Thursday, July 28, 2011

Healthy Dogs On A Budget With Plants

It can seem expensive to feed your dog fresh food, but it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be “all or nothing,” any fresh food is a good thing, more is better, and thoughtfully chosen fresh food is the best.

One of the best ways to add useful nutrients to your dog's food is to use plants. Surprised? You'd expect to read “meat” in that sentence, but when you learn about the disease preventing power of plant chemistry you'll see that modest amounts of well chosen plant foods are extremely useful for dogs.

I know that there are those who believe dogs don't need any vegetables to live well, and they may be right in an ideal world, but our dogs live in a world full of toxins and other stressors, and plants are ideal for fighting that. But you can't feed grocery store crap dog food and expect the plants to do all the heavy lifting.

Plantain (free!)
Dogs don't eat much plant food, so don't go overboard on portions. Small amounts of various highly nutritious plants are more useful than large amounts of bland mega-corp vegetables. Commercially grown vegetables sold in big stores aren't nearly as useful as weeds.

Always traumatize the plants to make them more usable by your dog's digestive system. If cooking them you should chop them well. If using them raw you should pulverize them in a food processor or blender. If your dog wants to eat some leaves on your walk that's fine too.

Nettles (free!)
Forage – Learn what's growing around you, many highly nutritious plants are available for free! You need to learn a little bit about them first, and know for certain what you're picking, but there is more and more on the internet and in local classes about foraging and the the use of your local wild plants. Good starter plants include Plantain, Dandelion, Nettles, Elder Berries, Hawthorn Berries (heck, all safe and edible berries are good), Purslane, Pineapple Weed, Rose Hips, Amaranth, Wild Mustard, …. the list goes on. Don't pick from roadsides, or locations that may have been sprayed with chemicals.

Freeze – Save bones and various cut-offs like kale stalks from your own food, and make bone broth. For raw ground-up plants I like to freeze spoonfuls of them on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Once they're frozen just put them in a labeled bag (species, date) If your plant mix ends up too wet for that freeze them in ice cube trays or small reusable containers (don't forget to label).

Dandelions (free!)
When shopping, especially when looking for out of season or non-local plant foods, look in the freezer section. Blueberries are the perfect example for those of us who live in areas not known for growing them. The frozen ones are usually organic, and frozen immediately upon picking instead of traveling for days losing potency. The freezing also breaks the cell walls, making the nutrients more bio-available to dogs.

Invest – A little money can go a long way when you invest in some well chosen dried plants and mushrooms. I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for the great prices and reputable quality. Get with some friends to divide larger amounts for even better savings. A few to add to bone broth that you probably won't find foraging are Shiitake Mushrooms, Astragalus Root, and Burdock Root. Mtn. Rose has nice informational pages for each item in their catalog, so be sure to read those when buying (and please go to their site by clicking on a link on this blog, it means my getting a little bit of money when you purchase - thanks!)
Ollala Berries (easy to grow!)

You probably have some good plant foods sitting in your spice cupboard. Many of the spices we use for flavoring have nutritional benefits as well. Check the dates, most of use keep them way too long.

Plant – Plant some of your own edibles. Nothing is more nutritious than food that's just been picked. 
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