Recipe: Make your own paleo dog food

The raw food dog diet is based on the simple principle that raw meaty bones, organs, meat and vegetable scraps are what dogs have evolved to eat, and therefore what they are most likely to thrive on. In contrast to the ubiquitous mass-market dog food full of cheap carbs and offal, this is not a hard argument to accept. It’s basically the paleo diet for dogs.

As well as prey, wild dogs would typically eat vegetables and leaves from their environment, as well as the semi-digested vege-matter from the stomachs of their herbivore prey. Although she would probably survive in the wild, Pixel doesn’t have access to the stomach contents of Moose-carcasses, so we instead feed her a porridge substitute called “Vet’s All Natural” (or VAN for short). It’s a product developed by an entrepreneurial vet with good credentials in animal nutrition. When rehydrated, left to begin a natural ferment, then served with raw mince, VAN provides the nutrients and roughage required to round out the raw diet. Alternating this with raw meaty bones, and occasional organs, eggs, fruit and veg, completes Pixel’s diet.

Using the ingredients reported on the packet and website, and a series of sieves, I  reverse engineered VAN so that we could make it ourselves from scratch.

The back of the packet quotes the following ingredients:

Rolled oats, cracked barley, flax seed meal, whole cracked oats, carrots, split peas, calcium carbonate, parsley, kelp, lecithin, barley grass, vitC, dried garlic.

Assuming they are listed by conventional order of largest fraction to smallest, you can see that VAN is mostly grains (oats and barley), with some minor fractions for nutrition and taste.

The dishes photographed below show sieved fractions from 50g of VAN. I mixed the bag very well by shaking, before drawing this sample. For fractions containing multiple ingredients of similar size, I picked out the pieces with forceps (for example, all the carrot pieces). I then weighed the fractions to convert the ingredient to an overall percentage by weight. Due to the limit of measurement on my equipment, there are errors around these estimates and the totals do not add to 100%. But hey, this is nutrition, not chemistry.

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From top to bottom: 1: split peas, 2: rolled oats, 3: cracked barley and oats, 4: carrot, 5: cracked barley and oat fragments, 6: fine grain/fibre/greens/carrot, 7: powder and meal

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Weights for VAN fractions pictured above

So VAN is mostly cheap grain—around 50-55% oats and barley by weight, divided between rolled oats, cracked oats, and cracked barley. Dehydrated peas and carrots make up close to 10% of the mix. Judging by the substantial meal fraction and flax seed meal’s appearance as 3rd in ingredients list, it composes something like 20 – 25%. Then the remaining 10 – 20% is formed by the dried greens and supplements.

Using this guide, I concocted my own raw dog food supplement porridge recipe:

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Recipe for 1 kg dry dog porridge. To be prepared in batches by mixing with equal volumes of room temperature water, and allowed to Lacto ferment for some hours.

One could just feed raw carrot from time to time instead of dried, or sub grain fractions for other grains if necessary. The important thing with these bulk ingredients is to get fiber, carbs, and protein in there. Oats have a different protein and fat content to barley, so I wouldn’t sub them wholesale for each other, however the form they take could be flexible.

Supplements. VAN contains VitC, Lecithin, and Calcium carbonate as supplements in the mix. The calcium amount is easy to dose given the information on the package (2800mg/kg), however the others are difficult to extrapolate from my weighing. The safest policy is therefore to feed foods rich in these elements as well. e.g. fish/eggs/organs/soy for lecithin, and fruit and veges for vitamin C. VAN needs to be nutritionally complete when mixed with mince, yet my own mix does not need to be as rigorous if we are sensible in supplementing Pixel’s diet with other foods.

Puppies. This is not designed for puppies. We trusted products nutritionally designed for growing dogs when Pixel was a pup.

Some tips on sourcing ingredients

  • Homebrew shops are an excellent and cheap source for grains like torrefied oats, and cheap calcium carbonate
  • Bulk dry goods in middle eastern, medditerranean, African supermarkets are good for cracked barley
  • Cheap stockfeed kelp here
  • Many other of the ingredients are available from bulk food/health food stores

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Edit: I have updated the original recipe with less garlic after the original turned out to be rather pungent.