Disclaimer: I am not a vet or canine nutritionist. I do have years of experience feeding my own dogs and wish to write about that experience. I have also taken canine nutrition and health courses to assist me in writing about dog health and help my own dogs. If you choose to use information I am writing about that is your choice and there is nothing wrong with that.
Taking Care Of Our Pets
Everyone wants to take care of their dogs the best they can. I believe this is true. There are as many different ways to do this as there are dogs and people and not one way is the best. You know your dog best and how he reacts to different things, including food.
In the situation that the world is in now, it will likely become more difficult to give our dogs the optimal care with the assistance of other people. Dog food is usually purchased from a store, or online and delivered. Supplements or special diets can be purchased from companies for dogs and some just rely on whatever they can get or maybe don’t really think about it much from day to day. No matter what you are feeding your dog(s), you most likely have to rely on others to get it.
What I’ve Been Feeding My Dogs
For several years now, I have been feeding my dogs real food – raw meat/organs, eggs, fish, bone broth, oysters etc. This is real food – not all raw, but real. I don’t feed anything processed or with additives.
When we realized that we will most likely be isolating ourselves to try and prevent sickness for the next few months, we were not worried about how to feed ourselves and our dogs because we have been prepared for months and even years for something like this. It is just part of being a homesteader – to be prepared – especially if we have animals that we need to look after.
We are currently feeding three dogs: Ira – 86lbs, Emmett – 55lbs and JoJo – 43lbs
It’s important to know how much your dog weighs and SHOULD weigh when thinking about how to feed him in an emergency. The truth is, eating less is more healthy for both humans and dogs. Many dogs are overweight as is and this is not good for their health or longevity.
My dogs normally get two meals a day:
9 am Breakfast – raw meaty bones, mostly chicken, sometimes duck or rabbit with amounts according to each dog’s weight.
4 pm Supper – meat, organs, occasionally meat with bone depending on the dog and what he/she needs that day, supplement food ( eggs, oysters, bone broth, greens and other vegetables, some fruits that we grow ourselves – raspberries, apples, Saskatoon berries and herbs etc.)
In the evening before bed, all the dogs get a small treat, usually cooked meat or fruit. I brush their teeth 5 night out of the week with coconut oil.
As an aside, the reason we have dogs is for livelihood. Ira is a guard dog. He protects me and my husband and makes sure wild animals don’t encroach on our property and garden. He is here for a reason. The other two dogs also have jobs. They and I (along with Ira), work together to make a living online as teachers of working dog training to help others. Both my Australian Shepherds do many activities including herding and watchdogging. We don’t just have dogs for fun. We feed them the best we can in order to keep them the healthiest we can so they can do their jobs. We work together. By feeding them as much real and species appropriate food as possible, I feel I can achieve this.
What Will Change In An Emergency
So now that we’ve gone over that, things will change in the next few months. Currently we ourselves have to limit going out to get meat for the dogs, as in we don’t go out at all anywhere there are people. I have always had a good supply of food for both ourselves and the dogs on hand. I try to keep each food item at a certain level and not take from that unless we can replace it immediately.
Because we don’t actually know how bad things will get, we may not be able to replace what we had. We need to be prepared for anything – even the most serious situation that we can think of. When you prepare for these things, you will have peace of mind because you don’t have to worry about where the next meal will come from. This means being able to grow or produce some of your own food and your dog’s food, as well as have enough on hand before things get worse, for whatever the issue is.
It is unfortunate that in today’s world many people don’t even know how to cook their own food anymore. Going out to eat is the norm and makes people feel rich and decadent. The beauty of living rurally or in small towns as we do, is that you are most likely able to access space for a garden and more easily in contact with local farmers/ranchers. Also, there is easier access to local butchers. We in fact, live right net door to a butcher business.
There should not be a longterm shortage of dry or canned dog food during this crisis (but we really don’t know for sure). There may be a bit of difficulty finding food locally for a short time on occasion.
What we plan on doing is supplement dry dog food, which we had picked up weeks ago from the grocery store, with as much local food and our own produce as possible. I had a feeling a few months ago that we would possibly need some extra food, so we made the decision to by dry dog food. Since all the types of food that were available to us were pretty much the same – grocery store brands – it didn’t really matter what we picked. We weren’t going to be able to make a trip to the city to get better quality dry food ( if you can say there is such a thing), so this would have to do.
If we run out of real food for the dogs, I will start feeding dry food with supplements.
My plan is to feed the dogs dry food for each of the two meals and alternately add in mixed blended greens and herbs from our garden, sardines, canned salmon, raspberries and Saskatoon berries from our garden, oysters and eggs.
Any green plant fed to a dog MUST be either cooked or pureed, otherwise the nutrients will not be absorbed by the dog’s system. There is some good research showing that adding some vegetables to a dog’s daily meals decreases the risk of cancer. For more info on this please refer to planetpaws.ca
or check out this video from that website on vegetables in a dog’s diet:
If things get really bad, we have a reserve of meat. We have livestock for our own emergency meat. I won’t discuss this here as it won’t pertain to any of you who do not have the capability to raise your own livestock. But this is something that could be looked at for the future if and when things settle down and the opportunity to do so becomes available.
The Most Important Thing
It is crucial to be prepared in advance. Most people are not and live from pay check to pay check. I have seen so many posts and comments about how people cannot prepare for emergencies because they can’t afford it. This is either an avoidance tactic or complete ignorance. There are so many things that money is spent on that are not important. Even buying just one item each pay check over a year will add up to peace of mind.
Panicking and hoarding means you are NOT prepared. We are not talking about that. Being prepared means getting to that point over a long period of time in an organized and calm fashion. It also means getting the best information you can and doing the best you can in a crazy situation.
Being prepared for the dogs is important, in order to give them the best care possible.
Pets are an expense, with food and vet bills being the main issues. When I consider feeding my dogs on the homestead, I always feed the best food I can find. This doesn’t always mean pre-made, store bought food either.
The reason for this is simple.
Dogs need to eat well just like we do. What they eat affects their health. Having six dogs and many more over the years and being a pet professional, I have tried all kinds of store bought dog foods as well as those I prepared myself and I have seen many different kinds being fed to their dogs by clients.
What I’ve found is that on the homestead, the more food I can provide for my dog the better.
This is what we do for our own dogs on the homestead. All dogs are different and respond differently to foods. Know you own dog(s).
We Feed Dry Dog Food
Yes, we use a dry dog food for convenience. Yikes! Isn’t this the opposite of a homesteader’s thinking? In a way yes, and in a way no.
By yes, I mean that it is not self sufficient and likely NOT the most ideal thing for a dog. By no, I mean that I have always felt that our dogs need to be able to eat from many different sources. Often, I have worked with a dog who has been babied and won’t eat anything but certain types of food. I expose our dogs to many different kinds of foods and this includes a good quality dry food. But it is not our main source of food for the dogs.
If you want to and can feed your dog raw or only stuff from your homestead, perfect. It can be done and is the best way in my opinion to feed dogs. This is also a goal of mine.
I have fed raw in the past, but currently don’t have the access to the kind of meat I want to feed to six dogs. Supplies come and go around here. Also, two of my dogs are 15 years old and can’t chew bone anymore. They are starting to not want to eat, so I give them whatever I can that is tasty enough to interest them AND give them nutrients they need. Mostly, this comes from a can.
We Feed Cooked Fish
We buy canned salmon and sardines, and fish that was caught from the local area lakes. Don’t forget that if you are or want to be a “raw” feeder, canned fish is cooked and so is not raw. All fish caught in local lakes is cooked before feeding it to the dogs. You could probably feed it raw but it would have to be frozen for at least 3 weeks before feeding to eliminate parasites.
We Feed “Scraps”
All scraps have to be whole foods i.e. NOT processed meats, foods with additives etc. Our scraps include things liked cooked potato and other veggies, meat scraps like chicken, venison, beef, pork etc. If there is fat, we remove it and don’t feed it. Cooked fat is different from raw fat and has a different affect on the body for dogs. So eliminate cooked fat.
We also make dog treats such as cookies. It is easy to make your own dog treats and there are unlimited recipes to be found on the internet.
We Feed Meat From Local Sources
We get meat locally. The beef is grass fed from nearby ranchers and we get chicken from a woman who raises them herself. We used to get pork from a farmer but have not had any for a few years. Ernie also hunts during the season, and sometimes the dogs get extra deer meat, but we always freeze the deer for 3 weeks before feeding. The deer antlers are also given to the dogs instead of bones to chew, but can also cause cracked teeth so we need to be careful about that. If I feed bones they must always be raw. We only give chicken bones as we have had bad experiences feeding other bone.
If I feed raw meat only on one day, it is not likely to be an issue since the dogs are getting calcium from other sources on different days. I also feed the chicken parts with the bones. These include all parts of the chicken however, I am careful to feed appropriate sized bones to each dog. You must know your dog no matter what you are feeding.
One of my dogs can’t eat small chicken thighs without me breaking the bone in it ahead of time because she gulps it. But then she can’t eat larger bones either so I have to watch her. With my large dogs I have never had an issue with any of them eating bones because they are not gulpers.
Feeding raw meat exclusively without bone leads to nutrient imbalance and should not be done.
Other Fresh Foods
We also feed raw or cooked eggs. Eggs are like a multi-vitamin for dogs. The nutrient content of eggs doesn’t change much whether raw or cooked so I alternate.
If we have farm eggs, then we feed them raw and can feed the shells as well. The skin on the inside of the eggs has nutrients that benefits the dogs. If the eggs are boiled in the shells, we do not feed the shells as they become sharp when cooked. Eggs are like a vitamin pill for dogs.
In the fall we have apples from our trees and the dogs eat them right off the ground or are given one to eat. We make sure not to give too many so that they don’t eat too many seeds. Most seeds go right through because they don’t chew them, but just to be cautious we watch how many they eat. We also feed raspberries when they are available from our garden and blueberries when we can buy them in season.
Vegetables from the garden can include spinach, kale, parsley, and herbs.
Basically, we try to keep it simple and not rely too much on processed food from the grocery store.
Feeding the homestead dog a variety of foods is beneficial in several aspects.