Managing diets for fussy eaters
A guest article by Shyamoli Gramopadhye
If you’ve spent some time begging and pleading your dog to eat food that you made with painstaking effort, you know you have a fussy eater. Dogs can have phases of a high food drive, hating food or merely not caring about food throughout their lives. As long as there isn’t an underlying medical issue, these phases are routine and something we have to accept.
Remember that adhering to weight/size/shape/diet chart guidelines doesn’t mean anything if you’re unable to get quality nutrition into your dog because of it. A lot of dogs become fussy about food due to this. The best way is to spend some time figuring out what your dog loves eating, how often they need a change in taste and texture, and what their high-value foods are.
Please note that the following methods are for meat-based, fresh, cooked daily meals.
For general fussy eaters
- Try cooking one part of the meal every 2 days.
Some dogs can smell stale food from a mile away and refuse it. The most obvious answer to this is to cook food daily, but that can be quite a task. Another option is to cook only organs (or some part of the meal) fresh every day/every other day. Then mix this with the rest of the food. This could help combat the staleness of the food.
- Save the cooking liquid
The water that you cook organs in carries a lot of flavours. Save this liquid to use in a couple of different ways:
- Top up the bowl when serving
- When storing in containers, add this liquid before freezing
- Cook veggies/rice in this water and puree it.
- Cook meat in the same broth along with veggies, then shred.
- For vegetable-haters — Slow cooking
This method has become our saviour but has come with A LOT of trials and errors. We use an Instant Pot(linked here), but it could easily be achieved with any other utensil as long as you slow cook and don’t let any steam escape.
Mix all the veggies (finely chopped; do not puree), meat, spices & herbs together in the pot. Add the cooking liquid* and pressure cook with the seal on for 15 mins. Let it sit for another 15 mins (sealed in an instant pot) and then release pressure. Drain the water, portion them and use a fork to shred pieces of meat. Skip this step if you’ve used shredded/minced meat. Add your organs to this, mix well together and store. You can also add any broth or liquid leftover from cooking the organs to these containers.
*Liquid can be:
i. Liquid after cooking organs.
ii. Bone broth
It is advisable to throw away water that vegetables are cooked in due to the accumulation of oxalates. If you plan on using the cooked food liquid, make sure you don’t cook veggies in that liquid.
- For vegetable-haters —Cutlets
This is a great way to add texture and variety to your dog’s diet. Use minced meat along with finely chopped veggies and make little cutlets. Add a tiny bit of oil to a pan and shallow fry for a minute on each side. Adjust the frying time depending on the size of the cutlets. Do not overcook. You can also add cooked rice, cheese or egg to this. These will add texture and taste, making it fun to eat!
- Maximise use of pastes, broths and anything liquid
Find what your pooch’s ‘hot favourite liquid’ is. It could be buttermilk, bone broth, fish soup, cooking liquid or just plain curd. If they’re fussy about eating a particular ingredient — veggies, supplements, or a type of meat — cook it separately, puree it and then add this liquid to it.
Fussy eating can be a lifelong trait or a phase. Sometimes it can just be that your dog just doesn’t like what they’re being offered but might gladly eat anything else. Whenever this happens, it’s essential to reach out to the nutritionist and get a revised, appropriate chart. Remember that dogs will also get bored eating the same meats, textures and types of food. Always follow nutritional guidelines or your specific diet sheet for the ratios of meat:organs: veggies. The method of prep and cooking can vary. Rotate meats, try new organs, add different herbs and spices, play around with baked and dehydrated treats and experiment with liquids until you find what works for your dog. The combinations are endless!
About the author:
Shyamoli is one half of The Sustainable Couple on Instagram. She is a Food Scientist by profession and has studied Human Nutrition extensively. She has also been learning about Canine Nutrition to aid her in preparing wholesome meals for her dog Selvi.
As a first-time pet parent, Shyamoli spent a lot of time researching the quality of food, all the while following her dog’s diet chart to the T. Like most Indies, Selvi ate anything given to her initially but started becoming ‘fussy’ about food after about 6 months. Frustrated and confused, Shyamoli spent time reading blogs and experiments on cooking meat in different ways. Upon realising that just like her human family, Selvi too needed variety in her diet, she started making her food more fun. Shyamoli says that the moment she took the robotic nature out of the process, both she and Selvi began enjoying it, and Selvi started eating better.
You can write to Shyamoli at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact her via DM on Instagram by clicking here.