Fat has a bad rap, and it is often vilified in the media. (And please note, this article is about eating fat, not BEING “fat.” Being overweight is rarely a healthy state for pets.)

People try to avoid fat like the plague because of a general consensus that it is unhealthy. In our culture, we have a high incidence of heart disease and stroke that are often correlated with high fat diets. We overeat fats.

But it turns out, fat may be a bit misunderstood.

Sure, there are “bad” kinds of fat, but certain types of fat can also be really beneficial to your pets’ diets. Let’s take a look at the benefits of good fats (especially one kind of “good” fat that you probably have available on a regular basis).

 

The Health Benefits of Fat

These guys need a lot of fat in their diet to maintain the stamina needed to pull sleds, and thrive in a cold environment!

These guys need a lot of fat in their diet to maintain the stamina needed to pull sleds, and thrive in a cold environment!

When eaten appropriately for the metabolic needs of the individual, and in moderation, fats are essential to good health and survival. Without fat in your pet’s diet, their fur, skin, eyes, immune system, brain, and blood cells would suffer.

Dogs need good-quality fat especially if they reside in cold climates, or exert lots of energy running or hiking, racing long distances, or herding cows and sheep. Higher fat diets in the winter time will keep your pets warmer and will provide them with better stamina to adapt to the cold and wind.

The nutrient requirements of canine athletes are unique. Dogs have a greater capacity for fat oxidation than humans both at rest and during exercise. In dogs undertaking endurance exercise, such as sled dogs, high fat (>50% of energy) diets increase stamina and maximize energy production…”

Richard C. Hill, “The Nutritional Requirements of exercising Dogs,” Journal of Nutrition, 1998

The kinds of essential fats found in meat will vary with the type of meat (chicken, sheep, pork, beef) and the diet fed to these animals. For optimal health, animals need a balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids. I recommend rotating them. Lamb and chicken are good meat sources in the Winter months because they are warming.

Warming spices such as ginger, basil or fennel can be added to the cooking of meats and vegetables. They improve blood flow, keep the body feeling warm, and aid digestion.

 

Making Use of Those Kitchen Scraps

schmaltzWhat do you do with your fat after roasting a chicken,  some beef,  or pork? Most people toss it away. But here’s an opportunity for you to recycle those drippings into prime nutrition for your pets.

When I was a kid, my mom saved chicken fat in ginger ale pop bottles for use in cooking . I found this out the hard way, by drinking a bottle thinking it was ginger ale. Instead, I got a warm mouthful of “schmaltz.” Oops!

Fat can be used as a flavor enhancer to make different and interesting dishes for your cats and dogs, and also to make veggies more palatable! This is especially helpful if your pets are finicky eaters. My cats like to eat different kinds of meals, and protest if they get the same kind of meat two days in a row.

 

Identifying Good Fat From Bad

Leftover oil from cooked bacon (be sure it's nitrite/nitrate free!) is a great way to flavor veggies for finicky eaters

Leftover oil from cooked bacon (be sure it’s nitrite/nitrate free!) is a great way to flavor veggies for finicky eaters

Many health articles warn against pets eating the fatty leftovers from human meals, especially around the holidays when large family gatherings lead to lots of roasted turkey, hams, and more. But again, it’s all about the kinds of fat you’re feeding to your pets.

Avoid using fat or drippings that contain the following:

  • Onions
  • Pepper
  • Spices
  • Artificial Flavorings
  • Sauces

Use fat or drippings that come from:

  • Unseasoned meats
  • Organic or free-range meats
  • Nitrate/nitrite-free bacon

Save the fat in clean glass jars, and store in the refrigerator.  You can add 1 capsule of Vitamin E (poke a hole in it and press out the oil) to the fat for a longer shelf life.

Recipes You Can Try At Home

Hina’s Pork Liver Delight (for dogs)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3  cup cooked pork liver (warmed in chicken fat)
  • ¼ cup of cooked sweet potato (warmed in chicken fat)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of organic alfalfa or clover sprouts
  • 6-8 Tablespoons of chicken fat


Directions:

  1. Heat up chicken fat on low heat in a frying pan.
  2. Cut up or mash the sweet potato in small pieces, and mix in well with the fat. Remove the sweet potato pieces, strain out excess fat and set aside.
  3. Next, add the liver to the fat-coated frying pan and heat, then remove from pan and strain the excess fat.
  4. Mix the sweet potato with the sprouts, then mix in your pork liver and serve.

 

 

Garbonzo’s Chicken Fat Salmon and Sprouts (for kitties)

Ingredients:

  • ½ can of Alaskan salmon or salmon leftovers (always take the fish out of the can, and store in a glass container)
  • 2 tablespoons of cooked sweet potato (warmed in chicken fat)
  • 1 tablespoon of raw organic alfalfa or clover sprouts (cut up with scissors into small pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons of chicken fat


Directions:

  1. Heat up 1 tablespoon of chicken fat on low heat in a frying pan.
  2. Cut up or mash the sweet potato in small pieces, and mix in well with the fat. Remove the sweet potato pieces, strain out excess fat and set aside.
  3. Mix the salmon with 1 tablespoon of chicken fat and warm in frying pan on low heat.
  4. Remove the salmon from the pan and mix with the sweet potatoes.
  5. Add the sprouts to this mix as well, then serve.

 

IMPORTANT: Remember that this is a one-time use only kind of deal. Once you’ve used the leftover fat once, discard it. Don’t keep recycling the same fat drippings to heat or flavor your pets’ food. Burned fat or re-heated fat is NOT healthy!

Want More Info on Beneficial Foods?

Book My dog nutrition and diet therapy book is a great comprehensive resource (with easy, actionable recipes!) that will empower you to create fantastic healthy meals for your dogs.

Learn more here – Fresh Food & Ancient Wisdom: Preparing Healthy & Balanced Meals For Your Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos via: I Believe I Can Fry,  pinprick, Paul Moody.