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Pet Nutrition Blogger, Rodney Habib, and Dr. Karen Becker published a great video today sharing an easy raw dog food recipe for us to follow. What struck me was that they added oysters to the meal – I didn't know dogs could eat oysters. Turns out that oysters are a great source of zinc for dogs (and humans).
The Benefit of Oysters for Dogs
Adding oysters to my dogs' meals is brand new to me and not something I would have considered, until now. Using Dr. Google for research, I learned the long list of nutrients oysters bring to the table:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Manganese (not a whole lot though, so that's a bummer)
Oysters are a low-fat food, great for dogs that need to lose weight.
Recipe for Homemade Dog Food
The recipe is at the end of this post.
How Does Zinc Benefit Our Dogs?
While dry dog food brands add zinc and other nutrients back into their food after processing, raw feeders need to understand the ingredients in their dogs' meals to make sure zinc is covered. Zinc is good for…
- skin and coat health
- the immune system
- mood and behavior
Foods High in Zinc
Foods that we'd feed to our raw fed dogs that are high in zinc include (foods I feed are in bold):
- beef (green beef tripe)
- raw goat's milk
- pumpkin seeds
- flax seeds
You may be doing a sigh of relief because you're adding at least one thing from that list to your dog's raw meals, however, one second…some dogs don't absorb enough zinc. In my research, I found that Huskies and Malamutes have trouble absorbing zinc so more needs to be added to their diet to compensate for this and avoid zinc deficiencies.
How Much Zinc Do Dogs Need?
I wasn't able to find a definitive answer other than it depends on the breed and activity level. A working dog would require more than a household pet. The only chart on zinc requirements for dogs that I found is based on AAFCO standards, which are for kibble diets, not raw food diets.
Before you start researching zinc supplements, keep in mind that unless your veterinarian is telling you that your dog has a deficiency, you're probably safe.
Zinc Deficiency in Dogs
According to PetEducation.com, dogs with a zinc deficiency often exhibit hair loss, scaly skin around the face, head, and legs. Lesions around the mouth, chin, eyes, and ears. Their paw pads become scaly. And their coat becomes dull and dry.
I was worried for a few seconds about the possibility of a zinc deficiency because, to be honest, this is the first I've thought about this mineral. Then I remembered a Prey Model raw feeder who told me that our dogs should get every nutrient they need from the meat, bone, liver, and offal in their diet.
The list above is long and 13 of those foods have made it into my dogs' dishes as a whole food source or through a supplement. Currently, I'm rotating sources and plan to add oysters to the mix next week to see how the dogs like them.
Which Oysters Are Safe for Dogs?
If you're sitting there thinking “hmmmm, maybe I'll add oysters to my dog's diet,” then keep reading. After everything I've read, I'm starting to think adding oysters is a good idea because not only is it a source of zinc, it's also a great source of protein too. However…
Toxins in Oysters
I don't think it's safe to buy raw oysters due to toxins. I used to love Kumamoto oysters but I wouldn't eat them today because our oceans are so damn toxic. There is an algae called dinoflagellates that sets up shop in the muscles of oysters and can lead to illness in humans and dogs.
I always believed that canned oysters are safer because they're cooked and any toxins present are long gone (dead). However, there is an illness called paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) which is caused by eating shellfish contaminated with dinoflagellate algae, which produces harmful toxins which cannot be cooked or frozen away. I'm not concerned about PSP because my dogs don't eat a steady diet of oysters (I add them to their meals once a month) and I stick to canned oysters, I avoid raw oysters, I always believed that oysters sourced from the Atlantic were safer.
Look for Atlantic oysters because they are said to have more zinc than Pacific oysters. This was a tip someone shared in a raw feeding group, so I looked it up and found that Eastern oysters are higher in zinc, but not by as much as I thought. I found the below information on LiveStrong.com and it's based on a 2,000 calorie HUMAN diet.
Sodium in Canned Oysters
Don't freak out when you see the sodium on a can of oysters. Sodium is a necessary nutrient for our dogs (and ourselves). What I want to avoid is too much sodium. Gabriele Joy of Canine Ascension recommends buying oysters in water with under 100 mg of sodium. Avoid smoked oysters or oysters in oil.
“Cooked oysters from the Pacific Ocean contain 188 Percent Daily Value of zinc, and raw oysters from the region contain 94 Percent Daily Value, according to Calorie Lab. Eastern farm-raised oysters contain 214 Percent Daily Value of zinc when raw and 255 Percent Daily Value when cooked in dry heat. Wild Eastern oysters cooked in moist heat contain 1,029 Percent Daily Value of zinc and 417 percent when cooked in dry heat. Lastly, Eastern canned oysters contain 515 Percent Daily Value and Eastern breaded and fried oysters contain 493 Percent Daily Value of zinc.”
How Much Oysters Do I Add to My Dogs' Diet?
I suggest going easy at first because you want to see how your dog does on them. I read that dogs rarely have an allergy, however, there are always exceptions. If oysters aren't a good fit for your dog, he or she may have diarrhea. And keep in mind that if your dog has a laundry list of allergies or you're currently limited on what you can acquire – grabbing a can of oysters might be a great idea.
I split a can of boiled oysters between my dogs once a month.
Rodney & Karen's Recipe for Raw Dog Food
A BIG thank you to my friend, Tina B, for writing the recipe down for me.
- 2 lbs chicken breasts
- 1.5 lbs chicken wings (calcium)
- 1/2 tsp kelp (iodine)
- 2 cans sardines (Vitamin A / Omega 3)
- 4 oz zucchini (fiber / potassium)
- 2 T Basil (magnesium / iron / Vitamin K)
- 6 oz Beef Liver (Vitamin A / Copper)
- 6 oz Chicken Hearts (Amino Acids)
- 3 oz Blueberries (fiber/antioxidants)
- 1 oz Flax Seeds (ALA)
- 1 oz Pumpkin Seeds (Vitamin E)
- 3 oz Oysters (Zinc)
Feed 80 lb dog 39 oz per day…roughly.