Bonnie Blumenfeld, RVT
Holistic Animal Health Consultant
Please Note: These are broad, generalized guidelines for healthy animals – obviously all animals are different and some may require more specific attention as well as a more specialized regimen.
With many people feeding raw or home-cooked diets to their dogs today, it’s important to understand which supplements need to be added. (These suggestions are for cats as well as dogs, with appropriate changes in amounts.)
Since your animal is not eating a whole carcass, you need to cover your bases to make sure you are feeding a diet as close to nature as possible. If your dog (or cat) were dining out in the wild, they would be eating the entire body – muscle, bone, fat, intestines, fur or feathers, organ meats, eyes! While the thought makes us queasy, to them it is like eating Ben & Jerry’s! but healthy. When we take on the responsibility of making a meal for our animal friends, we are trying to “MAKE A MOUSE” as Anitra Frazier says. Not always easy.
The minimum supplementation for home-prepared diets (whether raw or cooked), must include:
1) A GOOD MULTI-VITAMIN. This does not mean not mean the vitamins that are usually sold in most vets’ offices. I recommend a food-derived vitamin and mineral supplement. They are more easily absorbed and metabolized. Some companies that make great vites are: Animal Essentials (multi-vites, calcium, essential fatty acids, enzymes, herbs); Earth Animal (Daily Health Nuggets); Wysong (F-Biotic, C-Biotic); Dr. Goodpet (Maximum Protection Formula); Designing Health (Missing Link), and Solid Gold (SeaMeal, EFS’s, enzymes, herbs). They all have websites you can check for contact info. Other companies that I like are Vetri-Science (sold at vets’ offices), Dancing Paws, and Ark Naturals (you can get these at health food stores).
2) ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS. You can’t overstate the importance of EFA’s – for lipid metabolism, for healthy skin and coats, for heart health, for healthy joints, for the brain, to suppress inflammation, and on and on. If you are preparing your own diets, you can add ground flaxseed (if fresh), seeds and nuts, soybeans, and deep-water cold fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel). Or you can add oils – flaxseed oil and/or fish oil for dogs (you can alternate them). Cats generally don’t like the taste of flaxseed oil, but usually love fish oil such as salmon oil (use only high quality).
3) CALCIUM. Unless you are adding ground bones into a home-prepared diet, or giving nutritional bones (bones that they will chew up and consume, as opposed to recreational bones, such as knuckle bones, which they will chew on, but mostly leave intact), on a daily basis, you need to add a calcium supplement to your animal’s diet. Making sure the calcium/phosphorous balance is correct is very important. You can add bone meal to your mix (1½ tsp. per pound of food); although this is the most natural form of calcium for animals, I do get concerned about Mad Cow Disease, and also the fact that bones tend to concentrate toxins. I prefer a marine based calcium mix. Animal Essentials has a great mix made from seaweed (add 1 tsp. per pound of food). These products contain the correct calcium/phosphorous balance. If you are feeding nutritional bones on a regular basis, you can cut down the amount of calcium you are feeding.
These 3 are just the very basic supplements for a raw-food diet. Others that I always recommend are DIGESTIVE ENZYMES AND PROBIOTICS.
If you’re preparing your diets ahead of time, and freezing them, or if you are cooking your diets, do not add the supplements until just before you serve the meal – they lose a lot of their efficacy if they are frozen and most of their nutritional value if they are cooked. I also like to take a day or 2 off per week, without adding supplements as it gives the body a chance to remember what it can do on its own. (Obviously, do not skip supplements which you are using for therapeutic reasons.)
For those of you feeding a commercial raw food diet, many of them have all the supplements already added, and some don’t. Make sure you check. For some supplements (such as calcium), adding too much is just as bad as adding too little.
You also need to keep in mind the individual condition of your animal. Very young and older animals, and ones that are sick or stressed, or pregnant or lactating, will need to have their supplements adjusted, or possibly some others added or deleted from your regimen. What I have outlined here is just a basic protocol.
Bonnie does phone consults – you can reach her at 831-359-6001. Visit Bonnie’s website: www.headtotailhealth.com
Bonnie Blumenfeld, All rights reserved. Copyright 2007.
DTC. All rights reserved.
Thank for sharing this interesting info. I will follow your tips.
Teresa Sievers says
I feed my dogs raw ground turkey and various other raw foods and they go nuts over it. Raw foods are exactly what their relatives eat and their stomachs are even designed for it with the acidity levels they produce. Awesome article!
Bonnie Brown says
Thanks Teresa and glad you liked our post with Bonnie Blumenfeld about supplements! Great what you’re doing for your dogs too!