Proponents of the raw dog food diet believe that it's far healthier for dogs than commercially made kibble. However, veterinarians caution against it for many reasons. One of the major issues is that a diet of just meat, bones and vegetables does not contain the balanced nutrition a dog needs to thrive. Adding supplements to a raw food diet is a critical part of ensuring this diet is right for your dog.
Do Dogs on a Raw Diet Need Supplements?
Depending on how you feed your dog, you'll need to make sure that the diet has the nutrients they need. It may involve adding raw dog food supplements to your home prepared meals. Or, if you prefer to buy pre-made raw food products, you'll need to learn to review the packaging information to ensure the product contains the right vitamins, minerals and other ingredients necessary.
Necessary Supplements for a Raw Dog Food Diet
As noted by PetMD, there are no official guidelines regarding what vitamins and minerals should be included in a raw dog food diet. While guidelines do exist for traditional kibble and canned foods, these are not a good standard to follow when feeding raw. Doing so could actually end up providing your dog with too much of a certain ingredient that can lead to health problems down the line. If you're determined to make your dog's food yourself, it's important to speak to a veterinary nutritionist to be sure your recipes are covering all of your dog's dietary needs. Some supplements you should be including in your dog's diet include:
- Calcium and phosphorous (especially for puppy diets)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Trace minerals like iodine, selenium and zinc
- Vitamins including Vitamin A and Vitamin B12
Problems With Over-Supplementing
Another reason you should review your dog's recipes with a nutritionist is that you can actually give a dog too much of a supplement. Conditions that can occur because of feeding too much of a good thing are vitamin toxicity and bone deformity and growth problems with puppies. Vitamin D toxicity can cause a dog to develop kidney disease and vitamin A toxicity can cause problems with a dog's joints which can include arthritis, lameness and severe pain.
Best Dog Supplements for a Raw Diet
Luckily there are supplements formulations available for purchase that can make it easy to add necessary nutrients to your dog. While you can absolutely add necessary nutrients through feeding foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and oils, the benefit of using a pre-made supplement is that you will have a close idea of how much your pet is getting of each nutrient each day.
Earth Animal Daily Raw Complete Powder
This supplement is a blend of several important ingredients designed to support your dog's health. It's specially designed by a veterinarian for raw food diets. The powder contains omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, vitamins A, B12, D3 and E, and a long list of nutrients, enzyme and probiotics including L-glutamine, calcium carbonate, zinc, manganese, and folic acid. The powder is meant to include all the necessary nutrients for a dog as part of their daily diet and can help with skin and coat condition, digestive support and general overall better health. A one-pound bag sells for about $44.
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet
Nordic Naturals makes a line of fish oil supplements for humans and one specifically for pets. Their Omega-3 Pet Soft Gels contain EPA and DHA, two important omega-3 fatty acids that help keep a dog's skin and coat healthy. They also are known to improve a dog's joint health, as well as their cardiovascular system. Omega-3 fatty acids also are vital for good functioning of a dog's brain and eyes. Nordic Naturals makes their product with wild caught anchovies and sardines and all fish are sustainably sourced. The product is available in a 90-count bottle for about $19 or a 180-count bottle for about $32. If you have a hard time getting your dog to take the pills, it's also available as a liquid you can mix in their food.
Dr. Mercola SpiruGreen Superfood Tablets
This supplement is made from spirulina and microalgae, which are a source of the nutrient astaxanthin. This nutrient is important for ocular, neurological, and cardiovascular health, and it's known to help boost a dog's immune system too. It also contains carotenoids, an antioxidant that helps the body to produce vitamin A, and additional phytonutrients and enzymes that can make a dog's coat and skin healthier. A bottle of 180 tablet sells for about $15.
Missing Link Formulas
Missing Link is a powdered mix of ingredients that comes in several recipes, including ones designed specifically for puppies, seniors and dogs with joint problems. The Missing Link Pet Kelp Formula is designed to be an "all-in-one" solution for providing many of your dog's necessary nutrients for keeping their immune system functioning properly. It's made from kelp which is rich in iodine, iron, and amino acids as well as ingredients with omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, flaxseed and antioxidants. An eight-ounce bag sells for about $15.
NaturVet Calcium Phosphorus Dog Powder
All dogs, but puppies in particular, need calcium and phosphorus in their diet to support healthy, functioning bones. NaturVet's powder provides dogs with these important nutrients, along with vitamin D3. This powder is designed specifically for puppies, especially large and giant breed puppies, but can be fed to any age of dog with some changes in the daily feeding amounts.
Rx Vitamins Amino B-Plex
This professional veterinary formula contains important nutrients your dog needs for their daily overall good health. Ingredients include B-complex vitamins, amino acids like lysine and taurine, potassium, spirulina and iron. It's available in a liver and bacon flavored liquid with a dropper, making adding it to your dog's food very easy. A two-ounce bottle sells for about $12.
Herbsmith Herbal Blends Milk Thistle Powdered Supplement
Milk Thistle is a supplement that can be very beneficial to a dog's liver function. It's also known to be helpful for combating allergies and gastrointestinal problems. It's a popular supplement for dogs with known liver issues but you can begin using it before problems begin to help improve liver functioning and stave off potential issues. The Herbsmith Herbal Blends Milk Thistle comes in a 75 gram jar for about $23, a 150 gram jar for about $42 and a 500 gram jar for around $110.
Animal Essentials Seaweed Calcium
Recommended by The Whole Dog Journal for raw dog food feeders, this product is made from natural red seaweed which is a source of important nutrients like boron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. It's rich in calcium carbonate as well. It's an excellent source of calcium for growing puppies and adult dogs, which is necessary for good bone growth and health. A 12-ounce jar is about $32.
Deciding What Supplements to Use in Your Dog's Diet
Since determining what is the best mix and balance of nutrients for your dog will depend on your pet's size, breed, and age, it's important to speak to your veterinarian first. A veterinary nutritionist in particular can help you decide on a supplement regimen and mix that works best for your puppy, adult or senior dog and help you avoid complications developing from not enough, or too much, of these vital nutrients.