I’ve mentioned before that Sally, the Dingo, had some pretty serious health issues. Laryngeal Paralysis was, at the time when she was diagnosed this summer, a slow but certain death sentence. Given her condition at the time, we expected her to struggle on through a few more months with us before succumbing. She could hardly keep food in her stomach long enough to digest it. Her sides worked furiously in her effort to breathe during an episode, which in turn made her vomit. But one night, Jenn, who belongs to Sierra the Eyeless, made a soup from water, finely mashed ground beef, and frozen peas and carrots. This, we fed to her in lieu of her usual dinner of canned food and dry kibble–and the improvement was immediate.
While her condition remains, there was obviously something in the food we were giving her that wasn’t right. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say what it was, for certain, but I have the feeling that it was a domino effect. The canned food–organic and by all accounts delicious to her though it was–was the catalyst. At first, I simply made the ground beef soup for her, and she adored it. But I began thinking about her nutrition and her health problems–arthritis, ear infections that antibiotics weren’t quite healing, eyesight, dental health, and likely some nutrient extraction issues based on the bloating and difficulty she had with bathroom time. I decided to experiment.
Puppy Soup, as I now term it, is actually extremely simple. I don’t really use precise measurements, so if that bothers you, play with it and come up with your own. The basis is chicken stock, but it can be any bone stock you please. I know some dogs have certain allergy considerations. Do what’s best for your baby, and modify it as needed.
To begin, here are the basic ingredients and some “eyeballed” amounts to give you a good idea of what’s involved. Then, I’ll describe the process. I make it in bulk, because it does require quite a bit of time. My template makes enough for Sally for about 5 days.
- 5 Chicken thighs (I like these because they have a good amount of meat, skin with a decent amount of fat, and marrow bones for the stock.)
- 2 or 3 slices of uncured ham (This isn’t essential, but it does add fat, protein, and a little salt to the soup. Plus, we call it Vitamin H, an essential nutrient, because Sally loves it. You don’t have to use it.)
- 1 medium to large sweet potato
- 2 stalks of celery (with leaves, if at all possible.)
- 2 carrots or more (medium or large)
- 1/2 bag of frozen green peas (about 1.5 cups)
- 1/4 cup rice (shallow palmful)
- 1 cup rolled, old-fashioned oats (a heavy cupped hand’s worth or more)
- Water to fill a large dutch oven or medium stock pot.
First, place your chicken thighs in the dutch oven/stock pot and fill it with water. Cover and bring it to a boil. But watch out, chicken seems to produce a froth that can cause the pot to boil over. Once it’s bubbling nicely, reduce the heat to low or “2”, depending on your stove. Just keep it bubbling. Simmer for a minimum of three hours.
While your chicken is cooking, chop your vegetables and ham. I like to do a nice 2 mm “cube” with the sweet potatoes, so they cook thoroughly, but form really isn’t important at this stage. Just make the size small and easy for your dog to eat, because it’ll be soft from cooking.
Once the chicken has cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set it aside to cool. You can chase the flotsam and jetsam with the spoon if you like, but the only thing you really want to remove is cartilage/bone if it’s come free from the meat. Bring the stock back up to a simmer, adding your chopped vegetables and ham, and maintain a nice gentle boil or high simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add rice and oats, and cook no less than 20 additional minutes. (Undercooked grain ferments in canine intestines and causes some uncomfortable problems.)
While your soup is coming together, strip the skin, bones, and cartilage from the chicken. Shred the meat. At this point, it should be so well cooked you can simply squish it in your hands and tear it into tiny bits. Add this to the soup, and allow your dog to lick the bowl that contained the shredded chicken (a crucial part of the process). Discard bones etc. Stir and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes to bring everything together. Then, cool a portion with ice cubes for a Puppy Amuse Bouche, because your dog will not wait for soup one moment longer.
After it’s refrigerated, the oats will give it a wonderful consistency–thick and creamy. You can serve it to your puppy several times a day without fear of overfeeding them, just portion it accordingly. I give Sally an undiluted portion for dinner–about a cup, but breakfast and lunch are smaller, and are mixed with a bit of water to “reconstitute” it. I also like to heat it for 15-30 seconds in the microwave, because cold food can upset sensitive tummies.