No matter what you feed your dog, you probably wonder if there are any supplements you should be giving to help them be as healthy as possible. It’s a tough question, and probably one of the ones I hear most frequently. So, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of some of the supplements I most commonly recommend to pet parents. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are definitely some of the most useful supplements to consider. In putting this list together, I’ve tried to share when I think a supplement might come in handy, and give you some suggestions about what supplements I’ve had success with or heard positive things about. I don’t get any financial benefit if you buy any of the products I list here—I just think they’re quality products, and they’re all ones I’ve given my own dogs or would give them if the need arose.
Without further ado, let’s dive in to my list of the best supplements for raw dog food.
If you’re transitioning your pet from a processed food diet to a balanced, varied, raw diet; if your dog has been on antibiotics; or if your pet is shows signs of an imbalance (for example, excessively gooey or waxy ears, skin issues, UTIs, diarrhea or vomiting, rashes, and so on), supplementing their food with probiotics is a really good idea. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that, along with other amazing benefits, promote and support health and the efficient functioning of the digestive system.
If you feed a species-appropriate raw food diet, your pet is already getting probiotics in their meals. They’re found in liver, spleen, and other organs. Another great source of probiotics is green tripe (if it’s organic and pasture-raised, like the tripe from www.greentripe.com). I give my dogs green tripe once or twice a week (for all the benefits it contains, not just probiotics). But even though your pet gets probiotics through their meals (if you feed a raw diet), as I mentioned above, if you recently (within the last 6 months) transitioned to a raw diet from a kibble diet, or if you’ve given your pet antibiotics, or if they have an issue that would suggest an imbalance in their gut flora, you should supplement the probiotics they’re getting in their food with an additional high-quality probiotic, preferably for at least 6-9 months.
Which probiotic supplement should I get?
I personally like Pet Flora Vitality Science (for smaller dogs, and they make one for cats too) and Prescript-Assist (marketed for humans, but fine for dogs, and more affordable than Pet Flora Vitality Science when it comes to large or giant-breed dogs). But these aren’t your only choices, so pick one that works for you. I would look for a supplement with a minimum of 10-12 strains of “good” bacteria and 20-40 million (or more!) beneficial bacteria per serving.
Enzymes are another vital supplement to give, particularly if your dog is coming off kibble. They’re responsible for many critical functions in the body, including detoxification and healing. They also allow the body to digest and absorb nutrients from food. If your pet’s body doesn’t have enough enzymes, it will die. In the wild, carnivores naturally get enzymes from the meat and bones of their prey. If your pet has been on a kibble-based diet, her enzyme levels are undoubtedly very low, because the process of cooking and processing the kibble kills all the live enzymes that were in the meat. With each raw meal your pet eats, they’ll gain vital live digestive enzymes. If you want to kick up their enzyme level (which is a good idea, if you’re transitioning from kibble), green tripe is a great option—it’s packed with digestive enzymes and tons of other nutrients.
Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. And, since cancer and other diseases start with inflammation, it’s important that we as pet parents do everything we can to decrease and prevent inflammation.
Turmeric paste (also called golden paste) is a great supplement to add to your dog or cat’s meal. To make turmeric paste, follow this easy recipe (widely available on the web, but I got this version from the great folks at Vibrant K9):
Turmeric paste recipe (yield is about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup organic turmeric powder
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup raw (unrefined) organic cold pressed coconut oil
- 2 tsps. freshly ground organic black pepper
- Organic ginger powder (optional)
- Organic cinnamon powder (optional)
Bring the water and turmeric to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 7-9 minutes (until you have a thick paste). If you need to add additional water to achieve the right consistency, do so.
When you have a thick paste, cool the paste until it’s warm. Add the freshly ground pepper and oil (and the cinnamon and ginger, if using) and stir well. Let the mixture cool.
Note: very rarely, pets that are fed this paste will start to smell like a litterbox. The ginger and/or cinnamon may help this, so if your pet gets stinky, try adding them in. Otherwise, there’s really no need to add the ginger or the cinnamon to your recipe.
Store in glass mason jars (this recipe fills four ½-cup mason jars). You can freeze 3 of the filled mason jars and keep the 4th in the fridge. It will keep for about 2 weeks when refrigerated. Krista Powell of Vibrant K9 says that when the turmeric starts to turn, it starts to smell metallic. While this doesn’t mean it’s gone bad, it does mean it’s lost its potency. She also said that when turmeric is given in this paste form, it’s about 2,000% more viable than when it’s taken as a pill. Pretty cool, since people can consume this turmeric paste too!
You can give the paste with every meal. Start out with 1/8 tsp and gradually build up (to a heaping tablespoon). Giving too much too quickly can give your pet diarrhea, so take it slow. And be careful when you’re cooking it—the paste will stain!
Our pets need omega-3 fatty acids: they support skin and coat health, joint health, help control inflammation, reduce allergies, and more. Essential fatty acids (which are fatty acids your pet can’t produce himself) must be obtained through diet. If you’re feeding a balanced, varied species-appropriate raw diet already, adding wild-caught whole raw sardines (frozen, thawed, or semi-thawed) every week is a great way to help your pet get their omega-3s. I often recommend my clients feed whole raw sardines instead of supplementing with fish oil. Bonus? Sardines contain a lot of calcium! We get our sardines at the local Asian market.
Which oil should I get?
If your pet needs some additional supplementation beyond what the sardines provide, krill oil is a great choice (Dr. Mercola Krill Oil for Pets is one option). There are less pollutants and contaminants in krill than in fish (because they’re at the bottom of the food chain), krill oil doesn’t contain heavy metals (while fish oil has to be tested to make sure mercury levels aren’t too high), dogs tend to absorb it better than fish oil, and it has more of the omega-3 fatty acids that we’re going for. Krill oil is often more expensive than fish oil, though, so if you decide to go with fish oil (instead of the sardines or the krill oil), make sure it doesn’t contain soy or other questionable ingredients. One option you might consider is Bonnie & Clyde Wild Omega-3 fish oil.
At the end of the day, you all know I’m a firm believer that it’s better to feed a balanced, varied raw diet to our carnivore friends than feed a processed-food, biologically inappropriate food and load it with supplements. However, no matter what you feed, there are some supplements that your dog might benefit from, at least for a while.
Do you regularly supplement your dog? If so, what do you give and why? Let me know in the comments below—I’d love to hear from you! And please share this article with other pet parents you know.