This NEW e-BOOKLET is the one everyone's wanted for a long time now. I've provided the NRC numbers, a step-by-step guide to formulating a diet, how to start, and what to know before and after getting started feeding a home-made diet. This is the skinny on formulating a diet for a healthy dog, and of course there's more to nutrition (see the K9Kitchen book for a much deeper discussion), but this certainly has it's place and will help a lot of people. Whether you're considering a home prepared raw, or cooked diet for your dog, or you've just started feeding one, this booklet will walk you through the steps of achieving a balanced feeding plan.
Foods For Spring: Dandelion
Herbalists and foodies, put your egos aside because the reality of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is that it's appreciated differently based on cultural differences. For instance, many people of European origin add dandelion greens to salad for no other reason than taste preference. One of the norms right here in Toronto is "California Mix" greens that include young dandelion leaves, and this again is simply a taste preference. Other cultures use dandelion "tea" as a way of calming a bloated feeling in people, and of course it has many uses as an herb as well.
One of the strategies that I employ for healthy dogs is a food rotation when spring arrives and right through autumn (depending on where you live) based on what's freshest and grown locally. Some of the foods can be called bitters because that's how they taste, and they're relevant to both Traditional Chinese Medicine, basic herbalism, and more modern thinking...but also my Romanian roots. I'll explain.
I was born in Romania and grew up here, but my grandparents and my own parents continued the food and herbal practices they grew up with. It was a proven approach to health because they were in Romania at a time when medicines weren't as readily available, so certain foods and herbs were used instead. My grandmother suffered from liver disease, so many of what some would call detox foods and herbs were a natural extension of that. Dandelion was high on the list and is something I like to add with consideration to
a) prerequisite: The dandelions have never been sprayed with an herbicide.
b) The basic health of the dog i.e. medications that may interact
Dandelion can be used as a food by cooking the leaves and pulverizing them within a veggie mixture. They can be fed raw (my own dog's favorite!) by being pulverized, or chopped very finely before being added to food. And then there are dogs like our Hudson who prefer to chew it like gum and swallow greedily afterward. Dandelion is recognized as being very safe, so feeding this way is fine, but doesn't let you put a laser focus on the amount given. Depending on the reason for feeding it, that may, or may not be very important. For instance, I'm not heavily focused on the amount for Hudson because I'm not using it to address one thing in particular, but his personal constellation of issues make dandelion a great addition, and as for any dog, I'm even more anxious to feed it when it's something he seeks out.There are many ways to feed it, but really, most people aren't going to spend more time fiddling with herbs when they're already fiddling with diet. I keep it as simple as possible, and use this as a food with the bonus of having certain properties. So, you can prepare as it as above, or simply dry the leaves and crumble them into food. Roughly 1 tsp. of dried leaves per 25 pounds of body weight can be helpful as a general guide, but always start with less to test tolerance.
The leaves act as a liver stimulant and rather powerful diuretic (I use it in some cases of arthritis as well), and the root (my grandmother used to say " always consider the root when you want to get to the root of the problem" - smart lady) stimulates bile production, so is often used to stimulate the gallbladder and liver.
The flower and/or leaves/roots can be made into a tea by boiling hot water on them. Most common is a tea from the flowers. You let them soak in that freshly boiled water until the tea looks golden. The deeper the color, the more potent the brew. I prefer to use the leaves for tea because there can be contraindications to the flower portion, but most dogs refuse the tea itself. You can sometimes get away with adding it to a meat broth to tempt the dog. I, personally, prefer feeding the leaves and roots.
"A dog is like a person—he needs a job and a family to be what he's meant to be.” Andrew Vachss