The question we're often asked is, 'okay, so we understand some of the benefits of feeding raw, but does it really give our dog's all they need?'
Simply put, a dog fed on a healthy varied raw diet shouldn’t need much in the way of supplements, all the nutrients they need should be available in the meals themselves. Raw meaty bones for instance, are packed with nutrients and provide much more than simply calcium.
However from time to time, perhaps if a dog is under the weather, has been diagnosed with a particular health issue or hasn’t been eating well, owners may wish to provide something that they feel could boost their dogs immune system.
This month, our feature will help you gain an understanding of why it might be that a raw diet is safe when fed on its own and information on choosing a top quality supplement if your pet should need one.
If you are new to raw feeding it is common to wonder if the food you provide will contain everything your dog needs, after all, you care about them and no doubt previous to feeding raw you have always felt able to simply rely on pre-prepared meals to provide everything your dog needs.
However there is more to providing your dog with what they need than simply including the nutrients in the bowl.
All nutrients not only need to be fed to the dog, but must be firstly, digestible and secondly able to be absorbed by the body and used for their function.
Most nutrients, when fed in a raw unprocessed form are more bio-available than within cooked food. Although pet foods no doubt contain a version of all the nutrients, that doesn’t guarantee your dog will be able to digest them – for example, break them down from the food fed, or be able to absorb them for use.
Those 2 stages rely more upon the health of your dogs digestive system and organs than they do the actual inclusion of the nutrients. The organs and gut system of any animal that is consistently fed food with little moisture and very few enzymes will find in time that food and its nutrients are more difficult to break down and absorb for use. This is even more so if the nutrient is included in the food in a synthetic version rather than in a naturally found form.
As the raw diet provides all nutrients in their unprocessed natural form and does contain moisture (both water based and the all important fats or lipid based moisture) the function of the organs and digestive system is maintained.
To top things off the raw food is also packed with enzymes! These are vital to the digestive break down of food. Cooked foods contain very little enzymes as enzymes are not heat resistant. Feeding cooked foods means the dogs organs have to work extra hard to produce the enzymes instead. Over time this compromises the health of your dogs organs and its digestive function.
All in all feeding a raw diet means you are already providing a whole host of naturally formed vitamins, minerals, amino acids and sub-nutrients that you were unlikely to have been providing in such a bio-available form before!
Raw meaty bones for instance contain this range of nutrients:
Calcium, Magnesium ( calcium cannot even function in the body without this and there is none in dairy products!), Phosphorus, Manganese, Iron, Boron, Vitamins A, E, D, and K, natural form Glucosamine and Chrondroitin, essential fatty acids and perhaps more that we haven’t even been able to research yet!
The ingredients that make up a raw diet can even be varied to include things like yoghurts, fruits, vegetables and herbs. These can be wonderful ways to boost a dogs intake of natural form nutrients and ensure that his digestive system stays in tip top condition too.
A supplement maybe of use if your dog has recently changed over to a raw diet, as a boost for them, if they have had to have a period of taking steroids, anti-biotics, a vaccination or other drugs and perhaps if they have had a period of emotional stress or anxiety.
In all these cases the hardest hit is again the organs and the digestive tract. It is far better to include a supplement that can help to heal the gut or perhaps one that contains a broad range of nutrients than to add additional single nutrients and potentially upset the balance for your dog.
The most useful of all supplements is a multi-strain probiotic. This will re populate the gut with essential bacteria for digestion. Unfortunately EU veterinary canine probiotics are only single strain and so would be unlikely to be as useful as a multi strained probiotic would be. However you do need to be sure that the probiotic has been tested to pass through the stronger stomach acid of a dog or cat. The brand Bio-Kult is one that has been.
Second in line comes an essential fatty acids supplement. Dogs with any kind of inflammation can benefit immensely from this supplement as the fatty acids included are used by the body to create anti-inflammatory hormone pathways.
Fatty acids are very easily damaged by heat and light so look for a supplement in a dark container that hasn’t been stored in heat. Dogs also cannot easily convert seed oils into the useable fatty acid nutrients, so high quality salmon oil or multi fish oils are much better for them. Cod Liver oil, whilst very well known and readily available, is not of a high enough quality or high enough in the useful fatty acids to be of good value.
Finally many companies do provide canine multi-vitamin tablets, but the most bio-available are more than likely found in herbs such as Parsley or algae based supplements like Spirulina. These are both said to contain all that is essential for ‘life’ to form and would be easily added to your dog meals. Spirulina is of particular use at clearing heavy metals from your dogs organs, heavy metals are very often in drugs, vaccinations or even our water supply these days.