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One of the common questions I receive from readers is “what supplements do I need to add to my dog's diet?” I get a sense of Dejavu every time I see this question because I remember asking the same question. People want to know:
- What supplements will help me balance to 80/10/10?
- What supplements will fill the nutritional gaps in my dogs' diet?
- What supplements do my dogs need other than protein?
When we are making the transition from a “complete and balanced” diet of kibble or canned food, we have a hard time letting go of the theory that every meal needs to be complete and balanced. I know I did. Today, I balance my dogs' diet over time, which means that I don't worry about feeding a balanced diet every meal or every day. My goal is to make sure they get all of the nutrients they need over the week. I start with a foundation of 80/10/5/5 (80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, 5% offal-secreting organs) and then build on the diet through whole foods and supplements.
Why I Supplement a Raw Food Diet
I add supplements to my dogs' raw diet to fill in any nutritional gaps that they're missing as well as address any health issues. Although some believe that an 80/10/5/5 raw food diet is supposed to give dogs everything they need, the more I learn about dog nutrition, the less I believe that this ratio is enough.
- Not all dogs are the same; some dogs need more support in certain areas than others depending upon age or preexisting health conditions.
- There are some nutrients that aren't available in an 80/10/10 diet, e.g. iodine, which is better sourced from organic kelp and green-lipped mussel powder.
- We don't all have access to the same ingredients/variety and a pet parent who is feeding mostly grain-fed chicken and beef may need to supplement to either offset nutrients(e.g. Omega 6 fatty acids) or add nutrients.
The Risk of Over Supplementing a Dog's Diet
When I began feeding a raw diet, I made the mistake of adding every supplement recommended by other raw feeders. I figured the more they got, the healthier they'd be, and the longer they'd live.
I was wrong.
I often receive emails from new raw feeders who share a list of the supplements they're adding to a dog's diet and it's too much. By over supplementing, you increase the risk of:
- vitamin toxicity
- one nutrient canceling out the benefits of another, e.g. combining coconut oil and raw goat's milk
- making raw feeding too expensive as you purchase more and more supplements
Supplements I Give to My Raw Fed Dogs
I am not an animal nutritionist or veterinarian. The following supplements were chosen after years of research, a nutrient/heavy metal test, and under the guidance of our nutritionist and veterinarian.
To start, I've begun alternating between two base mixes that contain several nutrients/vitamins. This reduces the number of supplements I need to buy for my dogs.
These are the supplements that I add to all of my dogs' meals. I don't add each supplement daily unless directed by our veterinarian or nutritionist. Although many of the supplements have multiple benefits, I've added why I add them to my dogs' diet below.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: I alternate whole foods and supplements to add Omega-3 fatty acids to my dogs' diet to offset the Omega-6 fatty acids in the protein. Omega-3 fatty acids also support skin and coat health, joint health, brain/cognitive health, and act as a natural anti-inflammatory.
I alternate between the following Omega-3 fatty acid sources:
- raw sardines
- fermented fish stock
- Bonnie & Clyde Fish Oil (alternative)
- Lifeline Salmon Oil (alternative)
Fermented Foods: In 2017, I began adding more fermented foods to my dogs' diet to naturally support gut health. I had already been adding raw goat's milk and fermented fish stock on occasion, but today, these are a daily part of their diet, combined with healthy digestive supplements to promote a healthier gut biome.
I add fermented foods and other digestive supplements to my dogs' raw diet 7 days a week, alternating between the following:
Raw Eggs – I feed pasture-raised raw eggs to my dogs for the mad amount of nutrients they bring to the table. I source my eggs from friends and the natural section of our local grocery store.
- Eggs are considered a superfood. Imagine the nutrients eggs need to have to grow a life.
- Eggs are a great source of several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, and iron.
I add a raw egg to my dogs' dishes every other day or approximately 3-4 days a week.
Spirulina/Chlorella – I add a supplement called Spirugreen to my dogs' meals because it curbed their obsessive grass eating. I learned that they may need chlorophyll added to their diet which led me to Spirugreen. Spirulina also supports a healthy immune system while promoting energy.
Ocean Kelp – I add kelp to big batches of raw dog food when I'm doing meal prep. Organic ocean kelp is a great source of iodine that supports the thyroid while boosting a dog's metabolism. I alternate kelp with green-lipped mussel powder, which is also a great source of iodine and supports joint health.
Mushroom Complex – I recently started researching the benefits of mushrooms for dogs and was blown away by the fact that this supplement may have the power to protect my dogs from cancer. So, I add it to their meals 5 days a week.
Milk Thistle – liver health is important because it's the liver that filters out the toxins such as vaccinations, chemical flea treatments, and household and environmental toxins. In April 2018, I started adding milk thistle to my dogs' morning meals daily because I learned that it is most effective when given to our dogs before they are exposed to toxins. Today, I give milk thistle to our dogs daily for two weeks every other month.
Vitamin B Complex – in December, I treated my dogs to a nutrient/heavy metal test by ParsleyPet. After years of feeding my dogs a raw food diet, I decided to check to see how my dogs were doing on the diet I had formulated. I received a big ‘ole A+, I have mad raw feeding skills. The only recommendation was that my dogs could benefit from a Vitamin B supplement and the holistic veterinarian who reviewed the tests recommended Rx Vitamins for Pets – Amino B-Plex, which I alternate with hearts (primarily pork and beef heart).
Supplements for Senior Dogs
Two of our dogs are now seniors and I'm blown away. My sweet little puppies who used to share a dog bed and kennel are now 9 years old. With those senior years
Golden Paste with Coconut Oil – golden paste naturally eases the pain and inflammation of arthritis while also supporting skin health, digestion, immune system, and it may help to cancer prevention. Coconut oil also helps with a healthy weight, thyroid health, and nutrient absorption.
I give Rodrigo and Sydney 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons of golden paste several days weekly, split between two meals.
In 2019, I began added glandular support to Sydney's diet to support her system as she ages. Dr. Mercola has a line for female and male dogs; the male option gave Rodrigo diarrhea so I stopped. Now that we have his EPI diagnosed and under control, I'm going to try it again.
- Dr. Mercola – Whole Body Glandular Support – Female
- Dr. Mercola – Whole Body Glandular Support – Male
The nutrients are bio-available, these supplements support the immune system, digestive health, hormone functions, and heart health. And this supplement is good for dogs of all ages. I choose to only give it to my senior dogs because I feel that as they age, they need more support than what they're already getting in their diet.
Supplements to Support Joint Health in Dogs
Today, each of my dogs gets a joint supplement each morning (they think they're treats). I've tried many joint supplements and the following work best for our dogs.
WINPRO Mobility (for Rodrigo and Sydney) – this is a supplement made from blood protein, which has been used for decades to help animals recover from injury. I tried it with Sydney initially and saw an immediate improvement in her mobility, so I now give it to both of our seniors.
Cosequin DS Plus with MSM (for Scout and Zoey) – I began giving Scout and Zoey a joint supplement when they turned 4 years; I recently changed their supplement to something that will better support and protect their joints and aid in recovery given their activity level.
Canine System Saver – I was introduced to Canine System Saver several years ago and it helped Sydney recover from a partial cruciate tear. There was a time when Sydney's back legs weren't able to support her and she'd cry in pain when walking. Within 48 hours of Canine System Saver, she was running around outside. No lie. Canine System Saver combined with WINPRO Mobility has been a game-changer for Sydney.
Today, I give CSS to both Rodrigo and Sydney to support joint health and promote overall body health. Rodrigo and Sydney get 4 pills each daily (5 days a week).
Supplements for Dogs with Allergies
Green Honey Allergy Support – I use the term “allergy,” because it's something we all recognize, but what Rodrigo experiences is more accurately described as sensitivities, stressors, or triggers. Rodrigo has a list of food and environmental stressors and focusing on supporting Rodrigo's gut health has reduced many of his reactions. However, he still has itchy paws from time to time.
One of the veterinarians we see suggested adding nettles to Rodrigo's diet, which are the 2nd ingredient in a product that I give to Rodrigo in the summer, Green Honey Allergy Support. Today, Rodrigo gets this year around (several days a week). He'll lick it off of a spoon or I'll add it to his meal. He no longer licks his paws obsessively.
I recently noticed Zoey biting her toenails and after giving her a trim (she wasn't happy), I gave her a treat of Green Honey Allergy Support and now add it to her meal as well.
An alternative that also works is WINPRO Allergy, a chewable that support the immune system and decrease allergy symptoms to practically none.
Choosing the Right Supplements for Your Dog
I know that it's tempting to buy a shopping cart full of supplements for our dogs when we take control of their diet. Don't make the same mistake I did. Many dogs don't need many supplements initially and many health issues or deficiencies can be resolve through whole foods. For instance…
- If your dog isn't getting enough zinc, add canned boiled oysters (not smoked) to the diet. Oysters are an excellent source of zinc.
- If your dog has loose stool, gas, or itchy skin, start by adding fermented foods or raw goat's milk to the diet. By boosting the digestive health and immune system, you can improve many conditions.
- If your dog is reacting to local pollen, in addition to the fermented foods, add local raw honey or bee pollen to the diet.
Basically, before spending a lot of money on supplements, take some time to learn more about YOUR dog. Northern breed dogs need more zinc and Omega 3 fatty acids than other dogs. Giant breed dogs need more joint support. And some small breed dogs need more dental health support. Every dog is different. Once you figure out what your dog needs, look to whole foods first before dropping hundreds on supplements. They may prove to be the solution your dog needs and it won't break the bank. If whole foods don't provide enough support, then find the best supplement for your dog. You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find THE ONE, but you'll get there.