In Part 1 of this series I wrote about how we came to settle on the food we feed our dog Luke, with so many options out there. In this post I will tell you some of our favorite food toppers that jazz up Luke’s breakfast, and why I chose each of them. Some of these were originally chosen because they were of benefit to our late beagle Cricket’s heart as well (she died because of an enlarged heart). While my dogs have not been picky eaters, I think some of these things can really encourage your dog to eat better. Plus it’s satisfying to me to feel like I’m giving my pets just a little something extra.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and I am not recommending any diet to you for your pets. I am simply sharing what works for us to give you some ideas. You should check with your vet about nutritional needs, especially if your dog has health issues. While we will be showing some of our favorite brands in these posts, we are not being compensated by any company for sharing about them, though some links may be affiliate, indicated by a single *.
**Items with a double star we give to our cat Samantha as well! In addition, the scraps from many of the vegetables I cut up for Luke can be given to the chickens and guinea hens too. I love getting the most out of everything we use; it feels best for the environment, zero waste, and economical too!
Below is a list of the ingredients I alternate through as toppers, sometimes simply chosen because they are more available or what I have on hand. Also included is a short explanation of why I chose them and what their health benefits might be. They are loosely in the order of what I use the most.
Fresh eggs. There is nothing more exciting than feeding your dogs a fresh egg from your very own organic free-range chickens! We feed them raw, and Luke gets one every other day. He loves them that way, so why go to the trouble of cooking them? If you have any doubt about that, see our post “The Case of the Missing Eggs“.
Of course, dogs will love them cooked too, if you’re more comfortable with that. I had a little debate with our vet on the subject. She advised against feeding raw eggs, because of salmonella. It was my understanding that dogs rarely get sick from salmonella, but I guess they can carry it and pass it on to humans. I’m sure any of my raw-feeding friends would have a lot to say about that!
My take on it is this: we have chickens. If I’m going to get salmonella, I’d probably get it right from them. We also work very hard to keep conditions clean and sanitary (I drive the Dadz nuts with that I think). When Luke walks through the yard, he eats chicken poop if I can’t stop him anyway (and trust me, he’s FAST). Since he also eats deer poop and goodness knows what else out in the woods before I catch him, I think raw eggs are the least of my worries. But not everyone has their own chickens, so I want you to be aware, so you can make your own decision.
Eggs are high in protein and amino acids (which was a great benefit for Cricket’s heart). Since our eggs are in high demand for sale these days, I’ve started giving Luke the guinea hen eggs (I eat them too, and they taste no different than a chicken egg)! They are even higher in protein. The interesting thing about them is that even though they are smaller than chicken eggs, the yolks are the same size. The shells are also very hard, and they’re hard to crack sometimes. I’ll have more to say about guinea eggs in another post coming soon. Dogs can also eat egg shells if they are ground up in a coffee grinder. I would need to get a small grinder to do this, and we currently feed our shells back to our chickens because they need the calcium. That calcium is good for dogs as well, but we currently use another source for that instead:
Cottage cheese. This is a healthy source of calcium for dogs and is high in protein as well. I originally learned about it when we had our golden retriever on a cancer diet (see post by clicking here). If calories are a concern (they’re not for us) low fat versions are available.
The eggs are alternated with: canned sardines**, salmon**, or often turkey** when I’ve cooked a whole one. There might be other meats such as beef or chicken** occasionally if I have leftovers. When I cook chicken for the Dadz and I, I often cook extra for Luke. Sardines and salmon are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. The Omega’s were important for Cricket’s heart, but they have many other benefits as well: healthy skin and coat, and joint support. We buy them wild caught only, packed in water with no salt added. That part is important, though in the past I did serve them the ones packed in olive oil (that was recommended for Sheba’s cancer diet).
In addition, on days when he does not get the whole sardines* or salmon*, Luke gets sardine/anchovy oil*. We’ve also used other fish oils and salmon oil. When I was researching the best thing for Cricket’s heart, I hit on the sardine oil as a best choice because these small fish are wild-caught, lower in toxins than larger fish, and they have the lowest levels of mercury. I’ve heard good things about Krill oil too, but that is one we’ve never tried.
Coconut oil* is great for dogs too. I use it in my dog cookie recipes, though I don’t currently add it to Luke’s food. I share a little bit with him when I use it as a moisturizer! He is also now trying a hemp infused coconut oil; more about that in a future post.
Pumpkin**. I cook my pumpkins that I’ve grown every fall, make it into puree, and freeze it. Our crop didn’t do too well last year, so we used it all up and I’m now purchasing canned pure organic pumpkin* (this year’s crop is planted with extras and high hopes!). A bonus when using our own is that we can give the seeds and stringy innards to our chickens and that is healthy for them as well (Luke could also have the seeds)! Pumpkin is high in fiber and great for dogs’ digestive systems. We feed it every other day for good digestion, but it can also be used if your dog has an upset stomach. This is something that our cat Samantha likes too, I add a little bit to her canned food to make it moister.
Apple sauce. I prefer organic unsweetened only. I use apple sauce for baking many of my dog treats for the farm, so it’s something I always have on hand, and I generally only give it when I haven’t cooked another vegetable. It is high in fiber and Vitamin C.
Vegetables. Some favorites are broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Luke loves green beans, but Cricket never did. I usually alternate these with the pumpkin so it’s not something he gets daily. There are a lot of other great veggies for dogs, these are just some of our favorites since they are readily available and easy to cook. I try to buy fresh, organic, but I also use frozen on occasion (never canned). Cricket was fussy about veggies as well, though I have also done cooked carrots and she liked those. I also just recently found out that Luke likes peas. I never knew that because we humans don’t really like them so don’t often have any in the house!
Fruits: I don’t use fruits in meals much, except for occasionally blueberries (Cricket would drop those on the side of her bowl for Luke to pick up!). Luke loves a lot of other fruits too such as watermelon and strawberries, but he typically gets those more as snacks.
Herbs/Others: Kale, parsley, basil, mint, ginger. I haven’t been adding these much lately, but I will more once we are getting them from our own garden. I plant a lot of herbs because they are also good for the chickens. Both parsley and mint (which I use in my dog cookies) help freshen dogs’ breath; parsley has a lot of vitamins and can potentially aid arthritis and even cancer. Ginger can soothe the stomach, and possibly help in preventing bloat. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and it was something I started including as part of Sheba’s cancer diet as well.
Honest Kitchen Golden Milk and Bone Broths**. The bone broth has healthy ingredients turmeric and parsley added, and the Milk* is made of nourishing ingredients, coconut milk with honey, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger added. This one is very important for our cat Sam. She likes her wet food very wet, and adding these things really gets her to eat more in the mornings. I use either one of these (I mix up a small batch, all you have to do is add warm water) or pumpkin to make her food wetter and she loves them all.
Healthy grains: Oatmeal and brown rice. Brown rice is questionable because of arsenic levels, so I cook oatmeal more often than the rice. I always add cinnamon as well which is also great for dogs. It’s an anti-inflammatory and helps regulate blood sugar and digestion. It’s also a natural preservative which is why I like to use it in my homemade dog cookies. I’ve made warm oatmeal in the winter on extremely cold days for the chickens too and they love it (the cinnamon is good for them too).
We lean towards a grain-free diet, though we’re not strict, so I don’t do those quite as often.
If you decide to add fresh/human grade foods to your dog’s diet, remember to start out slow and don’t overdo quantities! If I’m adding something new, I always do a little bit to start and increase it gradually if it seems to settle well.
Conclusion: If you’re like us, and you want to do better for your dogs, but don’t want to do the work and research for a fully homemade diet, you can use some of these ideas to liven up their meals a little bit! I may still take the plunge someday, but right now it’s working well for us to use Grandma Lucy’s re-hydrated food* as a base for breakfast and add the fresh foods to that. In the evenings Luke gets just the Grandma Lucy’s, along with his joint supplement (we are currently using Dasuquin*).
In the interest of full disclosure I’m going to tell you this: while I feel so much better about the fresh foods I add to Luke’s meals in the morning, he is just as excited about the plain food he gets for supper. As I said, he is not a picky dog. But these homemade meals made a huge difference in keeping our senior beagle Cricket interested in meals when she wasn’t feeling well, and it did the same for our golden retriever Sheba when she was fighting cancer. Since all these ingredients are healthy, in my opinion, it can’t hurt to try if you do have a picky dog!
Do you add anything special to your dog (or cat’s) diet?