For about a year, I have been supplementing our dogs’ quality croquettes with homemade turkey burgers (served with whole wheat pasta and cooked vegetables). Our three dogs eat twice a day; at each meal, our largest dog (45 pounds) gets half a burger, while the two smaller ones (30 and 25 pounds) get roughly the other half.
I developed the recipe myself, and while trying to cover the basics in terms of proper dog nutrition, I didn’t have a particular program in mind – I mostly wanted to make our dogs’ meals a bit more interesting to them. Curious about the nutritional value of burgers, I turned to Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, RD, professor at Central Michigan University and devotee from Akita, to find out how my dining experience stacked up.
Makes approx. 36 3-inch patties, each about 3.5 ounces
RECEIVE THE BARK NEWSLETTER IN YOUR INBOX!
Sign up and get your questions answered.
Total preparation time: 20 minutes
Total cooking time: 1 hour
Preheat the oven to 400 °
- 6 1/2 pounds ground turkey with dark meat
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp. ground dried eggshells
- 3 tbsp. chia
- 1/2 tsp. chickpea flour
- 1/3 c. bran
- 2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
- 1 ch. natural organic pumpkin
- 3 ch. organic oatmeal
- 2 tbsp. rehydrated shredded dried seaweed (low sodium variety)
Mix well, making sure all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Shape into 3-inch patties, place on one or more lightly oiled rimmed baking sheets (with oil spray). Optional: Spread a little ketchup (about 1/8 tsp) on each patty.
Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. A longer cooking time will produce a drier, easier to crumble burger.
Tip: Deglaze the baking sheet with water, which makes a great sauce that can be used to moisten the meal. This recipe makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of this sauce. It’s also an easy way to help clean the baking pan.
By Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, RD
There is a great deal of controversy within the veterinary nutritionist community about commercial pet foods and home cooking. And, since the manufacturing standards for dog food are so different from those we apply in our own kitchens, it’s hard to make an “apples to apples” comparison. Nevertheless, by using proprietary nutrition software, it is possible to determine the relative values of the main food components of Claudia’s recipe with those found in commercially produced dog food (in Parens).
Analysis (per cake)
Note: All measurements are given in terms of 100 kilocalories (kcal) compared to measurement standards used by commercial food manufacturers.
Protein: 7.5 grams (8 grams are considered high in protein)
Calories: 5.3 kcal (5 kcal or more are considered high in calories)
Fat: 2 grams (a low fat food contains less than 2 grams, so it is neither high nor low)
Sodium: 30 mg (anything less than 100 mg per serving is considered low in sodium)
Fiber: 0.75 grams (neither top nor bottom)
Moisture loss in one hour covered the cooking time is about 10 to 15 percent. High heat and a long cooking time will destroy 90 percent of the thiamine and up to 50 percent of some of the other B vitamins in burgers. On the plus side, it will also kill pathogens, so you don’t have to worry about contamination which is a problem when it comes to undercooked meats.
Used as a “garnish” to both increase palatability and provide calories, protein, and other nutrients, the turkey burger is a great addition to complete commercial dog food. Feeding turkey burgers as a garnish can also be helpful for older dogs, who often have a poor appetite, or for dogs that have been sick or malnourished. In these cases, the turkey burger does not need to replace commercial food, but rather can be fed in addition to it.
As the recipe is given, it would not be advisable to feed turkey burgers as the sole source of nutrition as they may be too high in calories for some dogs, and also because they lack other nutrients dogs need. . Obesity is becoming an epidemic in dogs, as it is in humans. Calorie restriction and regular exercise are important for weight maintenance, especially as the dog ages.
As always, choose the best commercial food you can afford. To learn about the options and issues, try one of the online dog food reviewers; Dogfoodadvisor.com is a good place to start.
The context: canine nutrition
Dogs, which are omnivores, need the same types of major nutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats, and vitamins and minerals – as human omnivores, but in different proportions. For example, they absolutely need linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, and nearly a dozen amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These amino acids range from complex (arginine and phenylalanine) to simple (leucine and valine).
We and our four-legged friends get all 22 amino acids from protein sources such as eggs or meat, which contain varying percentages of each. Some sources of protein contain most of it, others only a fraction. Meats, eggs and fish are some of the best sources of complete amino acids, and their proteins are highly digestible; this means that amino acids are absorbed more easily by the intestine.
The minimum nutritional composition standards for dog foods are based on percentages, which are determined by the physiological condition of the dog; the percentages are higher for dogs in the growth, reproduction and lactation stages, and increase with increasing animal weight. Usually, the amount of feed to achieve the minimum percentages required for the maintenance of normal physiological function in dogs is based on dry matter per kilogram of body weight. This is why the labels indicating the number of cups of food to give per day base the measurement on the size of the dog. Companies formulate their feeds to provide a specific amount of protein, linoleic acid, and calcium to phosphorus ratio.
If you cook for your dog and want to do your own analysis, there are a number of websites that allow you to do this, but none can be considered foolproof. For example, there is the USDA Nutrient Database. This is a food calculator only and does not contain information on ingredients that could be used in a dog food recipe, such as eggshells (a free web calculator that includes eggshells can be found here: nutritiondata.self.com).