portions. It's the base to which you add a protein and the proportion is about 40% mix to 60% protein. You can use different types of protein every time you feed. For example you can stir in canned mackerel (use the one in spring water or olive oil and drain well) or cooked chicken (no cooked bones) or raw chunks of meat like beef or a couple of eggs (raw or cooked) or cottage cheese.

I tend to use American cups to measure rather then weight. That way you can easily make more or less depending on what you need.

What to do:

Cook half a cup of brown rice (I often use the cheating one that cooks in 10 minutes, that way your veg will be done in the same time), a handful of cubed squash and a handful of broccoli florets in a pint of boiling water until everything is cooked.

Take off the heat, drain and allow to cool a little.

Stir in a handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped raw spinach, half a cup of sweetcorn, (creamed or niblets), half a cup of canned lentils and half a cup of oats.

Allow to get completely cold then freeze into individual portions in freezer bags.

Take out a portion to defrost and when fully thawed serve it with one of the protein suggestions above. You can also stir in a little plain live yogurt right at the end.

Tasty and organised.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

An introduction......

This is my first post and as I write it, Ruben is out in the garden having his dinner, which today means gnawing on a raw beef bone. I'm a great believer in feeding bones, just so long as you always feed them raw.

Beef bones are Ruben's favourite and our garden often resembles one of those scenes from the Wild West with cow bones strewn all over the place. He sometimes buries them but most of the time I sneak out and throw away the old ones. If I forget, a flock of magpies line up to pick them clean and then I have to spend the day singing the old Magpie theme tune to myself to see if I'm going to get silver or gold..........