How to cook for your dog
Local vet crafts cookbook for humans
By Ross Boissoneau | Jan. 22, 2022
The idea of pets as family members isn’t new. But what 95 percent of pet owners around the world feel (and your monthly Bark Box subscription shows) is our love for our fur babies isn’t something that has limits — especially not in terms of the time and money we’re willing to spend.
(According to results of a survey The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Zoetis released just this month, that spend — for 86 percent of 16,000 dog and cat owners and 1,200 veterinarians across eight countries and four continents, anyway — is roughly “whatever it takes.”)
The pet industry calls this pet-as-family trend pet humanization, and it’s showing up in big ways in the pet food industry, which is increasingly reflecting the trends in the human food industry: less processed and more all-natural, organic, and GMO-, grain-, and even gluten-free options.
For those of us caught somewhere between feeding our fur babies “traditional kibble” dry pet food, which came in at an average price of $1.97 per pound, or 100 percent freeze-dried kibble, which averaged $32.55 per pound, according to a 2019 survey published by Statistica, there’s another equally loving but more affordable option: Dr. Amy Cousino’s new cookbook, "300 Dog Food Recipes, Three Ingredient Meals."
“Throughout my career, I’ve noted that the dogs that looked the healthiest were the ones getting more than dried kibble,” says Cousino, who is on staff at VCA Cherry Bend Animal Hospital in Leelanau County.
She says she’s asked thousands of her clients over the years what they were feeding their dogs, and sure enough, those whose pets were among the healthiest were at the least supplementing their diets with fresh food.
Not just table scraps, mind you: One woman told Cousino that she made her dog a vegetable plate every night.
That got the veterinarian thinking and eventually cooking. Which led to her first book endeavor, “How to Cook For Your Pet,” which came out more than a decade ago. “There was a big pet food recall in 2007. So I wrote my first cookbook for dogs and cats,” she says.
She wasn’t entirely satisfied, however. She knew that no matter how healthful her recipes were, most people would eventually go back to the easy route of buying prepared food. So she decided to create healthful pet foods that were also easy to make. Hence, the three-ingredient recipes of her current book.
She looked for different protein sources, including beef, poultry, fish, and cheese, carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, and grains, along with various vegetables to help provide additional vitamins and minerals. Cousino also recommends a vitamin and mineral supplement, as well as probiotics if your dog’s digestive system is a bit cranky, or joint supplements if needed.
“I wanted to stress the basic, simple foods,” she says. “They’re super easy. Kids 10 and up can do it with supervision. “
Keeping the recipes uncomplicated was key. “The recipes are simple on purpose. There’s nothing better about one [recipe] with 12 ingredients. It’s just three ingredients, cook them, cut them according to the recipe, measure, and mix,” Cousino says.
Once the food is cooked and mixed, Cousino says it should be used within three to four days. She says you can also make larger quantities and then freeze the remainder.
The recipes are fine for any breed, and Cousino includes a feeding guide. “You want to give the dog the right amount of calories,” she says, based on its weight and size. The book also includes snacks you can give your dog.
While it’s true that dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet, Cousino doesn’t recommend it. However, she says there are a number of protein sources that can be used or substituted in the recipes, such as cottage cheese or tofu.
Cousino warns that there is any number of foods that people enjoy that are not healthful for dogs. “People feed them odd things — spicy foods, fatty foods, onions, and garlic. Then the dogs get sick.” There is any number of other things that are toxic for dogs, some in even small quantities, such as grapes, avocados, chocolate, alcohol, chives, and nearly any fruit pit, whether peaches, cherries, or apples.
Not that Rover knows that. “Dogs will eat just about anything,” Cousino says. So it’s up to their humans to make sure they don’t get any of the bad stuff.
Cousino says that the dog food available at stores today is typically better than what was available years ago. She also cheers the availability of commercially prepared refrigerated pet food, such as Freshpet or The Farmer’s Dog. “I think it’s a good trend,” she says, though she sees the expense leaving most people behind. “I wrote this book for the masses. It’s easy, simple and less expensive or comparable” to the dog food available commercially.
As the title of her previous book, "How To Cook For Your Pet," implies (and its cover art shows), that book was written for both canine and feline companions.
Which begs the question: With this book being exclusively for dogs, is there another one on the way for cats? Spoiler alert: She’s already working on it.
Until then, “300 Dog Food Recipes, Three Ingredient Meals” will have to suffice. The book is available on Amazon, and Cousino says she hopes local bookstores will stock it as well.
Fresh from Cousino’s Cookbook
Beefy Rice and Peas
1/2 cup cooked ground beef
1/3 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cooked green peas
Mix the beef, rice, and peas together. Serve.
Feeding guide: Yields one meal for a
20-pound dog (two meals needed daily).
Turkey Time Dinner
1 1/2 ounces cooked diced turkey
1/2 cup cooked mashed potatoes
1/3 cup cooked diced green beans
Mix turkey, potatoes, and green beans. Serve.
Feeding guide: Yields one meal for a
10-pound dog (two meals needed daily).