DIY Dog Food: Cook for Fido, Cut Your Vet Bill

by Sara Graham, Shoestring Magazine
October 23, 2009 - 8:48pm

A veterinarian friend once told me that "being a vet is a little like being a used car salesman. You spend half your time doing what you love, and the other half convincing people to let you." As the owner of an old pug and a new mortgage payment, I have a pretty good idea of what she means. If vet visits alone don't drain your savings, the price of pet prescriptions surely will.

But according to Elinor Silverstein, a renowned cooking teacher and dog food chef, the solution is not in arguing the vet bill. The solution is raising a strong, healthy dog that doesn't need as many vet visits in the first place. "People who feed their dog fresh, homemade food have healthier, more energetic dogs," she says. "It's that simple."

Elinor, who double majored and minored in Biology/Pre-Med and Zoology/Pre-Vet, holds her popular dog food cooking classes throughout Southern California. "Classes fill up," she says. "And I get a lot of repeat 'students' who stand up and talk about the tremendous changes they've seen in their dogs."

The focus of Elinor's teachings is not expensive organic ingredients, or strange imported supplements. Instead, she simply stresses fresh foods: meats, fruits, grains, and vegetables. While organic foods are almost always better, fresh foods, she says, are the real secret.

"Big, commercial brands are just looking to save money," she says. "Do we even know what that food contains? It's unbelievable how many dogs I see these days who have cancer at 4 or 5 years old. All because the food they're eating lacks what they really need."

Dogs that enter Elinor's classes are often "exhausted, with dull coats." Owners report everything from itching to pancreatitis. Yet every ailment has its' culinary counterpart. "I start each class with the basics," she says, "then help owners cater their recipes to meet the needs of their dog." Do you have a senior dog? Feed him less beef and more chicken. Does your dog have liver problems? Add a little parsley to his meal. Is he always scratching? Invest in fish oil. Are his joints out of whack? Cut the grains and up the veggies.

Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned is not in the recipes themselves, but in the realization that, in terms of food, dogs are not that different from humans. Granted, you won't experience toxic shock when consuming a Hershey bar, but your dog shares the benefits of salmon's Omega-3's and the antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

In fact, Elinor's teachings could also shed some light on your own dietary needs. "I show people how food can improve health, period. I often take one recipe and optimize its' nutritional value both for them and their dog." Her favorite? Meatloaf. While the "owner" version contains vitamin-packed onions that are dangerous for dogs, the "canine" version gets calcium-rich egg shells that would send their owner running.

Of course, making your own dog food is certainly more of a commitment than grabbing a bag of kibble from the local supermarket. You'll be chopping, grinding, blending, baking, mixing and broiling. But with a little planning and the use of your freezer -- Elinor makes up to three (3) month's worth of dog food in one go -- your canine companion can skip the incessant vet visits and start living the naturally healthy life that he deserves. And that's a recipe we all can afford.



  • 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb whole ground chicken
  • 12 slices Ezekiel bread + brown rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup ground vegetables (carrots, green beans, peas)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Thyme and ginger

Mix together into meatball sizes and bake in oven on 350 degree for 30 minutes, or until done. Or steam lightly in chicken broth in covered pan until done.

This recipe has about 30% protein and yields about 11 cups of food.

Find out more about how you can cut your vet bills in half by feeding your pets healthier diets on Elinor's website,, or email her at info at thehealthydogandcat dot com.


Copyright 2009 Shoestring, LLC. Photo: iStock

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About The Author Related Articles
Photo of Sara Graham
Sara Graham's love affair with Perez Hilton cuts at least 10 years off her "real" age, allowing her to know such useless information as Tom Cruise's favorite Doritos flavor and Angelina Jolie's shoe size. Her Hollywood obsession was born thousands of miles from Hollywood itself, in Sydney, Australia, when she first became the celebrity editor for teen girl's magazine Dolly, thriving on showcases, round-tables, and the coveted one-on-one. Years later, she's now settled in San Diego, which has the weather but not the excitement, with a perfect little pug named Roxy (who has introduced Sara to a whole new world of designer pet toys, color-coordinated doggie accessories, and the unquenchable urge to throw an extravagant pug party).
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