Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.--Hippocrites (Greek, 460 BC.) Founder of medicine and considered the greatest physician of all time.
As I write this the crockpot stew I'm making for my dog Kansas, a five-year old Australian Shepherd/Lab/Golden Retriever mutt, is wafting through the house. Call me crazy. Call him spoiled. I call it good health.
Kansas has had hip dysplasia since he was a puppy. Vets have all said the same thing, "It's genetic. There's not much that can be done except hip replacement later down the road." Well, that answer was never good enough for me. I'm Scorpio Rising. We research. I embarked on my own investigation and came to the conclusion that canine hip dysplasia isn't genetic. It's nutritional. Mostly, a Vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C is necessary to build collagen, which holds bones in their joints. Hip dysplasia is more common in large breed dogs because their bones are growing bigger at faster rate, and without the proper vitamins and minerals their joints and tissues can't develop properly and do their job.
There is an interesting article by Sylvia Hammarstrom, a large dog breeder for fifty years, about this very subject here.
Partly to blame for hip dysplasia is commercialized dog food, not the poor dog's mom or dad. You see, canine hip dysplasia is relatively new. Before commercialized dog food, say fifty years ago, hip dysplasia was nonexistent. Back in the day, dogs ate scraps--fresh and nutritious foods. Today most canned and dry dog food is rubbish. We're asking dogs to survive on a diet of processed junk food. No wonder dogs have so many allergies and skin problems.
We wouldn't feed a child a can of processed food every day of his life or a scoopful of fortified cereal and expect him to be healthy. To me, it's simple physiology. Bones and tissues and blood and organs and nervous systems need vitamins and minerals that come from healthy foods--whether those bones are in a child, an adult, or a dog. A bone is a bone is a bone.
Have you ever read the label of some of those dogs foods? They say, "animal meat" or "animal byproduct" or "meat byproduct." Animal meat? Is the animal so abhorrent that they can't name it? Yes, it is. It can be ANY animal. A rat, a dog, a horse (commonly used), or roadkill. I once read about a woman who found a rabies tag in a can of dog food. True or false, I don't know. But I don't doubt it. I mean, think about what goes into a hotdog, and that's for human consumption.
Kansas went to a well-known holistic vet once and he said feed him people food. (Though I don't think he meant pizza, more like veggies, etc.) Interesting. Looking back, our family dog growing up, Sport, used to only eat table scraps. When we were done with breakfast or dinner we would put our plates on the floor and Sport cleaned them up. He lived a long healthy life, and I don't remember that we ever took him to the vet, not once.
One of my biggest regrets with my dog before Kansas, Mason, is that I forgot all this and fed him canned and dry food throughout his life. He developed numerous fatty tumors all over his body. I am sure it was due to his diet. And he died of kidney failure. Remember two years ago when there was that big pet food recall? The dogs who ate the contaminated food died of kidney failure. A life of processed food can't be easy on the kidneys.
Dogs are akin to wolves, being their domesticated subspecies. Wolves have balanced diets because they eat plants, fruit, grass, berries, and also birds, elk, fish, and all kinds of animals that are herbivores so they absorb what those animals have digested. And I'm pretty sure wolves don't have hip dysplasia.
All I know is that Kansas' hips are at least 50% better since I've been feeding him this stew. He's no longer scratching as much, his allergies have all but disappeared, he's spunkier, and he's walking better.
Here's my recipe. Although it's basically a hodgepodge of whatever I have on hand. Throw this all into a crockpot:
1 pound free range, organic turkey
1-2 c. water (just enough to then be able to liquify it all in the end)
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 yam or sweet potato or regular potato, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 c. green beans
1 c. peas
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 c. blueberries (optional, some dogs don't like it, too sweet)
sprinkle of flax seeds
Sometimes I toss in a 1/2 c. rice if his stool is loose, but you have to add a little more water. And you can also throw a raw egg on top, too.
Also, this can be made vegan, which I do frequently. Kansas diet is 80% vegan (veggies, fruits, grains) and 20% meat (and that is only chicken or turkey). He does get some kibble, but usually it's vegan, and it's supplemental to his main meals. I give him high quality organic kibble only for the extra added vitamins and minerals he may need.
Before including other veggies make sure to check their toxicity for dogs. I know there is some debate about broccoli, so I usually skip it. The ASPCA has a list of what not to feed your dog.
Cook on high for about 5 hours, or until everything is soft, then scoop it into a blender or food processor to puree. It usually lasts about a week in the refrigerator. I feed him 2 cups for breakfast and 2 cups for dinner (it's mostly veggies so there aren't many calories, you need to feed much more than usual!) or I'll throw it over a can of some outrageously expensive organic dog food. He always has kibble sitting out to munch on, too.
Speaking of which, I've had 3 dogs and none of them have had any "food issues" like stealing food, aggression over food or over eating, and I firmly believe that's because they always have a full bowl of kibble left out for them. They know there is an abundance of food, and therefore they never have to worry or wonder if another meal is coming. It has created, without a doubt, a calm, laid back attitude towards food. Your dog might overeat in the beginning, but once he/she realizes that there is always enough food, he/she will adjust to a balanced appetite. I find that dogs overeat because they do not feel there is enough food or they are missing nutrients from poor quality food or they're just plain hungry.
Although cooking homemade dog food sounds indulgent it's just common sense. This stew is actually cheaper than buying high quality dog food. Plus, it has saved me a ton of money on vet bills. And it makes Kansas happy and healthier. Good enough for me.
(That's him above having just licked his plate.)
You can make this for cats as well, but don't add root veggies like yams and potatoes which are toxic to cats.