Photos by Porla & Pine
In my previous blog post, I talked about how adding fresh, natural, unprocessed foods to my dogs’ diets has done more to improve their health than anything else I’ve ever done. It was great reading all the comments from dog moms who have done the same thing and seen amazing results.
There also were a lot of comments from dog moms who are feeling the frustration of where to start. When it comes to feeding our dogs the best food, the options seem endless and for some reason, the stakes seem a little higher. I fully admit to putting potato chips and wine into my own body WHILE cooking a mostly organic, nutritionally balanced, slightly labor-intensive meal for my dogs. Come on, dog mom, raise those greasy, salt-dusted hands if you’ve done the same!
What is it about feeding our dogs that makes us freeze with indecision, or insist on a perfection-or-nothing approach?
Or worse, fight each other over which single diet is The Right One?
In the human world, practically every one of us is on some different diet. We (mostly) support our friends and family when they decide to go vegan/Paleo/Whole 30/Keto/raw/gluten-free/green-goddess-juice-babe. And let’s be honest, some of us have tried ALL those diets!
But when it comes to our dogs, I don’t think we have a very good handle yet on how to give them the best nutrition, and how much flexibility we have along the way. More importantly, I think the dog food industry forgets one important point: our dogs are just as individual as we are. I don’t pay much attention to the “best dog food” arguments because every dog has its own likes and dislikes. My Tyler is prone to pancreatitis, so he struggles with the high-fat Keto diet. My Georgia is allergic to chicken and grain, so 90% of the dog foods and treats on the market won’t work for her. Your comments on the last blog post said the same: Ella gets crystals if she eats too much dry kibble. Ivy is allergic to almost all the proteins. Holly is a picky eater. Sierra’s dog needs to lose a couple of pounds.
Here’s the thing, dog mom.
If you’re here, I know you want the best for you and your dog.
And I believe you’re doing the best you can, with where you are now.
With knowledge, we all can do a little bit better.
That’s what Happy Dog Mom is all about. I want to take the overwhelm out of giving our dogs (and ourselves) a happier, healthier life. But I don’t believe there is one right way to do that. I am never going to push a certain diet, or training program, or exercise regimen, or anything that will make you feel bad for what you are or are not doing for your dogs.
(And no one in the Happy Dog Mom community will be allowed to do that, either. Yeah, it’s a #safespace.)
With every single blog post, I want to explore how to understand ourselves and our dogs a little bit better. Break down the big complicated topics into not-so-scary baby steps. Show you that you’re not alone. Help you feel that you’re doing the best you can with what you know now. And leave you with a few easy-to-digest resources and action steps that you can take right now if it feels right to you.
So if you read last week’s post about home cooked dog food recipes, but felt a little overwhelmed about the prep work, commitment or price, here’s another place to start that might feel a little easier.
Simply toss your dog a little bit of the healthy food that you already have on hand.
Commonly called “toppers,” these add-ins give your dog a little extra variety, nutrition and flavor—without the overwhelming work for you. The best part is that by starting small, you can test individual ingredients to see how your dog reacts. I once added potato chunks to my dogs’ food, and all three of them picked up those potatoes….and dropped them right onto the floor. My dogs would eat dirt if you gave it to them! But not potatoes. So now I know not to waste any time or money on adding potatoes to their diet.
To get you started, here is a list of common foods you might have on hand that could be tossed on top of your dog’s food tonight.
“As a general rule, add-ins like these can make up about 10 percent of your dog’s total meal.” Lucy Postins, Dog Obsessed
Foods You Already Have That Are Good for Your Dog
- Pumpkin. Add a spoonful or two to help with an upset stomach, fill up a dog who needs to be on a diet, stop diarrhea or just support digestion.
- Parsley. Chop some up and toss on top of kibble to freshen your dog’s breath and deliver powerful antioxidants.
- Ground beef, cooked or raw. Toss in a pinch next Taco Tuesday.
- Yogurt. Loaded with probiotics, great for digestion. Choose plain (unflavored) regular yogurt, not Greek.
- Eggs. Raw or scrambled. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, grind up half an egg shell and throw that in, too. Loaded with calcium, great for bone and teeth health.
- Coconut oil. Plop it on top for increased energy and essential fatty acids, or spread a small spoonful on your dog’s bowl and let him lick it off for better breath and cleaner teeth. Look for virgin cold pressed raw coconut oil.
- Applesauce. Choose the unsweetened variety, which is still plenty sweet for your dog, and also full of fiber and antioxidants.
- White or brown rice. Great for settling the stomach and stopping diarrhea.
- Lentils. A protein-rich source of iron, magnesium and lysine (an essential amino acid, good for the immune system). Go organic if you can.
- Fruit. blueberries, strawberries, apples (no seeds), pears, mangos, melons and bananas are favorites. Many dogs don’t like the smell or taste of citrus fruits, but some might give them a try. Avoid grapes and raisins, which are toxic to dogs.
- Veggies. Broccoli, peppers, peas, carrots, spinach, kale and grocery-store mushrooms are great choices. Raw or cooked is fine, but I like to purée raw veggies to increase absorption and decrease the chance of gas. Avoid onions, garlic and foraged mushrooms, which can be toxic to dogs.
- Seafood. Sardines and mussels are a near super food according to Steve Brown, author of Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet. Toss one or two frozen or cooked mussels into your dog’s bowl per day, or a can of sardines (packed in water or olive oil) once a week, and load your dog up with lots of the trace minerals and healthy fats that might be missing from kibble or home-prepped diets.
Want More Ideas?
- Download this fridge-worthy reference list of healthy dog food toppers, compliments of Happy Dog Mom.
- Check out this great post from my friend Holly at Brindleberry Acres. She goes into depth about the benefits of her 10 favorite healthy dog food toppers.
The beauty of these easy, nutrition-boosting dog food toppers is that you can introduce one at a time to watch for sensitivities, and it’s easier to keep an eye on the increased calorie load. Be sure to work with your vet on any dietary changes you’re making for your dog (I worked with multiple vets as well as the dog nutrition experts at Must Love Dogs to come up with the home cooked meat and veggie mix I currently feed).
Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you and your dog. What spoonful of wholesome yumminess could you add to your dog’s kibble tonight to add a little variety and nutrition? Which of these add-ins seems easy for you and palatable for your dog? Comment on the post below, share your story, or shout out on social @thehappydogmom and let us know!
Baby steps, dog momma. You got this.
Better with dog,