Feeding the Modern Canine: PART V

Grains

Let’s talk grains. Grains are grass seeds. They differ from other seeds in that grains do not “go to” fruit, vegetable, or flower such as pumpkin seeds, apricot kernels, and sunflower seeds that are commonly consumed as foods. (Nuts and beans are also considered seeds.) The most commonly consumed grains are wheat, rice, oats, barley, rye, corn and the pseudo-grain quinoa which have been at the forefront of the canine nutrition debate for decades. Grains have been used in commercial dog foods since the dawn of James Spratt’s dog cakes in 1870 and F.H. Bennett Biscuits Co.’s bone shaped ‘Milk-Bone’ dog biscuits in 1907. Since that time, the health of our dogs has declined right along with that of man’s, and this just so happens to parallel the rise in grain consumption. We can see that the modern canine has developed the very same chronic conditions, obesity, and diet-induced diseases and cancers as his fellow man. While we certainly cannot blame the decline in health entirely on the consumption of grains, we do need to ask, should grains continue to be used as a dietary option in canine nutrition? After all, the grain-free dog food craze has boomed. Since FirstMate introduced the very first grain-free commercial feed option in 1995, nearly every other pet food company has followed suit and their sales have exploded. However, since kibble requires something to hold it together and boost protein percentages, the pet food industry simply swapped out the grains for legumes, peas, and potatoes. Are these better alternatives? Sadly, it doesn’t appear that way. As if the health crisis of the modern canine could not get any worse, the grain-free alternatives have appeared to have contributed to another threat to dogs known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). As a result, nutritionally uninformed veterinarians are warning pet parents to go back to feeding grain inclusive foods. Thus, feeding grains to dogs is being revisited in a big way; and in my opinion, the wrong way. Let’s take a look.

I discussed canine anatomy and physiology in Part I of this series. Clearly, dogs are not designed to consume grains. You may be surprised to learn, neither are nearly all the herbivores or mammals for that matter. One common example is the feeding of grains to ungulates which are designed to graze and forage. Feeding grains are, unfortunately, a cheaper way to supply the volumes of food that these animals require to meet the demands of consumers for their meat and milk products. But at what cost? The nutritionally-lacking final food products are evidence enough. But like dogs fed foods that are not species-appropriate, feeding grains to animals not designed to properly digest them results in poorer health and disease, and more often than not, the reliance on drugs to prevent them from succumbing to illness. Simply because we can offer grains to dogs and many farm animals without immediate life-threatening consequences does not mean that this equates to an adequate substitute for those foods that the animals are designed to consume. Species-appropriate foods create and cultivate optimal health, something grains are clearly not noted for. The fact of the matter is grains are only species-appropriate to granivores, and granivores are birds.

Birds are anatomically and physiologically equipped to consume grains. They contain a crop and a gizzard which allows them to safely and adequately digest grains. The crop is in the throat where grains and seeds can germinate before entering the two-chamber stomach. The first chamber of the stomach is like ours. The second chamber, however, is the gizzard which holds grit, stone, and sand picked up with food the birds eat from the ground. The grit is held in the gizzard where it is ground into the grains and seeds by the strong muscular contractions of the gizzard wall. This breaks down the grains and unlocks nutrients. In a nut shell (no pun intended), grains are for the birds…period. But what is it that makes grains so contrary to those species-appropriate foods that do cultivate and sustain health? I am glad you asked.

Grains, as noted above, are grass seeds that contain anti-predation proteins (anti-nutrient chemicals) including lectins, phytic acid (phytates), enzyme inhibitors, cyanide, and prolamins. Some of these chemicals are bitter tasting (as many of us have experienced). In fact, grains in their natural raw state are actually quite toxic. Grains are not meant to be eaten; rather their purpose is to fall to the ground and reproduce. Aside from the evidentiary chemicals produced by the plant, the physical indications also speak volumes. Grass seeds have hard outer shells as well as spikes, fuzz, and mucus and oil coatings. But for the sake of this article, it is the anti-nutrient chemicals that I am here most concerned with. These anti-nutrients serve the purposes of preventing predators from consuming them, preventing premature germination (sprouting) in the absence of adequate conditions for growth, and to protect them from the destructive acids and enzyme of the digestive process in order to preserve them for their true purpose: new life. The human and animal (except for birds) who consumes whole grains (grass seeds) also consumes these anti-nutrient chemicals. Anti-nutrients interfere with and inhibit mineral absorption in the gut, inhibit the pancreatic enzymes from adequately digesting food, irritate the immune system, and irritate the gut lining creating an inflammatory environment. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to produce an abundance of mucus (you will often see this in your dog’s stools) which further reduces nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Add to this the fact that parasites (intestinal worms) typically consume mucus, one reason we commonly see grain-laden kibble-fed dogs regularly needing preventative chemical worming protocols. Thus, it is clearly apparent why the consumption of grains is posing a major health threat to not just our dogs, but also to people who consume them and grain-fed farm animals.

It can be argued that people and animals have been consuming grains for a very long time. And while this is true, a simple research of historical records will show the unfortunate decline in the health of humans and animals following the advent of grain-cultivating agriculture. Malnutrition and infectious disease were the major consequences of grain consumption. Of the studies that do show a possible positive link to grain consumption, the fact is that these studies were observational only and cannot prove that whole grains caused a reduction in disease risk. In fact, the opposite shows more prominently: disease-risk increased. Post-Industrial Revolution and the mass production of grains and grain-based foods brought with it the rapid ascension of chronic disease and cancer in humans, livestock, and pets. Despite the fact that grains were prepared and consumed much differently in the past than they are in this technologically advanced world, grains were not then nor are now an adequate food source as indicated, for one, by the anti-predation measures grasses have adapted and the decline in health that followed. Add to this the high carbohydrate and fiber content and you have another major issue for a carnivore.

Understand, firstly, that both whole grains (containing the bran, endosperm, and germ) and refined grains (endosperm only) come with risks. Whole grains come with the anti-predation chemicals along with the issues of the fiber. The bran is the outer layer on the endosperm and is composed of insoluble fiber. Especially in the carnivore, insoluble fibers from grains pose problems. Dogs do not have need for more than a small amount of fiber from foraging and the consumption of species-appropriate fur and feather fiber. Insoluble fiber from grains inhibits proper digestion and reduces nutrient absorption where it is already poor in the presence of the anti-nutrients. Even more, Dr. John Briffa, writing on human nutrition, expressed, “Do bear in mind though that insoluble fiber has been show to induce tiny rips and tears in the lining of the bowel. These will need repairing of course, requiring proliferation of cells. Uncontrolled cell proliferation, by the way, is the hallmark of cancerous tumors. While doctors, dieticians and cereal manufacturers often extol the virtues of bran, my opinion is that such foods should be flushed (straight) down the toilet.” Now take this information and apply this to a carnivore that should be consuming species-appropriate meats, organs, bones, and small amounts of vegetation. Imagine what grains are doing to a canine’s digestive system especially where they are a regular part of the diet. It is also possible that the high fiber coupled with the low-quality protein in commercially prepared foods may be implicated in the increased rate of heart disease in dogs. So, what happens if you remove the fiber-rich bran and the germ such as in the refining process of grains? You have nothing but low-nutrient carbohydrates. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Oncology concluded that high carbohydrate diets create favorable conditions for the growth of tumors in dogs and cats, especially in those animals already fighting cancer. Their recommendation is a diet high in protein and fat which is exactly what carnivores should be consuming to begin with. Additionally, there exists the issue of glucose (sugar) spiking from the high carbohydrate content along with the greatly increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and all the chronic conditions that follow. The processed grain is no longer a whole food and lacks the partnering constituents to balance the carbohydrates that would reduce the increased risk for disease conditions. Thus, it matters not whether you feed whole grains or refined grains; the negatives of both far outweigh any benefits.

Since research on the negative value of grain consumption is fairly well-known, as well as the consequences experienced by countless people and animals, many health-savvy individuals have brought back some of the older methods of grain preparation to help make the consumption of grains safer and more beneficial. The Weston A. Price Foundation and many other nutrition professionals have published educational articles and videos on proper grain preparation techniques that serve to reduce and eliminate dangerous anti-nutrients; I happened to have been one of them. As a result, germinated, sprouted, and fermented grains have risen in popularity. Many of these health-savvy pet parents have also taken these measures to their dogs. But is there really any benefit in adding even sprouted and fermented grains to a dog’s diet? (Just to notate, both sprouting and fermenting would be necessary!) For one, grains must be heavily cooked to a near indistinguishable mush for a dog to even benefit slightly as a carnivore’s digestive tract can in no way break down unprocessed grains, period. Let’s consider the well-meaning pet parent who is feeding oatmeal, a grain which cannot be sprouted nor has been shown to benefit from soaking in an acid or fermented medium over-night prior to cooking. Grains contain the enzyme phytase that helps to breakdown the anti-nutrient phytic acid for the purpose of sprouting and growing into a new grass. However, phytase is heat sensitive and is destroyed easily by heat. Oatmeal (either rolled or instant) is a common addition to homemade dog food. In order to create oatmeal from whole grain oats, the oats are subjected to steam and then toasted or are precooked. The heat destroys the naturally-occurring phytase in the oats and therefore leaves the anti-nutrient phytic acid in the oatmeal. As a result, oatmeal does not benefit from presoaking even in an acid medium because there exists no phytase to “activate.” Oatmeal requires the addition of phytase or the homemade meal is sabotaged by the anti-nutrients. As noted above, the anti-predation chemicals in grains are meant to withstand the digestive tract in order to come out whole in feces for its purpose of creating new life. Unless the grains are sprouted or fermented before cooking, the anti-nutrients remain and will bind with minerals and pancreatic enzymes creating a possible mineral deficiency condition. And if this isn’t problematic enough, you must still contend with the lectin toxins and prolamin. Most lectins are proinflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and cytotoxic. Some lectins may also increase blood viscosity, can interfere with gene expression, and act as endocrine disruptors. According to the world expert on plant anti-nutrients, Dr. Steven Gundry explains, “lectins are like little barnacles that look for specific sugar molecules in our blood, the lining of our gut, and on our nerves. When they find a good spot to land, they cling to those cells, breaking down their ability to communicate with our immune systems. Then, they literally tear open little holes between the cells that line our intestines. This perforation is the cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome, which we’re learning can cause a great deal of unpleasant symptoms and autoimmune issues or symptoms similar to those of food poisoning…. For the most part, grains are a relatively new food to us. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t search for grains. Plus, most grains are lectin bombs, as well as gluten-free grain substitutes. It’s best to limit grain intake. If you must, eat white flour over wheat.1” Reducing lectins requires sprouting, fermenting, and pressure cooking the grains. And finally, grains contain prolamins. Prolamins are known to be especially irritating to immune function. In the presence of these anti-nutrients, adequate mineral absorption and proper digestion is not possible. Adding grains are, therefore, counter-productive, not to mention time-consuming. Most of the time, the reason a pet parent is adding oatmeal or another grain is for the purpose of meeting one nutrient requirement such as magnesium. Going through the long and arduous preparation process just to hypothetically meet one nutrient requirement, while likely reducing the gut-absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, is anything but beneficial.

If you have read Part IV of this series, you will know that my highest nutrient per bite ratio recommendation would cancel out grains completely. Grains are not nutrient-saturated and contain a valueless macronutrient (carbohydrate) that is unbalanced for a carnivore. Carnivores have no need for carbohydrates and grains are primarily carbohydrates with low-bioavailable proteins. This then creates a domino effect in the canine’s diet that 1) reduces or radically alters bioavailable essential amino acid proportions and levels, 2) reduces the potential for enzyme and cofactor saturation that can only be supplied with fresh raw foods, 3) which then creates a need for anti-inflammatory fats (along with Vitamin E) to be added to the meal, 4) which then raises calories, 5) which then requires a reduction in the vital animal protein sources, essential animal fat, or the grain (which lowers the already low nutrient-value of the grain) to avoid too many calories, 6) which would then require the addition of supplemental nutrients, and thus you are left with an over-all reduction in nutrient saturation in the total diet. Barely meeting minimum nutrient requirements is not adequate to prevent disease and cultivate optimal health. Optimal health is never built on minimums or just above. Optimal health requires an abundance of nutrients that can be found in highest nutrient per bite ratio foods saturated and teeming with life giving nutrition.  

There is also the concern with the rise in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) among many breeds of dogs. While I am not a veterinarian and am unqualified to write on the specifics of this devastating condition, I do know that most DCM conditions are dietary related and are a direct result of a taurine deficiency. This is a newer epidemic among dogs as the amino acid taurine is not an essential (required) amino acid that must be added to a dog’s diet. However, it is possible that the low quality, plant-based proteins that dominate commercial pet foods is leading to a deficiency of this important amino acid. Grains do not contain taurine; therefore, providing your dog with a grain inclusive kibble (as is being recommended by veterinarians) will not solve the issue. Taurine is abundant in meat, heart, fish, eggs, seaweed, and dairy foods, ingredients that lack in commercially processed dog foods. Taurine-deficient DCM can be avoided altogether by providing your dog with a taurine-rich, nutrient-saturated raw food diet.

Should you feed your dog grains? I hope that your answer is no. I have even recommended to many of my humans clients to remove grains from their diet as well. The health benefits of grains are nil. Feeding a carnivore grains is even more-so problematic. Leave the grains to the birds and focus rather on providing your dog with biologically-appropriate foods that are bioavailable, easily digested, saturated with nutrients, enzymes and cofactors, and rich in amino acids such as taurine. Why take a chance with your dog’s health when we have them for such a short time? Offer your fur-baby the best you can provide. The Holistic Canine is here to support you.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Certified Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

1 https://gundrymd.com/reduce-lectins-diet/


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART IV

In Parts I through III, I briefly discussed the anatomy and physiology of the canine to show what a dog is designed and meant to consume as well as the specific nutrients that dogs must receive from those foods in order to prevent nutrient-deficient pathologies and premature death. I also touched on the work of the NRC and AAFCO in determining nutrient minimums that have prevented nutrient-deficient pathologies in dogs consuming commercial foods. Thus we have a baseline, and in the instance of a few nutrients, we know the safe upper limits (SUL). And yet of all the information I have provided, what may possibly be the most important is the understanding that nutrients obtained from synthetic and inorganic laboratory produced isolates do not and cannot produce optimal health. I would like to briefly recap.

Nutrients perform synergistically. Some are antagonistic; others are dependent upon other nutrients, cofactors, and enzymes for absorption and/or function. Separating nutrients from their sources removes them from the web of interaction and cooperation. Man’s attempt at copying what nature has provided in her perfection via the creation of synthetic isolated pseudo-nutrients has created a host of difficulties. For one, synthetic nutrients are in no way similar to the biological process by which plants and animals manufacture, utilize, and/or store them. The nutrient structures that are reproduced in the laboratory, despite being similar, do not equate to a biological system recognizing, utilizing, processing, and storing them in the same manner as naturally occurring food nutrients. In fact, because of their isolated form, imbalances are far more probable creating the increased likelihood for deficiencies and toxicities. We know this to be true because studies on supplemental nutrients have been underway for decades. Sadly, of the thousands of studies performed most of the objectively unbiased studies are still concluding that synthetic nutrient supplements have no positive effect on the body. According to multiple articles found on The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website, multivitamin supplementation use has led to an increased risk for cancer. It is unfortunate that there still exists no demonstrable evidence suggesting that synthetic nutrients are beneficial, especially in an already healthy body that does not require them.

The majority of commercially prepared processed dog foods are laden with synthetic and inorganic nutrient isolates. Not only are the adulterated and rendered ingredients (complete with copious amounts of carbohydrate and fiber fillers) biologically inappropriate for a dog, so too are the laboratory-produced nutrients added to make them comply with AAFCO’s “complete and balanced” nutrient standards. Dogs who are consuming these commercially processed foods are hit with this destructive double whammy. And yet, as mentioned in the previous parts of this blog series, dogs are extremely hardy, and as a result, many dogs ARE living long lives despite consuming these less-than-ideal foods. Nevertheless, the remaining higher percentage of pets are stricken with a life of suffering from minor to major health conditions and finally succumbing to chronic disease and cancer. Now imagine, if pets are able to survive while being nutritionally abused through the consumption of these processed and synthetic foods and nutrients, how much more will they thrive when switched to a biologically-appropriate fresh-foods diet teeming with naturally occurring food-sourced nutrients. And so, we have now come back to our focus: food-sourced, naturally occurring, organic nutrients. How can we be sure to provide our pets with a balanced diet that not only meets AAFCOs “complete and balanced” standards and the NRCs nutrient minimums, but exceeds them through nature’s biologically-appropriate nutrients? You will do this by following my HN/Br plan for creating nutrient-rich meals.

For the informed and educated pet parent motivated to provide their pet with the highest-quality biologically-appropriate nutrition plan, feeding my highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) is the easiest way to ensure your dog will meet their nutrient needs without having to rely heavily upon supplementation. Before embarking on a homemade raw-food journey, you will have homework to do. You must first determine your dog’s baseline nutrient requirements. You will find a complimentary nutrient calculator on my business website that will determine your dog’s NRC minimum nutrient requirements based on your dog’s weight. This will be your baseline (be sure to print or record them so you have these values handy.). Once you have received your nutrient minimums, it is highly recommended that you further research your dog’s breed to discover common health problems and conditions, common gene mutations, and breed disease-predispositions. Also look into his/her pedigree (or parents) for any conditions that may have been genetically passed on. If you have a dog with an unknown breeder and pedigree, you may want to consider using a DNA test to check for any possible conditions. Embark Dog DNA Test checks for 165 genetic conditions. This is highly advised if your dog’s ancestry is unknown and you desire to cultivate optimal health and longevity. The reason for checking into your dog’s background is for the purpose of raising specific nutrients that support the body and assist in the prevention of potential predisposed conditions. For all the information you will discover, follow that up by looking into preventative measures and what is advised and recommended by either The Holistic Canine, your holistic veterinarian, or another nutrition/naturopathic pet professional. Once you have your nutrient baseline and all necessary information for preventing possible conditions or disease in the future, you are ready to begin creating meals. This may all sound overwhelming, but really it is not. Start with your breeder or the internet and do as much research as you are able without assistance. If you require a nutritionist or holistic veterinarian, especially one who specializes in food therapy, you have one right here. The Holistic Canine can be contacted for further support. Simply use our contact page, visit our Facebook page, or email us at wellnessforlife18@yahoo.com.

The highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) is a simple way of choosing foods that are nutrient saturated. You will need to discover and then source the biologically-appropriate foods and meal ingredients that are most nutrient saturated in order to cover a large portion of your dog’s nutritional requirements with those foods. I call these broad spectrum foods. Ingredients you will be sourcing are muscle meats and fish, muscle organs, secreting organs, eggs, and bone. You may also wish to add vegetation, seeds, and a variety of other foods or ingredients that are nutrient-rich and specifically beneficial to your dog. You may find as you begin offering more and more foods that your dog may occasionally have loose stools or diarrhea (rare is constipation an issue unless you are feeding far too much bone). Pay close attention to your dog’s stools. Stools are a key to informing you which foods are beneficial, which foods may be causing issues, foods that are not being tolerated well, or that the meals you are providing may be unbalanced.

To learn what nutrients are in the foods and ingredients that you will be including in meals, you will need to refer to nutrition apps, nutrition websites, and/or meal designer programs that have databases of the hypothetical nutrient profiles of most foods. I prefer to use Cronometer. While the macronutrient food values are generally accurate (proteins, fat, and carbohydrates), please understand that the micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) nutritional profiles are averages and hypothetical values ONLY. What this means is that the ingredients you purchase may not actually contain the nutrients that are hypothetically in the average same-food. The databases are simply reference guides. To ensure that the foods you purchase and feed to your dog are actually nutrient-rich, you will need to purchase the highest quality possible. Choose quality ingredients that you are able to source and afford then look-up their nutritional profiles in the database(s). Compare these profiles to your dog’s nutrient needs. You will then need to discover which foods fall under the HN/Br and put those at the top of your list to be fed as priority foods (more on this coming up). Organ meats consistently fall under HN/Br. Organs are nature’s multi-vitamins and -minerals! To begin creating meals, refer to the following ratio guideline.

The following percentage ratio is a GUIDELINE to creating a meal:

80/10/10

80% = muscle meats. This category is further broken down to 65/15: 65% = superficial muscle, 15% = organ muscle.

10% = bone. This is an approximate. Prey, on the average, contains 12% bone. Puppies require 15% bone. Some dogs do better with 12% bone rather than 10%. You will need to discover what is best for YOUR dog.

10% = secreting organs. This category is further broken down to 5/5: 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ.

80/10/10 is the simplified version of this more accurate ratio 65/15/10/5/5.

I emphasize guideline because many pet parents mistakenly believe that this ratio means “nutrient balanced” and/or that it must be exactly followed; however, nothing could be further from the truth. A pet parent may follow the ratio perfectly and have provided meals that yield next to no micronutrients that their dog must have to be healthy and prevent disease, and/or may be supplying unbalanced macronutrients. The ingredients and foods you choose is first and foremost the most important factor in creating adequate nutrient-balanced meals. Once you have determined your HN/Br foods (those nutrient saturated foods that will more than cover your dog’s nutrient requirements), place those into the ratio guideline above to create the actual meals. To receive The Holistic Canine’s Raw Feeding Guide resource, please join our Facebook community or contact us to receive the pdf copy. The following is a list of ingredients from which you will find HN/Br foods and create meals. Note these are not exhaustive lists, merely easiest-to-source ingredients.

Muscle meats (superficial): 65%              Muscle organs: 15%

  • Beef (grass-fed is best)                             Heart
  • Goat (pasture-raised is best)                   Gizzards
  • Lamb (pasture-raised is best)                 Lung
  • Rabbit                                                          Green tripe
  • Pork (pasture-raised is best)                   Tongue
  • Chicken (free-range is best)                    Trachea*
  • Turkey (free-range is best)                     Cheek (not technically an organ)
  • Quail
  • Duck
  • Sardines
  • Salmon (wild-caught only)
  • Whiting (wild-caught)
  • Herring, mackerel (wild-caught)
  • Smelts
  • Trout
  • Oysters
  • Off-cuts, briskets, and fillets Eggs (chicken, duck, quail, etc. from pasture-raised birds)

Bone: 10%

  • Chicken quarters (thighs, drumsticks)                       
  • Chicken feet
  • Chicken necks                                                           
  • Chicken wings
  • Chicken backs                                                           
  • Poultry carcass
  • Turkey necks                                                             
  • Turkey wings
  • Turkey backs                                                             
  • Duck wings
  • Duck head                                                                 
  • Quail, whole                           
  • Cornish hen, whole                                                    
  • Rabbit thigh, ribs, feet            
  • Goat/lamb neck                                                         
  • Goat/lamb rib
  • Pork rib                                                                      
  • Pig feet
  • Ox tail                                                                         
  • Eggshell**

Organs, secreting: 10%

  • Liver 5%: beef, calf, chicken, pork, duck, rabbit, goat, lamb, venison
  • Kidney: beef, pork, rabbit, goat, lamb, venison, poultry/fowl
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Brain
  • Testicles* (not recommended for an intact male, but excellent if neutered!)
  • Ovaries* (not recommended for an intact female, but excellent if spayed!)
  • Thymus (sweetbreads)

Look specifically for foods that will also cover the more difficult to meet nutrients. These include manganese, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, iodine, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. Unfortunately, when we are relying on nutritional information for human foods we are not always able to find nutrient information on foods that people would not commonly eat, yet foods that we do feed to our dogs. For example, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron commonly come up low when we are trying to source for these nutrients. One of the reasons this happens is because human nutritional data does not provide information on bones. Wild dogs do not seem to have a problem sourcing all of their nutrients. One of the reasons is likely because bone and marrow contains those hard-to-source nutrients. Bone contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfur, potassium, and silica, while marrow contains iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, boron, Vitamins A & K, and fatty acids. Another major source of manganese is fur and feathers, specifically the reds. Humans certainly do not consume bones, fur and feathers or many of the organs that we can feed to our dogs, thus nutritional information is not provided for these important foods. This is a major problem with relying on human nutritional information. Note that even the pet diet designer programs are limited to the same human nutrition information. If you are feeding bones, none of your meal recipes will come up accurate in these programs. Dogs Naturally Magazine has developed a calculator that accounts for bone. Please join our Facebook community to have access to this free resource.

One of the most important tips that I give to my clients is also one that will help keep you out of the dark when it comes to unknown nutritional information. If you want your dog’s organs, muscles, eyes, vessels, bones, etc. to be healthy, FEED THOSE PARTS. Those same nutrients that each part of your dog’s body requires for health are found in the food parts. This is one way to know what is in some of the foods we offer to our dogs. Again, if we are aware of which nutrients are needed for the health of each organ, bones, eyes, blood, muscles, joints, and ligaments, for example, we can conclude that many of those nutrients are found in those parts that we can offer as food to our dogs. Organs store a wealth of nutrients. Because organs are so rich in nutrients, we can only feed so much without the possibility of hypervitaminosis, a toxicity condition from too much Vitamins A, D, and B (especially B12).

When sourcing for particular nutrients, for the same reason I mentioned above, many foods which we are feeding to our dogs are not listed in human nutrition databases. As a result, it appears that some of those audited meals are coming up short in several nutrients. As a warning, please do not fall for the same mistakes many raw feeders are making under the guise of “science-based” meal planning. Many of these pet parents who are relying solely on human nutrition databases and programs will then turn to inappropriate food sources to meet a nutrient need. Inappropriate food sources commonly used by so-called “science-based” food database groupies are oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, legumes, beans, peas, and others. These foods are in direct opposition to my HN/Br. Not only do they not have a broad spectrum nutrient profile, but they are only hypothetically filling a mere one, maybe two, nutrient gap(s) while also creating an issue with empty calorie space. I emphasize hypothetically because firstly, these foods are biologically-inappropriate to a canine; secondly, every one of those species-inappropriate foods contains health-destroying anti-nutrients which bind other minerals from being absorbed, and thirdly, they all require the necessity of first soaking, then sprouting, then cooking, and then cooking some more as well as the addition of the enzyme phytase which is destroyed by cooking. This is also in direct opposition to raw feeding. (More on grains in Part V.) These foods should not a have place in your dog’s diet.

How you will choose HN/Br foods to be added to meals is through nutritional comparison. Use cronometer to find nutrient values for the foods you will offer your dog. As an example, grass-fed ground beef contains far more iron than chicken, while the beef heart contains more than double the iron than the ground beef, yet chicken hearts have more than double the iron found in beef heart. So for iron we can look to chicken hearts. But what else do chicken hearts contain to make it worth feeding? Remember, we want broad spectrum foods, not foods that cover a mere one or two nutrient(s). Chicken hearts are rich in taurine, an amino acid that helps prevent taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), they are one of the richest animal sources of folate (needed for DNA methylation1), they contain more zinc than ground beef and beef heart, they are an excellent source of B vitamins, and coenzyme Q10. We can conclude that chicken hearts would classify as a HN/Br food. However, that does not mean that you don’t also feed the comparison foods. We will simply rely on the HN/Br foods to cover a broad spectrum of nutrients while also feeding the other ingredients to further meet nutrient requirements. It all adds up, but when you feed HN/Br foods in every meal, you can more than meet nutrient minimums. Let me give another example, beef liver is a rich source of copper, chicken liver contains only trace amounts. Chicken liver is slightly higher in iron; however, beef liver also wins for Vitamin A and all of the B vitamins. So beef liver comes under the HN/Br foods. You can rotate beef liver with pork liver which contains huge amounts of iron, equally high B vitamins, but next to no copper, and chicken liver which is higher in iron than beef liver but also contains huge amounts of folate. What I do is I rely on beef liver but also occasionally feed other liver or feed two different types of liver in one meal. Do the same for nutrient saturated vegetables and seeds.

Look up each of the more difficult to source nutrients by doing a web search for “richest food sources of [nutrient name].” Keep in mind that you will only pay attention to those foods that are biologically-appropriate and safe for a dog to consume. Discovering and adding these foods makes it even easier to fill all nutrient requirements. Once you have your list of HN/Br foods, you can begin to create meals with your meat and organ sources, vegetables, and other foods. You want to rely heavily of naturally occurring food nutrients and not on bottled supplements (and never ever on laboratory produced synthetic pseudo-nutrients).

It is also necessary to remember that you will need to balance fats. Feeding too much of the omega-6 fatty acids, such as from relying too heavily on chicken, can create an inflammatory environment in your dog’s body. Be sure to balance omega-6 foods with omega-3 containing foods. I find that offering chicken along with grass-fed beef and fatty fish, two sources of omega-3 fatty acids, balances the fat in the meal beautifully. If you are feeding oils, only offer those oils that will balance out the fats in your meats.

Another key to covering nutrient requirements is to use a vast variety of foods. And, do not remain stagnant with one or two recipes. Would this be beneficial for you to eat the same meal over and over? No. Neither would it be for your dog. Rotate where you source for foods as well. Every farm and every area of the world has different soils and weather patterns. You want to source locally as much as possible while also sourcing out. Feeding four or more protein sources in a meal is adequate and provides a broad spectrum of nutrient profiles.

Having learned how to create nutrient-rich meals, now is the time to determine where you need to supplement. I do use many supplements, most of which are whole-food sources of nutrients. I do not want to simply meet minimums, I want to provide the best possible nutrition plan that I am able. This most often requires adding “extras” to meals. Extras include vegetables, fruits, seeds, algae and phytoplanktons, medicinal mushrooms, oils, fermented foods, herbs, spices, and natural nutrients that are not synthetically manufactured. Always purchase natural or food sources of vitamins and minerals. If you need to boost minerals, food-source minerals are best followed by organic mineral chelates. Do not purchase inorganic minerals! Supplements can be very expensive, especially since you will want to purchase supplements for people unless you have found an excellent natural source of supplements for dogs (these are often more costly than human-grade). To keep cost at a minimum, be sure to meet nutrient needs through food ingredients first and foremost and add supplements where you absolutely must. Adding additional “superfood” supplements for disease prevention is a necessary secondary must if you are being proactive in preventing future disease in your dog. As a precaution, if you are purchasing individual vitamin and mineral isolates, purchase LOW doses. You do not want to mega-dose your dog. More is not better. Mega-doses are used for therapeutic purposes only.

Do your research and be sure that you are prepared and confident to begin a raw food nutrition program. You have valuable resources available through The Holistic Canine!

©2019 The Holistic Canine Written by Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

*hormone exposure is likely! This is NOT necessarily advantageous and may actually lead to hormone imbalance in intact dogs or dogs prone to thyroid disorder.

**eggshell is not a substitute for bones when feeding puppies. Puppies must have bone for proper calcium to phosphorous balance.

1 DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells that controls gene expression. DNA methylation is a commonly used epigenetic signaling tool that can fix genes in the “off” position.


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART III

In my practice, I teach and promote what I have coined the highest nutrient per bite ratio or HN/Br. This is taught and promoted to my human clients as well as to pet parents who are learning to feed a biologically appropriate diet to their dog. This principle ensures nutrient needs are being met in each and every bite. Dogs, like us, have very real and specific nutrient requirements, but not every dog has the same needs. Many factors define and determine which nutrients are needed in which amounts. Unfortunately, this is not so cut and dry. Further, there has to be a starting point upon which we build and hone nutrient requirements for each dog. Thanks to canine nutritional research furthered in the 1970s and 1980s and later improved upon in the early 2000s, we have standards that can guide pet parents to safeguard pets against nutrient-deficient pathologies.

Pet parents caring for the modern dog have the National Research Council (NRC) to thank. The NRC complied and condensed animal nutrition research from the mid-1970s through the 1980s. These more detailed findings enabled them to create separate nutrient recommendations for the maintenance of healthy adult dogs, for puppies, and for pregnant and lactating dams, something that was lacking in the earlier publications from 1974. Despite the vast improvement in nutritional recommendations for various life cycles, the newer recommendations also came with a disclaimer. The NRC made clear that “caution is advised in the use of these requirements without demonstration of nutrient availability, because in some cases requirements have been established on the basis of studies in which nutrients were supplied in highly purified ingredients where digestibility and availability are not compromised.” This made it nearly impossible for dog food manufacturers to set nutrient standards in their processed foods as their ingredients were clearly not in a “highly purified” form guaranteeing nutrient “digestibility and availability,” and as a result, the industry and its regulators declared that the NRC recommendations were not suitable for standardizing pet foods. Clearly the NRC was in need of yet another updated publication. This moved AAFCO to organize the “Canine Nutrition Expert and the Feline Nutrition Expert subcommittee.” The committee was established to interpret and transform NRC recommendations into a set of guidelines for pet food manufacturers to follow. These standards are still being used by the pet food industry to-date despite the fact that the NRC did publish an updated and lengthy report in 2006. And yet, the newer report is still limited in many ways.

In a Cambridge University Press article entitled Challenges in Developing Nutrient Guidelines for Companion Animals, we learn, “The [NRC] recommendations give minimum and maximum amounts or concentrations for each nutrient to facilitate formulating complete and balanced diets for healthy animals. The committee resisted extending the scope beyond the maintenance of health and prevention of disease, and did not address nutrient requirements for animals with disease. Theoretically, any diet formulated to contain more than a minimum and less than a maximum amount or concentration of each nutrient provided in the tables should be complete and balanced for healthy animals. However, making pet food is a complex process, and animals are not uniform. Thus, there are many factors that can affect nutrient requirements, and it is important to recognize the limitations of these NRC recommendations.” The report further states, “For many nutrients, a MR [minimum requirement] cannot be established because gradually increasing amounts of nutrient have not been fed to dogs and cats while measuring performance. As a result, the tables, especially those for adult maintenance, have many blank values for MR. However, where an MR has not been established, a pet food has often been fed to dogs and cats without resulting in signs of deficiency. This allows an adequate intake (AI) to be established, defined as a concentration or amount of a nutrient that had been demonstrated to support a defined physiological state. Because the AI is established using pet food ingredients, a safety factor is not included when an RA [recommended allowance] is established based on an AI. Thus, it is possible that a diet containing lower concentrations than an RA established from an MR but made from bioavailable ingredients, or a diet containing lower concentrations than an RA established using an AI, may still support a given physiological state. These important possibilities are sometimes not appreciated by the public or regulators1.” This notation is important for the raw feeding pet parents to bear in mind.

We see there are several limitations with using and following the NRCs nutrient recommendations, not to mention the rather steep price tag to purchase the publication and somewhat obscure and difficult content. The latter is greatly unfortunate because it reduces any possibility of getting the publication into the hands of the general pet parent community, especially to those in the homemade dog food and raw feeding circles, the very people with the most to gain from its content. The Challenges article further points out, however, that the publication contains “many gaps in the tables listing MR, because there has been little research performed during the last 20 years…Most requirements have been established using growth rate as the criterion of adequacy, and there remains little information on the MR for maintenance and reproduction or any other physiological state. There is also comparatively little information on bioavailability; consequently, safety factors are in many instances an educated estimate. As a result, some RA may be higher than needed, e.g. Cu [copper] or Zn [zinc]1.” But despite the limitations, we nevertheless have a guideline by which to refer.

We have learned from the Challenges article that the NRC has resisted extending the scope of nutrient requirements beyond the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease. In other words, we are looking at minimum requirements that will prevent deficiency-pathologies, not requirements to cultivate optimal health; most notably in dogs with predispositions to conditions and disease states, dogs with existing conditions, and seniors with higher nutrient needs. What is also greatly lacking is a safe upper limit for all vital nutrients that are being sourced from highly bioavailable ingredients such as raw foods. And if this is not enough, the article also notated the possibility that bioavailable ingredients may actually have lower requirements due to being in their natural organic state surrounded by cofactors, enzymes, and associating nutrients. So what we are left with is a hodge-podge of possibilities and what-ifs. In all honestly, science is still light years behind when it comes to biological systems and their intricate and intimate connection with nutrients and environment.

Using AAFCOs and some of the NRCs guidelines and standards, the dog food industry has thus far managed to prevent the extermination of pets consuming their products, so we know that even when being fed highly adulterated, rendered, synthetic, highly processed, biologically inappropriate foods, dogs are surviving, some even well into their golden years. We can conclude that something is moving in the correct direction. But, we also know that the modern dog is stricken with chronic and debilitating disease conditions and many more are facing high mortality rates. We can also conclude, then, that something is moving in the wrong direction. For all practical purposes, we can suffice it to say that the nutrient minimums are working in the favor of pets consuming commercial foods while the highly processed, low bioavailable, low quality ingredients, and excessive processing is not. This is not to say that raw fed dogs are immune from conditions and chronic disease because, quickly frankly, many raw fed dogs are suffering with conditions and dying from cancer, albeit the risk and rate is much lower than in dogs on a lifetime of processed dog food.

When we are considering nutrient requirements and quantities in dogs, it should be the goal of the raw feeding pet parent to cultivate optimal health, and where dogs are suffering with any number of conditions, to cultivate healing as well. For the healthy dog, taking into account those influencing factors that might affect health adversely in the future ought to be a priority when designing a better-than-satisfactory nutrition plan. In all of the situations where dogs have needs that go beyond NRCs “standard adult,” “standard puppy,” and “standard pregnant and lactating dam” requirements, it is vital to take into consideration the current state of health, all possible genetic hurdles, impeding and relating factors, lifestyle and environmental factors, and breed predispositions affecting, whether directly or indirectly, each individual dog and thereby increase (or decrease) the necessary nutrient baselines where needed. Because of these complex and highly varying considerations, the NRC would have quite the undertaking to work out the nutrient requirements for the most common scenarios and conditions in dogs. Since this is highly unlikely to be produced anytime in the near future or at all, it would be a great value to pet parents for the NRC to discover safe upper limits for all the essential nutrients (rather than the few they have determined) in order that nutrient adjustments can be safely made by pet parents where needed. Increasing the nutrient baselines for those that are known to be advantageous in common health crises would be immensely beneficial, especially the needs of cancer victims where therapeutic nutrient dosing needs to be quite high.

It is necessary to here point out that while diet plays a vital and fundamental role in health, it is but one factor in many that play major roles in the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease conditions and premature death. Health is in the cells. Cellular health and epigenetic gene expression are influenced primarily by diet and environment which directly affect internal and external influencing factors that can lead to or prevent disease. These dietary and environmental influences determine how blueprints within the DNA are read and then expressed (turned on) or stored (turned off). Thus, disease potential within a cell is turned on or off based on these outside influencing factors. Despite a dog being offered a lifetime of raw meals consisting of what is thought to be the most nutrient-dense, perfectly sourced ingredients, he or she can still end up with a chronic condition or fatal disease. This often happens when environmental interaction coupled with external and internal influences are ignored. These influences are pivotal and play a major role in a gene expressing (turning on) a predisposed potential for disease. This world is far from safe for us and our animals. But having a working knowledge of what can lead to disease gives us a head-start in its prevention. Taking critical steps to prevent disease in our dogs goes a long way in greatly reducing the chances of suffering and disease fatality. With this knowledge, we can use nutrients through a raw diet as an arsenal to affect life-saving gene expression while removing environmental factors and being cognizant of internal risk factors.

Chronic Disease Influencing Risk Factors

  • Breed disease-predispositions
  • Genetic/pedigree disease potential
  • Vaccinations (even one can be lethal, but here I refer to unnecessary repeat vaccines)
  • Early spay and neuter
  • Chemical exposure:
  • Flea/tick/heartworm/worming chemicals
  • Cigarette/cigar smoke
  • Air fresheners
  • Hair and body aerosols
  • Lawn and garden chemicals, weed killers (esp. glyphosate), pest control
  • Pool/hot tub chemicals
  • Farm and garden chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.)
  • Household pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, rodent poisons, ant baits, etc.
  • Acetone exposure
  • Nail product and paint fumes
  • Carpet and floor cleaners
  • Construction and automobile chemicals and oils
  • Fabric softener
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Drugs, veterinary prescriptions
  • Growth hormones
  • Processed food diet, kibble
  • Excessive consumption of a single recipe/diet (homemade and commercial)
  • Excessive consumption of same-source ingredients (homemade and commercial)
  • Unbalanced/unvaried diet
  • Excessive supplementation
  • High carbohydrates/fiber diet (commercial and homemade)
  • Species inappropriate diet (commercial and homemade)
  • Consumption of rancid fats and fish oils
  • Nutrient deficient meals
  • Nutrient toxic meals and supplementation
  • Tap water (chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceutical contaminants, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.)
  • Poor dental and gum health
  • Parasite induced disease condition
  • Stress/anxiety/loneliness
  • Lengthy crating and confinement
  • Obesity
  • Lack of outdoor time
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Lack of fresh air
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of purpose (esp. in working breeds)
  • Tight fitting collar
  • Excessive heat or cold exposure
  • Excessive breeding of bitch

I would like to here end Part III. Part IV will discuss my highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) diet plan.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Food Nutritionist

1 RF Butterwick, JW Erdman Jr, RC Hill, AJ Lewis and CT Whittemore, “Challenges in Developing Nutrient Guidelines for Companion Animals,” British Journal of Nutrition, no. 106, Oct 12, 2011, S24-S31. (Italics and underline mine)


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART II

Nutrients

Dogs require two macronutrients. Macronutrients contain calories and are required in large amounts for energy and metabolic function. These include proteins and fats. Dogs can also utilize carbohydrates which are the third macronutrient; however, research indicates that dogs have no need for carbohydrates. What that means is dogs do not require carbohydrates to either survive or thrive.

Protein:

Proteins are molecules made up of a chain of amino acids that are held together by peptide bonds. When a specified chain of amino acids is created it then folds into a three dimensional shape dependent upon its need and use in the body. To utilize dietary protein, a dog’s digestive system breaks the peptide bonds to release each individual amino acid. The individual amino acids are the building blocks of new protein molecules that the dog’s body creates as needed and puts it to use. Protein is needed for tissue growth and repair, to create cells, bones, cartilage, muscles, skin, blood, antibodies, enzymes, and hormones, plays a role in pH regulation, helps balance fluids, transports and stores nutrients, and can also be burned as an energy source. Protein is what is known as gluconeogenic. Because protein’s main function is to create new protein structures, it is not a main source for energy metabolism. However, it can be converted by the body into a carbon skeleton to be utilized and stored as energy in the absence of adequate fat intake or body fat percentage. 

There are twenty-two amino acids along with taurine, an amino sulfonic acid. A dog’s body manufacturers all but ten amino acids. These ten are known as essential amino acids and include arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These are called essentials because a dog must receive them from the diet. All prey, animal-sourced foods, and animal products contain all ten of these essential amino acids in varying amounts and profiles.

Fat:

Fats (lipids) are chain molecules ranging from short chains to long chains. The main functions of fat are energy metabolism, to spare protein from being utilized as an energy source, for the absorption and storage of fat-soluble vitamins, hormone production, and are needed as the structural material of cell membranes as well as aiding in the construction of other cellular components and various bodily tissues. The main constituents making up animal-origin fats are monoglycerides, diglycerides, and triglycerides, a chain (mono-) or chains (di- and tri-) of fatty acids bonded to a glycerol. Saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat refer to the structure of the fatty acids. Fatty acids (a carboxylic acid) consist of hydrocarbon chains ending with a carboxyl group and are considered the building blocks of lipids.

What we are most concerned with in the canine diet is the fatty acids. Of the fatty acids, two types are essential and must be obtained from the diet: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These include the omega-6 fatty acids linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA)- AA can technically be converted from LA; and the omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)- EPA can technically be converted from ALA, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)- DHA can technically be converted from EPA. The omega-3 fatty acids function antagonistically with omega-6 fatty acids, so the correct balance between these fatty acids is necessary.  

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are non-essential plant sugars, starches, and fibers. Carbohydrates are short and long chains of saccharides known as mono-, di-, oligo-, and polysaccharides. They have one main function: energy metabolism. However, like fat, they spare protein from being converted to an energy source; they also act as food for the microbiome, bulking agents, and are useful for weight gain and energy storage. Carbohydrates are found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains, peas, and legumes.

Dogs also require micronutrients. Micronutrients are not a source of energy and are needed in very small amounts. They are vital to life and for the optimal functioning of the canine’s entire biology. The micronutrients that we know of to date are vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins:

Vitamins are organic compounds that contain carbon and hydrogen bonds. Essential vitamins cannot be synthesized by the body and must be received from the diet. Deficiencies in vitamins often lead to pathologies that can be deadly. There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K require fat for absorption and can be stored in the liver and fat tissues of the body. The water-soluble vitamin complexes B and C along with bioflavonoids are found in the juicy or watery parts of foods and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion where they are carried to the tissues to be utilized. Because of the high concentration of water in the body, water-soluble vitamins easily circulate throughout the body and are excreted in the urine.

Essential fat-soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin A: retinol, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin
  • Vitamin D: cholecalciferol (D3), calciferol (D2)
  • Vitamin E: alpha-tocopherol, beta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocotrienol, beta-tocotrienol, gamma-tocotrienol, delta-tocotrienol
  • Vitamin K: menaquinone (K2)phylloquinone (K1)

Essential water-soluble vitamins:

  • B Complex:
  • Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (B5)
  • Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Cobalamin (B12)
  • Biotin (B8)
  • Folate (B9)
  • Choline
  • Vitamin C: P factor, J factor, tyrosinase
  • Bioflavonoids: proanthocyanidins, quercetin, rutin, quercitrin, hesperidin, naringin

Minerals:

Minerals are inorganic compounds that originate in the soil and sea. They contain no carbon and hydrogen bonds. Biological systems cannot synthesize minerals, nor can they directly utilize mineral salts from the earth or sea. Rather, minerals are absorbed by the roots of plants and following various metabolic processes, the absorbed minerals become complexed with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins within the plants. Nutritionally, dogs eat the animals which eat the plants which contain the complexed minerals and from this our canines receive the essential minerals they require for life.

There are two types of minerals: macro-minerals and trace minerals.
Macro-minerals are required in much larger amounts than trace minerals. The macro-minerals that dogs must obtain from their diet include:

  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • sulfur
  • chloride

The trace minerals, which needed in tiny amounts, include:

  • copper
  • iron
  • manganese
  • zinc
  • iodine
  • selenium
  • cobalt
  • chromium

There is a significant problem with the way we view vitamins and minerals. The difficulty and error pertains to science considering and examining nutrients separated and isolated from their food sources. Scientific study and findings are then published and circulated where information is propagated and marketed for capitalization. As a result, the last eight decades has mass produced laboratory created nutrient counterfeits that are sold to the processed food industry (human and animal feed) to fortify every conceivable food and to the general public in pill, capsule, tablet, liquid, and powder form for private use and as a “health” insurance strategy. Society has been misled to believe that isolates function independently as distinct constituents apart from the whole. Even pet parents who have taken their pet’s health seriously and are providing homemade raw meals are adding bottled nutrients as a hypothetical insurance policy to “cover all the bases” and thereby removing any fear and concern that their pets are missing essential nutrients. From where does this error in understanding originate? It is first necessary to recognized that it is never the fault of nature for man’s erroneous assumptions, but man’s inability to see and comprehend the whole picture. With that, I would like to take you back to the 18th century.

Beginning with the early date of 1747, a Scottish naval surgeon named James Lind made an amazing discovery. He understood that a then-unknown substance found in lemons, limes, and several other fruits and vegetables prevented the serious and life-threatening disease condition afflicting sailors known as scurvy. This unknown substance came to be known as vitamin C. In 1905, Englishman William Fletcher hypothesized and then discovered that specific constituents within foods prevented a disease state while their removal would lead to pathologies. Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, an English biochemist in 1906 understood that certain food factors were vital for the growth of the body. His discoveries were proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals. Polish scientist Cashmir Funk, in 1912, gave a name to these newly discovered nutritional components of food. He called them a “vitamine.” “Vita” means life while “amine” came from the compounds of thiamine (Vitamin B1) which he discovered in rice husks and then isolated. Vitamine was later shortened to vitamin, what we now know them as today. These discoveries gave credence and functional purpose to the consumption of specific foods for the benefit of growth, health, and disease prevention. However, these discoveries also encouraged the scientific community to interfere with what nature provides in her trustworthy, reliable, flawless, and unfailing perfection. As early as the 1930s, scientists had already discovered how to create synthetic versions of nutrients. The fortifying of grain products, dairy foods, and desserts with their synthetic imitations was in full force. Health food stores began to pop up in the 1940s as the newest trend in capitalizing on the sales of synthetic vitamins and isolates. The stores and products gained in popularity by the 1950s. Soon more and more food constituents were being discovered and isolated including antioxidants and coenzyme Q10. Today health food stores can be found just about everywhere in the world while supplements are common household items and necessities. There is no doubt that these early discoveries and scientific studies were immensely valuable. They allowed mankind to understand the roles and functions of the individual nutrients. However, and this is a big however, as with all early discovery of the new and unknown, incorrect assumptions and conclusions are often made. We know this to be true by the countless times science has warned us against eating certain foods, or vise verse telling us to load up on this food or that, scaring the public with speculative warnings, telling us to do such as such, and so on and on. Alarmingly, years later we are informed that what we thought and believed was correct and true has now been proven to be completely erroneous. As for the topic at hand, synthetic nutrient supplements and isolates were wrongly and incorrectly assumed to be just as effective and health-promoting as natural whole-food sources of nutrients. This erroneous assumption is still believed by a good number of nutritionists and nutritional scientists. How do we now know the truth? Enter quantum physics.

Quantum physics is the study of the nature and behavior of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level. It is the theoretical basis of modern physics. How possibly does this relate to homemade raw feeding? Stay with me! Quantum physics has demonstrated not only the existence of, but the multitude of cofactors and enzymes that exist within and around the vital nutritional nutrient structures (vitamins and minerals) that are absolutely essential for adequate absorption and the correct functioning within a biological system. It is understood that the cofactors are just as vital as each nutrient itself. While the body produces enzymes (protein structures), enzymes are also dietary needs and are received through raw foods. Enzymes are catalysts for chemical reactions, each enzyme being specific for each substrate such as enzymes for the breakdown of fatty acids and enzymes for energy production. Cofactors are essential and required for the chemical reactions between the enzymes and substrates while other cofactors increase the rate of catalysis. Cofactors are either attached or loosely bound to enzymes. The body is unable to manufacture all the necessary cofactors so it must receive them through whole foods. Thus science is now beginning to understand why synthetic and nutrient isolates do not and cannot perform nor function in the same manner as naturally occurring food nutrients.

Minerals in supplement form are problematic on a different scale. There is a major difference between naturally occurring food sourced minerals and supplemental minerals. Within the book entitled Handbook of Drug-Nutrient Interactions we read, “The chemical form of a mineral is an important factor in its absorption and bioavailability…there is evidence that the form in which minerals are ingested affects absorption. For example, particle size, surface area, and solubility of a substance affects is dilution rate…In many solid foods, elements are not free, but firmly bound in the food matrix1.” We learn that food source minerals are firmly bound with cofactors within the food matrix. Mineral supplements are mostly industrially processed inorganic rock known as mineral salts. As already stated, biological systems cannot synthesize minerals, nor can they directly utilize mineral salts from the earth or sea. Rather, minerals are absorbed by the roots of plants and following various metabolic processes, the absorbed minerals become complexed with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins within the plants. The only way that we and our pets can adequately receive bioavailable (absorbable) minerals is through the consumption of plants or the animals that ate the plants. Mineral salts in a bottle can be labeled “natural” because they are in fact found in the earth. But neither humans nor our dogs are plants which can utilize earth and sea minerals. And because scientists now recognize this fact, many supplemental minerals are chelated, yet still inorganic. Inorganic chelation is the process of chemically binding crushed industrial rock with one or more acids. You will see these types of mineral supplements labeled with one of the following acids: ascorbate, picolinate, aspartate, glycinate, and chelate. The mineral now takes on a different form from the mineral salts; however, it is still not a food. While these can certainly be absorbed with the chelate, they are not necessarily as effective as food sourced minerals or even safe. For example, picolinic acid, such as zinc picolinate and chromium picolinate supplements, is used in herbicides, it is an excretory waste product, and is not metabolized by or useful to the body. These create oxidative stress which can potentially lead to damaged DNA.

It has been clearly demonstrated in test studies that the bioavailability and effectiveness of food source minerals is greater than that of isolated inorganic mineral salts and chelates. Mineral absorption is low to begin with such as iron absorption being potentially as low as 5%. Taking supplemental minerals can have a useable absorption percentage of 0% to 1%. Even more, food sources of minerals are almost never toxic and may actually have protective factors that prevent mineral toxicities. Because absorption of actual utilizable (organic) minerals is much different, supplemental forms that are chemically bound to another substance function differently hence causing the potential for toxicity. The following list shows a few popular industrial inorganic mineral chemicals sold as supplements:

  • Calcium carbonate (limestone, chalk)
  • Calcium citrate (calcium carbonate processed with lactic and citric acid
  • Calcium gluconate (calcium carbonate processed with gluconic acid)
  • Calcium lactate (calcium carbonate processed with lactic acid)
  • Chromium picolinate (picolinic acid)
  • Magnesium carbonate (magnesite rock)
  • Magnesium citrate (acids)
  • Magnesium chloride (ammonium chloride)
  • Magnesium glycinate (glycine)
  • Magnesium oxide (burnt magnesium carbonate)
  • Magnesium carbonate
  • Magnesium gluconate (magnesium carbonate with gluconic acid)
  • Magnesium sulfate (chemical reaction between magnesium oxide and sulfuric acid)
  • Potassium chloride (chlorine)
  • Potassium citrate (citric acid)
  • Potassium gluconate (gluconic acid)
  • Zinc gluconate (gluconic acid)
  • Zinc picolinate (picolinic acid)
  • Zinc sulfate (sulfuric acid)

One of my favorite doctors, Bernard Jensen, wrote nearly four decades ago in his book The Chemistry of Man, “When we take out from foods some certain salt, we are likely to alter the chemicals in those foods. When extracted from food, that certain chemical salt is extracted, may even become a poison. Potash by itself is a poison, whether it comes from a food or from the drugstore. This is also the case with phosphorus. You thereby overtax your system, and your functions must work harder, in order to throw off those inorganic salts or poisons introduced…The chemical elements that build our body must be in biochemical, life-producing form. They must come to us as food, magnetically, electrically alive, grown from the dust of the earth.2” This applies equally to our animals. The following chart3 shows the absorption and bioavailability of natural food source mineral compared to inorganic mineral supplements. 

Food Mineral   Compared to Mineral Salt/Chelate
Calcium   Up to 8.79 times better absorbed into the blood; 7 times as effective in raising serum ionic calcium levels.
Chromium   Up to 25 times more bioavailable.
Copper   85% more absorbed; also contains substances that reduce potential toxicity.
Iron   Safer, non-constipating, 77% more absorbed.
Magnesium   Up to 2.2 times better absorbed and retained.
Manganese   Better absorbed and retained; not as likely to contribute to toxicity as mined forms.
Molybdenum   Up 6.28 times better absorbed into the blood; 16.49 times better retained.
Phosphorus   Less likely to cause diarrhea or electrolyte disorders.
Selenium   17.6 times the antioxidant effect; 123.01 times more effective in preventing non-enzymatic protein glycation; 2.26 times better retained.
Vanadium      Safer and 50% more effective.
Zinc   Up to 6.46 times better absorbed, better and safer form

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

1 Shapes SA, Schlussel YR, Cifuentes M, chapter “Drug-Nutrient Interactions That Affect Mineral Status” from the book entitled Handbook of Drug-Nutrient Interactions. Humana Press, Totowa (NJ), 2004: 301-328

2 Bernard Jensen, DC, PhD, The Chemistry of Man. Escondido (CA), 1983

3 Robert Thiel, PhD, Naturopath, The Truth About Minerals in Nutritional Supplements, Doctors’ Research™ website, http://www.doctorsresearch.com/articles3.html


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART I

Over the ages carefully selected breeding has brought out both physical and instinctive character traits in dogs for the purpose and benefit of the needs of mankind. Dogs were selectively bred for function, intelligence, protection, loyalty, submissiveness, trainability, friendliness, companionship, sport, size, appearance, strength, their acute senses, and for the their natural hunting, herding, working, and guarding abilities. As a result of the carefully selected breeding, these specific genetic traits have been funneled down to limited gene pools to create the hundreds of “pure” breeds of dogs we see today. But despite the incredible variation in appearance and characteristics within canis lupus familiaris, what has remained virtually unchanged is the domestic canine’s internal physiology.

For likely millennia, domestic dogs have been consuming food found in nature as well as food provided by their human caretakers. While many domestic dogs where fortunate (or not so fortunate) to rely on hunting and foraging instincts for their nutrition needs, many more were thrown and fed table scrapes from home prepared foods and meals. Processed foods were not a part of our history until the Industrial Revolution boomed. As early as 1860, commercially prepared and sold dog biscuits were introduced to the public. Englishman James Spratt is credited with inventing the first commercial dog biscuit. It is reported that his idea to create a commercial dog food was inspired by his observation of sailors throwing hardtack to dogs at the ship docks. The biscuits were made from vegetables, beef blood, wheat, and beet root. This simple way to feed dogs became so popular that by 1890, commercial pet foods spread to the United States. And the rest is history. Unfortunately, chronic illnesses and premature death rates started to soar and many people who were relying on commercial feeds were losing not just their dogs to malnutrition, but other livestock also consuming commercially prepared diets. Thanks to AAFCO, we now know what nutrients our dogs require to live healthy lives. And this now begs the question, while we know what nutrients our beloved dogs require, what are the best foods to provide those essential nutrients? One way to answer this question is to observe and analyze the canine anatomy and physiology to deduce and determine what a dog is designed to consume.

Beginning with the head, the dog’s frontal eye placement gives them the advantage of a peripheral view of their surroundings. The hinged canine jaw is equipped with reasonably large and powerful muscles to grab, hold, and crush. The mandibular hinge joint enables a dog to open their mouths impressively and dangerously wide. Their forty-two teeth consist of four long pointed canines for grabbing and holding prey, twenty-six sharp serrated-like molars for cutting, tearing, chopping, and shredding hide, skin, feathers, fur, muscles, flesh and sinew as well as crushing and breaking bone, and twelve front incisors to gnaw and pull sinew from bones. Because the canine’s teeth do not meet or line up, they are not able to grind and chew food into pulp. Equally muscled and powerful is the thick canine neck. The entire canine anatomical structure makes them natural athletes. Their bodies are perfectly suited for running, jumping, and changing direction in a split second. This beautiful design allows them to efficiently chase down prey. We can determine further what a dog is designed to eat by examining their digestive faculties.

Mouth: When food enters the dog’s mouth (as well as at the sight or smell of food), salivary glands begin to secrete saliva consisting of water, bicarbonate, and proteins (enzymes) to moisten food for swallowing. Dogs do not have lateral movement in their jaw and, as noted above, do not have flat molars that are in-line or meet, thus they do not chew or grind their food into pulp. In general, they use their teeth to break down their food small enough to swallow. Many people erroneously point out that dogs do not produce or secrete salivary amylase, the enzyme which initiates carbohydrate digestion. Part of this confusion comes from statements made by veterinarians such as Dr. Colin Harvey, emeritus professor of surgery and dentistry at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is noted as stating, “There are no digestive enzymes present in the saliva of dogs. It is purely designed to get the food down into the stomach so the digestive process can start.” However, a recent groundbreaking research study that was published online August 22, 2017 on BMC Veterinary Research website may have just dispelled a long held belief about canine saliva. The study is found under the headline, “Detection and measurement of alpha-amylase in canine saliva and changes after an experimentally induced sympathetic activation.” The conclusion of the study states, “This study demonstrates that there is alpha-amylase in saliva of dogs and validates a reliable spectrophotometric assay to measure this enzyme in this species with a good precision, sensitivity and accuracy. In addition, it reports a sAA [salivary alpha-amylase] activity increase after an experimental model of sympathetic activation in the dog and suggests that sAA could be potentially used as non-invasive biomarkers of sympathetic activation in this species.1” Notably, salivary amylase is found mostly in omnivores, only few herbivores, and absent in obligate carnivores. What is interesting regarding herbivores is that the three domestic carbohydrate-consuming animals, cows, sheep, and goats, were not found to produce salivary amylase. Therefore, pointing to salivary amylase clearly cannot tell us for certain what a dog is designed or not designed to consume. Dog saliva is, however, antibacterial containing simple proteins called histatins which is suitable when consuming raw and often rotting flesh to prevent against infection. Carbohydrate-consuming cattle, on the other hand, have highly alkaline saliva specifically designed to keep bacteria alive. For the canine, an additional protein in their saliva known as nerve growth factor (NGF) serves to help with healing wounds as dogs lick to self-treat their wounds.

Stomach, small intestine, large intestine: Dogs have a relatively short digestive tract. This allows for food to pass quickly through the system preventing the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria yet also inhibiting the thorough breakdown of whole plant matter. A domestic canine’s stomach has the ability to adjust pH from extreme acid with a pH of 1 up to a pH of 5 in the presence of carbohydrates. The ideal stomach pH range for digestion is 1-2. A dog’s stomach has the ability to stretch to accept very large meals. The stomach secretes the enzyme pepsin to break down protein molecules by separating the peptide bonds that hold the amino acids together. It also secretes gastric lipase, the enzyme that initiates the breakdown of fats. The stomach initiates the digestion of carbohydrates as well. Whether or not gastric amylase is produced is not documented; however, the low pH of the stomach stimulates the pancreas to secrete pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine which includes amylase for carbohydrate digestion. The food is churned together inside the stomach creating a mass called chyme. The chyme then passes through the pyloric valve and enters into the small intestine.   

The small intestine of a dog has a length of three times their body length. Comparatively, a cow’s intestine is twenty times its body length (about 120-150 feet) while a human’s small intestine is about four times their height. This is where the majority of digestion takes place. The chyme is mixed with bile and enzymes secreted by the pancreas to begin unlocking nutrients from the food. The lining of the small intestine is covered with hair-like structures called villi on which are found microvilli. This increases the surface area of the intestinal wall for the purpose of optimal nutrient uptake and absorption. It is through these microvilli where the nutrients pass through the intestinal wall, via passive or active transport, and enter into the bloodstream where the nutrients are dispersed throughout the body.

From the small intestine, undigested food moves into the large intestine. The large intestine has two main functions: 1) water, electrolyte, and vitamin B12 absorption and 2) short chain fatty acid and vitamin production via the microbiome. From here, waste is eliminated from the body via the rectum.

Pancreas and liver: The pancreas has a two-fold purpose. It is both an endocrine organ and a digestive organ. Its vital purpose is to produce and secrete digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin, glucagon, and gastrin. The pancreas also contains bile ducts throughout its length that connect to bile ducts from the liver.

The liver has 500 roles in the dog’s body. Some of the liver’s roles include detoxification, protein metabolism, the production of digestive chemicals, the production of bile, the breakdown of fats, and it acts as a storehouse for glycogen (sugar for energy), Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12, iron, and copper.

Thus, we can deduce and conclude that the canine digestive faculties are best suited to consume whole prey. However, while the canine teeth and digestive tract are in fact most suited for the purpose of consuming and digesting animal flesh and bone, dogs are not obligate carnivores. An obligate carnivore must consume prey or death will occur in a short time. Physiologically, dogs are what are known as facultative carnivores, or versatile carnivores. Facultative carnivores do best on a prey diet; however, they have the ability to survive on an omnivorous diet for extended periods in the absence of prey. This does not mean that a dog can thrive on an omnivorous diet, what it tells us is dogs have an ability to keep death at bay by turning on gene expression to switch, if you will, to an omnivore for extended lengths such as for a season in the absence of prey, but certainly not for years as indicated by observed cellular damage that begins to surface in dogs fed high-carbohydrate diets. It is well known and documented that dogs thrive on a prey diet that is low in or even absent of carbohydrates. In fact, is has been determined that dogs have no need for carbohydrates in order to thrive. When dogs do consume a carbohydrate-based diet they are often stricken with obesity and chronic conditions and disease. Dogs who consume kibble, dehydrated high-carb commercial foods, and often homemade diets containing large amounts of oatmeal, potatoes, peas, legumes, quinoa, and other grains and starches are generally the unfortunate victims who suffer most.

We can also learn what is best to feed our domestic canine by looking at the diet of the wolf. It has been established that wolves are nearly identical in DNA to our domestic dogs differing only by a mere 0.2%. Thankfully, the Department of Environmental & Natural Resources conducted such a study. The 2002 to 2013 research study evaluated the contents of collected stomachs and scat from wolves that had been hunted in the North West Territories. While whole prey was the most frequently found stomach contents, garbage followed closely behind. According to the manuscript written by Nicholas C. Larter in 2016, “Counting human garbage, there were 24 different distinguishable items recorded including ungulates (caribou), moose, wood bison and deer, furbearers and small mammals, snowshoe hare, beaver, voles, birds, fish, vegetation, and one domestic dog. Most items were found in both stomach contents and scats with the exception of garbage, fish, lynx, porcupine, raptor, and domestic dog being reported only from stomach contents and deer, ants, and mink only being reported from scat contents.2” What was interesting was the fact that vegetation was found at a 14.6% frequency while all individual prey was lower than a 15% frequency with the one exception being caribou which was found at a 34% frequency. Human garbage was a whopping 23.6% frequency. Birds, hares, marten, and rodents, were the next most frequently found prey ranging from 12% rodents to a collective total of various birds at 19% (ranging individually from 7% to 12%).

This is a mere one study from one location, but we can see from this collection of data that wolves are prey driven as well as opportunistic. The frequency of garbage and vegetation consumption shows just how opportunistic and versatile wolves truly are. And, the same holds true for our domestic canines. We can see quite clearly that over the past one hundred fifty years, most dogs consumed commercial dog food. Kibble gained popularity for its simplicity and affordability. Kibble also proved the facultative nature of our canine companions. Since kibble was and still is primarily carbohydrates with low quality protein sources, the fact that domestic dogs have not been exterminated by the pet food industry speaks volumes. Let’s look at this further.

Over the past one hundred fifty years of commercial dog food production, scientific study and the nutritional analyses of canine needs and requirements has increased and improved. One such recent scientific study looked at the DNA of wolves and domestic dogs comparing the genes that code for pancreatic amylase. Pancreatic amylase is the enzyme required for carbohydrate digestion and assimilation. What the study showed us is wolf DNA contains a mere two gene copies that code for amylase while the domestic dog’s DNA contains anywhere from four to thirty gene copies that code for amylase. This is a possible twenty-eight fold increase in this gene expression in some of our domestic breeds compared with their near-identical DNA counter-part the wolf. Carol Beuchat, PhD wrote an article outlining the AMY2B amylase gene code in an article entitled, “A Key Genetic Innovation in Dogs: Diet3” where she outlines the specific findings. So what does this mean? These findings show the canine’s ability to turn gene expression on and off as a direct result of carbohydrate consumption, hence their facultative ability. Additionally, this shows us that nutrition plays a major role in influencing DNA. It should be clearly understood that this adaptation in the absence of prey is a survival mechanism. It allows for the dog to survive, yet not necessarily thrive. For our domestic companions, the gene expression has been turned on and thus passed along to the next generations as a result of their consistent (long-term) consumption of commercially produced pet foods.

Long before studies such as this provided DNA based findings, observation alone proved the facultative nature of the dog. As noted above, the fact that dogs have not been exterminated as a result of their consumption of high-carbohydrate processed foods is proof enough. It is unfortunate, however, that this adaptive trait has been abused by dog food companies in an attempt to promote their kibbles and claims that dogs are omnivorous and not true carnivores. As clearly discussed above, nothing could be further from the truth and is clearly indicated by the rapid increase in chronic disease and mortality among domestic dogs. Just because a dog can be nutritionally abused without dying immediately does not make it right to subject them to a lifetime of cellular onslaught and the increased potential for chronic disease and reduced longevity.

On account of the increase in chronic disease and mortality among pets, a return to homemade meals for the family dog began to surface and regain popularity. This sudden new wave of feeding the four-legged family member demanded that we take a critical look at how and what we feed our dogs. Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, was one such person who understood that a dog’s health and wellness was dependent upon consuming a species-appropriate diet. His now famous book, “Give Your Dog a Bone,” released at a Bichon Frise convention in Sydney on November 17th in 1993, gained tremendous attention, both good and bad. Worldwide, people began to slowly gain the confidence and take the responsibility to feed their dogs a fresh, whole food diet. Unfortunately, this was bad news for the dog food industry. This nutritional plan became known as the BARF diet; initially Bones and Raw Food, it is now known as Biologically-Appropriate Raw Food. Due to Dr. Billinghurst’s effort, several more raw food models began to develop along with clever advertising from the pet food industry and the promotion of false studies and claims in order to convince pet parents that they alone, the giants of the pet nutrition world, knew how best to feed our beloved pets. However, this also led to the production of commercially prepared raw food diets.

Enter the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC). AAFCO was established to discover which nutrients needed to be added to commercial feed to prevent the death of dogs consuming the commercial pet foods. Just as the United States Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) was established during WWII to prevent disease and malnourishment in soldiers overseas and in combat zones, AAFCO was established for a similar purpose: to prevent malnourishment and death in pets consuming commercial feed. Understand that the USRDA was established to set standards that prevented disease and death, not to keep people well long-term, and so too, AAFCOs minimum nutrient requirements are not meant to necessarily produce optimal health, but to provide a standard that prevented nutrient-deficient pathologies and death in pets consuming commercially processed foods. Since 1930, AAFCO’s established Proficiency Testing Program has supported feed-testing laboratories utilizing their four unique proficiency testing schemes to ensure pets receive the nutrients they need. Like AAFCO, the NRC serves to review published research followed by generating nutrition reports based upon said research. This research is completed to set a standard and to serve as a guide that establishes minimum and maximum nutrient requirements for processed foods. Minimums are necessary to set the floor or baseline requirements in order that pet foods not fall below.

Taking this a step further, it must be understood that the levels of nutrients that AAFCO and the NRC recommend is for processed pet foods that contain synthetics and inorganic compounds, not naturally occurring whole-food nutrients. Synthetic nutrients and inorganic mineral compounds are not as well absorbed or assimilated. Many of these synthetics even create imbalance and can possibly lead to a disease condition as some studies are now proving. Thus, the nutrient recommendations are not based on a diet consisting of fresh raw proteins and fats and naturally occurring co-factors, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in whole foods such as prey and plants. This makes all the difference in the world because nutrition is meant for one purpose: to provide and deliver synergistically balanced nutrients that results in a harmonious metabolic dance of chemistry with the biological systems. Synthetics are man-made isolates that do not work harmoniously and naturally in physical bodies, and this includes so-called “natural” isolates. Biological systems must adjust for the synthetics, while inorganic minerals hardly mimic the minerals that are found in whole foods. Literally and simply, inorganic mineral supplements are industrial rock known as mineral salts. Since 1947, naturopathy “does not make use of synthetic or inorganic vitamins or minerals.” And neither should our companion pets.

What does all this translate to for the pet parent wanting to feed a homemade raw meal? AAFCO and the NRC were established for processed pet foods…period. If anything, AAFCO and the NRC have determined the minimum requirements for adulterated protein and rendered fat along with synthetic vitamin and inorganic mineral needs to prevent death in dogs. What we really need to ask is, how does this equate to fresh whole foods that are not void of enzymes and co-factors and contain fresh unadulterated proteins, raw fats, and naturally occurring nutrients working synergistically and in balance?  The answer is, it does not and cannot because we are considering completely different chemistry and biochemical action. What we can do is use NRCs minimum nutrient recommendations as a reference only. With that, let us move onto the macro and micronutrients that need to be included in your dog’s daily meals.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

1 Maria Doloras Contreras-Aguilar, Fernando Tecles, Silvia Martínez-Subiela, Damián Escribano, Luis Jesús Bernal, and José Joaquín Cerón, BMC Veterinary Research, August 22, 2017, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568211/#__ffn_sectitle

2 “Potential Food Items Ingested by Wolves in the Dehcho,” written by Nicholas C. Larter, 2016; Manuscript Report No. 251: https://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/sites/enr/files/wildlife_manuscript_report_251.pdf

3 Carol Beuchat, PhD, “A Key Genetic Innovation in Dogs: Diet,” 5/31/2018. http://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org


Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that is also a powerful antioxidant. Many dogs have a low intake of this vital nutrient, or worse, are consuming a synthetic version of Vitamin E. A low dietary intake can lead to a deficiency which can create irreversible cell damage most notably to the heart, liver, bones, muscles, and nerves. Vitamin E is necessary for over-all muscle health, circulatory health, healing of injuries, and skin health, among others. In fact, if your dog is consuming high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, he will require even more Vitamin E to protect his body from oxidation of the fatty acids. Vitamin E also protects Vitamin A and amino acids containing sulfur (notably taurine) from oxidation. Since raw diets contain high levels of vital amino acids and Vitamin A, providing enough Vitamin E in each meal is a necessity. You will want to provide a food source of Vitamin E such as wheat germ oil, hemp seed oil, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, spinach (and other green leafy veggies), and broccoli. If you are wanting to avoid creating a fat imbalance or adding the extra calories from fat, then using an oil may not be an option.

While most commercial dog foods are supplemented with Vitamin E, they generally contain either a synthetic version of the isolated alpha (which has a low absorption rate, for one) or the touted “natural” isolate alpha tocopherol. Synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol and the “natural” d-alpha tocopherol are both unsafe. Vitamin E exists in food and nature as a complex of eight different constituents, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols, not just the alpha. In fact, studies show that the consumption of synthetic dl-alpha Vitamin E may just lead to an increased risk of cancer!

My opinion: always go for food sources of nutrients because nature knows best. And if food sources are not possible, use a truly natural supplement containing the entire Vitamin E complex of eight constituents, not just the alpha.

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist


Manganese: Trace Mineral

Manganese is essential for the proper use of proteins and carbohydrates, for reproductive health, and the action of enzymes responsible for energy production and the creation of vital fatty acids. In dogs, most ligament injuries, especially cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease, can be traced back to a deficiency in the vital trace mineral manganese. A dog has a fairly high requirement of this trace nutrient and it is unfortunately far too low in many homemade raw meals. Manganese is especially low in commercial kibbles that do not contain bioavailable forms of this nutrient. If we are examining homemade diets for a medium size dog, many analyzed diets are coming in at an incredibly low 0.25 mg or less per day. A medium sized dog needs at least 7 times that amount per day, and that is a conservative minimum. Goat hair, chicken feathers (notably the red feathers from pullets), red fur, and lamb’s wool contain large amount of manganese, as well as organs and bone marrow which provide a fair amount. These are the manganese sources for wild canines. Unfortunately, not many of us are providing hair and feathers. I am one of the few who actually does raise chickens and ducks, so my dogs do receive feathers (red feathers from pullets) in their meals.

When it comes to feeding our pets, liver and bone contain a fair amount of highly bioavailable manganese, but at a yield of 0.2 mg/100 g in bone and 0.4 mg/100 g in liver, it is not sufficient to meet daily needs because liver and bone are not fed in large amounts. Green tripe provides ten times the manganese of liver, mussels provide sixteen times, and hemp seeds nineteen times the manganese! And, comparingly manganese in lean beef to spinach, spinach contains 40 times the amount of manganese than lean ground beef. You would need to feed almost 17,000 calories of beef or 418 calories of beef liver to meet the same manganese level as a mere 23 calories of spinach. Mussels, green tripe, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, blackberries, turmeric, ginger, and lettuce are all excellent sources of manganese that are bioavailable to dogs. If you are not one to feed green tripe because of the smell or lack of sourcing-availability, adding a scoop of green lipped mussel powder will meet daily manganese requirements, along with other minerals. If you are adding seeds to boost manganese needs (and other nutrients), add Vitamin C rich foods. Seeds contain anti-nutrients that bind with minerals in the gut. One such anti-nutrient is phytic acid. Since seeds are fed in such small quantities (teaspoons), the small amount of phytic acid can be “deactivated” by adding Vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C will also increases iron absorption as an added bonus!

If your dog’s meals are lacking in vital manganese and you absolutely cannot add enough food sources of this nutrient, a supplement would be wise to consider or your dog’s health may suffer. But not all supplements are created equally! Do not supplement with this or any nutrient until you first research the antagonistic nutrients and the partner nutrients. Read my post entitled Commonly Deficient Nutrients and Supplementation before purchasing a supplement.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vitally important nutrient that can often be deficient in a dog’s homemade diet. Unlike us humans and many other animals, dogs do not convert the sun’s radiation into adequate Vitamin D needs. This is likely because wild dogs can easily receive Vitamin D through the skin and organs of their wild prey. Our domestic dogs do not generally feast on wild prey or whole animals at meal time. This can pose a problem with meeting Vitamin D needs. Without an adequate source of this essential fat-soluble vitamin, dogs are at risk for heart disease, bone disease (especially puppies who have rapidly growing bones), osteomalacia, bone fractures, dental problems including broken teeth, and periodontal disease. A dog’s muscles and nerves require Vitamin D to function properly. Vitamin D transports calcium and phosphorus across the intestinal wall and aids in regulating their absorption. It also prevents diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin, and regulates inflammation and immune function.

If you are in the habit of daily feeding your dog skin, fatty fish, beef liver, and/or pasture-raised chicken eggs, you are on the right track. However, if you are not providing these Vitamin D-rich foods, it’s time to start adding them to meals. A medium size dog requires at least 4.3 mcg (about 175 IU) of Vitamin D daily with a top shelf need of 25 mcg (1,000 IU). This lower requirement is not easy to meet if foods are not chosen specifically for their vitamin D content and added to daily meals. Because cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vitamin D, many people make the mistake of adding cod liver oil to a meal that also includes liver (and kidney!). Cod liver oil is a rich source of Vitamins A and D. Vitamin A is easily met by feeding liver and can raise to toxic levels when cod liver oil is also added. Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble and are stored in the liver. Too much can cause serious toxicities, a condition known as hypervitaminosis. You will want to avoid cod liver oil altogether if you feed organs daily.

Foods to add to meals that are rich in Vitamin D and meet a medium dog’s needs are 1-2 oz. wildcaught salmon, 2 oz. mackerel, or 2 oz. sardines in ADDITION to a pasture-raised egg yolk and beef liver. This will meet daily needs. Or, adding these foods in larger amounts (3-4 oz.) three times per week will still meet Vitamin D levels because D is stored in the liver.

Supplementation is needed if you cannot meet Vitamin D needs. Because Vitamin D is stored in the liver, you need only add a boost of vitamin D two to three times per week. Be aware, however, that while plants contain some Vitamin D know as ergocalciferol (D2), dogs cannot utilize this form and must receive the animal source of vitamin D known as cholecalciferol (D3). So if you’re purchasing a low dose supplement, make sure you purchase Vitamin D3!

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist


Hemp Seed Oil

Being asked why I use hemp seed oil in my dogs’ meals, I thought this a great opportunity to post about hemp seed oil. Firstly, hemp seed oil is not CBD oil and contains next to no cannabinoids. If you want the benefits of cannabinoids, you will have to purchase CBD oil.

Why use hemp seed oil? Hemp oil is a source of Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid which is a building block for prostaglandins, body chemicals with hormone-like qualities (lipid autacoids). Prostaglandins control inflammation and pain, are an anti-cancer, reduce skin allergies, and are needed for weight management. Additionally, hemp oil contains the ideal 1:3 ratio of fatty acids, omega-3:omega-6 (alpha-linolenic acid to linoleic acid). Together, in this ideal ratio, these essential fatty acids control inflammation which reduces the incidence of chronic disease and cancer, among many other benefits. Hemp oil is also and excellent source of both Viamin E and carotene, a safe precursor for Vitamin A. And, if you are in the habit of feeding your dog fish oil, please know that fish oil easily and readily becomes rancid which, when ingested by your dog (or you!), leads to internal and cellular inflammation- the exact opposite of why most people supplement with fish oil. Not to mention, fish oil is chemically processed and may be contaminated with mercury, radiation, and other toxic impurities. Hemp oil is a 100% safe alternative to fish oil with the added benefit of being sustainable! This does not mean you will not need to feed fatty fish. Hemp oil is an alternative to fish oil if you regularly feed sardines, mackerel, salmon, and/or anchovies.

All in all, hemp oil’s ascension to the top of the beneficial-fats mountain is no joke. This oil is the real deal! Even better, it’s affordable by a milestone when compared with quality (NOT pharmaceutical) fish oil supplements. AND…hemp oil is organic, something fish oil definitely is not. Where do you buy hemp oil? Everywhere you buy food, on Amazon, and in supplement shops and web stores. My favorite brand, you ask? Nutiva…the only brand I have been using for over a year. Not only do my dogs get treated to this beneficial oil, but my family and I also consume hemp oil regularly. That’s a great bonus!

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist


Coconut oil for dogs?

Many raw feeders mistakenly believe (and teach 😬) that coconut oil contains the essential fatty acid omega-3. As a result, many pet parents erroneously believe that they are supplying their dogs with this essential fatty acid by adding coconut oil to their dogs’ meals. However, in reality, coconut oil is not a source of omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. Omegas 3 & 6 are long chain fatty acids, meaning they contain 13 or more carbon atoms in their chain. Coconut oil is a source of medium chain fatty acids (8 or 10 carbon atoms) known as MCTs, specifically capric/caprylic acid. So why then all the hype about adding coconut oil to your dog’s diet and yours? This is a good question with an even better answer.

MCTs are unique and rare in nature being found only in coconut, palm kernels, and the milk of humans and several mammals. For starters, MCTs are digested in the small intestine. From there they travel directly to the liver where they are metabolized for energy. Meaning? Your dog is not likely to “gain weight” from MCTs; in fact, you can use coconut oil for WEIGHT LOSS. Yep!! People, too. Even better, MCTs support your dog’s microbiome, the microflora that inhabits the gut and is essential to your dog’s immunity (70% of immune cells are in the gut as well as 90% of immune capacity), digestive health, and elimination of waste for starters. MCTs are in fact anti-bacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic. They are also anti-inflammatory (like omega-3s, hence the error) and serve as antioxidants. Even more, MCTs increase B vitamin and fat-soluble vitamin (A, D, E, K) absorption, beta-carotene absorption (which dogs can convert to the non-toxic form of Vitamin A, unlike cats who cannot), and the absorption of amino acids, the building blocks of protein molecules.

How does that sound? Sounds like an excellent supplement for my dogs and me! One creative way to incorporate coconut oil in your dog’s diet is to use silicone molds for making candy. My professional suggestion is to buy and use only VIRGIN coconut oil to retain those vital, healthpromoting properties. And since coconut oil is a saturated fat and therefore solid at room temperature, you can fill silicone molds with the oil and put them in the refrigerator to set. No need to freeze. Consider adding blueberries, cranberries, or another berry to the coconut oil molds, or supplement powders such as spirulina, alfalfa, wheatgrass, and chlorella…be creative. I haven’t yet met or heard of a dog who doesn’t like coconut oil! Got another unique idea for feeding coconut oil? List it in the comments. 👇 We all love to learn new ideas!

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist