By Bhavini Bangera*
For years, there has always been confusion for pet parents as to what kind of food is good or bad, allowed or not allowed for pets, especially dogs. Since I specialize more in the dogs’ category, I would love to share some brief info that may be useful in case you are looking at options for feeding your dogs besides the commercially available dog foods. However, please do consult your family vet before you administer anything to your pet for possible allergic reactions or if your dog has any special needs.
Dogs have been descended from the wolves’ clan, and thus are primarily carnivores. Of course, over the years and with country specific availability of foods, their consumption patterns have changed, however the basics still remain that they need to have protein as their major source of energy and that too, protein derived from animal sources and not plant sources. When we talk of animal sources, it can be through chicken, turkey, duck, mutton, fish, etc. In many countries, dogs are fed raw meat because that’s how they are supposed to be fed. However, in India, we prefer cooking the meat so as to kill any form of micro-organisms and make it safe for our furry kids. Also, meat without any bones, skin, and feathers is the best form, boiled, shredded or cut in small sizes depending on the breed and served.
Now, this also means that dogs should usually be on grain-free diets. Most of the grains that are consumed usually have carbohydrates as main source of energy, and just like in humans, carbohydrates if not used up, get converted into fats. Grains have very little or no other form of health benefits except fibre. Thus, avoid grains as far as possible for your dogs. Alternatives to these can be sweet potato, potato (but not excess), pumpkin, carrots, broccoli, peas, corn etc. Fruits like bananas, apples, pears etc. are also a good option for them. When it comes to grains, wheat and its derived products should be avoided as far as possible as wheat contains a form of protein called gluten, which is difficult to digest even by humans, so for dogs too it should be avoided. In around 75% of dogs, gluten allergy is very common, which creates uneasiness, loose motions, skin rashes, etc.
Milk in its raw form usually has to be avoided since in India, the ‘doodh roti’ concept is very common for dogs; however, it is not a good option to feed dogs with milk. Some milk derivatives like curd/yoghurt and cheese are still permissible, however in limited quantities.
Any form of sugar, spices, salt, chocolate, seed, and citrus fruits like strawberry, oranges etc. are a strict no-no for them.
I would like to share a few quick recipes, which can be used by pet parents to prepare at home for their pooches, and can be given to them without any hesitation:
Regular meals or add-ons:
‘Rice and chicken’ is the most common and a good form of meal for dogs. You can have other options like semi boiled carrots, broccoli, peas, sweet potato, pumpkin etc., either mixed with boiled meat or curd, and serve as meals. The quantities can vary, with sweet potato and pumpkin being the main base. You can also serve raw carrots as snacks.
Take some carrots/sweet potato and peel them. Wash thoroughly and cut in long slices. Do an egg wash, preferably egg-white wash, sprinkle some dry or fresh finely chopped mint and parsley and bake for around 15-20 minutes at high temperature (200 degree Celsius or so). These treats can be stored in refrigeration for up to a week or more and can be given to your pooches as snacks/treats. A combination of mint and parsley helps to keep your dog’s breath fresh, so they can be used in combinations for preparing treats.
You can do the above process with raw bananas as well.
Take a combination of gluten free flour (can use tapioca or oats flour), add some boiled shredded chicken to it, some olive oil, and form a cookie like dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes and roll it out in desired shape of around 1 cm thickness. Bake for 20 minutes at 180-200 degree Celsius.
There can be variations to these wherein instead of chicken, you can use mutton mince, fish, grated carrots and cheese, garlic (in very less quantity as this helps in keeping ticks and fleas away), peanut butter, etc.
During extremely hot climates, these treats come handy for cooling down your pet’s temperature. Blend together some ripe banana with unsweetened apple sauce and fill it in ice cubes tray. You can give this as a frozen treat to your dog. You can also use a combination of peanut butter and banana, chicken broth, etc.
I hope these tips and treats come handy and you can pamper your pets in the healthiest way while keeping a tab of what you are feeding them. If your dog has a sweet tooth, a bit of honey is permissible, but strictly no sugar. Most of the ingredients that I have mentioned are easily available in Indian markets and are cost effective too, while maintaining the health factor, which is most important.
* The author runs a pet bakery in Mumbai with the brand name ‘Gourmutt’. She is a food technologist and a passionate marketer. She has been baking for pets for almost 10 years now, and her specializations include doggy birthday cakes, snacks, and treats. You can follow her pages on Instagram and Facebook by the name Gourmutt- the pet bakery.