Bernadette Kazar never planned to have a second career making home-cooked dog food. Then fate got in the way.
Ruby, a blind cocker spaniel that she had rescued, needed a special diet for liver failure. Instead of buying expensive canned prescription dog food, Ms. Kazar got some recipes from noted national veterinarian Jean Dodds with help from Cathy Alinovi, co-author of the book “Dinner Pawsible” about home cooking for pets.
The liver cleansing diet she got from Ms. Dodds helped Ruby, so Ms. Kazar decided to see if her other five dogs would also benefit from home-cooked food made from recipes in “Dinner Pawsible.” They loved it, and it was good for them.
“Feeding all the girls homemade food, they lost weight, no tear stains, no gas, no ear infections [a particular issue with cocker spaniels],” she said.
When Ruby died from health issues unrelated to her liver, Ms. Kazar was drawn to another dog with special needs, Avon, a 10-year-old King Charles spaniel who was overweight and had glaucoma, an enlarged heart and a heart murmur. On a home-cooked diet, Avon successfully lost weight (necessary because of the heart problems) and lived for three more happy years.
Ms. Kazar was ready. “All these good results convinced me to start my business, Pawlicious Pet Food.”
It’s made entirely from human-grade ingredients, cooked, packaged in half-pound packages and then frozen. Users can pull a few packets out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge and feed it to pets cold or warmed slightly in the microwave.
The Heidelberg retiree was well-versed in commercial food prep — She was a baker for Moon Area School District for 10 years and building manager for an elementary school for 14 years. She also had made pierogies and wedding cakes to supplement her income.
In addition to her fledgling pet food business, she makes all the pierogies and a selection of desserts for her brother’s restaurant, Dorothy 6 Blast Furnace Cafe in Homestead.
At first, Ms. Kazar cooked only recipes from Ms. Alinovi’s book. However,because those recipes were copyrighted, she had to come up with her own to sell. She strives to use ingredients with nutritional benefits, such as coconut oil and fresh produce from her garden. She registered her business with the state and submitted recipes to New Jersey Feed Lab to be tested for protein, fat, fiber and moisture content. She submitted the lab results to the state Department of Agriculture and received approval to sell her dog food.
Her own six dogs remain her best advertisement. They eat only Pawlicious, supplemented with fish oil. Her oldest, Godiva, is now 18 and still quite mobile. She also gets supplements glucosamine chondroitin, CoQ10 and hawthorn berry (for cardiac function).
Her newest rescue, a West Highland white terrier, came to her already overweight at 19 pounds and has since gone blind and been diagnosed with diabetes. Benny now eats Pawlicious’ grain-free scrambled egg with bacon and turkey/salmon. He has lost 8 pounds on the carb-free diet, receives daily insulin shots and blood tests, and gets regular exercise. His diabetes is still a work in progress, but his numbers are good.
Linda D'Angelo, formerly of Scott, said her three dogs have benefited from the Pawlicious diet. She decided to try it after two experienced serious health issues related to tainted commercial dog food. One dog spent three days in an emergency veterinary hospital.
“The other was able to come home the first night and now suffers from chronic stomach issues,” she wrote in an email.
Ms. D’Anglelo said that dog had not been able to eat an adequate amount even when fed special prescription food. “Bernadette recommended appropriate portion sizes for each dog. Our dog with the chronic stomach problems gained weight back, and both dogs were all around healthier.” The third dog also thrived on the food, she said.
Ms. Kazar said her business is more like a calling.
“I believe God gave me a reason outside my retirement to help dogs with no voice. [He] put dogs into my life with [health] issues, and I’ve seen good results with feeding simple, healthy meals that we would eat ourselves.”
Pawlicious prices range from $1.60 to $3.85 per half-pound and $6 for a half-pound bag of treats. She offers delivery within a 25-mile radius of her home in Heidelberg. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pawliciouspetfood/, email Pawliciousepetfood@gmail.com or text 724-640-0014.
Susan Banks: email@example.com or 412-263-1516.