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I add a raw egg to my dogs' raw meals at least three days a week. I prefer to feed eggs that I get from friends who have chickens. Or, when they're on sale, my local grocery store has organic, truly free-range eggs that I purchase. The cashiers at my grocery store must think I love omelets on those days.
Recently, someone asked me why I don't add the eggshell to my dogs' meals. Well, I do, but not in the way people expect.
Benefits of Raw Eggs for Dogs
I treat raw eggs as my dogs' multi-vitamin. This year, I've learned a lot about supplements and whole foods and the more I learned about what other raw feeders were adding to their dogs' dishes, the more I realized that raw eggs can replace many supplements because it's full of nutrients.
- Vitamin A – eyesight, bone growth, and the immune system
- Vitamin B2 – helps to convert food into fuel
- Vitamin B9 – formation of red blood cells, protein metabolism
- Vitamin B12 – nerve functions
- Iron – blood production and energy
- Selenium – behaves as an antioxidant in the body
- Fatty Acids – brain functions, skin and coat health, joints, and immune system
Feeding Raw Eggs to My Dogs
My dogs love raw eggs. I simply crack the eggshell open and allow the egg (yolk and white) to fall into their dish. People who aren't familiar with raw feeding or dog nutrition will warn you away from feeding raw eggs because of a risk of a biotin deficiency. This is only if we make the mistake of feeding our dogs egg whites only, discarding the yolk.
By the way, I do include the egg when weighing my dogs' meals – if a food has calories, then it counts in the weight.
I do not, however, add the whole shells to their meals, because the dogs won't eat them. Instead, I save them in the carton, allowing them to dry out in the fridge for a few days (I no longer bake the eggshells). I then grind the shells with my NutriBullet (a coffee grinder is better) and add a teaspoonful to my dogs ground raw meals, mixing them into the meat.
Note: I only save the shells from eggs I get from friends (who have chickens) or local farms. Eggs purchased at the grocery store have been rinsed with a solution to clean the eggs. I'm not comfortable adding those shells to my dogs' diet.
Should We Feed Eggshells to Our Dogs?
Eggshells are a great source a calcium in a raw diet where bone is limited, resulting in more phosphorus than calcium. Ground eggshells, which are easier to consume and digest, will help balance the calcium-phosphorus for our dogs. Although my dogs get plenty of bone in their diet (quail, duck wings, duck necks, and duck frames), that doesn't automatically make the calcium-phosphorus levels in their diet optimal because meat and organs are high in phosphorus which may throw off the balance. When the levels are off balance, health issues are created.
- Too little calcium can lead to a compromised skeletal structure as calcium is leached from our dogs' bones.
- Too much phosphorus can lead to renal failure.
- Too much calcium prevents their bodies from absorbing phosphorus.
So, should we add ground eggshells to our dogs' raw diet? For my dogs, the answer is “Yes!”
Can We Feed Eggshells Instead of Bone?
If you're wondering if we can permanently swap eggshells for bones, then I think the answer is “no,” because eggshells alone may not provide the optimal calcium-phosphorus balance for our dogs in a diet that also includes green tripe and raw meaty bones.
Ideal Calcium-Phosphorus Balance for Dogs: I've read that we should shoot for 1:1 to 2:1 calcium-phosphorus ratio in our dogs' raw diet.
So what's the ratio in eggshells?
According to StevesRealFood.com, powdered eggshells are 38.1% calcium, 0% phosphorus – not exactly the 1:1 ratio we're looking for, right? Knowing that eggshells are high in calcium with little to no phosphorus may tempt you to avoid adding them to a dog's dish, however, before you toss out the shells you've ground to dust, remember that while bone is high in calcium and phosphorus, meat and organs are high in phosphorus. So in a meal that is high in meat and organs, and low in bone (or has no bone), ground eggshells is a great addition.
How do we keep track? Eventually, you begin to better understand your dog and what s/he needs. Or you can track your dog's diet with Raw Feeding Meal Tracking Journal.
How Much Raw Eggshells Are Enough for Dogs
In my research, I've learned that it's recommended that we feed 1/4 teaspoon of ground eggshells per every 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of raw dog food.
Aren't Raw Bones Enough for Dogs?
This whole thing can be crazy making and whenever I'm overwhelmed with raw feeding, I go back to the basics: 80/10/5/5. In the beginning, we're taught that our dogs should get everything they need through their diet. If a dog eats a whole duck, then that is a balanced raw meal. I have better access to cuts of meat, instead of whole animals, so it's important to understand the bone percentage in what I'm feeding to my dogs:
- Whole Duck – 28% bone
- Duck Frame – 75% bone
- Duck Neck – 50% bone
- Duck Wing – 39% bone
- Duck Foot – 60% bone
Source: PerfectlyRawesome.com (this website is fantastic)
When I feed duck frames (75% bone) to my dogs, I offset that high bone amount with more muscle and organ meat and over time, the bone content reduces to 10% of their diet. And if I miss a co-op order or forget to thaw duck, then I have ground eggshells to tied me over.
I think eggshells are a great substitute for bone; but not something I'd want to permanently add in place of bone.