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If you're coming to this blog post a little confused, you're not alone. Every year, I write a blog post sharing the supplements I add to my dogs' meals and then I realized that this was a bad idea. My goal was to give people examples of what they can add to their dogs' diet, but what people were taking away from the post was:
- a shopping list of supplements that either they couldn't afford, so they decided not to feed raw (it's too expensive)
- they couldn't find because they lived in a different country
- they thought the supplements I shared would balance the raw diet they fed to their dogs (balance, in my opinion, is BS)
In reality, every dog is different and what works for my dogs may not work for your dogs. Many people new to raw feeding make the mistake of buying every supplement that is recommended with the belief that (1) it's required and (2) it's balancing their dogs' diet when neither is the case.
So, I've decided to delete those past posts and give you the skinny on supplements for raw fed dogs. My goal is to give you a clear idea of what to look for when choosing supplements and to save you money and time.
Why I Give My Dogs Supplements
I give supplements to my dogs for two reasons. (1) To provide additional nutrients that I can't provide via fresh food, for example, seaweed calcium for growing puppies in place of bone or a digestive supplement in place of fermented foods. And (2) to support a health condition, for example, joint supplements or digestive supplements.
Each of my dogs receives a supplement to support various health conditions and/or provide additional nutrients. Supplements specific to each dog include:
|Pancreas supplement (to support EPI)||X|
|Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil when I don't have fresh food)||X||X||X||X||X|
|Glandular supplement (due to the lack of gland organs in the diet)||X||X||X||X||X|
|Mushroom supplement (as a cancer preventative – fingers crossed)||X||X||X||X||X|
|Vitamin B supplement (which I alternate with pork hearts)||X||X||X||X||X|
|Organic kelp (natural source of iodine, thyroid support)||X||X||X||X||X|
|Immune system supplement||X||X||X||X||X|
Eight supplements total and I think this list is too long. But when compared to the first list I created, this is nothing. It used to take 30 minutes to mix up food for my dogs because of all of the supplements. I took over one cabinet (three shelves) with supplements for my dogs and most of them were a waste of money because my dogs didn't need them or there was a whole food option that was better.
For example, I add fermented fish stock and fermented vegetables to my dogs' meals in place of the digestive supplement that I used to add. The fermented fish stock also provides Omega-3 fatty acids, but I just used the last carton and I don't pick up my new order for a few more weeks. And I lost my sardines connection in 2019, so I keep salmon oil on hand as an alternative.
Whole Foods that Replace Supplements for My Dogs
I follow a lot of raw feeders on Instagram and as I started paying attention to what others add to their dogs' dishes inspired me to start asking questions and looking a bit deeper. The first thing that I began adding to my dogs' diet was oysters for zinc. As I started tossing out supplement bottles, I began to ask myself WHY I was buying so many supplements and realized that I didn't know. Some of them were recommended by other raw feeders, some were recommended by brands (in order to get me to do reviews), and some sounded like a good idea.
But for the basic supplements I used to purchase for our dogs, here are some whole food alternatives that I now feed to the pack:
|Supplement||Whole Food Alternative|
|fish oil / Omega-3 fatty acids||whole sardines, canned sardines, fermented fish stock|
|digestive supplement||fermented vegetables, fermented fish stock, kefir|
|multi-vitamin||pasture-raised raw eggs, organ meat blend, Dr. Harvey's base mixes|
|COQ10||fermented fish stock|
The whole foods are less expensive, easier to find, and, in my opinion, healthier for my dogs.
Before You Start Ordering Supplements…
Before you start ordering supplements to “balance” or improve your dog's diet, I want to give you a few warnings based on my experience as a raw feeder to five dogs:
- Be careful about ordering supplements from Amazon. There are a lot of scammers creating fake supplements and selling them on Amazon at a lower price. It's tempting because of the lower price and convenience, however, some of these fake supplements are making dogs sick so before ordering, confirm with the company that these are their listings.
- Before ordering a supplement, be clear on why your dog needs the supplement. And the reason can't be because some random person in a Facebook group made the recommendation. Take the time and do some homework to make sure that it's something that your dog needs. I realized that I had overdone it on supplements when I couldn't clearly articulate WHY I was giving a supplement to my dogs.
- Look for whole food options in place of supplements. Sometimes the whole food is are less expensive and easier to find – like raw eggs and fermented vegetables. Sometimes you'll find that a supplement is better because the brand has access to better ingredients, like the Mushroom Complex and Glandular Support formulated by Dr. Karen Becker for Mercola Healthy Pets.
- Avoid supplement companies or MLM (multi-level marketing). It always concerns me when someone contacts me with a link to a website filled with supplements. Dogs don't need tons of supplements in their diet. The supplement list that I shared above is based on my experience with my dogs and discussions with my veterinarian and other experts. A stranger whose focus is to sell supplements or build their downline isn't going to understand what my dogs need. I'm also nervous about the sourcing and formulation; especially since there doesn't seem to be a lot of regulations surrounding the supplement industry for humans or pets.
All in all, I recommend that you do your homework before spending your hard-earned money. Learn from my mistake; I spent hundreds of dollars on supplements that I either gave away or threw away because my dogs didn't need them.