One of the most common questions people ask me when it comes to feeding their dogs is “What supplements should I add to my dog’s diet?” This question is asked whether they are feeding a raw diet, home cooked meals or a commercial dog food. Regardless of what type of diet you are feeding, all should receive the same supplements, with the only exception being the addition of calcium to home cooked recipes.
Each of these diets is already adequate in minerals. Commercial diets add minerals to their diets to achieve the NRA dog nutrition standards. Raw diets contain meat, organ meat and bone, which already contain balanced minerals. Home cooked recipes have meat, organ meat and added calcium carbonate, ground egg shell or citrate to help balance calcium. All of these diets, when a variety of proteins are used, also contain adequate amounts of minerals. I do not recommend adding minerals to any of these diets without the advice and supervision of a veterinarian, again with the exception of adding calcium to home cooked meals to balance the calcium/phosphorus ratios.
The daily supplements I recommend are the ones that are harder to find in foods or are most fragile, or perishable in storage and handling. These include water soluble vitamins, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics and enzymes.
Water soluble vitamins include B vitamins and vitamin C. Neither of these store well, such as in commercial dog food packaging, and are more difficult to find in large enough levels in fresh food. B vitamins can be found in meat, organ meat and dairy. B vitamins are beneficial for the nervous system and to help build red blood cells. They help in metabolizing amino acids which are found in proteins. Raw diets generally will be richer in this vitamin, as some B vitamins loose potency when heated. And while dogs can make some vitamin C, more is helpful for collagen repair, capillary integrity and as an antioxidant. Bioflavanoids are an important addition to vitamin C as it helps with uptake and absorption in the body.
Both of vitamin C and B vitamins are water soluble, which means they are easily excreted from the body. They are needed daily as they not stored in the body. I recommend giving both of these daily.
Vitamin E is a valuable fat soluble vitamin that is an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. This is also helpful in fighting cancer. It is also heart protective and helps lower blood pressure. Most sources are plant related, so it is important to add this important vitamin.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish oils. They are also present in plant oils (flax, hemp) but dogs have difficulty converted the ALA in plant oils to a usable form of omega 3 fatty acids. It is difficult to find in many food sources, mostly because most feed animals are fed grains rather than grasses. It is also a fragile essential fatty acid in that it is destroyed when exposed to heat, light and air. My general recommendation is to give one capsule (180EPA/120DHA) per 20 lbs of body weight daily. Omega 3 fatty acids help to support the immune system, help the skin and coat, and is renal, heart and liver protective.
The last two supplements help with the digestion system. These help fight gas, help to assimilate and digest food better and aid in forming better stools. Digestive enzymes are composed of animal and plant based enzymes. Animal based enzymes help to predigest fat and proteins in the stomach, making the food easier to digest when it hits the small intestine. Plant based enzymes help to prevent gas.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, such as acidolphilus, bifidus and more. These help keep a good colony of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut to help digestion of food, reducing gas and producing firmer stools. They also help make vitamin B and vitamin K in the large intestine.
Daily Supplement Recommendations for All Diet Types
B-Naturals carries the Bertes Immune Blend, which contains vitamin C, bioflavanoids, vitamin E, B complex, plus digestive enzymes and probiotics. My recommendation is to give the Bertes Immune Blend at half dose to all my healthy dogs and give one fish oil capsule per 20 lbs of body weight daily. These would be recommended for raw diets, home cooked or commercial diets.
EPA Fish Oil Capsules, 180EPA/120DHA, 180 for $15.95 or 400 for $25.95
EPA Fish Oil Capsules 300EPA/200DHA, 180 for $22.95
If you prefer to give these supplements individually, B-Naturals carry these separately:
Vitamin C with Bioflavanoids (5,000 mg per teaspoon) 8 oz, $12.95, 16 oz $19.95
Vitamin E 100 Soft Gels, $9.95
Free B (B Complex) 60 Tablets, $10.50
Bertes Zyme (editor’s note: Use Food Science All Zyme) 100 Capsules, $13.95
Bertes Ultra Probiotic Powder, 1lb, $13.95 or 5 lb, $33.95
Or the combination, Bertes Immune Blend, 16 oz, $33.95 or 5 lb for $119.95
Preventing Stool Eating in Dogs
Another issue people often write to me about is dogs eating their own or other dog’s stool. This can be a frustrating and annoying problem. The reasons for this can vary, and I will discuss these briefly.
1- Boredom. Some dogs, if left in kennels or yards without the opportunity for walks or training classes, simply get bored and turn to finding something to do. The answer for this is to clean the yard or kennel twice daily, and to get this dog to a training class and start daily walks.
2- Learned behavior. Often dogs will have been around other dogs who exhibited this behavior. Again, clean the yard twice daily, and get the dog to a training class. Scolding or yelling does nothing to abate this problem, but keeping the yard clean and getting the dog involved in other activities helps a great deal.
3- Poor diet. I see this behavior most often with dry dog food diets. Dry dog food is high in carbohydrates and fiber, and the stools produced are large. Carbohydrates are difficult for dogs to digest, and the dogs system labors over digesting these foods. This produces large volume stools that contain undigested foods. These are tempting for a dog to try and consume. The answer here is to change the diet. Better choices would be a raw or home cooked diet. If that can’t be done, look for a higher quality dry dog food, preferably one low in grains or one that contains no grains. Add fresh food to this diet, including whole milk plain yogurt, meat, eggs and cottage cheese. Canned fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon are also good choices.
4- Occasionally, dogs will find stools tempting due to nutritional needs. They might crave bacteria that help aid digestion. It may be helpful to add the Bertes Ultra Probiotic Powder, a mix of beneficial bacteria. This helps cut down gas and aids in digesting carbohydrates. It also helps keeps the stools firmer which makes them less ‘attractive’. The Bertes Zyme can help too, as the animal based enzymes help break down fat and protein. This helps keep the stools smaller by aiding in the assimilation of nutrients which makes the stools less tempting. The plant based enzymes help in digesting carbohydrates more efficiently and also reduces stool size.
So remember, keep stools picked up, keep your dog active in training classes and walks, choose a better diet and use supplements to help with digestion. All of these will be very helpful in solving this aggravating problem!