Saving Bella: Part 2 – Homemade dog food

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Saving Bella when my beloved dog was diagnosed with cancer, canine osteosarcoma – a cancer the vet said would take her life in just three short months. Fast forward 2 1/2 years, and she’s still here. I’ve been making homemade dog food off and on and I’m now in an “on” phase and expect this will continue as her improvements have been nothing short of miraculous. She’s going on 12 years of age, and has a mass on her shoulder, but bounces down the hallway for her walk like she’s a puppy.

Numerous tests, including a bone scan, have all come back inconclusive. I’ve taken her to four vets and two specialists and no one can explain the mass in her shoulder other than to call it a tumor. But after that first diagnosis, I fiercely researched everything I could and immediately put her on a protocol of a grain-free diet, human-grade food and I began giving her artemisinin. Let’s see, since that original diagnosis, she’s had a splenectomy and now has chronic pancreatitis – this means I then had to come up with a fat-free homemade dog food.

So yes, I spend 3-4 hours every week making her dog food. Oh, and did I mention that I’m a travel writer so I’m often on extended trips which means I have to bag up to three weeks worth of food at a time to fill my freezer. Some weekends, I spend an entire Sunday just making dog food – last trip I bagged 42 servings of food. I played around with a number of homemade dog food recipes and canine cancer diets until I found the one that worked for her. And I’ve figured out where to source my ingredients so that I keep the costs to about $100/month.

making homemade dog food

This is what my kitchen looks like on Sundays


She’s not a huge lab but at her heaviest, her weight was around 78 pounds. Looking back, I’d say she was fat. Now, she’s down to 63 pounds and I’m trying to get her back up to 65 pounds. The tumor is in her shoulder so getting the extra weight off of her means she’s able to walk much better.

A number of people have asked me how I make her food, so I’m sharing it here. I do give her vitamin supplements as I know many homemade dog food diets can be lacking in all nutrients.

homemade dog food

This is what my freezer looks like when I’m finished.



I mix a combination of boiled skinless chicken breast, quinoa (she seems to have problems with brown rice), frozen green beans or peas, and either pumpkin or sweet potato. Occasionally, I’ll add blueberries or low-fat cottage cheese to it. I freeze individual bags and just take a few out of the freezer at a time. I’ve had to play around with the measurements but I calculated her calorie needs so I give her 1 1/4 cup of chicken, 1 cup quinoa, 1/3 cup potato or sweet potato and 1/3 cup green beans. She gets two bags a day. (I recently upped the chicken from 1 cup to get a couple more pounds on her.)

So this is what works for her – and again, I do give her supplements to make up for any lost nutrients in her inability to digest fats or grains. Believe me, my neighbors see her and can’t believe the transformation in her energy level and lack of pain these past few months. Her vet is stunned as well. My husband’s mantra is “don’t change anything because she feels great”.

I’m happy to share my experience or insights on our journey these past two years. Just leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you!



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