What is natural dog food? It's food free of all the additives routinely added to commerical dog food. I had a friend who worked for a large pet food corporation (who shall remain nameless) in the 1980's and was shocked to discover sawdust being routinely added to pet food. He was a breeder in his free time, so when he was assigned the job of reconfiguring the ingredients he suggested they leave out all the non-food items. His suggestion was nixed by the people above him in the corporate structure who argued that if they removed the sawdust, then it would cost the company $$$ to have the sawdust disposed of by some other means!
I found as my dog aged that she became sensitive and allergic to commerical dog food. Her symptoms were scary to see. She swelled and grew hot, she pulled her own hair out in her discomfort. Her skin turned red from the heat and discomfort. Her joints were so swollen she could hardly walk. I thought the vet was going to tell me my dog needed to be put down. Luckily, I had an instinct that her food was making her ill. I took her off the dog food as soon as I saw her symptoms and she started getting better immediately. Until I could get in to see the vet I fed her plain white rice and cottage cheese.
The vet confirmed to me that Mango was allergic to "something" but that "something" she warned me, could be anything. IT was not necessarily sawdust, or bad additives. IT might be beef for all we knew. The only way to know for sure is to give the dog new food that you are sure the dog has never eaten before. Let the dog eat only that for six weeks. If no incident arises, introduce another food. Just one at a time. For example, after six weeks of rice and cheese my dog was eager to impress upon me that she was NOT a vegetarian. So I fed her some tuna. Six weeks later I learned she had no problem with tuna. So I introduced salmon. I would have been find going along like that, but my dog wasn't.
She quickly grew bored with the fixed the diet and began supplementing on her own anything she could find. The dog that had never so much as chewed a slipper began eating oven mitts, shirts, underwear, sponges. . . I had to try something, so I bought some all natural dog food from the specialty feed store. There are brands that have ingredients like Bison, Salmon, and very impressive price tags. I figured perhaps these all natural foods with no preservatives would be ok for my dog. They were not! It didn't seem to matter how much I spent, the symptoms would return and the animal would be miserable.
In frustration I searched the internet for dog food recipes. They are not that hard to find. Some are better than others, if you read enough you'll get an idea what to use. First off, dogs need protein. They were not designed to be vegetarians. Some of the dog food recipes suggest you use chicken, or ground beef. I used ground turkey because it was the cheapest meat source I could find that she was not allergic to. If you are ok with feeding your dog straight meat, you can stop there, because that is probably what they would be eating out in the wild like a wolf. For most people though, that's kind of pricey. So you can add your own fillers to round out the dog food without stooping to using saw dust.
Fill the dog up by boiling the meat in a pot with some veggies, barley, rice or oatmeal. My dog did not have an allergic reaction to any of these items. If you are concerned, try introducing one starch at a time. Many dogs and people are allergic to wheat and corn, both of which are commonly found in commerical dog food. As far as veggies go, my dog liked carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, celery, and stuff like that as long as it was ground up with the meat in a blender and served with a lot of the meat broth. When I tried feeding her a carrot straight, she turned up her nose.
The original recipe I had for natural dog food included garlic. On the internet some of the sites and chats said that was bad for dogs, some said it was ok. None said it was actually good. I don't think it has so much nutritional value for a dog, I think it keeps ticks and fleas away. In the same mosquitoes don't care for the smell of our blood when we eat a lot of garlic, fleas stay away from dogs who eat garlic. I included the garlic in my dog food, although I ground it altogether in the blender for her so she didn't know it was there and I never had a tick or a flea on Mango.
The original recipe also included rosemary, which I used in the begining and dropped after awhile. I couldn't find any nutritional information regarding why it was in the original recipe so I suspect, like the garlic, it was in there for scent only. No doubt, my dog smelled great after she ran through my rosemary bush, but eating it had little effect on her "doggy" smell. If you own a pet and had them come in after a rain, you know what I am talking about!
For my own convenience I boiled up dog food about once every three or four weeks, and froze it into daily size containers. Every evening I would move one to the kitchen counter to defrost and feed it to her in the morning. Buying three pounds of ground turkey, assorted veggies and rice turned out to be less expensive than the premium dog food brands and more expensive than the generic ones. I am certain I added two years to her life because no premium dog food at any price ever suited her. She would have died if I hadn't switched her over. Kind of makes you wonder