Emergency Foods for your Pet

The series of pet food recalls have prompted many owners to find alternate diets for their dogs. Since we cannot predict when these recalls will occur, or even if they will effect the foods your dog is eating, it always arises as an emergency.

If this is where you are and you need to change your dog's food NOW, the following suggestions and recommendations will help you provide good food for your canine family during any interruption of their normal food supply. (Note: I have excerpted portions of my book that will help you.)

A good starting point is to have a basic understanding of the Keystones for a Natural diet. Please read those notes.

In my book, we have a section on "Making the the Switch". This is accomplished over a period of time. But if we don't have time, and need to make the switch today, follow these directions to help you and your dog get through this crisis situation.

First, get some good nourishing food into your dog, and give yourself a breather until you study your options and decide what you want to do.

Second, don't worry, you will not kill your dog with human grade food.

And, if you are doing this only for a few weeks, you don't have to worry about a balanced diet. Use the time to learn as much as you can about good food and nutrition, and apply these principals to the way you and your dog eat.

Just for the next few days, consider these emergency rations. Go to the grocery store and buy some chicken parts and a few small zucchini. Also purchase some yogurt with active cultures and a can of pumpkin pie (the vegetable, not the pie mix).

Make the dinner: Put the chicken in a roasting pan, slice the zucchini and put these on top. If you have garlic, peel, slice and add that. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Cool, skin, bone and shred the chicken. Serve with some zucchini and some rice or pasta.

Two thirds of the meal by volume will be the chicken, the remaining 1/3 will be the zucchini and pasta. You will want to feed about 2 to 3 percent of your dogs body weight if they are adults, a higher percentage for a puppy. For a 50 pound adult dog, this would translate to about 1 to 1.5 pounds of food in total for the daily meals. If you feed twice a day this amount will be divided in two portions. This is only a guide. In general large dogs will eat a smaller percentage of their body weight, and small dogs will eat a higher percentage of their body weight. My Great Pyrenees at about 100 pounds, eat approximately 1 and a half pounds of food per day.

Depending on the size of your dog, divide this food into daily portions. If there are more than 3 days worth, freeze the rest in portion sized meals.

The protein does not have to be chicken - eggs, cheese, fish (canned salmon or sardines are great), beef, lamb, turkey are all good choices. If you are going to continue on this diet for more than a few weeks, do not feed one protein source exclusively. And as a supplement, check out the section below on ground eggshells for a source of calcium.

Also, if you choose to continue on this diet, vary the carbohydrates/grains and cooked vegetables. Try pasta, oatmeal, barley, quinoa, or any number of grains. If the vegetables are new to your dog, go slow on these and start with the sweet ones like carrots and sweet potatoes. Add new vegetables and grains as your dog comes to accept them.
A typical meal may consist of:

  2/3 chicken, 1/3 rice and cooked carrots combined.
  2/3 beef, 1/3 of pasta and zucchini combined
  2/3 canned salmon, 1/3 sweet potato

Keep fat content low (no butter on the pasta, no skin on the chicken, or fat dripping from any kind of meat) and avoid any seasonings until your dog is comfortable with this new diet.

There are some foods that you may want to avoid. They can be found below. Most dogs transition easily, but I recommend a 2 week period to make the change. If you do not have this time, you might see a bout of diarrhea. If your dog is an adult, and develops diarrhea, you may choose to with hold food for a day. Keep water available

If your dog is a puppy, please contact your vet. You cannot with hold food from a puppy.

If we are just dealing with a loose stool, use the pumpkin and yogurt. A dollop of each on the meal can gently correct this problem. The fiber in the pumpkin firms up the stool and the active cultures in the yogurt restore good flora to the intestines.

If needed, make a congee, an overcooked rice porridge, and combine with boiled beef to firm up the stool:

For the congee, bring 1 cup rice (not instant) and 4 cups of water to a boil. Cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed. Cool well.

Boiled Beef: Put an appropriate amount of ground beef in a pot with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer for one minute. Drain, rinse under running water to eliminate any fat, then cool slightly and serve with the congee.

You can add the yogurt and pumpkin to this.

Serve this based on a proper percentage of the body weight. Do not let your dog eat all they want at this time. The diarrhea can also be caused by too much food, and we don't want to create our own problems.

And if the "dire rears" persist for more than 24 hours contact your vet.

Foods to avoid

Just as many people have allergies or food intolerances so can your dog. Some have been well documented and cross all breeds. Some are more breed specific.

Onions can cause Heinz body anemia. It varies widely within breeds but Akitas and Shibas have been especially susceptible. Severity varies with the quantity and rate at which they are consumed, the more onions as a percentage of the diet, and the more frequently they are consumed the worse the anemia. Most of the onions referenced in the literature are culls, (onions removed from the food chain for quality issues) and are discussed as a percentage of the diet. While many of my recipes contain onions, they are top quality fresh onions and constitute a very small percentage of the diet. I have listed them either as optional, or to be cut large enough to be removed before serving to your dog. While none of my dogs have had a problem with onions, this is a case of where you control what goes in the bowls. None of the recipes will be terribly impacted without using the onions, so on this issue, I recommend that you let your conscience be your guide.

Raisins and grapes. Some dogs have experienced renal failure as a result of consuming raisins or grapes. This does not seem to depend on the quantity or the source (home grown, imported).

Nuts can be indigestible to dogs in general and Macadamia nuts can be fatal. Avoid giving your dog nuts.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in many gums. This too has proven to be fatal to dogs.

Chocolate can be problematic. The substance in chocolate that has been identified as the cause is theobromine. It is a naturally occurring stimulant found in the cocoa bean. Amounts of theobromine vary by type of chocolate with baking chocolate containing the most, and white, and milk chocolate containing the least. The toxicity varies further by the health and size of your dog. Two one-ounce squares of bakers' chocolate is toxic to a 20-pound dog, while the same dog would have to eat one pound of milk or semi-sweet chocolate to have the same harmful effect. Avoid chocolate.

Alcohol can be fatal to dogs. Years ago I had a sweet Pyrenees girl who loved to lap into a glass of unattended beer, and while she never suffered any side effects, it still is not a good idea. Some of the sweet and milk like concoctions that flow around the holidays (Irish cream comes to mind) might also be tempting to a dog.
Honey should never be served to babies or puppies. There may be botulism spores in the honey that can effect the youngest of our "children." Older animals and humans have immune systems strong enough to tolerate it. Honey is fine for your adult dogs, just don't give it to puppies.

And remember, dogs like people, can have intolerances and allergies that are specific to them. What one dog thrives on can cause ill effects in another dog. But chances are, your dog is among the millions who seem to be able to eat anything and everything (including some things we prefer they did not eat).

Check out the ASPCA web site: http://www.aspca.org for updated information on foods that can be toxic to dogs, as well as other environmental substances and plants that you do not want them to consume. They also run a 24x7 poison control center at 888-426-4435. A small fee may apply to using this center.

The Incredible Eggshell

Beside eggs being an excellent protein source, the eggshells provide our dogs with much needed calcium. Eggshells consist of calcium carbonate (94%), magnesium carbonate (1%), calcium phosphate (1%), and organic matter (4%). For those of us who prefer not to use bone meal as a dietary supplement, this is an inexpensive and reliable source.

I spend a few minutes on Sunday preparing the shells. Shells from 8 eggs provide more than enough calcium for the two dogs for the entire week. I think this is worth the effort, since it amounts to another aspect of your dog's diet that you totally control.

The procedure:

Lightly tap the egg on the counter to break the shell and extract the contents. Where the egg has cracked, lift up a part of the shell and pull the broken shell away from the rest of the egg, taking the membrane with it. Sometimes it comes willingly, sometimes not. Don't sweat it if it does not. If you have enough eggs, toss the problem and work on the easier ones. Drop the cleaned shells in a pot of water, bring to a boil, then remove to let them air dry.*

When completely dry pulverize the shells either in a coffee grinder (I have one I use just for this purpose), with a mortar and pestle, or any means you have. Store in a covered jar on your counter and sprinkle on your dog's dinner at the rate of ½ teaspoon per pound of meat.

One half teaspoon of ground egg shells yields about 2750 mg calcium carbonate which has 1100 mg of elemental calcium.

* I boil them as a means of cleaning the shells from left over membranes, and also in case the egg supplier coated the egg surface to maintain freshness.