Last year, I started a group called the Raw Feeders “Kicked Out” Club because I kept getting kicked out of raw feeding groups for asking questions; the wrong questions, I guess. I started my group as a joke, making fun of myself and laughing with others who have had the same experience. I also started the group because I still have questions about raw feeding.
Over two thousand raw feeders have come together in the Kicked Out Club to share and learn about raw feeding. Out of the many things I've learned, the one thing that stands out is that I have begun replacing supplements with whole foods.
Why I Add Supplements to Raw Dog Food
Like many raw feeders, I add supplements because I want to make sure my dogs get all of the nutrients they need in their diet. Despite the many raw feeders who have assured me that my dogs will get what they need from the meat, bone, and organs in their diet – I wasn't convinced.
We have a supplement industry that is doing it's best to convince me that I need to buy their products. However, seeing so many dogs thriving without a 1/4 cup mixture of various supplements added to their meals has made me question the myth that supplements are a requirement in a raw food diet.
A Common Mistake Raw Feeders Make
My list of supplements when I began raw feeding was redonkulous. My boyfriend compared our kitchen to a mad scientist's lab as I added a scoop of this and a pinch of that to feed my dogs the best diet on the planet. I threw the kitchen sink at my dogs. Every time someone mentioned or recommended a supplement, I was placing an Amazon order.
And if one of the leaders in the raw feeding community made a recommendation – forget about it. I didn't need to know why; I just needed to know that they said it was good and I was stocking up on a supplement my dogs may not have needed.
Things have changed a lot as I've grown as a raw feeding. I can thank the leaders who inspire us to do our homework, my love of reading, and responsibility as a blogger – no one is going to read a blog post that says “add this supplement because someone on Facebook said it's good.”
CLICK HERE to see a full list of supplements that I currently add to my dogs' diet and the benefits.
5 Whole Food Supplements for Raw Fed Dogs
When I was new to raw feeding, I received a lot of advice on what supplements my dogs need in their raw food diet, including the following. What I didn't realize was that many of these supplements are already a part of our dogs' raw diet.
- Fish oil
- Joint supplement
- Digestive supplement
I've been feeding raw for more than four years, and I feel like a dolt that I've just figured out that I don't need to buy a ton of supplements to give my dogs a healthy diet and meet any health needs. This year, I made the following changes, none of the dogs suffered, and I saved a lot of time and money.
Alternative to Fish Oil for Dogs
I add fish oil to my dogs' diet to offset the Omega 6s in the meat I feed with a healthy dose of Omega 3s, to support joint and immune system health, skin and coat health, and heart health. Our dogs receive the same benefits from canned sardines.
- While I prefer fresh sardines, I can only buy them affordably in bulk and rarely have the freezer space for 50 pounds of frozen fish. Therefore, I buy canned sardines.
- When shopping for canned sardines, I buy them in water with no salt (or other sauces) added. I recommend Seasons Sardines.
- I feed my dogs sardines 3x a week; 1 canned sardine per every 20 pounds of dog. Zoey, who weighs 60 pounds, gets three sardines.
- With the whole, fresh sardines, I chop them in thirds, and each dog gets an entire fish.
Salmon, mackerel, and smelt are other options I've tried. However, I haven't been able to find a new source of salmon (my old source retired), I only get mackerel when sardine stocks are low, and I'm still looking for a source for smelt. I avoid canned fish, other than sardines because most is loaded with sodium.
I alternate the canned sardines with three fish oils:
Alternative to Joint Supplement for Dogs
I began added a joint supplement to my dogs' diet when Rodrigo and Sydney developed arthritis at an early age. I always thought that dogs eventually needed a joint supplement because their system would stop naturally producing glucosamine. What I didn't know was that an unhealthy system could also lead to the need for joint support. Sydney needed a boost to her liver health, and Rodrigo needed pancreas support – once my dogs got what they needed, I no longer needed a joint supplement.
Today, my dogs receive joint support through diet:
Duck feet are a natural source of chondroitin, which helps to naturally rebuild cartilage and repair tissue damage after activity or injury.
Beef trachea is a natural source of glucosamine (and chondroitin), which helps build cartilage around the joints to support the joints.
Bone broth made from joint bones also provides a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin.
Turmeric Paste and Green Lipped Mussel (fresh or powder) both work to reduce inflammation; turmeric paste also help with pain.
Alternative to Digestive Supplement for Dogs
Because of Rodrigo's history of gut issues, I became convinced that all dogs need a digestive supplement. That changed last year when I met Robert Mueller of BARF World and read his book Living Enzymes. All a healthy dog needs is raw dog food – the living enzymes in that food combined with the enzymes naturally occurring in a dog's digestive system will be enough.
While Rodrigo will require a pancreas supplement for the rest of his life because of his EPI-like condition, he will also do well on fresh, raw pancreas. My other dogs no longer receive a digestive supplement. Instead, they get…
- goat milk sourced from a local farm
- fermented fish stock sourced from Answers Pet Food
- kefir sourced from Answers Pet Food
Feeding Whole Raw Instead of Ground
Being in a group that covers multiple models of raw feeding, I've been learning a lot from people who feed whole, prey model raw.
Feeding a dog a whole, raw diet instead of ground gives a dog's digestive system time to get primed and ready to get to work. When a dog eats a 100% ground diet, they eat too fast for their digestive system. I'm not talking about gulping, although that's a risk too, I'm saying that when our dogs' gut isn't ready to process the food being consumed, our dogs stay hungry until the gut kicks into gear. This increases the risk of overfeeding as we add more food to our “hungry” dog's dish. Who can resist those puppy eyes?
This week, I added whole duck carcass to my dogs' diet partly to give them something new to eat and partly to test out this theory I've learned from other raw feeders.
So far, so good.
Alternative to Multivitamins for Dogs
One question that comes up a lot in raw feeding groups is “what multivitamin does my dog need?” What we forget is that while dogs may need a multivitamin when fed a kibble diet, they don't need it with a raw food diet – they get all of their vitamins from their food.
Instead of giving my dogs a multivitamin, I add a raw egg to their diet. Raw eggs are a superfood. Someone explained that an egg is an incubation chamber for a chick. Therefore, it has to have loads of nutrients for the chick to grow. That made perfect sense and I chucked the multivitamins (basically, most of my supplements) and began adding a raw egg to my dogs' meals every other day.
I prefer to get eggs from local farms (or bum them from friends). The difference between fresh farm eggs and grocery store eggs is astounding.
- Farm fresh eggs are twice the size of grocery store eggs.
- The yolk of fresh farm eggs is a gorgeous yellow while the grocery store eggs are a pale yellow.
- I can feed my dogs the shells of fresh farm eggs because they haven't been washed with chemicals.
Alternatives to Iodine for Dogs
And finally, one of the scary conversations that kept repeating for me is “are you adding iodine to your dog's diet?” What????? Why do I need to add iodine? Isn't that for wounds? Should dogs be eating iodine? Around this time, I shut down in raw feeding groups and stop asking questions, afraid of how complicated raw feeding was becoming.
What people didn't explain was that iodine is great for thyroid health and my dogs were already getting it in their diet through the eggs, sea vegetables (I add ocean kelp), and fish. Without enough iodine in the system, our dogs will experience…
- hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- hair loss
- low energy
- health issues due to an unhealthy thyroid
- restlessness and anxiety
- heart issues
- lung issues
- non-cancerous breast lumps
Choosing the Right Supplement for Your Dog
When it comes to choosing the right supplements to add to your dog's raw diet, I have three pieces of advice to share:
1 – Don't supplement right away; allow your dog to transition to raw without the added ingredients. Unless you're working with a veterinarian or nutritionist experienced in raw feeding and the supplement is recommended for your dog's specific and not just some product they're pimping.
2 – Be wary of adding supplements recommended by strangers. Raw feeding groups are filled with a lot of experience. Always keep in mind that no matter how many years of experience these well meaning dog lovers have – they have zero experience with your dog. File away their advice while you do your research; this will provide you with a complete understanding of the benefits of various supplements.
3 – Supplement based on your dogs' needs. When fed a balanced raw diet, a healthy dog needs very few supplements; all of their nutritional needs are met on a balanced and varied diet of raw dog food. Feeding too many supplements can be harmless, it can result in a vitamin toxicity (with fat soluble vitamins), or different nutrients can cancel each other out (like apple cider vinegar and raw goat milk).