This post may contain affiliate links.
This post was originally published 11/28/2012. It has been updated with new information and republished.
One question I see often is “what multi-vitamin should I give to my dog?” My response is “a raw egg.”
When it comes to a raw food diet, I don't believe our dogs need a multi-vitamin because they are getting all of the nutrients they need through their diet. The reason I suggest adding a raw egg to a dog's diet is that eggs are a superfood and filled with a host of nutrients.
Why I Think Vitamins are Bad for Dogs (and Humans)
With the exception of whole food vitamins (which I take), I'm not a fan of vitamins because most seem to be synthetic and they come from overseas. When synthetic vitamins are created, a scientist is isolating a vitamin (C, B, A) and delivering it to us in a form that is hard to digest and difficult to absorb into our system. My concern is that I'm not getting the whole benefits of the vitamins and that they may be sourced from unregulated markets.
Someone recently explained to me that if we have a cold, it's much better to get our Vitamin C from oranges than from a pill. The theory (which makes sense to me) is that it's not just the Vitamin C we're after but also the nutrients that work in conjunction with the vitamin and provides the healthy side effects.
Did that make sense?
Basically, whole foods are better.
How Do I Know My Dog's Raw Diet is Balanced?
My response to this question has changed over the years and where I currently land on this topic isn't popular with people who are used to either calculating out the nutrients they feed to their dogs OR people who are new to raw feeding and are attached to feeding a “complete and balanced” diet.
- I prefer to balance my dogs' raw diet over time; it's easier than calculating the 80/10/10 in every meal.
- I believe that 80/10/10 is a starting point; this isn't “the rule” for all dogs.
- I believe that our dogs' systems will store nutrients when there is a deficiency, and eliminate them when there is an overage.
- I believe that our dogs will seek out what they need in nature.
There are a lot of beliefs that I laid out here and I respect that it can be dangerous to avoid being proactive with our dogs' diet because they might find a source of a missing nutrient in the yard. So after much hemming and hawing, I adapted a spreadsheet that I found online for each of my dogs so that I have a better idea of what nutrients are being provided in their diet.
If and when I find a deficiency, I'll seek out a whole food option rather than a synthetic vitamin to stay as true to “biologically appropriate” as I can. You can download a template for this workbook at PackLunchRaw.com. Or you can work with someone who has experience tracking nutrients in a raw diet for pets and they can help you build a spreadsheet like the one I'm currently using.
As I stated, I was resistant to updating a nutrient workbook for my dogs and while this workbook isn't full proof, I'm glad that I did it because it did give me a better understanding of what my dogs need and what foods are meeting those needs.
For instance, last year I began adding oysters to my dogs' diet for zinc. Turns out that they get plenty of zinc fro other resources – however, not as much manganese. Oysters are also a great source of manganese so they'll remain on the menu.
I will admit that it took a while to put the spreadsheet together because it's time-consuming and I don't have a lot of extra time. I had to create a space of time daily to complete Rodrigo's tabs. Once that was done, it was easy to copy the tabs, change the name and weight, and update the formulas. I'm nearly finished with my workbook.
If you're worried about making sure your dog is getting enough nutrients, I highly recommend giving this spreadsheet a shot. While I learned that my dogs are getting everything they need through diet, it was comforting to know that I'm on the right track.