Making your dog’s food at home is one way to be sure it isn’t tainted by harmful additives.
Delighted Dog Stew is a simple approach to homemade dog food that doesn’t require handling large quantities of raw meat or investing in expensive grinders. There are only three steps needed to make this stew:
- Making a rich meaty broth.
- Straining out bones and skimming off the fat.
- Adding meat and a tasty variety of vegetables and starches to the soup.
Ready, Set, Go To Your Kitchen
The basic ingredients for homemade dog stew are meat and bones, a variety of fresh vegetables and a little bit of starch such as rice, oats, sweet potatoes or corn.
Roasted first then simmered long and slowly in a stock pot, meat and bones make for a rich broth. I use five to six pounds of chicken, the remains of a holiday turkey carcass or beef neck bones with equally good results. The meat doesn’t have to be expensive. Having the skin and bones is fine.
Cooking the meat before simmering it avoids the gray scum that sometimes appears when meat is simmered in water. I usually roast the meat, but it could be browned on top of the stove. Put the cooked meat into a large stock pot and cover with water. Add one or two bay leaves, if you wish. I simmer the cooked meat in a slow cooker or a large pot on the back of the stove for several hours or even overnight.
Straining and Skimming the Broth
Use a slotted spoon or a strainer to remove the bones, skin and other material that has come loose in the simmering. Toss this into a colander set over a bowl to catch the broth that may come up with the meat and bones. This clears the soup of fatty skin, if you’re using chicken or turkey, which can be too rich for a dog’s digestion. It also removes bones, which break down in cooking but can still lodge in a dog’s throat or digestive tract.
The broth now needs to be cooled so it can be put in the refrigerator. With a large pot of soup this can take a long time. I usually leave the pot sitting on a cold burner on the stove to cool down. When it’s barely warm to the touch, it can be covered and put in the refrigerator overnight. The chilling causes the fat floating on top of the broth to harden. It can easily be skimmed off and then thrown away.
While the broth is cooling, pick the meat off the bones that you removed from the soup. I chop it into small pieces so it spreads through the soup evenly. This will go into the stew with other ingredients. It should go into the refrigerator when it’s cool until you’re ready to put the stew together.
Creating Delighted Dog Stew
After skimming the broth, put the pot back on the stove and reheat on low. While it heats, prepare any of the following and add to the soup:
- Three large carrots, scrubbed. Lop off the very bottom and the very top of the root and slice thinly.
- Chard, kale or spinach. Cleaned spinach can be put into the soup whole. Chard or kale should have the tough ribs removed. You can then roll up the leaf from side to side and then slice finely crosswise on the roll to make ribbons. These vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Cabbage. About a cup, finely sliced. This can give some dogs gas. Skip it if your dog doesn’t digest cabbage well. Otherwise, use small amounts.
- Zucchini squash, washed and sliced into small pieces.
- Acorn, butternut or other squash. If there’s enough room in your oven, you can bake such squashes for an hour while you’re roasting the meat. Pierce them with a fork or tooth pick to see if they are tender. When they are tender, removed from the heat, cut in half and scoop out the stringy part with the seeds.
- Sweet potatoes. Clean them, cut the dried ends off and dice. They can be thrown into the soup with their skins.
- Rice. Add only a small amount — say half a cup to a large pot of soup. Dogs don’t digest starches well.
These are just suggestions. You can also add parsley, broccoli cut into small pieces, corn, cooked beans, tomatoes or cauliflower. Frozen, canned or fresh vegetables can all work.
Some things should NEVER be added to homemade dog food, including:
- Onions. These can cause a potential fatal form of anemia in a dog. It doesn’t matter whether the onion is raw, cooked or dehydrated. Depending on the size of the dog and how much onion was eaten, a reaction can occur within days of eating the onions. An anemic dog can’t get enough oxygen to his organs and muscles. The results can be fatal.
- Garlic. Garlic comes from the same plant family as onions. While it doesn’t have as powerful an effect on a dog, it probably should be avoided.
- Fat trimmings or skin. Fat and fatty skin, whether cooked or raw, can give a dog pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. While this recipe uses fat and skin in the making of the broth, both are removed leaving the flavor but not the irritating richness.
- Bones. Cooked bones are brittle and splinter into fragments that get stuck in a dog’s throat or digestive tract.
- Salt. Too much can lead a dog to develop sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, a fever, seizures or death. Best to leave it out.
With the exception of bay leaves, I don’t use any spices in Delighted Dog Stew. The soup has good flavor on its own and keeping it bland tends to avoid digestive issues.
Finally, add the meat to the broth and heat to a comfortable temperature for the dog to eat. It can be served by itself or over kibble. When the ingredients are finely chopped, it’s much harder for the dog to pick out what he wants to eat.
Some people recommend adding bone meal for calcium to homemade dog food. Consulting a variety of sources of information about homemade dog food can help educate you about supplements.
Keep enough in the refrigerator to feed your dog during a week. The rest can be frozen in batches to serve in future weeks.