When considering the future and preparing for a SHTF situation, you will have to analyze the many problems you will be faced with and how you can best solve them.
Part of this will be family members and their special needs. I will not debate the advantages vs. the disadvantages in considering taking your furry four-footed family members, but they do have special needs.
With the world the way it is, you may want to consider whether to even have certain dogs (or any pets) rely on you, as you will need to take and provide for them in a post-TEOTWAWKI world.
You may want to make a choice based on that before bringing a dog into the family. You may want to choose one specifically for its abilities, intelligence, and trainability to be a skilled working family member and a benefit to any self-sufficient living situation.
In that regards, your family member will deserve the respect and forethought for his needs while building the stockpile in supplies and space. We are doing a series to help you and your faithful companion in survival situations and guidelines in how to prepare for them.
Today we will discuss making your own dog food for, and prepping for a SHTF scenario with survival in mind.
Food in the Past vs. Dog Food Today
In classic Rockwell paintings showing tables weighted with abundant tablescapes, or even as far back as the first depictions of primitive hunter and gatherers sitting by a fire in bone-strewn caves, dogs have waiting patiently for their masters to throw them a share of the family’s dinner. We have always made room for dogs in our life, and in sharing our food with them.
As time progressed, dinner starting coming from the supermarkets premade in boxes and bags for both humans and their faithful dogs.
Overall, nutrition has surrendered to convenience. In the old days, dogs ate a lot table scraps when the scraps were from non-processed foods.
These days, processed people food is bad enough for your health and your dogs if he ate it, but if you tried to consume what they give dogs as food it could be downright dangerous!
When making your own dog food, it will be healthy and in an SHTF emergency, you could actually eat it as it’s based on nutritional value and whole foods.
Dogs Are Omnivores
The trend is towards making your own dog food because of the many health complications and diet related diseases increasing in dogs with obesity and heart disease being right up there.
Belief may be that dogs only need meat, but that isn’t true. Dogs are omnivores and left to their own devices such as in the wild, will each a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables.
Actually, too much protein can harm a dog’s kidneys and an all-protein diet will leave out many trace elements they need. Too much protein results in hyper and aggressive dogs, and it can shorten their lifespan.
The best ratio for dogs is in thirds: one third grain, one third vegetables, one third meat. We will explore that below.
Top Myths about Dog Food
With most pets being on commercial food, they should be healthy right? First, we need to take a look at why 40% of dogs are obese, there are epidemics in liver, heart and kidney disease for pets, and 50% of dogs and 40% of cats now die of cancer.
This is related to commercial food and what not to do when making your own food. Let’s look at some top myths about dog food.
Okay, commercial dog food has corn, that’s a healthy vegetable, right?
Sadly, the corn in commercial dog food is not the fat, sweet kernels you have in mind. The corn used is usually condemned for human consumption, and even corn “dust” is considered corn for cheap feed. Corn for feed has no limit on pesticide contamination. Corn is also the base for fructose and corn syrup, which is super-fattening for humans and pets alike.
Well, kibble is better than canned, right?
Actually, kibble dog food is preserved by artificial means. The base is not fresh ingredients, but a hard meal devoid of nutrients. Kibble is dehydrating and linked to bloat, kidney, and bladder problems.
Feeding commercial food daily will help insure a balanced diet, right?
No, imagine if you consumed rancid fat, chicken parts without meat, and artificial vitamins daily. They say it’s normal that dogs have diarrhea and vomiting when introducing new foods, or switching foods. Actually, that’s proof your dog needs more variety in his diet. When your dog gets a variety of foods, like people do, it can heal their gut and they can eat anything they are supposed to. Sadly, it can take several weeks to take a dog from poor food to a good diet, as they are nutritionally deprived and the digestive system needs to heal.
Well, complete and “balanced” means healthy on the label, right?
No, the trials are usually over a short time with theoretical health needs. Suffering from nutrient and enzyme deficiencies take a long time to show, and are not accounted for.
Dogs and Bones Are Meant to Be, Right?
No. Cooked bones can be very harmful for dogs. They splinter after being cooked. This means they shred as they are swallowed and passed, and that can mean choking, intestinal tears, and internal bleeding.
Many people feed dogs a raw diet, including things like chicken feet and bones. For bigger dogs or dogs that have full dentition and all of their teeth, it may be okay. It may be risky for domesticated dogs that are being switched to raw, without generations of natural selection eliminating the ones without the correct muzzle lengths, head shapes, strength of immunity, or correct bites to make sure raw feeding won’t harm the dog.
So many breeds have been physically changed due to selective breeding for traits other than surviving on their own, I wouldn’t risk it. I do feed a lot of raw ingredients. We just do not use cooked or raw bones, unless they are big enough not to be swallowed by our dogs.
I have an older 5 lb. girl with 6 teeth, who can enjoy munching on a chicken leg bone for hours. She thinks she is a wild beastie with some prey, guarding it, and hiding it in her covers for later.
I have to make sure the others do not rob her hiding spots. My others cannot have chicken bones as they crunch them into little parts and eat them.
If they happen to steal hers, they vomit bones and in the past, have passed pieces in bloody stools and spent nights in the pet E.R. not fun or cheap.
What Should Dog Food Be Composed Of
Dogs are omnivores and the best way to make your own dog food is to prepare it in thirds.
Dog food composition in balance
- 1/3 white rice
- 1/3 vegetables
- 1/3 meats
Foods to Include for Balance
The most economical and healthy way to make your own nutritious dog food for now or to prep for SHTF is using rice.
I would store the rice dry and then cook and top with items from below, the rice will last 3 days cooked. You can buy in bulk from any big box store up to 50lbs pretty cheaply. Brown rice is lower in carbs and harder to digest, so starchy white rice is best for sustained living.
This is where dogs can get the added benefit of homegrown foods for our gardens. Green beans are simply the best for dogs with fiber and digestive friendly nutrients. Peas, carrots, and most greens dogs can digest pretty well. Corn and lima beans just pass on through, so don’t waste them.
We cook any meat pretty well. In today’s world of contamination, why take the chance on a doggie super-bug from some stock yard? Depending on your dog’s size, we pull or cut the meat into smaller chunks.
- Chicken is the best, as it’s easy to digest and pretty inexpensive. You can use the parts like legs or thighs and remove the bones.
- Eggs are a good protein source and on a homestead can be a daily meal. Many vets put sick dogs on a gentle rice and eggs diet.
- Turkey is good to bake and then freeze portions per dog.
- Tuna is good and has nice omega rich oil. Natural fish is the best.
- Beef is good to stew and the grease is a bonus.
- Wild game is good as long as it’s cooked well to kill any bacteria.
- Organ meats Hearts, livers, lungs, tongues, brain, chicken gizzards are good and can be baked into treats. Organ meats are highly nutritious and pretty cheap. Grind all the organs into sausage for dogs, in the wild they go for the guts first.
Beneficial Spices and Herbs
Humans have used spices and herbs for many centuries for flavoring, wound treatments, and as a remedy for ailments and diseases. So, it should not be a surprise they have treated their pets with the same holistic alternatives.
Spices for dogs can include:
Herbs for dogs can include:
- Bee Balm
I really like adding a tsp. of coconut oil to my dogs food a few times a week, as a nutritious supplement.
Foods to Avoid
Although they may think they want it, there are quite a few foods that can be toxic to dogs and you should avoid.
- ❌ Chocolates
- ❌ Apple seeds
- ❌ Currants
- ❌ Onions
- ❌ Artificial sweeteners
- ❌ Grapes and raisins
Drawbacks of Commercial Dog Food
Most canned food, if you look at the label, is a mix of meat that has been processed heavily and synthetic vitamins and minerals. We discussed commercial dry food above and the complications in feeding it.
For me, I feed on the basics of this article anyway for their health. Commercial dog food and treats are like fast food for humans, can be indulged. But it’s not meant to be lived on.
Dogs Can Go Vegetarian
It may be more work, but dogs can go vegetarian if they need to. Oats, almond milks, alfalfa powder, nut powder for amino acids, colostrum milk (tablets or powder) for those who do not want to eat meat, and still want to stockpile and prep for their pet. It can be a personal choice about the meat. I am too lazy to be vegetarian, plus I like meat too much.
A vegetarian diet for dogs may help dogs with allergies or digestive problems, or ones with a congenital heart disease who may need a less heart-stressful diet.
Here is a good video for making all natural sun cooked dog food:
Easy Way to Stockpile Food for Dogs
- Dehydration and reconstitution make stockpiling food for dogs easier you can use dehydrated eggs, oats, potatoes, vegetables, and meats and then just add water or to the hot water when making rice to make a nice hot meal. Dehydrated food is great for hiking or scouting locations as it doesn’t weigh very much.
- Freezing You can make large portions and freeze the food. Hand mix it, and put it into large freezer bags. Below, shelves with fat and scraps in freezer bags. The bottom is chicken and fresh meats for human and canine.
- Jerking meat Dehydrate meats and the fat.
- Canning for Fido
- Boiling, steaming and water baths are good for killing food induced illness and microorganisms in many foods. The veggies and things other than meat would do well to be canned for stockpiles.
- Pressure canning is recommended for storing non-acid foods like meat by canning.
- Recipe for pressure canning your own dog food:
- 4 TBS of rice in bottle of your jar
- Add lightly cooked meat and veggies loosely filling, leaving 2 inches at the top
- Add broth, covering everything by one inch
- Pressure cooker process time about 90 mins (follow directions per your equipment)
- Recipe for grinding your own dog food. You can add bone in by grinding it with meat. Vegetables, rice, oats or anything can be added to your grinder mix. Grind once on the coarse setting, and then grind again on fine. This is a way to use bone in your canning, or you can make sausages, freeze etc.
- Recipe for pressure canning your own dog food:
Here is a great video on making your own dog food and pressure canning your dog food.
This is a another great one on making and dehydrating your own dog food, focused on meats:
Storage of Dry Food
Storage of dog food that is a necessity should be dog in a cool dry place. If you do choose commercial foods as to their convenience, pick one that has a meat as the first ingredients.
They need to be stored with moisture wicking packs in air tight containers, as they can mold or mildew. Cheaper foods can go rancid as the oil in them can turn in heat, or just over time.
How to Use the Homestead Scraps for Dogs
Doggie sausages. Collect all meat scraps in a freezer bag and then make some. (see above)
Veggie broth and broth ice cubes. One thing we do, and it can be used on any self-sustaining homestead, is collect all our veggies scraps in a big freezer bag. This can be potato peels, onion parts and skins, tips, pieces, ends, stalks, shoots or just scraps. The older stuff can go into the compost bin.
But after you have a full bag, you can cook it all down in a big stock pot with water, and make your own veggie broth. Strain the broth, then it will be good up to 4 days in the fridge.
You can make ice cubes, then bag them and use them for gravy, for the dogs bowl, roux, or as a nutritious broth to add to sauces and soups instead of water.
The strained veggies then can go into the dog’s bowl, canning materials, or for the compost heap.
Do You Compost Dog Waste?
As we mentioned a compost heap, we have a complete article on SHTF sanitation with a section on using a pet’s waste. It is a no. With up to 23 million fecal coliform Bacteria per gram of feces, and many things that can live in the ground for years, please do not use pet waste in compost.
In fact it shouldn’t be around water sources or any crop plants. It is considered an “anti-manure” by the CDC and can promote weed growth to crop choking plants, and be a food for algae that takes the oxygen out of water for pond life.
Dig a hole far away from your house and any food or water supplies, and dispose of it there. It is so dangerous to life, that the EPA has it on the same danger level as herbicides, pesticides, and acid drainage when it comes to ground pollutants!
Dogs Are like Kids, Don’t Let Them Get Extra Desserts
In many cases dogs are our kids, and just as I have been guilty of it with our son, I tend to like to snack and share. Dogs are so much like small children, and will beg and eat things that can result in tummy aches and just overindulge in things that are bad for them. Dogs, like us and children, love sugar and sweets. Ours love chocolate and will steal it.
As I sit here, I hear my husband exclaiming he was robbed. He was saving a piece of chocolate from his Symphony bar for his coffee break. Well, it didn’t make it. Evidently, he left it where it could be stolen.
Since milk chocolate contains low amounts of actual chocolate, it won’t hurt them. Well, it may be a time-out if he catches them next time. They will also steal cough drops, candy, vitamin-c drops, cold medicines, make-up, or anything with a scent or sweet coating. Try and keep these things away from them, although it is hard to all the time.
They also love to eat any processed meats, sweets, cookies, candy, ice cream, or canned pastas. All things I am trying to eliminate from my husband’s and our diet, and things that should be in no human or animal’s mouth. But we, and they, love it. It is a battle.
Here’s a good video for 2 ingredient treats:
We Experimented with the Treats
We mixed equal parts of these:
We mixed into clumps, and then pressed into goodly sized cookies.
We then baked at 350 for 15 mins.
Then had taste testers try them. Everyone loved them!
Emergency Dog Food Rations
In an emergency or crisis, when your dog can go into shock, or high energy tolls are upon his body it is a good idea to have some emergency foods on hand. These can also double as emergency food for anyone in your family due to their energy, packability, and quality calories.
- Dehydrated fat strips for the dogs, but rendered fat is good for humans too
- Honey (jarred or those little packages; we keep them in emergency kits)
- Dried veggies (mine love carrots, greens, green beans, broccoli, veggie chips)
- Dried fruits (mine will eat dried apples, apricots, pears, cranberries,peaches, mango, nectarines)
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully this article will help you prepare for a time there might not be anywhere to buy dog food or prepared food of any sort in stores. Do not let making your own dog food from scratch be a source of anxiety by thinking you will be caught off guard or unprepared.
Our forefathers and our great grandfathers fed their faithful friends by hand preparing meals for their dogs daily, so you can too.
Basically, you have only 3 options when considering SHTF and feeding your dogs:
Choice 1) You can stock up on commercial kibble and seal it up in airtight containers. They claim it can stay in there 10 years or so and still be edible, if the conditions were optimum when you stored it: moisture kept at bay, temperature stable, and dark storage space.
Choice 2) You can invest in specialty survival food that comes in Mylar bags. It’s like a pet MRE in a rodent proof bucket that conveniently stacks for you. It can be a wise investment, and it will be some investing to be sure, as it’s not super cheap.
With any of these methods, you can eat the food as well as your dog. I mean, if things come down to that choice. So why not pick the last one, the one you’re doing for yourself?
Choice 3) The best choice for me is just making my own DYI dog food like I am for my own family’s food, old school like our Founding Fathers. It is simple to do, it is what you will be doing anyway when preparing for SHTF and prepping your stockpiles, and won’t cost much more to modify and provide for your dog’s food.
Honestly, we feed our dogs in this manner now. I used to spend a lot on specialty foods and additives, but since we switched to at least 80% of their food being freshly prepared and raw or organic ingredients, and natural foods, we have seen a world of difference in their activity, energy, health and vitality.
By taking out the heavily processed and over-chemically created commercial pet food, I do believe we have extended their life and the overall quality of their lives. We enjoy our pets and I can’t see life without them now, or in any situation.
Growing up in the Bluegrass State, it was a point of familial pride to be able to shoot, trap, identify plants and track animals. Summer camps helped us be well versed in camping, weapons, and survival skills from a young age. We were surrounded by such a lush environment and we used the resources we had.
I met my soulmate in my happiest place to be- a seemingly enchanted winding trail next to a beautiful wooded glen- where I spent as much time exploring as I could during daylight hours with my trusty four-legged friends.
After 3 years following the nursing track, I switched to natural and holistic medicine as that is where my passion lies.
The bucket list includes living the days painting and writing on a fully self-sufficient homestead, off-grid with our animals and family and plenty of land for the significant other (who I think is a true artist at weapons and living that way) to shoot to his heart’s content. Naturally organic living for us and the animals is a goal.