We love our fur-babies, but they often slip our minds when making plans or stockpiling food and supplies. Just like humans, our pets have the same basic needs for: food, water, and shelter. Most “Preppers” have water and shelter already, but what about petfood?
Before moving forward, I’d like to warn readers this article is heavily focused on dogs. Many families have other types of pets, but more families can relate to owning a dog than other pet species. The information in this article may be interchangeable if you own a cat.
What can you do to prepare?
It’s best to continue feeding your dog the same food it’s accustomed to. Buy a surplus of dogfood and use or rotate your stockpile as supplies age. Dry dog food has a long shelf-life, and stays fresh even after you open the bag. According to a few articles I’ve seen online, the average shelf-life of unopened dry dog food is 1 to 1.5-years, and maybe longer under pristine conditions.
The same articles claim dogfood will stay fresh about 1-2 months after you open the bag. I think it takes my dog the same amount of time to go through a bag of food. We’ve got another bag of food at our vacation retreat, but I’ve got no clue how old that bag is. He eats it just like the kibble at home, so it must be fine.
My dog has never complained about his kibble being stale…
What about when it gets desperate?
You’re running out of dog food, but pet stores were looted a long time ago. You know there’s no interest in resupplying or reopening stores based on living luxury items (pets), especially when people may be desperate enough to eat dog food! What can you do?
Can you make dog food and/or switch your pet’s diet to something else?
Making Dog Food
You can make “dog food” yourself, but it won’t look like the old kibble you used to feed your dog. It’ll look more like human food and the dog may not know the difference.
I looked at the list of ingredients from my dog’s bag of food, and the first 11 items seem normal enough. They are: Chicken, Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Yellow Peas, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Egg Product, Chicken Fat, Soybean Oil, Brown Rice, Dried Beet Pulp.
The rest of the ingredients are vitamins and additives to enhance flavor or extend the shelf-life. With this in mind, it probably won’t be too difficult to make something your dog can eat from scraps and common pantry items.
To me, the ingredient list roughly translates to:
- Chicken Meal (Ground Bones & Skin or Scraps)
- Puréed Vegetables
- Animal Fat and/or Oil
- Rice (Most people don’t have access to barley)
- A finely ground multivitamin
I don’t like providing recipes in my articles because there’s no way to know what ingredients you’ll have after the SHTF. Specific recipes can be found online, but be prepared to adapt the recipe to fit what supplies you have access to.
Changing the Diet
Dogs evolved to be carnivores and scavengers, so it’s theoretically possible to transition them from kibble to meat-based scraps. Be aware that transitioning to a new diet will require a lot of patience and care.
Switching your dog’s diet can be as simple as 3 steps:
- Gradually introduce food scraps or homemade dog food to the kibble. This has the added benefit of extending your supply of dog food.
- If the dog doesn’t have a negative reaction, gradually increase the scraps being substituted per serving.
- Continue the process until only a small percentage of food is kibble.
A few things to keep in mind regarding changing a dog’s diet:
- Don’t replace kibble with meat-scraps overnight. Transitioning from kibble to a different diet “cold-turkey” could make your dog sick, and may cause unnecessary food waste if the dog can’t handle the sudden transition.
- If your dog gets sick during the transition, it may be because the process is moving too fast for it to handle. You may need to reduce the ratio of new food per serving. Find a happy medium and maintain that ratio for a week before moving forward with the replacement process.
- You don’t want to waste supplies, so continue using a small amount of kibble with each serving until the manufactured food completely runs out.
- You may be tempted to start converting your pet’s diet immediately after the SHTF, if only to extend your dog’s food supply. This may not be a good idea if you have several hundred pounds of dog food stockpiled. After all, you’ll be supplementing your dog’s food with your own. Also consider that you don’t know how long your dog will live. If it dies suddenly, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of pet food you can’t consume.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if your dog can’t successfully switch over to a new form of food without getting sick. Some of the nutrients are getting absorbed into their system, but it may not be enough and you need to be prepared for the possibility your dog may not survive. On the flip-side, don’t be hard on your dog either. It’s not the dog’s fault the world has gone to shit.
DO NOT Ration Pet Food
You must feed your dog the same amount of food, at the same time of day. You can brag about how smart “Fido” is to your neighbors all you want, but he is not capable of rational thought and won’t understand why you aren’t feeding him enough.
Rationing dog food will force the pet into survival mode and it will compete with you for food. The behavior of a starving dog will change quickly. First, it will scavenge for scraps or other food to make up for the deficiency. When that doesn’t work, the dog will seek targets of opportunity and attack weaker family members to get their food. There’s nothing scarier than seeing a loving pet, suddenly bare its fangs against a vulnerable child eating or playing on the floor.
It can be difficult to prioritize what to stockpile in preparation for an emergency or disaster. It’s easy to focus on human needs over our silent partners, so don’t panic if you haven’t done much to ensure your pets are taken care of if the SHTF. Just remember that you can take steps to address this issue if disaster strikes.
 Spinney, K. (2019). Dog food does go bad, but there are ways to help keep it fresh longer. Retrieved from Fansided: https://dogoday.com/2019/02/12/dog-food-goes-bad-keep-fresh-longer/
 Cammack, N. R. (n.d.). Pandemic: Considerations for Pet Food Bulk Buying and Shelf Life. Retrieved from NorthPoint Pets & Company: https://northpointpets.com/npp-journal/pandemic-considerations-for-pet-food-bulk-buying-and-shelf-life/
 Full Ingredients List: Hill’s Science Diet for dogs with sensitive stomachs:
Chicken, Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Yellow Peas, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Egg Product, Chicken Fat, Soybean Oil, Brown Rice, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Lactic Acid, Pork Liver Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.
 Nestlé Purina PetCare. (n.d.). What Is Chicken Meal in Dog Food? Retrieved from Purina: https://www.purina.com/articles/dog/nutrition/what-is-chicken-meal-in-dog-food
 Medical Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a doctor or any kind of medical professional. The information presented is for educational and informational purposes only, does not constitute any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
 Sick Dog: Transitioning food too quickly may cause illness. However, the dog could have eaten something it wasn’t supposed to like: grass, a small toy, dirt, etc. It can’t hurt to scale back the transition process to be certain the new diet isn’t the cause.
 Rational Thought: Social media constantly provides us with examples showing that some humans don’t possess the ability to think rationally.