Dale Ulmer spent years teaching Boxer owners how to cook for their dogs. His techniques and recipies changed but his dedication to his four-legged friends did not. Many Boxers now eat home-cooked meals due to Dale's willingness to experiment ... and then teach the rest of us. In this piece, he told us why he cooked. We also know he cooked for them because it brought him a lot of joy.
I've had Boxers for more than forty years. With but one exception, they've led fairly long lives by today's standards, but every one died of a form of cancer. Because cancer also afflicts human beings, a great deal of research has been done on the disease. While some cancers are passed genetically, there is strong evidence that suggests that environmental factors play a major role in the onset of many other forms of cancer. Food is one such factor.
After my second Boxer's death, I resolved to see what I could learn about dog food. I was surprised to find very little information available on the topic. What little there was tended to be based almost exclusively on research conducted by or funded by manufacturers of pet food products. Not surprisingly, the conclusion of these industry sponsored studies is what we've heard for years, that a completely balanced dry dog food is a dog's best source of nutrition.
That conclusion has always bothered me, and not just because of the vested interest involved in reaching it. We know for a fact that prepared foods are not the best things for humans to eat. In fact, many of them are pretty bad. Is it likely that dog foods are markedly superior to products intended for human consumption? Dogs, after all, evolved as humans did, eating a collection of meats, grains and vegetables. And, also like us, their bodies were not designed to be maintained on an exclusive diet of fast food. That's what dog food really is. Eventually I came across a couple of books written by veterinarians who had found reason to distrust the conventional wisdom.
Both doctors explain that the pet food industry is not subject to the kind of regulation that's applied to suppliers of food for humans. Dog food purveyors are free to use whatever ingredients they choose. Think about economics for a moment. Premium dog foods sell in the range of 40 to 60 cents a pound at the wholesale level. How much of that do you suppose manufacturers spend on advertising, shipping, packaging, sales commissions, employee salaries, equipment maintenance and other overhead costs? There can't be much room for profit, let alone the cost of ingredients.
When meat animals arrive at the stockyards in less than good condition, the meat from them cannot be sold for human consumption. Want to guess what happens to the meat from animals who are dead, dying, disabled or diseased when they're shipped? Much of it is used in pet food.
Both doctors warn against using products that are based on "meat by-products" or "meat meal." A better all inclusive term might be "cheap stuff." I won't go into great detail here, but few people would feed them to their dogs if they were aware of their contents, including hair, feathers, beaks, and floor sweepings, regardless of the source. Unfortunately, nearly all commercial foods contain one or more of these things.
Wendell Belfield is one of the vets to referred to above. His book is "How to Have a Healthier Dog," Doubleday, 1981. The original edition is out of print, but I understand it can be ordered from Orthomolecular Specialties, PO Box 32232, San Jose CA 95152-2232, (408) 227-9334. Belfield suggests trying to find a source of food that does not use meat byproducts, meat meal or meat products from animals of questionable health. It's not easy to find such a dog food. He does not give recipes for home made food. He does present a solid program of vitamin and mineral supplementation aimed at remedying the deficiencies that exist in dog food, regardless of its source.
The other vet I'm citing is Richard Pitcairn. "Dr. Pitcairn's Natural Guide to Health for Dogs and Cats," Rodale Press, 1995 (ISBN 0-87596-243-2), is often available at public libraries. Pitcairn argues against using commercial foods and provides a selection of recipes for home made dog and cat foods. He also provides recommendations on supplements, and explores other health matters.
If you're interested in cooking for your dog(s), the information on the other pages at this site is likely to interest you.