About once a month or so, I cook for my dogs. I make up a batch of my canned-style dog food as a mix in to their store-bought super premium dry kibble. It adds a bit of flavor, some extra nutrients and makes it easy to mix meds and supplements into their food, if necessary.
For years, I used high-quality store-bought canned food for convenience. I’ve seen the price rising upwards, and finally put my foot down when the brands of choice pushed $3 per can! After looking at the ingredients, I thought to myself, “Heck, I can make this stuff,” so into the kitchen I went.
Before listing the recipe, I want to make very clear that this food is not designed to be a replacement for regular kibble – or whatever the bulk of your dog’s diet is. It’s meant as a wholesome mix-in that at the most will add a few extra nutrients and at the worst will do nothing.
Chicken is the main source of protein in my recipe, so if your dog is allergic to it, try another protein source. We eat a lot of chicken in this house, so often get bone-in chicken breasts on sale. When cooking for our food, I debone the breasts, leaving a generous portion of meat on the bone. I stock them in a plastic baggie in the freezer until I have a pound or so of these bones to make my broth, which is added into the food (NOT the bones; just the broth from them). If you can’t or don’t want to do that, it’s fine – it’s just another way to add flavor and nutrients to the dog food. You can do this with raw bones or those that have already been cooked.
I use whatever cut is on sale at the moment. Sometimes, we get bone-in breasts for just .99 per pound; I’ve seen leg quarters as cheap as .39 per pound, but more often, it’s around .60 or .70 per pound. Sometimes, I can get a whole chicken for less than $3.50. Buy bone-in to get the most benefit of flavor and nutrients and you’ll pay less.
The downside is, without question, the prep. I won’t kid you – it’s a pain. But, the absolute upside to this is that the food is full of good, wholesome ingredients that YOU choose, and costs infinitely less than what you could ever get of premium store-bought canned food.
A food processor is probably required equipment here. I process each component separately into a finely chopped consistency, then mix it together in a big tub. The result is a multi-colored mixture, not a paste. You could try chopping it all up by hand, but I don’t recommend it.
With that said, here is the recipe. As you can see, the components can be adjusted quite a bit:
Chicken and Veggies Canned-Style Dog Food Mix-In
3-4 lbs raw chicken pieces
1 lb chicken gizzards and/or hearts
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped*
1 to 1-1/2 cup brown rice
½ – 1 cup olive oil (you may use canola or other healthy oil)
4 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and shelled
1-2 cups each of frozen carrots, peas, green beans and broccoli. You can use fresh, but need to par boil or steam them a little first. This is for maximum nutrient absorption.
Place the chicken parts, bones and pieces in a large stockpot. I don’t have a big one, so use two Dutch ovens. Add the chopped garlic. Add water up to the level of the meat and heat to a steady boil. Turn down the heat to maintain the boil. Cook until done, about one hour.
When cooked thoroughly, turn off the heat, remove the pieces and allow them to cool for deboning and processing. Reserve half the broth for adding to the mixture if needed or to use as your own stock. If you can, put the broth in the refrigerator to coagulate the fat, for easy skimming. An option is to remove skin and fat before boiling.
In the remaining broth, add the brown rice and cook under medium heat until done, 30-40 minutes. The result is a rather soupy consistency – you’ll be adding stuff to it, which will take up the rest of the moisture. Add more broth or water if needed.
Turn off the heat and add the frozen veggies. Mix them in well. They will cook through in the residual heat. Allow the mixture to cool. This will cause the rice to swell a bit.
If the mixture is too soupy, just add a tablespoon or two of potato flakes or cooked rice, if you have it on hand.
Debone the chicken; discard the bones safely (where the goggies can’t get at them). If you didn’t remove the skin before cooking, do so now. The skin contains too much animal fat, which could cause problems for the pooch. This is why we’re adding olive oil – it’s a healthier oil.
Process each component separately, adding the olive oil as you process. The consistency should be finely textured (photos forthecoming). This includes the rice and veggies mixture, which increases nutrient absorption early in the dog’s digestive tract.
Mix all of the components together in a large tub or bowl. Place in containers for freezing. Keep in the fridge only enough to last 3-4 days. I use the small, plastic containers with tight-fitting lids that we get when we order Chinese take-out. Thaw in the fridge or micro-thaw, if desired.
Someone asked if the mixture could be canned, which would make traveling much easier. I agree, but can’t say whether the mixture will be good for that or not. If anyone tries it, I would be very interested in learning how, so please share your findings in the comments. 🙂
Other options – adjust the amount of broth or water added to be sure that the consistency is correct:
- 1 lb chicken livers (It will change the consistency of the food to something a bit creamier, but adds a lot of iron, fat and protein). Cook them with the chicken.
- 1-2 cans salmon or mackerel (adds tons of protein, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and adds flavor, but might be too smelly for some). No cooking necessary – just process and add to the mixture.
- Blueberries, cranberries, etc. – for those who want to add extra antioxidants or acidity for dogs that have urinary problems. Not sure it will replace cranberry pills, but it can’t hurt. I don’t think it’s necessary to cook them, but process like the other ingredients.
- Potatoes – if you want to go completely grain free, use potatoes, either sweet or regular. This addition will change the consistency of the food.
I strongly suggest that any vitamins, powders or other supplements are not added to the mixture as a whole. Add them in as you normally would right before feeding. There’s no telling what the extra heat or cold will do to the supplements. It might make them useless at best, toxic at worst.
*Note: Some folks are of the belief that garlic is bad for dogs. It is, after all, a relative of the onion, which is certainly harmful. However, I side with holistic vets, who say that dogs can tolerate moderate amounts of the stuff. It adds flavor and is said to help repel fleas. If you are dead-set against adding garlic, feel free to omit it. Don’t be a snot and send me hate mail because you disagree with me!
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