This time of year our thoughts turn to colder temps and snow, gift-giving, and of course, food. Food has become more than a basic necessity; it actually plays a vital role in the emotional lives of individuals, communities, and society as a whole. There are government agencies devoted to its oversight (well, somewhat). It has different speeds: it’s either “fast food” or “slow cooked.” People’s identities are wrapped up in their food choices; they may be a vegetarian, vegan, or “flexitarian.” An individual’s food preferences often reflect their ethnic heritage or at the very least, the culture of the family in which they were raised. We are deeply emotionally entwined with our food—we turn to “comfort” food when we’re tired, bored and depressed; and eating disorders are a serious and relatively common problem in our society.
And of course, we have a holiday that essentially celebrates (excuse me, promotes gratitude for) food! Most of us maintain a deep sense of tradition and nostalgia when it comes to our holiday favorites, lest you even think about tweaking the mashed potato recipe or substituting apple for pumpkin pie. And yet we don’t exactly extend the same thoughtfulness when it comes to our pet’s diets, often settling for the same old kibble or canned fare everyday. While our pets may not have the same emotional need or personal identification with food, they can certainly appreciate the benefits of real, whole, living food from a physical standpoint.
If you’re already feeding your dog a home-cooked or raw diet, you’ll be able to serve them a fun and festive Thanksgiving meal without too much concern for its effects on the digestive system. Over time, the body has adapted to handle a range of different textures and nutrients from a variety of living, nutrient-dense foods.
The introduction of novel foods to the dog whose body is accustomed to one type of kibble or canned food will likely cause digestive upset, ranging from a minor case of the “runs” to something more severe like Pancreatitis. It’s thought that the reason a dog can experience such a severe reaction from something as benign as food is that over time the digestive system becomes rigid and weak when not exposed to enough nutrient variety. Traditional wisdom dictates that a “fatty” meal or “table scraps” are the cause of spontaneous Pancreatitis. However, I also suspect that it has something to do with the bio-availability of the fresh food. The dog’s body is so accustomed to working at partial capacity because of a nutrient-deficient diet that when it suddenly receives a jolt of living nutrition it has a hard time ramping up and making use of all that good stuff.
All the Fixings for a Fantastic and Festive Thanksgiving Feast for Fido*:
Pumpkin: Canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) is a great source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Apple: Another fall favorite; chop fine or pulse for a few seconds in the food processor—A good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Cranberries: Chop or pulse a few times in the food processor–A good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) and Vitamin K, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C and Manganese.
Ground turkey: Cook lightly to kill any bacteria (do not over-cook) or serve raw–a good source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Phosphorus and Selenium, and a very good source of Protein.
Giblets and innards from YOUR bird (uncooked): Serve raw or dip in boiling water for 10 seconds to kill off any surface bacteria–A good source of Vitamin B6, Phosphorus, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Iron and Selenium.
Sweet potato: Peeled, boiled and served cubed or mashed (do not add butter, salt, sugar or any seasoning of any kind), a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6 and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
Wild rice: Always over cook any grains as dogs don’t have the enzyme necessary to break them down naturally. Cook your wild rice a good 10 to 15 minutes longer than you normally would. Wild rice is a good source of protein and Manganese.
Green beans: Frozen (thawed) or fresh green beans are a great source of Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese.
Assorted dried or fresh herbs: Herbs have medicinal properties for dogs as they do for people, so go ahead and add a little fresh (or dried) parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme to his meal! Just stay away from added salt, pepper, or sugar.
Nutrient profiles taken from http://nutritiondata.self.com/
*Please note that these suggestions do not constitute a nutritionally balanced diet and should not be fed in place of a nutritionally balanced diet.
Approximately half the meal should be comprised of meat protein, ¼ of the meal fruits and vegetables, ¼ of the meal carbohydrates.
Daily Whole Food Feeding Amounts (approximations):
|Dog’s Weight (lbs)||Amount (cups)||Dog’s Weight (lbs)||Amount (cups)|
Not to Feed
I must mention that onions and onion powder, grapes, and raisins should never be fed to your dog, nor should any cooked poultry bones. In addition, lay off the heavy seasoning—your dog doesn’t need copious amounts of salt to enjoy his fare!
If you’re interested in learning more about feeding a home cooked or raw food diet, I recommend the following resources:
- “Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats” by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn
- “Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats” by Dr. Karen Becker
- “The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats” by Andi Brown
- Dog Food Advisor (website)
- Dogaware (website)
For more valuable information on how to safely and healthfully serve your dog real food, check out this informative article.