This post may contain affiliate links.
Whenever someone emails me about their dog's allergies or digestive issues, my first question is…
“Are you adding a digestive supplement to your dog's meals?”
More times than not, the person isn't adding a digestive supplement. No judgement on my part, because I only started adding a digestive supplement to my dogs' meals in Fall 2014. I started feeding raw in April 2013, and I didn't know our dogs needed a digestive supplement. Rodrigo and Sydney have had allergy issues since the kibble days; Rodrigo's digestive issues have been ongoing since he joined our family.
I didn't know about digestive supplements; I didn't know about any supplements.
Why My Dogs Need a Digestive Supplement
Rodrigo and Sydney developed joint issues around two years of age (Rodrigo earlier, Sydney soon after). I have been facing allergies, food sensitivities, digestive issues, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, bad breath, chronic ear infections, and so on and so on.
Switching our dogs to raw helped, adding a digestive supplement to their diet worked magic, because it helped our dogs better absorb nutrients. And this isn't just the nutrients in food; a digestive supplement improves the health of the gut so that it can better absorb the benefits of other supplements like the fish oil, joint supplements, and more.
Going back over Rodrigo and Sydney's history, I laugh about the number of supplements I gave up on, because “they just don't work.” Was it the supplement or was it because I was giving the supplement to dogs with unhealthy guts?
Prebiotics and Probiotics for Dogs
When shopping for a digestive supplement, you're going to come across prebiotics and probiotics. It was confusing for me to understand which our dogs needed.
There is a lot of disagreement about the value of prebiotics and probiotics in dog health. But let's start with definitions. Probiotics are the good bacteria in the gut; prebiotics feed the good bacteria. This is a very basic explanation, but you get the idea.
I created a funky graphic anyway. I love the Internet.
The disagreement surrounds what the prebiotics feed. Some people feel that our dogs need prebiotics, because they feed the “good” bacteria, which multiply, outnumbering the “bad” bacteria, improving our dogs' gut, immune system, and making our dogs healthier.
Others state that the prebiotics can't distinguish between good or bad bacteria; if a dog's gut is full of “bad” bacteria, prebiotics will be an All You Can Eat buffet, making the dog sicker.
I don't know which to believe, but I will share my experience so you can see how I cured my dog's chronic diarrhea naturally.
Switching to a Raw Food Diet
Surprise!!! Feeding a species appropriate diet was the first step. Rodrigo simply couldn't eat kibble. I tried several brands and couldn't find one that worked for him for more than 60 to 90 days. I could have put him on a prescription diet, but I believe that those simply treat the symptoms; they don't fix the underlying problem that is causing the health issues. In Rodrigo's case, he had an unhealthy gut.
Switching him to a raw food diet helped Rodrigo, because it was easier for him to digest.
I would love to end this post here with a The End. But it's never that easy, and many raw feeders will admit that we're always learning what works for our dogs. Switching to raw was step one. Learning how to feed my dogs a balanced raw diet that I created was another story altogether.
My Must Have Digestive Supplements for Dogs
When feeding a raw diet, it's important that…
- the diet is balanced – I balance over time, not in every meal
- the diet is varied – our dogs eat turkey, duck, venison, emu, elk, rabbit, pork, green tripe, beef, and fish
I feed 75% muscle meat, 10% raw meaty bones, 10% organ meat (1/2 is liver), and 5% veggies, fruit, and supplements. I call my dogs' raw diet FrankenBARF; I took the BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) and adjusted it to something that works for my dogs.
I add the following supplements for dogs:
- Bonnie & Clyde Fish Oil
- Canine System Saver
- In Clover Connectin (which I add to the veggie mix I make for my dogs)
The digestive supplements for dogs I add are:
- Olewo Carrots – carrots are grown in the fertile soil of Northern Germany. The carrots first cured an illness similar to dysentery at an orphanage when it was fed as soup. It was then changed to the current form today (easier for dogs to digest) to help a Doberman breeder who was losing puppies to illness. It works to improve digestive health and stop diarrhea. I order this through Amazon.com.
- In Clover OptaGest – I add In Clover Optagest to three of our dogs' meals. It's a natural, plant-based prebiotic that feeds the “good” bacteria so that the intestinal flora thrives and promotes a healthy gut and immune system. It's working for my dogs, so I'm happy. I recently started adding this to Rodrigo's meals, because of his improved gut health. I didn't before, because I don't feel comfortable introducing a prebiotic to a dog's unhealthy system, because it might feed bad bacteria, making his gut worse. I order this through our local raw food co-op, and it's also available on Amazon.com and In Clover's website.
- FullBucket Daily Canine Powder – is the one supplement that helped turn Rodrigo around and keep him on the right track. After a year and a half on this supplement, I have been able to reduce usage from seven days a week to four or five days a week. This saves me money (it's near $30 a container), while allowing me to give Rodrigo a supplement that works for him. I order FullBucket through FullBucket.com.
In the past four months, Rodrigo has had one soft stool day. This is the longest stretch of time in his six years that he's had a solid poop, and I credit that to his diet and the supplements I add to his meals.
It may seem like overkill, but it's important to do what works best for your dog. It took me three years to get to the point where I'm getting used to seeing solid poops from Rodrigo. The bonus is that since his gut is healthier, he has fewer allergies and fewer joint issues too.