Why we switched our pups to fresh food

On the drive home from picking up Sugar at the Canadian/American border at Niagara Falls, we realized that her kibble was unavailable for purchase in Canada. We stopped off at the pet store and showed the ingredients label to the staff and selected another brand that was most similar. She had no issues switching puppy food but we noticed the next day, Sugar seemed to be itchy and was scratching around her ears and mouth a lot. Her puppy check at the vet was clear and they suspected she must be having an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the new kibble. Another trip to the pet store and they exchanged for another brand, and then again, another brand as she was still scratching. Each trip ended up with a more expensive kibble with different ingredients than the one(s) we had before. We were in full panic mode now as the scratching wasn’t improving and poor Sugar had only been in our home for four days. Stressed from being away from her litter mates, transitioning to a new family, new environment, routines and training, having to deal with food sensitivities was definitely the last thing we had expected and we were so upset that our puppy was uncomfortable in her new home.

Ok so now what? We did some research on the benefits of fresh food diets because going fully raw was not something we were ready for. We decided to give it a try and cooked up a batch to the best of our abilities. It consisted of brown rice, quinoa, extra lean ground beef, finely diced mixed frozen and fresh veggies, pumpkin purée with some coconut oil mixed in. We introduced the fresh food to Sugar that evening and mashed it a bit at first for ease of digestion. She gobbled up her yummy home cooked food with no problem and not a single rice grain left behind. Of course we had to ensure we were providing her the right balance of nutrition, carbs and protein intake for her size and weight category with guidance from our vet. Sugar’s skin allergies subsided after being on the fresh food for just a couple of days.

As with all things new, some changes and improvements were made along the way with the ingredients and texture. The ratio of protein to carbohydrates was also adjusted and we add quality powdered supplements to the food just before serving and mix in some omega rich fish oil too! We decided to permanently keep Sugar and now her sister Maple too, on a fresh food diet and are fully committed to our pups health and wellbeing. Now that Sugar is two years old and her size and weight have leveled off (the vet mentioned she was getting a bit chunky around the belly last year so we upped the protein and decreased the carbs to better suit her dietary needs), we’ve pretty much perfected how to prepare and store their fresh food with no more guesswork and developed a system to help save us time and money. Yes, it takes an effort in the kitchen with the meal prep to peel, dice and cook up all veggies but we make and freeze enough food to last both pups for 14 days. That’s around 18 lbs of ground meat alone and one storage container is equivalent to two serving size portions of food for each pup per day. (That quantity would last twice as long if we were a single dog household). In between cooking days, we keep a lookout for sales on lean ground beef or turkey and try to price match all the veggies and other ingredients to help save on grocery bills.

Sugar and Maple truly enjoy their fresh food and we try to give them as much healthy variety of fruits and vegetables as possible to help keep them happy, healthy, lean and strong. They enjoy venison kibble as treats while on walks and munch on apple slices after breakfast. They love lapping up goat yogurt and get lots of fresh blueberries. In the summertime, they enjoy cooling off with homemade pupsicles and their absolute favourite high protein snack after a brisk winter’s walk is warm eggs served over-easy with quick oat flakes sprinkled in the yolks! Gooey goodness!

Fresh food basic staple recipe:
Extra lean or lean ground beef
Brown rice
Frozen peas (lightly mashed after boiled)
Frozen spinach (squeeze out excess water and snip long spinach stems with kitchen scissors)
Diced carrots + sweet potatoes (do not over boil)
Canned pumpkin purée
Substitutions – Rice boiled in chicken stock seasoned with thyme, sage
Rinsed and well drained can of lentils
Butternut squash

Article by Melanie, Sugar and Maple’s Parent