Is Your Dog’s Raw Diet Nutritionally Complete?

Supplementing and Balancing a DIY Canine Meal Plan the Correct Way

If you have made the decision to feed your dog a species-appropriate raw diet, then you have chosen to move into the direction of providing your dog with the best possible nutrition plan. With that resolve comes the need for research and learning. After all, we all want what is best for our dogs. In order to know whether or not your dog is getting all of his or her essential nutrients, both macro and micronutrients, you must first know exactly what you are feeding to your dog.

DIY raw diets are the best way to know for sure what you are feeding to your dog. You choose the ingredients and the amounts. Auditing your DIY meals via a dog food software program or nutrient spreadsheet calculator will make you aware of the nutrient values and percentages in the meals you are creating. You will learn, for example, where your meals are nutritionally insufficient, nutritionally too rich, nutrient imbalanced, and nutritionally appropriate. Auditing is the best way (really, the only way) to know exactly where amendments need to be made and where supplements should be added.

Pet parents opting to follow the 80/10/10 formula will discover upon auditing that it is very difficult to appropriately balance meals if the formula is followed too closely. See my article How to Properly Use a Ratio: The Raw Fed Dog to discover a better formula to meet nutrient needs.

On that note, with the rise in popularity of raw feeding, numerous raw food companies, businesses, and local raw food suppliers create and sell what are known as 80/10/10 grinds. These grinds offer pet parent’s convenience and simplicity when it comes to feeding their dogs. However, unless a product is clearly labeled, analyzed, and sold as an AAFCO or NRC complete and nutritionally balanced diet option, these raw food ratio conveniences are anything but complete meal plans that provide all of your dog’s essential nutrient requirements. Unlabeled and unknown grind products should never be fed to your dog, worse yet as an exclusive diet option (in my professional opinion, I highly recommend that you completely avoid feeding any and all unknown products). Grind options that are clearly labeled, however, can be balanced IF and only IF they are labeled with the exact ingredients and percentages of each ingredient in the grind.

There are several ways in which DIY raw food diet plans and 80/10/10 grind options (that are labeled with each ingredient and their percentages) can be balanced and enriched. Start with an audit of your meal(s) or grind. If you do not have a dog food software program or a nutrient spreadsheet calculator, The Holistic Canine will do an analysis of your recipes/meals with the option of amendment suggestions for a low cost. Once you have determined the nutrient values of your meal, you can begin to choose your plan of action.

Protein and fat requirements, the macronutrients that supply both functional need and calories (potential energy), are quite easy to meet and supply in meals. Your fat will require balancing, but we will hold off on that for a moment. Thus, your first step is to note each of your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) values. The easiest method is to look at the percentages of nutrient fulfillment. These percentages reflect how much of the NRC recommended allowance (RA) for each nutrient is being met. (Some programs have both AAFCO and NRC values. I recommend focusing on the NRC percentages.) You will see that some nutrients will be well over 100% and others will be below or are just hovering around 100%. Note the high and low extremes. For example, of the hundreds of recipes/meals that I have analyzed, vitamin A on average is around 300% up to more than 700% while manganese will be around 18% up to 30%. These are both extremes that must be amended and properly brought into balance in relation to all the other micronutrients.

While your goal is to achieve meeting all the nutrient requirements as recommended by the NRC, you will also want to achieve a balance among the nutrients. Nutrients are synergistic. Some nutrients act as partners and co-factors that increase nutrient absorption while some directly antagonize other nutrients decreasing absorption potential. For instance, all of the trace minerals are antagonistic among each other. Balance here is critical to avoid deficiencies. Vitamins A and D are antagonistic as well. Of these nutrients, the trace minerals and vitamin D can be challenging to meet. Thus we have a potential problem if meals and recipes are not being audited for potential nutrient values. Additionally, calcium and phosphorous need to be in the correct ratio for proper absorption and use. If phosphorous is too high and calcium is too low, your dog’s homeostatic mechanism will draw calcium out of storage (bones and teeth) to balance the phosphorous. High phosphorus can cause potential calcium deposits to form in soft tissues as well as malabsorption issues among iron, zinc, and magnesium. Also take note of your omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid values. You will want to achieve a 2 to 1, or better yet, a 1 to 1 ratio among these two families of fatty acids to avoid creating an internal inflammatory environment. Balance matters! You really MUST know what you are feeding your dog.

After noting your nutrient fulfillment values, it is time to focus on creating balance. You will need to bring up low values into the correct proportions as well as lower extreme highs that can potentially cause toxicity as well as deficiency elsewhere. While the NRC has maximum nutrient levels for a few nutrients, that does not mean, for example, that you should have your vitamin A level at 650% just because it is within the RA and the maximum! That is far too high to be feeding vitamin A at that level. Further, providing meals with extreme vitamin A levels while having the vitamin D value at 90% or even hypothetically “fulfilled” at 105% is not balanced. You will need to bring down the amount of vitamin A and raise vitamin D.

Focus on:

  1. Calcium to phosphorous (Ca:P)- your goal is to achieve a 1.1:1 up to a 1.2:1 ratio.
  2. Zinc to copper (Zn:Cu)- I like to see this around 15:2.
  3. Vitamin A to vitamin D- I recommend a minimum of 5:1 up to 2:1 to ensure adequate absorption of D.
  4. Magnesium in relation to calcium- the NRC requires a mere 150 mg of Mg per 1,000 kcal. For optimal absorption and proper utilization of calcium, dietary magnesium and vitamin D levels must be optimal. This is critical. Having Mg at 100% to 200% is minimal. You can safely go upwards of 600% especially if your calcium is near or over 200%.
  5. Manganese in relation to Zn, Cu, and Fe- I prefer to maintain manganese levels around the same as copper and iron in relation to zinc.
  6. Selenium value (this will do the work of vitamin E)- selenium levels can be around 200% to 300%.
  7. Omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids- ideally, I like to see a 2:1 up to a 1:1 ratio.

Having this information, your next step is to begin reducing or increading your ingredients. You will also likely need to add additional ingredients or supplements that will supply the lacking and required balancing nutrients. The following list contains commonly low nutrients and what to add to create a balanced dietary plan in order to cultivate optimal health within your dog.

Zinc: Zinc is almost always too low on audited meals. While grass-fed beef and lamb and chicken hearts and gizzards contain a good amount of zinc, it is not enough. Adding oysters to meals will supply a wealth of zinc and a good amount of copper. Feeding seeds, which contain zinc and other minerals, is NOT a bioavailable source for dogs. Worse, if you are not buying and feeding sprouted/germinated seeds or soaking and germinating them yourself to reduce phytates, then the anti-nutrients are counter-productive and minerals are being lost. Feeding seeds will require double the amount of zinc to make up for the loss to phytates. If you cannot feed oysters, my recommendation is to have a bottle of an amino acid chelated zinc such as L-OptiZinc in a 15 mg dose for small dogs and a 30 mg dose for medium to large dogs. I do not recommend a zinc that has an acid chelate such as zinc picolinate. Stick with my recommendation above for optimal absorption potential.

Zinc:Copper: If you are not feeding a liver that is high in copper, then you will need a zinc/copper combination supplement. Chicken, turkey, and pork liver do not contain adequate amounts of copper. Adding oysters will provide both zinc and copper, but if your dog has an issue with shellfish or you cannot feed oysters, you must have a zinc/copper combination supplement. Like the recommendation above, purchase an amino acid chelated product in the same doses as above.

Manganese: This trace mineral is just plain difficult to supply in sufficient amounts with species-appropriate ingredients if you are not feeding whole prey. Mussels (blue or green lipped) added to the diet will provide a plethora of manganese. However, mussels can be difficult for many pet parents to source, they can be quite pricey, and some dogs may not do well with shellfish. And as mentioned above under the “zinc,” seeds contain zinc, manganese, and magnesium, but these will NOT supply your dog with bioavailable minerals. If you cannot add mussels to your dog’s meals, I highly recommend purchasing a bottle of an amino acid chelated manganese in a dose of 8 mg. Give smaller to medium dogs 1/4 of a tablet and larger to giant dogs 1/2 a tablet.

Krill oil or marine phytoplankton: Brain, grass-fed/grass-finished ungulates, and fatty fish contain a wealth of bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Unfortunately, every other meat is teeming with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Poultry, pork, and factory farmed, grain-fed ungulates will not supply your dog with their vital EPA and DHA fatty acid requirements. Fatty fish is an excellent source of EPA and DHA that can be fed daily in small amounts. Fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring provide these as well as essential Vitamin D. If you cannot regularly provide your dog with brain, grass-fed/grass-finished ungulate meat/organs, and/or fatty fish, you must add a krill oil or marine phytoplankton supplement to daily meals to meet omega-3 fatty acids requirements.

Vitamin D: As indicated above, vitamin D needs to be balanced with vitamin A. Free-range eggs and fatty fish provide vitamin D, but if you are feeding 5% liver every day, you will not be providing sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Keep in mind, it is about balance, not just meeting requirements. Coming up short or barely hitting vitamin D needs in the presence of huge amounts of vitamin A from liver can create a vitamin D deficiency. My favorite alternative source is an infant vitamin D drop supplement (400IU). All your dog requires is a single drop one to three times per week in accordance with your dog’s size and need. If you have a toy breed, you can purchase a vitamin D drop supplement specifically for dogs, but it costs 2 to 3 times the amount of natural infant vitamin D. Since vitamin D is stored, you can give a toy dog a single boost of vitamin D once per week or once every other week (if you have a dog under 6 pounds).

Calcium/phosphorus/magnesium: If you do not feed bones, then you need a bioavailable source of bone minerals. Bone meal, eggshells, calcium from algae, and canine mineral supplements are a good start. My favorite supplement to meet calcium needs that also provides a perfect amount of magnesium is a product made specifically for dogs by Mezotrace. Be sure to ask me or another professional for appropriate dosing.

Thiamin: This water soluble vitamin comes up short more times than not! Thiamin can be easily met with pork, but if you do not feed pork, thiamin will be dangerously teetering on the “just barely making it” mark or falling short. Being a water soluble vitamin, this vitamin needs to be supplied daily in more-than-sufficient amounts. Something else to consider: if you are feeding raw fish and shellfish (mussels and oysters) then you should be made aware that raw fish contains an enzyme known as thiaminase which renders all the thiamin in the meal useless. Cooking fish and shellfish will destroy the thiaminase and prevent a dangerous and potentially fatal thiamin deficiency. The best and easiest source of thiamin is nutritional yeast. This is a must-have supplement that can be purchased in grocery stores. You can buy a fortified or a non-fortified product. My preference is Bragg brand.

Choline: Choline requirements can be met with eggs, and that means feeding eggs DAILY. And even with a daily egg for a medium size dog, choline will still be low. My recommendation is to have a supplement to fulfill this requirement. The most bioavailable source is sunflower lecithin. 1,200 mg of sunflower lecithin will provide just the right amount of choline per 1,000 kcal of food (420 mg) along WITH an egg!

Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols): This fat soluble vitamin will never be met in meals from bioavailable foods. A supplement should be purchased and added to all meals. I prefer liquid E rather than softgels or dry form tablets. Make sure the vitamin E supplement you purchase is a natural mixed-tocopherol supplement, not just the alpha. On a side note, having sufficient amounts of selenium in the meals voids the need for vitamin E. Selenium does the work of vitamin E!

Iodine: Kelp is a whole-food source of iodine and many other nutrients. However, kelp should be added to meals with great caution. Do not ever fall for the idea that you must feed your dog more than 220 mcg of iodine per day from kelp if you feed more than 1,000 kcal. Humans requires only 150 mcg per day and a dog is much smaller. Even giant dogs do not need more than 220 mcg. (See Dr. Jean Dodd’s research). Even more, if you feed eggs, fish, shellfish, kefir, and/or goat’s milk, your dog is getting iodine! So feed kelp that provides LESS iodine than the NRC’s 220 mcg per 1,000 kcal requirement. Too much iodine can over stimulate the thyroid gland and create thyroid disease. Make sure you use a kelp product that has the iodine amount clearly analyzed and labeled on the product.

Multi-Vitamin/Mineral: I like to offer a canine multivitamin every few days. There are numerous wonderful products that you can choose from. I like Buddy & Lola Multivit as well as brands such as Dr. Harvey’s, kin + kind, Animal Essentials, Dr. Mercola, Earthvet, Pet’s Friend, and Dog Greens. All are great companies with exceptional products.

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

Nutrient Requirements for the Cultivation of Optimal Health in Dogs and Puppies

Puppies and adult dogs require essential micro nutrients in very specific amounts for proper growth and development, cellular function and methylation, epigenetic gene expression, metabolism, tissue and organ function, skeletal maintenance and repair, brain development and function, and so much more. The cultivation of optimal health should be the goal of every pet parent with diet being the foundation stone for that goal.

The following nutrient list is based on the NRC’s recommended allowance (RA) as found in “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs & Cats,Merck Veterinary Manual, and FEDIAF, The European Pet Food Industry Federation. I have added to the nutrient requirement list the remaining vital nutrients that the NRC and FEDIAF have not listed. These missing nutrients are irrefutably essential to health and life. It is my belief that these missing nutritional components are one of the biggest factors driving canine disease, cancer, and the increasing mortality rate.

The following list is based on my own research. The missing yet very-much-essential nutrients are required for the prevention of chronic disease, the cultivation and maintenance of optimal health, and increased longevity in dogs. Everything in BOLD is either my addition (missing essential nutrients from the NRC list) or is a modification.

The nutrient requirements below are per every 1,000 kcal consumed.

Mobile phone users, please click on the PDF link for proper nutrient table alignment.

NutrientAdult DogPuppies
Vitamin A
B1 Thiamine
B2 Riboflavin
B3 Niacin
B5 Pantothenic Acid
B6 Pyridoxine
B12 Cobalamin
Vitamin C2
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol3)
Vitamin E
Vitamin K2 (menaquinone4)

380 RE → 16,000 RE
0.56 mg
1.4 mg
4.25 mg
4 mg
0.4 mg
2.5 mg
68 mcg
8.75 mcg
425 mg
40 mg
3.4 mcg → 20 mcg
7.5 mg
410 mcg

380 RE → 3,750 RE
0.34 mg
1.4 mg
4.25 mg
4 mg
0.4 mg
2 mg
68 mcg
8.75 mcg
425 mg
40 mg
3.4 mcg → 20 mcg
7.5 mg
410 mcg

NutrientAdult DogPuppies
1,200 mg
1000 mg
1,250 mg
250 mg
400 mg
190 mg
9 mg
1.8 mg
20 mg
1.5 mg
220 mcg
90 mcg
45 mcg
118 mg
1.75 mg
3,000 mg
2,500 mg
1,300 mg
550 mg
720 mg
150 mg
22 mg
2.7 mg
25 mg
1.7 mg
220 mcg
90 mcg
40 mcg
118 mg
2 mg

1 Biotin is an essential vitamin (also known as vitamin H) that is required for proper growth, muscle development, digestion, skin health, health of the coat and fur, for the prevention of allergies and allergic conditions, among others. Thus, I believe it belongs in the list for required nutrients. Biotin deficiency is most often the cause for skin disorders as well as skin and allergic conditions including itching. There is a popular concern about feeding raw eggs to dogs due to the enzyme avidin. Avidin is found only within the egg white; therefore, feeding dogs egg whites without the yolk is never recommended. Because the yolk is rich in biotin, feeding whole eggs has not been implicated in biotin deficiency. Nevertheless, I prefer to offer dogs biotin-rich egg yolks regularly (and even daily) while feeding the egg white only on occasion. Cooking the egg white will deactivate the enzyme.

2 While dogs can manufacture their own vitamin C, the amounts produced are not sufficient for the prevention of disease or health maintenance. Clinical observations have found that stress and illness are the greatest causes for vitamin C depletion in dogs. According to Bob Griswold and Nancy Kerns for Whole Dog Journal, “Stress is the best-known cause of vitamin C depletion in dogs. Physical stress comes in many forms: gestation, lactation, growth, hard work (dogs used for herding, hunting, tracking, etc.), vaccinations, injuries, tail-docking or ear cropping, or illness. Emotional stress, whether caused by relocation, weaning, or demanding training, can also deplete this reserve. In fact, researchers can measure the level of stress a dog experiences by measuring the degree of depletion of the vitamin in the dog’s blood. Conversely, many studies have found that dogs (as well as humans) that are supplemented with vitamin C show greater resistance to disease, and a better ability to recover from injuries or illness.” Thus, it is my professional opinion that dogs must receive dietary sources of vitamin C daily or receive a whole-food source vitamin C supplement.

3 Dogs must receive vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, the natural form of vitamin D for optimal absorption. Vitamin D2, ergocalciferol, does not function in the same way as naturally occurring vitamin D. Utilization is poor causing ergocalciferol to accumulate in the body running the risk of overdose with fatal toxicity. In addition to hypervitaminosis, D2 can exacerbate malabsorption issues and conditions leading to complications and further conditions. Thus, it is my professional opinion that dogs receive only cholecalciferol from food sources, and if needed, a Vitamin D3 supplement for infants (human-grade) in a 400 IU dose.

4 There are two natural forms of vitamin K. K1 (phylloquinone) is plant-source vitamin K and is absorbed at a rate of LESS THAN 10% in humans. Based on this information, absorption in dogs would be next to nil. K2 (menaquinone) is an animal and bacteria-source of vitamin K that experts and scientist believe is better absorbed. Based on this, K1 is not a recommended source for dogs. Dogs, therefore, require menaquinone which is only found in animal foods and fermented foods.

5 Molybdenum is essential for life. Evidence based on extensive research over the last twenty years is conclusive that this trace mineral is essential for optimal health. Without sufficient molybdenum, health will suffer. This trace mineral is essential for a number of bio-chemical processes, optimal cell function, the development of the nervous system, the activation of digestion enzymes, is a cofactor for the utilization of iron (especially important in dogs), it partners with riboflavin for the production of hemoglobin, is required for nitrogen metabolism, and more. Molybdenum is found in bones, liver, and kidney, ideal food sources for dogs.  

6 Silica is essential, period. Dr. Barbara Hendel is quoted as stating, “Silica is the most important trace mineral for human health.” Now imagine this for dogs which have a great need for collagen elasticity in all their connecting tissues, tendons, and cartilage. With the high rate of joint deterioration, hip conditions and dysplasia, arthritis, and cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease in dogs, silica is not an option. Silica is essential for bone growth (initiates bone growth in puppies), connective tissues, collagen, ligaments, and cartilage, it stimulates DNA synthesis in osteoblasts, and is required for tissue detoxification (aluminum especially). Silica is found in bones, connective tissues, and diatomaceous earth (DE). Feeding bones is essential to the health of a dog. Adding food-grade DE to meals is an excellent supplement for silica with the added bonus of worm prevention.

7 Sulfur is vitally important to dogs which require large amounts of amino acids. Sulfur is essential for bones and bone density, joints, is the dominant component of connective tissues, is a natural anti-inflammatory, is necessary for cell, tissue and organ function, promotes the transportation of oxygen across cell membranes, and more. Bone, connective tissues, meat, fish, eggs (especially the white), and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) supplements are dietary sources of sulfur for dogs.

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

Nutrient Balance

What a Balanced Diet Truly Means for Your Canine

I believe the single most important piece of nutritional information that all pet parents must understand is the proper meaning of the word balanced. And this goes for us humans as well. Providing your dog with a balanced diet should be correctly understood as offering a varied diet from the wide array of nutrient saturated, highly digestible, species-appropriate, whole foods that are essential, high value, and cultivate optimal health in order to receive required nutrients in proportions that will allow for optimal absorption. When focus goes toward individual nutrients, problems begin to arise.

Foods are more than simply sources of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals. Foods, whether from an animal or plant, are complex molecular structures (cellular) that were once living organisms. These structures contain networks of components that once functioned as a whole unit. Food possesses potential energy that originates in the sun, and in a complex and miraculous process, inorganic minerals from the earth are taken up by plants and together with the energy from the sun, water, and gases, are converted by the plant into biological organic matter. Animals and people consume the plants, and carnivores consume the herbivorous animals; thus all receive what began with plants and originated in the sun and earth. Just like the plants, in an intricately complex process, biologically-appropriate foods become one with the consumer leaving behind very little waste. What was once life gives life; life begets and sustains life. It is an undeniable intimate relationship.

Life is complex. Thus it comes as no surprise that nutrition is no different. The scientific focus on individual nutrients has helped us to understand the function and purpose of each amino acid, saccharide, fatty acid, vitamin, mineral, and so many others. And with that understanding came the awareness that nutrients function either synergistically or antagonistically. Thus, it is not enough to simply learn or recognize the value and necessity of each life-sustaining nutritional requirement on their individual basis. Nutrients function inter-relationally and are never found individually. Rather, nutrients exist among numerous others in a complex unit of various vitamins, minerals, enzymes, cofactors, and other factors within food. Publicized studies on individual nutrients create difficulties causing many misunderstandings and confusion. Learning about a specific nutrient’s function and benefit is the reason why people flock to bottled supplements. This drives the supplement industry to mass produce bottled nutrients. Sadly, most bottled nutrients are laboratory produced synthetic and inorganic pseudo-nutrient isolates. Individuals and pet parents purchase nutritional supplements believing that these bottled “insurance policies” are boosting their own and their pet’s nutritional needs. And heck, if a little is good, more is better, right? Wrong. And this is a WRONG in a big way. Synergy and antagonism are the reasons why picking and choosing nutrients on an individual basis creates problems. Some of which can be fatal.

Nutrients require careful balance that only a variety of food choices can provide. The bodies of all humans and animals receive their nutritional requirements through the digestive process. Foods contain a complex of nutrients that differ even among the same foods. This is a result of where and how plants were grown and their soil and weather conditions during the growing season, and for feed animals, what the animals were fed and how and where they were raised. These are all determining factors for nutrient levels, composition, and saturation or deficiency. For omnivorous humans, it is far easier to consume a wide range of foods (often times an enormous range of food types) than it is for our animals who are under our direct care. The pets that are stuck eating the same commercial food over a lifetime is the reason why the vast majority have numerous health complaints throughout their entire life. These complaints can range from seemingly minor issues such as doggie odor, gum disease, dry flakey skin, troublesome chronic ear infections, and physical signs of premature aging to the more serious conditions such as hair loss, allergies, chronic intestinal issues, severe infections, tooth loss, ligament and joint destruction, chronic disease, and cancer. Consuming the same food with the same ingredients, sourced from often the same place, with the same nutrient profile, with the same formulation of synthetic nutrient isolates and inorganic mineral compounds is the direct cause for the vast health conditions we are seeing in the modern canine. Many of these conditions are resultant of deficiencies and toxicities. Just because a food hypothetically meets all the scientifically determined nutrient requirements, it does not mean the consistent consumption of the same food with the same nutrient profile is going to be sufficient. Here is why.

Nutrient absorption occurs mostly in the small intestine and, to a smaller extent, the large intestine where water, sodium, and potassium are absorbed. The small intestine is comprised of three sections, the duodenum, jejunun, and ileum. Most of the nutrients are absorbed in the duodenum and jejunum. It all sounds very straight forward, but that is not the reality of what happens on the physiological level. There are very specific nutrient interrelationships that must be considered if all required nutrients are to be adequately absorbed. There must be a homeostatic equilibrium among and between the nutrients. This is most easily achieved by varying the diet which in turns varies the nutrient profiles. If nutrient equilibrium is lost, adverse effects occur upon health. Balance is vital! A loss of nutrient balance leads to subclinical deficiencies followed by illness and disease, and worst case scenario, death.    

Through hair tissue mineral analysis (which I offer through The Holistic Canine), mineral interrelationship understanding has advanced. It is understood that a mineral cannot be affected without also affecting two or more other minerals, and further, each of which will then affect two others. One mineral will affect another mineral, but how much of an effect is dependent upon mineral quantity and the number of enzymes or biochemical reactions in which the mineral is involved. Not so simple, is it? And this is why providing a stagnant diet to your dog is ineffective at creating overall nutrient saturation within their body tissues.

Two relationships exist among nutrients, and as already expressed above, these are synergy and antagonism. The biggest concern is the trace minerals. These include iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc, and molybdenum. Inhibited absorption of a trace mineral is due to an excess intake of a single mineral. One example was the craze over zinc. Many people jumped on the supplemental zinc bandwagon more than a decade ago and a host of problems resulted. For one, copper deficiency occurred. This is due to zinc depressing intestinal copper absorption. Many others were experiencing mild zinc toxicity symptoms. High intake of one trace mineral decreases the intestinal absorption of another mineral. And this is not simply among the trace minerals. For example, a high intake of calcium blocks intestinal absorption of zinc. So even among macro minerals, consuming high doses of any mineral creates disrupt in balance. Further complications then follow at the metabolic level. Antagonism is experienced with an excess of one element. The excess interferes metabolically with the functions of another mineral. Even more, excesses contribute to disproportionate excretion of another mineral due to what is known as compartmental displacement. This occurs with zinc and copper, iron and copper, cadmium and zinc, and calcium, magnesium and phosphorus [1].

Antagonism also exists among the vitamins. Vitamins A and D are naturally antagonistic while thiamine (B1) often creates an antagonistic action on cobalamin (B12). Some antagonism is indirect. One such example is iron’s antagonism on cobalt which is a vital component in B12, thus adversely affecting B12.[2] If this is not complicated enough; hormones have an influence on nutrient absorption, excretion, transport, and storage. And conversely, nutrients have an influence on hormones. Thus it can be easily understood why homeostasis is vital for optimal nutrient absorption and the cultivation of optimal health. In terms of our dogs, what, then, is the best approach to nutrition? Variety.

Offering your dog a variety of species-appropriate foods that are nutrient saturated and rotated regularly in differing combinations and quantities offers the best approach to optimizing nutrient absorption. One of the reasons I never recommend creating or purchasing a single raw dog food recipe is due to the antagonistic relationship among nutrients, notably the trace minerals which often come up deficient in audited homemade meals. The same foods in the same combination and amounts day in and day out will in time create deficiencies. And if a pet parent has decided to include supplements in the same dosages with every meal, both deficiencies and toxicities are likely.

Another difficulty that creates antagonism is offering foods that are not species-appropriate. Many foods contain anti-nutrients to species that have not adapted physiological processes to counteract the antagonists. Anti-nutrients are mineral and enzyme antagonists such as oxalates, phytates, lectins, and enzyme-inhibitors. Offering your dog anti-nutrient-containing foods coupled with a diet that is not rotated regularly is a surefire way to initiate deficiency pathologies leading to chronic conditions and disease, organ damage, joint deterioration, heart conditions, and cancer.

Below is an example of a mere few nutrient antagonism:

  • Vitamin A + Vitamin D + Vitamin E
  • Zinc + Copper + Manganese + Iron
  • Calcium + Iron
  • Calcium + Zinc
  • Calcium + Vitamin E + Vitamin A + Potassium
  • Vitamin C + Copper
  • Vitamin D + Magnesium + Potassium

Below is an example a nutrient synergy:

  • Vitamin D + Calcium + Vitamin K + Boron
  • Iron + Vitamin C
  • Fat + Vitamin A, D, E, & K
  • Vitamin B6 + vitamin B12 + folate
  • Vitamin C + Vitamin E
  • Potassium + Magnesium + Calcium

Creating and providing meals with synergy is vital, but it is also necessary to know when antagonism may be beneficial. For example, many raw feeding pet parents are offering Vitamin A-rich liver on a daily basis. This can cause Vitamin D levels to suffer. To create balance, providing a Vitamin D-rich meal in rotation while significantly reducing or eliminating liver will give Vitamin D levels a chance to rise. Feeding copper-rich beef liver with inadequate zinc levels will eventually lead to a zinc deficiency; thus providing a zinc-rich meal with a lower copper meal aids zinc absorption. Adding Vitamin C-rich foods or a food-source Vitamin C supplement assists the absorption of iron and is also beneficial with meals too rich in copper. Conversely, antagonism helps to prevent hypervitaminosis if a balance exists between antagonistic vitamins and minerals. Likewise, mineral antagonism also helps to prevent mineral toxicity.

While this may sound bewildering or even frustrating, I want to assure you that there is a straightforward solution. True balance can only be attained by varying meal ingredients, food combinations, and quantities of ingredients. This is why The Holistic Canine creates at least three recipes for our clients, especially for growing puppies who require precise nutrients daily. If you have a spreadsheet calculator, pay close attention to antagonistic nutrients and vary your amounts over several meals. Many raw feeding proponents teach and advocate balance over time, and in fact, they are quite correct. This is because balance is factually achieved over time. Nutrient balance is achieved in biological perfection over several meals. For dogs who consume one meal a day, this is achieved over several days. For dogs consuming two meals, this can be perfected in two days. No matter how perfectly balanced you believe a single meal to be, understand there will always be antagonism.

Welcome to orthomolecular nutrition!

Knowing how and when to supplement for optimal nutrient absorption is for another post. Stay tuned!     

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

[1] Davies I: The Clinical Significance of the Essential Biological Metals. M.B. London, 1921.

[2] Forth W, Rummel W: Absorption of Iron and Chemically Related Metals in vitro and in vivo: Specificity of Iron Binding System in the Mucosa of the Jejunum. Intestinal Absorption of Metal Ions, Trace Elements and Radionuclides. Skoryna SC, Waldron-Edward D., Eds. Pergamon Press, N.Y., 1971.

Feeding the Modern Canine: PART V


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


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART II


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.


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.


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 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 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 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,


Carbohydrates or no carbohydrates? Commercial dog foods contain upwards of 64% carbohydrates. But is this healthy for a carnivore? While pet food companies would have you believe that dogs are omnivores, a dog’s anatomy and physiology certainly speaks otherwise. Carbohydrates such as wheat, corn, rice, quinoa, potatoes, oats, barley, soybeans, chick peas, lentils, bran, peas, peanut hulls, plant gums, and cellulose are actually quite dangerous. This does not mean that dogs cannot digest SOME carbohydrates. The truth is, they absolutely can and do. But for this article, we are discussing the issue with the high carbohydrate diets too many pets are consuming. So, when and where did feeding high carbohydrate diets to dogs begin? It began pre-World War II.

In 1860, a man named James Spratt happened upon dogs scavenging for food in a shipyard. What the dogs were eating was hardtack that Navy sailors threw from the ships into the shipyard. This one incident gave Spratt the idea to create dog cakes and sell them as pet food. He partnered with Charles Cruft, founder of Cruft’s Dog Shows, to market and promote his invention. And the rest is history. And still today, Purina, Pedigree, Hill’s, and others sponsor all major dog shows around the world. These dog food manufacturers also do a great job of convincing young veterinary students (who do not receive any or very little education in nutrition) that their commercially created foods are complete diets for dogs; in fact, they insist, the only diets a dog should recieve. Consider this: what if your child’s pediatrician told you to feed your precious kiddo a bag of human kibble, adding nothing else to the diet ever, for life? You would likely run. At least I hope you would! And yet, why do pet parents not do the same when processed dog food is recommended for their beloved pet, for life?

Not all carbohydrates are created equally. The problem with carbohydrates in the form of the above grains, legumes, and gums is that they block the gut absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, critically and vitally important nutrients your dog must assimilate for cellular uptake and bodily function. These sources of carbs are not what are considered bioavailable, and as a result, bleeding bowels, colon and rectal problems and disease, gastrointestinal tumors, arthritis, allergies, skin conditions, hair loss, seizures, obsesity, joint destruction, and cancer are other conditions that develop in many dogs who consume too many of these inappropriate carbohydrates.

One way to check if your dog is consuming too many carbohydrates is to check his/her stools. If your dog’s stools are large, have a terrible odor, either too much moisture or are hard and look like bricks, and have not biodegraded in just over a week’s time, you can rest assured your dog’s digestive faculties are under stress and health crises may be just around the corner. We call these stools “big smelly dog logs.” These are the stools that must be picked up and disposed of because they spread disease and do not biodegrade quickly and cleanly like an animal’s feces on a biologically appropriate diet.

What do you do now? Remove 90% of the carbohydrates from your dog’s diet. Even better, remove 100% of all inappropriate carbohydrate sources and add fresh fruits and vegetables as a healthful alternative. If your dog is on a kibble diet, switching to a grain-free kibble will do little to reduce carbohydrates. In fact, grain-free kibbles contain higher amounts of inappropriate fibers and low-bioavailable legume proteins. It is no surprise that the incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a deadly heart condition, has risen since the introduction of grain-free kibble. Rather consider that you are perfectly able to and capable of providing your dog a fresh, low-carb, whole food diet. You will see incredible results when you provide your dog what he/she needs in the form of fresh meat, organs, raw bones, fresh berries and vegetables, yogurt, and high quality fish and oils. Where do you begin? Right here! The Holistic Canine is your first source for canine nutrition. Let’s get your dog started on an incredible journey to health and healing.

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