Soups have long been used for their nourishing properties. Just think back to your childhood when you were sick, was there anything better than a hot bowl of soup to make you feel better? This tradition has extended down through cultures and time because it actually has a medicinal purpose.
We don’t often think of giving soup to our pets, but this can be a wonderful way to help our animals recover from illness and keep them eating when they are sick. One of the best soup recipes for this purpose is called “Marrow Soup”. This soup can be used for cancer patients, geriatric animals, debilitated pets and animals who are not eating or have gastrointestinal issues.
Rather than a bone broth, which is cooked for 2-3 days and can sometimes be too rich for the patients described above, marrow soup is milder and much faster to prepare. Like bone broth, it still has many healing properties without being too rich for your pet or time consuming for you!
This soup can be offered by itself or added to your pet’s diet. If your pet is not eating you can try to offer some warm marrow soup, and you may find they will choose to lap it up when they are not eating anything else! This can put them on the road to recovery. You can also mix the broth into your pet’s current food or whatever therapeutic homemade or commercial diet they may be on.
The marrow soup supplies minimal calories but many amino acids, minerals, micronutrients and natural glucosamine. The broth can also have special “medicinal” properties, depending on what you season it with. For example ginger can be very helpful for nausea and apple cider vinegar is detoxifying and can stimulate digestion. Turmeric can help with inflammation and pain.
Onions should never be used in making soups as they are toxic to dogs and cats. Always make sure a broth does not contain onions in any form if you are purchasing your broth instead of making it yourself.
What about garlic? You’ve probably heard of the medicinal benefits but isn’t it toxic too? Small amounts of garlic in a soup tend to be ok because it is strained out in the end and the dose ends up being extremely small. In high amounts it can cause anemia in dogs and cats (and cats tend to be more sensitive). Powders have more likelihood to do this than fresh garlic. So what do you do? In a cat, I’d avoid using garlic at all to be safe. In a dog you’ll probably be fine with a small amount but if your dog is anemic (low red blood cell count) I wouldn’t include it. Also if you are feeding the broth occasionally a small amount of garlic is probably ok, but if you are feeding it daily for an extended period of time I’d leave out the garlic because the effects on red blood cells are cumulative. Just one more thing, the Japanese breeds of dogs (Akitas, Shiba Inus) are very sensitive to garlic so never use in these breeds.
It is always recommended to make your own marrow soup, rather than purchasing a similar broth from the store. A homemade broth will have fresher ingredients and less additives, and thus it’s healing properties will likely be better. However if you really don’t have the time there are commercially available dehydrated bone broths for pets that can be reconstituted. Just make sure to check your ingredient list for artificial ingredients, garlic and onions!
Marrow Soup Recipe
- 1 organic chicken, cooked with meat removed
- Crack long bones, cover with water, add 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar (the acid helps draw calcium and minerals from bones)
- Add veggies if desired (beets, carrots, celery, turnips, parsley)
- Add a slice or 2 of fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic crushed (optional for dogs-see above, omit for cats)
- Salt/pepper (optional for seasoning)
- Simmer slowly 4 hours, up to 12 hours. A crock pot on low overnight also works great!
- Strain to remove bones and veggies and discard everything but the broth.
- Can freeze in ice cube trays for daily use or use small ziploc bags for larger portions
- Will stay good in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer for months
For small dogs and cats start with a few tablespoons in their food. For a larger dog you can go up to 1/2 or even 1 cup daily.
If you would like to learn more about home-cooked diet and nutrition specifically designed for your pet, please contact Napa Valley Holistic Veterinary Services at 707-535-9979 to schedule a consultation!