These Food Toppers Will Make Your Dog Drool
If your dog suffers from mealtime boredom, spice up their food bowl with one of these tasty toppers.
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A homemade vinaigrette on your salad, a sprinkle of pecorino on perfectly al dente pasta — these finishing touches elevate the human experience of eating. And just like us, our dogs appreciate tasty add-ons that take a meal to the next level. This is especially true for dogs who have lost interest in eating, whether due to illness, age, boredom, or simply because they are picky eaters. By adding toppers to your dog's food, you can not only brighten your dog’s day with fragrant, fresh tastes but also slip in some supplemental nutrition in the process.
If you're thinking, Wait! Dogs have only about one-sixth the number of taste buds we do. Why bother dishing up anything out of the ordinary? Know this: When it comes to smell, dogs have 125 million sensory cells to our 5 to 10 million; they can smell each and every ingredient. And research has shown that they are able to distinguish at least four flavor profiles: sweet, sour and salty, which they tend to like, and bitter, which they do not.
Ready to spice up your dog's next meal? The good news is you don't need to go further than your own pantry or the aisles of your local pet-supply or grocery store to discover simple, healthy ways to liven up an otherwise humdrum dinner for your dog. Check out the ideas below for easy, on-the-go toppers and delicious, homemade options. As always, every dog is different so it's best to clear any dietary changes with your vet before trying them.
On-the-Go Dog Food Toppers
Some "people food" makes a great dog food topper. Take the rainbow approach, adding good-for-dogs fruits and veggies in all of nature’s colors. Here are some good options:
Canned pure pumpkin
Canned sardines or mackerel
Crumbled bacon or turkey bacon
Hard-boiled eggs (a little of the shell is good for dogs)
Ground beef, chicken, turkey, or lamb
Ground-up liver treats
Looking for an even easier dog food topper? Drizzle on some oil. Fish oil is among the most beneficial additives to the canine diet: It is excellent for the treatment of canine allergies, as well as arthritis and high cholesterol. One convention for calculating the amount of fish oil to include in your dog’s diet is to multiply your dog’s weight (in pounds) by 20. For a 60-pound dog, for example, the daily target dose is 1,200 mg.
Another great dog food topper is flax seed oil, which is credited with healing, strengthening bones, and maintaining a dog’s energy. Flax seed and olive oil are both great sources of antioxidants, and they are key for maintaining canine cardiovascular health.
Homemade Dog Food Toppers
Dogs love organ meat, so ask your local butcher or farmers’ market vendors if they offer pre-packaged organ meat, such as heart, liver, and kidney meat. Cut the meat into tiny bites and scatter a few on top of your dog’s meal; the meat can be either raw or lightly braised. Here are some other low-prep topping ideas:
Frozen veggies, steamed and diced
Grated low-sodium cheeses
Low sodium veggie, chicken, or turkey stock (Tip: Freeze your stock in an ice-cube tray and defrost a cube daily.)
One more home cooking approach: Buy a medley of vegetables in bulk and oven-roast as many as your dog might eat in four to five days; then store them in the refrigerator and add them at mealtime. It's a healthy “fast food” your dog will love.
A Quick Note About Calories
Remember that the addition of toppers to your dogs’ food requires that you reduce the amount of kibble or other food you offer them along with it. General guidelines may not result in the best regimen for your particular dog, so check the appropriate caloric intake by consulting with your veterinarian before making signiﬁcant dietary changes.
A Delicious Dog Food Topper Recipe
Lucy Postins, pet nutritionist and founder of The Honest Kitchen, developed this super healthy recipe. Both cherries and fennel are packed with powerful antioxidants, and fava beans maintain the healthy function of your dog's spleen, liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
1/4 cup fresh fennel, finely diced, raw or steamed
1/4 cup fava beans, lightly cooked
1 Tbsp. cherries, pitted and diced
1/2 cup live-culture plain yogurt
1 cup cooked ground meat such as turkey (optional)
Combine all the ingredients gently with a spoon in a large bowl.
Add a couple of tablespoons of the mix to each of your pet’s usual meals.
Refrigerate any leftovers for two to three days in a covered container.
When it comes to the kinds of homemade dog food toppers you can offer your dog, the world is your oyster (which dogs especially love, smoked, preferably). Use these ideas as inspiration, and remember that each dog is different, so if one recipe doesn’t pique their interest, try a new one.
Elizabeth Kennedy is a freelance writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.