New Year, New You - Learning How to Make Your Own Dog Food
Dog Food Reviews

New Year, New You – Learning How to Make Your Own Dog Food

Dr. Harvey's makes it easy to make your own dog food!
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Written by Rachael Sando

For many, the start of a new year is a time to reflect and evaluate on the year that has passed and set goals or “resolutions” about the year that stands before you.  Have you set any goals?

Though we know that nothing REALLY changes from December 31st to January 1st, we find that it is a great time to reflect over the past year and think about where we want to be professionally and personally at this time next year.

Our senior Golden Retriever Harley.

Our goals are similar: professionally, we want to continue to help our readers improve the health and well-being of their companion animals. Personally, we very much want to do the same for our own fur-family.

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes…

We are not perfect pet parents…far from it.

Just like you, we are busy people who have good intentions and do our best to make life better for our pets. Many years ago, we vowed to take our then singular dog (Harley), on more walks throughout the work week. We succeeded by making small changes to our routine.

Our Happy Charlie boy - Adopted from GRROWLS in 2014.

When we adopted Charlie, it was the extra kick in the pants to follow through on this promise. I’m happy to say that it is a rare occurrence now when they do not go on a daily excursion.

Meaningful Change

We are firm believers that meaningful change is about determining what it is that you want and being purposeful in taking small steps toward your goal.

Our golden retriever Charlie using his Messy Mutts Double Feeder

In 2014, we vowed to improve the diet of our boys, feeding them a higher quality, grain-free kibble in the hope of improving their allergies and overall health. Throughout 2014 and 2015, we continued to feel dissatisfied with their health. Harley especially continued to struggle with repeated ear infections, skin infections (from allergies), and though he was at a healthy weight, struggled to drop the few extra pounds that his veterinarian suggested would improve his mobility as he aged.

Reaching Out

We didn’t know it when the year started, but our life (and the health of our dogs) was about to change.The logo for Dr. Harvey's - a leader in the natural pet food space.

There are so many options on the market, and many good choices for different dogs, but we knew we hadn’t yet found the right thing for our boys. That’s when Wendy Shankin – Cohen, President of Dr. Harvey’s Fine Health Foods for Companion Animals, reached out to us and asked if we would like to test some of their products.

We were very excited for the chance to try this food, but if you had asked us in this moment if we thought we would end up permanently moving toward a homemade dog food diet, we would have said “no way!”.

Dr. Harvey's Dog Food Line

We didn’t know it yet, but the wheels of change were in motion. We tested out a variety of products from Dr. Harvey’s and were extremely impressed. This was without a doubt the best food we had ever fed our dogs!

Slow Changes

Although we LOVED feeding Oracle (their complete freeze dried raw diet), we weren’t sure it was feasible for us budget-wise with 2 large dogs.

Thankfully, Dr. Harvey’s also offers a variety of pre-mix’s that are used to supplement a homemade diet. We began experimenting with their Veg-to-Bowl, mixing with the boys current grain free kibble.

Supplementing our boys kibble with Dr Harveys Veg-to-Bowl.

We knew that sticking with kibble was not ideal, but we also weren’t sure we were ready to feed a raw/homemade diet to supplement! How hard was this going to be? And how do we make sure our dogs are getting all the proper nutrition that they require?

A phone call with Wendy, was all we needed to know that we were headed in the right direction.

Rather than discourage our slow progress, Wendy assured us that we were moving in the right direction. She encouraged us to do a little better every day. Taking that advice to heart, we took slow steps to figure out a way that feeding this diet would work for us.

So what has worked for us?

We are proud to say that we have completely transitioned to preparing the dogs’ meals ourselves – and it really was not that hard!

The boys diet now consists of our homemade dog food recipe (with the help of Dr. Harvey’s of course) along with Dr. Harvey’s Oracle for special occasions/emergencies. 

The Daily Diet: Our Homemade Dog Food Recipe

(Lentils, Meat, Veggies, Oil, and Vitamins)

HEALTH ALERT!
Due to a recent warning from the FDA we would caution against using lentils as a primary ingredient in a homemade diet. “Dogs fed “grain-free” food based on peas, lentils or potatoes are developing an unusual condition that can cause an enlarged heart, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.” We will keep an eye on this story and update when more is known.

The ingredients for our homemade dog food recipe.

How to Make your Own Dog Food

We typically prepare a whole weeks worth of food at one time. It may sounds like a lot of work, but the majority of cook time requires no supervision!

Meat: Raw or Cooked

Though we have used both, we generally prefer cooked (weird as it may sound, I often use the meat in my lunches). We prepare 9lbs of meat at a time in the crock-pot. We simply place about 3/4 cup of water in the bottom, set it on high, and stir a couple times over 4 hours! This part really couldn’t be any easier!

Cooking the dog's meat in a crockpot.

Lentils

We use French Green Lentils purchased in bulk. You can really use any kind you want, but I like green lentils because they seem to hold their form better than red lentils. We prepare about 2lb at a time on the stove top in a large stock pot. Preparing lentils is as easy as measuring water, bringing the lentils and water to a boil, then turning the heat down and allowing it to do its thing for about 45 min! The trick? Buy in bulk, prepare in bulk!

What's that I smell? Harley is anxious to dig in to his home prepped meal!

Cooking isn’t so bad, when you have a helper to oversee things!

Veggies – Dr. Harvey’s Veg to Bowl 

Veg-to-Bowl is a lifesaver if you are going to be making your own dog food. This dehydrated vegetable mix is pre-cut saving you tons of prep time. It is also properly formulated for dog health – with added vitamins and minerals. Just add water, wait 10 minutes, and it is ready to use!

Dr. Harvey's Veg to Bowl preparation is simple - just add water and wait a few minutes.

Oil

Dogs need fat in their diet, so we always add a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil to their meal.

Vitamins – Dr. Harvey’s Multi-Vitamin

We top things off with a scoop of Dr. Harvey’s Multi-Vitamin powder to ensure that our boys are receiving a balanced diet.

Adding a multi-vitamin to our homemade dog food.

A Little Extra

Once a week we add a bit of plain greek yogurt to their food. Not only does it spice things up in their diet, but it adds healthy probiotics that aid digestion. 

The Backup Plan: Oracle Grain Free Chicken or Tripe

We also keep a bag of Dr. Harvey’s Oracle on hand for when we are running low on ingredients, are short on time, or want to add a little variety to their diet.

Oracle is a complete raw dog food with protein included. It is available in freeze dried chicken or tripe. Oracle represents the easiest way to feed the Raw Diet and their no-nonsense ingredients are truly top notch. In fact, the ingredients read more like the shopping list at a local farmer’s market, rather than an all in one meal for dogs!

Taking a look at Oracle dehydrated Raw Dog Food. Note the large pieces of raw meat!

Preparation couldn’t be easier. Simply scoop the recommended amount add warm water and let it sit, waiting approximately 10 minutes to soften everything up and serve to your pup. Just like the Veg-To-Bowl, Oracle can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Though it looks a little soupy in first photo, over time it thickens to the consistency of a stew.

Preparing our samples of Oracle Dog Food from Dr. Harveys. All you need to do is add warm water and wait!

The Natural Difference: What we See

We are not exaggerating when we say that Dr. Harvey’s has changed our dogs life – and we are not alone.

Both of our boys are looking and feeling great. Their coats are shinier and softer, their breath smells better, and their allergy issues have drastically improved. In fact, this was the first Summer we have ever made it through without an ear infection or serious skin irritation requiring steroids and antibiotics. 

The difference homemade food for dogs can make!

Harley, however, has seen the most improvement. At 9 years old, Harley has more energy than he has had in years. He has dropped those pesky last few pounds and is at a perfect weight for his size. He is also having noticeably less difficulty getting up and laying down. There is NO better feeling than seeing your dog who you thought had slowed with age, bound around the house or park like a puppy.

Overall, we couldn’t be happier with Dr. Harvey’s and our switch to homemade meals. Whether or not this is something you have ever considered, we strongly encourage you to learn more and give it a try!

Enter to win a month's supple of Dr. Harvey's Premium Dog Food!

Unfortunately, this contest is now over…

 

Click here to save 10% on any Dr. Harvey’s order using code “MDL1231”  

Tell us below: How would you like to see your dog’s health improve this year? 

About the author

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Rachael Sando

Rachael is a School Psychologist with degrees from the University of Rochester and RIT. Though a lifelong dog lover, this passion has taken on a new direction through the utilization of therapy animals in her day job. Charlie, our Golden Retriever, works with Rachael as a school therapy dog in a local primary school where he brings comfort and support to students and staff on a daily basis.

92 Comments

  • I would love to see Nala’s coat be healthier even though it will never be soft being a wirehaired dog but at least not as dull. I would also love for her to gain muscle this year.

  • Just not sure if we are ready for the transition to homemade meals. We went grain free about a year ago and shortly after that, we started adding freeze dried raw. Maybe one day, but I don’t think Mom is up to the challenge for the three of us yet. Thanks for a super detailed and informative post on how you do it. That does helps somewhat!

  • Great review! I’ve heard awesome things about Dr. Harvey’s! 🙂

    This year I would like to see both of my dogs not having dry skin. I’m also hoping to get Zoe to lose a pound. She’s not overweight but I prefer them to stay as slim as possible.

  • i would love for my oldest gal to improve but i dont have much hope with her health issues, dementia, deaf and loss of eyesight as well as some back disc issues. she is on meds for dementia, homeopathic meds for other issues. she has improved in the past 2 wks with the new meds. i would love to see her running around again but i have little hop at 14.5 yrs old. my 2 youngest girls would be fine. the baby at 5 would do well b/c she would eat a little better, she has always been a picky eater, she will eat treats, but sometimes wont her her meals, especially if i have put raw pet food or even raw venison in it. the middle child will eat anything and everything, she is a real foodie. i would like for all of the girls to develop more muscle. i have not been able to run with them as i used to.

  • My dog has joint problems and she is only 5. We give her cosequin and it seems to help. So maybe the minerals would be helpful also

  • What a fantastic review of Dr. Harvey’s awesome products!! I love your idea of preparing the meat in a crockpot – that didn’t occur to me at all when feeding the Veg-to-Bowl. I also went from kibble to a mix of grain-free kibble & wet food, then started home cooking using Dr. Harvey’s product line, and finally started feeding raw. I do keep a bag of dehydrated or freeze-dried raw in the pantry though for those days when we’re in between raw shipments or when life just happens 😉

    Chapeau to you for feeding your boys such a healthy diet!

  • I hope my dog has a happy and healthy long life. Maybe a change in diet will help calm his allergies and make his appetite return.

  • I have four dogs. My senior girl, Suki, likely won’t be here much longer. The two boys – Kenji and Seiji – are both very healthy. #4, Kyoko, has been with me for five years, but before I adopted her, she had almost been starved to death. She’s 1000% healthier than when I adopted her, but I still worry about any damage done to her systems before I adopted her. I’d like to try this food for her.

  • I would like to see my dog lose perhaps a pound or two, and I want to make sure I get more activities with her. I read your article, and I also need to make sure my work doesn’t EVER get in the way of her. I recently got an increased work load, but I always make sure I at least take my dog out in the morning and night (my family does it when I’m at work), and I just show her lots of love and practice her tricks. I want to make sure I plan some good outings for us to do together.

  • I’d like to see my dog’s health improve this year by losing some weight and getting more walks in for her….she has gotten a little chubby.

  • I would like to see my dog’s energy level improve. I know she’s getting older and she just wants to rest all day.

  • I’m hoping for a miracle with Tucker I fear. He had a back injury this past spring and has a hard time getting around. Surgery is not an option at this point so it looks like we might be doing a wheelchair.

  • I would like to be better at taking him on regular walks (totally my bad!). I’ve gotten out of the habit recently, and since he’s older now, he doesn’t need them (energy wise) as much. But I know they are just as, if not more important now health-wise!

    Also, do you happen to have a guess at about how much this costs you per month to feed your two? I know location will make the price vary, but I’m trying to figure out how much it actually would cost. Thanks!

    • Great question. We buy lentils at $2.99 lb, and Turkey at $2.99 lb and then we go through about 1 large bag of Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-bowl. They boys eat about 1lb combined between the three at each meal. What we spend on food, we have more than made up for in health issues. The boys didn’t have any major skin or ear infections this spring/summer!

  • I would love to see my dogs weight go down this year! she is a bit overweight by like 15 pounds and it would be great to see her loose this in 2016!

  • I would like to see Schooner who is overweight lose some pounds we have been battling this for years and have more energy. Schooner has a very dry nose. Skipper has itchy skin and would love ti solve his problem this year.

  • The beast is in pretty good shape, but I’d love to find a way to deal with her tear stains. They’re so gross and stinky!

  • My dog Augie has itching problems. He is bathed every 2 weeks and is groomed about once a month so I’m left to believe it’s skin issues. I’ve read where food choices can address this and would love to try your product.

  • I would love to see the dogs joint not bother them and that they can be more active
    for themselves..
    @tisonlyme143

  • I would like to see my dog’s health improve this year. It is not bad now but he has has serious problems in the past. He is not a big eater so we try to make what he does eat count. He’s willing to try just about anything and I love to see him clean his bowl.

  • NOTE: I started to fill out the questionnaire but accidentally hit enter before I was finished, now I can’t get back to it. Is there any way I could finish it?

  • He has a sensitive stomach and allergies! I would like for him to enjoy his food not have to be stuck with a food he really doesn’t like but it doesn’t make him sick.

  • I would really like to be able to get more exercise with Suzie this Summer and see her coat improve and less itching, she is still the My BFF, love her to piece’s, Thanks so much for this awesome giveaway 🙂

  • I am really wanting to create my own dog food, but I am afraid I won’t get the nutritional balance correct and cause her more harm than good

    • Kelsey, Dr. Harvey’s makes it easy to get right! Plus some extra vitamins are included in the package! It is a change that is scary at first, but life changing!

  • I would like to see her get back to the energy level she used to have. Also, to be able to get up and down easier and faster than she does.

  • I’d like to find more ways to manage Reesee’s epilepsy. While I’m on a food that is working well want to have more options as well.

    • I know that things can change quickly with epilepsy. It is a great to have something else that works in your back pocket!

  • I would like to see YoYo having more energy , no more stinky puppy kisses 🙂 and just an overall healthier & happier dog

  • My dogs are pretty healthy, and I’d like to see that continue this year. Shiloh had a minor injury last year, I’ve been working hard to keep him in top condition so that doesn’t happen again. Wager has had stomach issues since he was a puppy, he seems to be doing well with that but I’d like it to keep improving.

  • I would be curious to see how this affects my dogs health, he already eats what I would consider a great dry food (taste of the wild).

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