In the beginning of 2013 we adopted a senior shelter dog, a bullterrier named Vito. Little did we know back then that he would turn out to become a local celebrity in New York City. He had his own popular Instagram page on which I shared his life with followers. He even had a page article in the New York Post! I was working on a book about his life but when he passed I couldn’t get myself to finish it, it was too hard.  I had cared a lot about Vito, he was in my life for 3 of the hardest years of my life. I felt it was my responsibility to make sure he would get the best care and love possible! I would like to share with you a bit about what organic home cooked dog food I fed him.

Vito the Dog and Lonneke Engel in the New York Post
Vito the Dog and Lonneke Engel in the New York Post

What is in your dog’s food

As most humans like to eat healthy food, it is also good to look at what you feed your dog. Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists on the dog food labels? Well, if you want to get a grip on your dog’s diet, I recommend that is the first thing you should do. get familiar with the foods you give your dog, and its ingredients. Ask yourself what they are, and find out by online searching if it is good for your dog. Curiosity is always the first step.
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So many options for dog food

Just like with human food, in the dog world there are many options and opinions on dog food. Some dog food brands are healthier than others. Some swear by giving a raw food diet to their dog, others only give dry food, and others only cook for their dog. It depends on each dog individually what is good and what is not, and it is always wise to discuss this with your veterinarian at your next checkup. Basically it is also trial and error you find out what diet is best for your dog.

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Vito in the Shelter before we adopted him.

The story of Vito the Dog

When we got Vito, he was a bit overweight. He weighed in at over 70 pounds. I switched him immediately from regular dry food to organic dry food. In the USA I gave him the grain free dry food by Organix . We also gave him a can of wet food once a while he really enjoyed. I even tried at one point frozen raw meat that you thaw first before you feed it to your dog, but Vito became an “espresso machine” as my husband calls it politely. So we found out after trying a few times, that raw/frozen food was not so good for him, he was too sensitive to it. And my research continued. Vito turned out to become an espresso machine when he ate something bad, or when things were raw. Since he is a bullterrier and that breed is known for eating everything that they find along the way, it was hard to make sure he would only eat what we fed him.

Vito’s feeding schedule

After our trial and error period with Vito, we discovered what diet worked best for him. As we work from home, Vito was always with us. So we started to give him food spread over a day,  instead of giving him once a day a lot of food. When he wakes up, he would get a bit of dry food, because otherwise he gets acid reflux during a walk. Then throughout the day we would give him food after exercise, like after a brisk walk. Basically when we would eat, Vito would get food too. He knew that he can expect food after we have eaten, so he always waits without a fuzz, and never begged for food. He ate the food we would give him when he wanted to, sometimes leaving a bit for later. At the end of the day he ate just as much food as he would have if we fed him once, but now it was spread over the day, which we thought is better for his digestion. and it gave him something to do all day. This has made him to be a wonderful well-behaved dog as well, who knew what to expect. He never chewed on or broke things. His days were all about sleep, walks, playtime and food, and he was in excellent shape (until he got sick because of a vaccination, which is a different story).

Vito and his bullterrier puppy friend Darwyn
Vito and his bullterrier puppy friend Darwyn, November 2015

During the time of getting to know Vito we would feed him only organic and simple snacks once a while: He enjoyed raw carrots, bananas, apple parts, melon parts, cooked eggs.

Home cooked dog food

After a while I was convinced I wanted to try to cook for him. But where to start? What is good for a dog, and in what ratio do I give it to him? My first step was to search online and see what are good foods for my dog. In the beginning I only dared to cook organic chicken and rice for him, as they vet always advises that when a dog has an upset stomach. In the beginning I would only give it once a week, but later on I started incorporating more foods to his diet and gave it to him more regularly. Vito was over the Moon when he smelled the food I was cooking, and would sit next to me in the kitchen.

This article on whole-dog-journal.com I used to decide what I wanted to cook for my dog

Vito the Dog in the kitchen waiting for his food
Vito the Dog in the kitchen waiting for his food

Home cooked dog food options

Foods I now use in cooking are: organic chicken incl. skin, organic chicken livers and hearts (organ meat not more than 5% of total food I give him), organic rice, organic sweet potato, organic squash, organic carrots, organic broccoli, organic string beans, organic coconut oil. I noticed if I cook low-fat for Vito, he doesn’t have enough energy. So I add a bit of chicken fat that comes from boiling a whole chicken, and coconut oil. Also, when the veggies and carbs are cooked, Vito digests them well, compared to raw vegetables that come out the same way they went in.

I mix all of these cooked ingredients together in different combos, and it became like 40% of Vito’s daily diet. In a cooked meal Vito ate about 75% animal protein, and 25% cooked rice and veggies. Again, there are many opinions on what diet is good for your dog, and what ratio is good, but we discovered this worked for us. He would still get dry food, but of course less than before. This way I knew he would get all the nutrients he needs, while I perfect my home cooked dog food cooking skills. I know that if I feed him only home cooked food, I need to add a supplement into the mix to get the right calcium – phosphorous ratio in his meals. I still need to learn more about a balanced diet before I can transition fully to a home cooked dog food meal. but the first steps are made!

Vito the Dog and his food
Vito is looking forward to his dinner tonight!

My husband was in charge of the vitamins we gave to Vito. Since he was older, he would get a daily mix of vitamins that were customized to his needs. To support his joints, kidneys, immune system and overall health. People are amazed when they saw how good he looked!

Vito is regularly checked by a vet, and his bloodwork has come back better than before. He is now on a healthy weight of 65 pounds, and still very active. which is good for an almost 13 year bullterrier.

Be a responsible dog owner

What I want to say to you is that, as a responsible owner you need to research what food works for your dog. Some things I said may be great for your dog, and some things are not so great. Every dog is different, and different times and events force you to make changes to the diet. Again, check with your veterinarian what diet and supplements are best for your beloved dog. But your dog will love you for it!

LOVE, LONNEKE (& Vito)

UPDATE: Vito died after a short illness (after receiving a vaccination) on March 10th 2016. He enjoyed a wonderful life with us and we will never forget him!

Lonneke Engel & Vito the Dog

 

First published on November 10th 2015, updated in 2019