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


How To Properly Use a Ratio: The Raw Fed Dog

Creating a nutrient balanced meal with a “better” ratio

Let’s talk ratios. Ratios provide a super simple outline or guideline for feeding our dogs species-appropriate foods. The most common ratio is still 80/10/10. What that means is…

  • 80% meat
  • 10% organs (secreting)
  • 10% bone

Simple, right?! The problem with the above ratio is that many pet parents, and especially those new to raw feeding, do not understand that the 80/10/10 ratio is only a guideline and not an absolute set-in-stone plan to follow. Following the ratio too closely almost ALWAYS results in vitally important nutrients coming in consistently too low. This then increases the risk for health concerns down the road and often contributes to the disapproval that raw feeding has within the veterinary community. Feeding variety does help, but when a dog has protein sensitivities and limited proteins are being offered, providing nutrient balanced meals can become quite the challenge.

In my profession, I have the unfortunate job of seeing the bad side of raw feeding on a regular basis. Many pet parents come to me seeking “desperate” help. From my vantage point, raw feeding can look scary! Thus I created this blog and our Facebook group to be a resource and educational platform to help pet parents feed a more balanced (varietal and rotational) nutrition plan. I have mulled over a better ratio that will help pet parents feed a more nutrient balanced diet and still be able to follow a ratio. Let’s take a look…

Standard RatioBetter Ratio
80% meat55% to 65% skeletal muscle +
15% to 25% organ muscle
10% secreting organ3% to 5% liver +
5% to 7% other secreting organ
(Don’t fall for the misconception that you can’t
feed more than 10% secreting organs! Of course
you can!)
10% boneMINIMUM bone 12%
Whole prey has an average bone % of 12%.
10% bone is too low for most dogs and MUCH TOO
LOW for puppies.

Did you notice the percentage variation on the liver? This is important to discuss. Most pet parents feed chicken liver, beef liver, turkey liver, or pork liver. Chicken and beef livers are easiest to source. The problem with liver is that some have a very high amount (saturation) of copper and others have next to none. If you are feeding a full 5% of a high copper liver, then you are likely exposing your dog to too high an amount of the trace mineral copper. Worse yet, if your zinc levels are too low, which is very common in raw meals, then a zinc deficiency is a very real possibility. Zinc and copper need to be in the correct ratio. Let me reemphasize this. Even if you are just hitting your dog’s zinc requirements (at around 90% to 110%), but the copper is coming in at around 200% to even 250% of their copper needs (which can easily be achieved with 5% liver), then the zinc is TOO LOW.

High copper liver includes: beef, calf (veal), lamb, goat (extremely high!)

Low copper liver includes: pork, chicken, turkey

Moderate copper liver: duck liver

Options:

1) If you are feeding a high copper liver, 5% liver is going to be too high if you are not adding a zinc supplement, and even then, the copper is still a bit too high to be fed at 5% consistently.

2) If you are feeding a low copper liver, then 5% will not meet copper needs, thus adding oysters or a zinc/copper combination supplement will be necessary. (Oysters are naturally high in zinc and copper!)

3) Rotating with a high copper and low copper liver every other day is also an option as long as you pay attention to zinc in the daily meals.

Some raw feeding “professionals” recommend feeding liver even higher if you do not have another secreting organ to feed a full 10% secreting organs. The recommendation is to feed liver at a dangerous 10%. Please do not ever fall for this ill-advised recommendation. Your dog may be being exposed to copper at a dangerously high level as well as getting far too much vitamin A. The main concern is a nutrient imbalance leading first and foremost to a zinc and vitamin D deficiency as well as a possible forthcoming toxicity condition. Keep liver at 5% maximum or lower.

As for the 80% meat, if you feed only skeletal meat without any organ muscle, you will not hit nutrient requirements unless you are feeding your dog grossly too much food. Of that 80%, a MINIMUM of 15% should come from muscle organs such as heart, lung, gizzard, and tripe. In my opinion, that should be upwards of 20% as often as possible. I feed my dogs a combination total (muscle organs plus secreting organs) of a near 40% organs in most of their daily meals. The remaining is RMBs and a small percentage of boneless meat. This way I am not just barely meeting nutrient requirements, I am exceeding them in a balanced, well-thought out plan.

For bone, the 10% general recommendation is too low for most dogs. Whole prey has an average bone percentage of 12%. You can safely feed your dog 12% to 15% daily even up to 20%. I would not, however, exceed 25% bone. If you have a growing pup then you will need to feed a minimum of 15% up to, but not exceeding, 25%. Bone contains the base of minerals in the diet as well as bone marrow (where white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are made) and connective tissues (rich in glucosamine, chondroitin, and minerals) that contain a gold mine of value and nutritional components that are vital if optimal health and maintenance is your plan.  

Ratio Quick view:

Skeletal muscle = 55% up to 65%

Organ muscle = 15% up to 25%

Secreting organs = 10% up to 12%

Bone = 12% to 18%

Work your dog up gradually to a higher overall organ percentage while also increasing bone percentage. Take it slowly and be patient!

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


When Raw Feeding Should Not Be Taken Too Literally

Did I get your attention? Good! There is raw feeding purism and then there is raw feeding done correctly and safely. The truth is, not all foods should be fed raw. While meat, organs, bones, and eggs should be fed raw, foods such as fish, shellfish, and most vegetables should not. In this article we will take a closer look at why this is true.

Fish and Thiaminase

Thiaminase, also known as aneurinase, is an enzyme contained within the flesh and viscera (organs) of numerous species of fish and shellfish which has the uncooperative job of metabolizing (breaking down) the B-vitamin thiamin or thiamine (Vitamin B1) into two molecular parts. While this may seem innocent at the surface, it can spell danger in a big way for your dog (and you) if raw fish is being consumed.

Enzymes are essential for metabolism and digestion. They speed up the rate of all biological chemical reactions and enable the breakdown of food. Digestive enzymes are needed to breakdown foods allowing your dog’s body to unlock the nutrients within the foods that his body requires for maintenance, health, metabolism, and life. However, when your dog consumes an enzyme that targets a vital nutrient, we call these “disobliging” enzymes anti-nutrients because they destroy the very nutrients your dog requires to maintain his health and crucial bodily functions. Thiaminase destroys thiamin before your dog’s body has a chance to absorb this essential vitamin.

Thiamin is part of the B-vitamin complex. It is named B1 because it was the very first scientifically discovered vitamin (1897 to be exact, although Vitamins C and D were previously known nutrients that had yet to be “scientifically” isolated) and gave way to the use of the word “vitamin.” Thiamin is an essential nutrient component for energy metabolism. All cells require thiamin to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main energy-carrying molecule. The heart in particular requires a large amount of thiamin! According to Cornell University, without a sufficient absorption of thiamin, “animals [will] have impaired pyruvate utilization, causing increased plasma pyruvate levels and a shortage of cellular ATP. Thiamin deficient animals also have below normal transketolase activity [1].”

The active form of thiamin is known as the coenzyme pyrophosphate (TPP) and is necessary for the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA, the conversion of alpha-ketogluterate to succinyl-CoA, the conversion of branched-chain alpha-keto acids to acyl-CoA, and the transfer of a 2C fragment from alpha-keto sugars to aldose acceptors in the pentose-phosphate shunt. If you have no idea what this means, just understand that it is vital for energy! If your dog has any shortage of thiamin in the diet and/or is consuming thiaminase via raw fish, this can become a serious health situation.

When your dog (and you) ingests thiaminase, this enzyme cleaves or splits a thiamin (Vitamin B1) molecule into two parts rendering it inactive and unfortunately unable to be restored. Significant ingestion of thiaminase can obviously induce a thiamin deficiency quite quickly causing thiamin-deficiency related conditions to manifest. One of the first signs of deficiency is weight loss and the inability of your dog to maintain a healthy weight. The symptoms of Beriberi in humans are similar to the symptoms your dog could experience, one serious result being an enlarged heart which can be fatal.

According to PetMD, “As described in a controlled study and a retrospective report, the induction stage generally develops within 1 week after animals begin eating a diet severely deficient in thiamine and is characterized by hyporexia (poor appetite), vomiting, or both (neurologic and cardiac dysfunction develop as the condition progresses). Typically, an animal must be thiamine deficient for slightly more than 1 month before the terminal stage is reached. However, once the terminal stage has started, an animal will die within a few days if the deficiency is not corrected immediately…Typically, it can take weeks to months for the development of clinical signs, which are attributable to subchronic deficiency because most diets are not entirely devoid of thiamine. Mitigating factors include the amount of thiamine in the food, nutrient composition of the diet, whether the animal eats a consistent diet, and species and health status of the animal [2].”

What if your dog is only ingesting a small percentage of raw fish? This is a good question! Having audited countless nutrition plans and pet-parent-generated recipes, I can tell you for certain that most meal plans come up short or barely hit vital thiamin requirements especially if following too closely to a ratio such as 80/10/10 or 80/10/5/5. Because thiamin is water-soluble, it must be provided daily in the diet in sufficient amounts. Any hindrances such as from even small amounts of thiaminase can potentially lead to a deficiency condition.

The following list comprises of fish species known to contain thiaminase. For a further list, see note at the bottom [3].

  • Alewife
  • Anchovy, broad-striped
  • Anchovy, Californian
  • Bass, white
  • Bowfin, Dogfish
  • Bream
  • Brown bullhead
  • Buckeye shiner
  • Buffalo fish
  • Bull Head
  • Burbot
  • Capelin
  • Carp, Common
  • Catfish, channel
  • Clams
  • Herring, Atlantic
  • Herring, Baltic
  • Lamprey
  • Lobster
  • Mackerel, Pacific (Chub)
  • Menhaden, Atlantic M
  • Menhaden, Gulf
  • Mussel, Mediterranean
  • Sardine, scaled
  • Scallops
  • Smelts, Rainbow
  • Snapper, Ruby
  • Tuna, Skipjack
  • Tuna, Yellowfin
  • Whitefish, lake
  • Whitefish, Round

Fish without thiaminase:

  • Bass, smallmouth, largemouth, and rock
  • Cod
  • Croaker
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel, species Scomber scombrus
  • Pike
  • Pollack
  • Salmon
  • Smelt, pond
  • Trout, brown, lake, rainbow, & white
  • Whiting

How to Avoid Thiaminase

Avoiding fish altogether is not a wise strategy plan. Fish contains a wealth of essential nutrients and fatty acids that your dog needs. Thankfully, test studies show that subjecting thiaminases to heat via the cooking processes will inactive the thiaminase sufficiently to prevent your dog from developing a thiamin-deficiency condition. My recommendation, especially if feeding whole fish with all the viscera, is to lightly poach or steam the fish until it is completely heated through to be sure the viscera are cooked. You can poach or steam fish on the stove or in the oven to safely feed fish to your dog.

Salmon & all Anadromous Fish

You likely noticed that salmon is a fish that does not contain thiaminase. While this may seem all well and good to feed raw, I have more bad news. Salmon should never be fed raw. Feeding raw salmon to your dog can lead to a condition known as salmon poisoning disease (SPD). SPD is a potentially fatal condition caused by a parasite known as Nanophyetus salmincola that itself is infected by a rickettsial organism known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca. This rickettsial organism is what causes SPD in dogs consuming infected raw salmon and anadromous (upstream swimming) fish. Cooking all salmon and anadromous fish will destroy the organism-infected parasite. While freezing the fish in a deep freezer for an extended period of time is an option, my preferred method is to err on the side of caution and lightly poach all salmon.

Symptoms of SPD include vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, and dehydration. If your dog shows signs of SPD and is not treated, death can occur within two weeks. Statistically, 90% of untreated dogs with SPD die. It can be treated successfully if caught immediately at the first sign of symptoms. My opinion is to never take a chance of your dog coming down with SPD. Cook all salmon before feeding it to your dog.

In fact, cook ALL fish before feeding. Why take a chance with your dog’s health?

The Ugly Side of Vegetables & Plants

Plants are not exempt from the “bad” list when it comes to a healthful diet and nutrition plan for both our dogs and us. For people, plants can provide extraordinary health benefits as they are often abundant in nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. But when it comes to our dogs, canines are unfortunately not designed nor equipped to benefit from the plant world as we humans do.

Animals that are designed and equipped to live exclusively on plants are known as herbivores, frugivores, and granivores. Animals that can consume both plants and animal flesh are known as omnivores. We humans are technically omnivores as we are able to perfectly digest and benefit from both plants and animal foods. Why do I bring this up? I do so because many people believe that our dogs are omnivorous rather than the facultative carnivores that they are. This impression was perpetrated by the pet food industry many, many decades ago.

When the pet food manufacturing process known as extrusion was invented in the 1950’s, starch was an essential ingredient that was needed to hold dog food into a dry shape that could be bagged and stored on a shelf. Later, a 1964 lobbying group known as the Pet Food Institute began a campaign to convince pet-parents that commercially manufactured and packaged or canned pet foods were not only the best option for dogs, but the only option a pet needed to provide all of his or her nutritional needs. This lobbying group was also successful at convincing well-meaning pet-parents that table scrapes were dangerous, a dog’s nutritional needs were too complicated, and canine nutrition should be left in the hands of the professionals only. So of course, further convincing the pet-parenting world that dogs are omnivores was all too easy. After all, dogs weren’t dropping dead from the starch-based commercial foods they were now being exclusively fed. (As an FYI, grains were the main starches being used.) And why?

All biological life has the potential to adapt. As a result of decades and thus generations of dogs consuming a high starch diet, some breeds have developed an increased number of gene copies that code for the creation of the amylase enzyme responsible for starch digestion (AMY2B). This discovery has been the modern foundation on which the pet food industry and veterinarians stand to support their belief or claim that dogs are omnivorous. However, a much closer look at a recent study shows this argument has no real foundation. If dogs in general “evolved” from carnivores into omnivores, then ALL dogs would show this evolutionary marker. But this is clearly not the case.

According to an article issued by the National Center for Biotechnology Information [4], “AMY2B copy numbers vary in individuals from 20 dog breeds and find strong breed-dependent patterns, indicating that the ability to digest starch varies both at the breed and individual level…. AMY2Bcopy numbers also varied considerably in a larger set of 171 dogs from 20 different breeds. Mean copy numbers still varied significantly among breeds.” This is a critical finding.

The article goes on to further explain, “Although these observations argue that dogs in general digest starch more efficiently than do wolves, considerable variation in AMY2B copy numbers within the dog population, with diploid copy numbers ranging from 4 to 30, indicates that the ability to handle starch may vary significantly among dogs. In support of this idea, wide reference values for serum amylase activity in blood biochemistry panels indicate strong variability in amylase activity among dogs. Based on the simultaneous increase in AMY2Bcopy number and amylase activity in dogs relative to in wolves, it is reasonable to hypothesize that amylase activity is associated with AMY2Bcopy number within the dog population. Yet, a previous analysis within the dog population did not support this hypothesis (Axelsson et al. 2013).”

Thus, are dogs actually omnivores with the ability to consume and benefit from plant matter? The conclusion to the above article puts it this way, “Increased amylase activity in dogs relative to wolves is associated with high AMY2B copy numbers in dogs, arguing that efficient starch digestion is linked to high copy numbers at this locus. However, this association has so far not been confirmed within the dog population. A lack of association may potentially question a causal link between copy number and amylase activity.”

I believe the most telling proof in this whole argument is the fact that after dogs began consuming a high starch diet, they in general began developing the very same conditions as we humans began to develop when carbohydrates became the foundation of the diet. These conditions include exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic skin conditions, and obesity. Not surprisingly, when dogs are taken off of starches, the conditions improve or rectify.

Unnatural foods = unnatural diseases. In other words, species-inappropriate foods lead to avoidable disease conditions.

What does this have to do with vegetables? Everything! Vegetables are carbohydrates and amylase enzymes are required to breakdown all carbohydrates. Having been in the dog profession since 1994, I have seen a LOT of dog stools and many, many health conditions. I have yet to meet a dog that can digest a vegetable given in its whole raw form. If you feed a dog a raw carrot, it comes out the way it was swallowed. I have even seen spinach pieces and lettuce leaves in dog stools! The point is this: the majority of dogs cannot breakdown plant matter (dare I even say, none?!). Thus, it must be mechanically processed via a blender before being offered to your dog in order for the plant matter to provide any benefit whatsoever. (Something to also consider, dogs do not “chew” as their jaws have no lateral movement, nor do they have molars that meet for grinding food!)

If we go back to commercially produced dog food, you will note that all commercial foods are processed. Processed foods are already broken down with the nutrients readily available (albeit synthetic nutrient isolates and inorganic chemicals). Feeding your dog a whole-foods diet requires a more extensive digestive process. Whole-foods require a lot more time (and energy) to break them down to release the nutrients for absorption. If we process vegetables such as through a blender, your dog will be able to better benefit from the nutrients in the same manner as processed foods, HOWEVER this also makes the anti-nutrients readily available and easily absorbed. Here comes the bad news.

Plants contain natural toxins. These toxins are insecticides and pesticides produced by the plant to protect itself from the overconsumption by insects found in its environment and natural habitat. The natural toxins produced in the plants maintain balance within the ecosystem. What these toxins do to insects is disrupt cellular function which translates to also having an accumulative impact on the animals and humans consuming them. The most notable plant toxins are phytates, oxalates, lectins, and saponins.

Phytates have the nasty reputation of binding with minerals in the gut and preventing their absorption. The concern with canine phytate consumption is that phytates bind with key and critical minerals that your dog must have in an abundance. These minerals are calcium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. This can lead to a mineral deficiency condition if phytates are fed to your dog regularly. Phytates are found in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes, legumes being the greatest perpetrators. Dogs should NEVER consume grains or beans. These are inappropriate and can cause more problems than any possible benefit. Phytase can be reduced by soaking, sprouting, and fermenting, but they can never be removed completely.

Oxalates are found in the most nutritional powerhouses. Oxalates not only bind with calcium, but they interfere causing a potential risk for crystal formation within the tissues leading to arthritis-type symptoms as well as the formation of kidney stones. Oxalates are abundant in dark green leafy vegetables with kale and spinach leading the list, as well as collard greens, mustard greens, chard, beet greens, okra, carrots, celery, broccoli, grains, beans, nuts and more. Cooking reduces the oxalates. Consuming a large amount of calcium and magnesium with foods containing oxalates is helpful as the calcium and magnesium will bind with the oxalates in the stomach to prevent their absorption. However, then your dog has a reduced amount of absorbable calcium and magnesium. High oxalate veggies are best left to a bare bone minimum and should be cooked before feeding them to your dog. Make sure to discard the cooking water.

Lectins have the nasty drawback of creating a disruption in the functioning of the cells lining the gut layer known as the epithelium. These cells have the vital role of preventing undigested food particles from passing through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. Undigested food particles in the bloodstream can trigger an immune response leading to systemic inflammation. And if this is not enough, research has shown that lectins interfere with the gut microbiome. Foods high in lectins are wheat germ, legumes, and grains as the highest followed by tomatoes, peanuts, potatoes, bell peppers, garlic, peas, nuts, and seeds. Cooking and fermenting reduces lectins. Since these foods are not species-appropriate, I recommend they not be fed to your dog.

Saponins, like lectins, disrupt epithelial function along with creating additional digestive dysfunction. Worse, a connection has been found between saponins and red blood cell damage, enzyme inhibition, and thyroid disruption. Quinoa is thus far the highest food-source of saponins followed by oats and legumes. Saponins cannot be removed. Avoid feeding any foods containing saponins to your dog. These are not worth the risk!

It can be clearly seen that a raw diet doesn’t necessarily mean that every single food offered to your dog should be in its raw state. Plants pose a wealth of issues for animals not developed to consume them. Cooking helps with reducing anti-nutrients and increasing digestibility. My recommendation is to lightly steam vegetables* followed by mashing or pureeing them to make them more bioavailable. Secondly, never feed your dog grains or legumes. And lastly, soaking seeds and nuts is helpful to reducing anti-nutrients. However, almost every dog will pass seeds and nuts into the stools the same way they consumed them. They simply are not digestible to any animals except granivores (birds).

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

*zucchini and cucumbers can be fed raw.

[1] http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/toxicagents/thiaminase.html

[2] https://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/jcoates/2013/dec/thiamine-deficiency-in-dogs-more-common-than-known-31123

[3] http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4329415/


Balanced Canine Diets: The Big Misunderstanding PART II

The Incredible Raw Meaty Bones

Providing your dog with a nutrition plan that cultivates optimal health may not require a PhD or a medical degree, but it does require a good bit of knowledge and appreciation of biology and nutrition science. When we carefully consider the word balance, we must understand it in the correct perspective. As I wrote in Part I, balance is created by and through a biological system (the body) based on physiological need. We cannot create balance.  Balance is an internal process. We can provide a diet that is labeled “balanced” by the pet food industry standards, but I believe this is insufficient. What we must really focus our attention on is preventing an internal imbalance from occurring. Imbalance within the body can and does occur from an insufficient and poorly planned nutrition strategy if the diet is consistently and/or severely lacking in the essential nutrient-containing ingredients that your dog requires to cultivate health and maintain internal homeostasis.

Based upon my research and years of experience, I believe that a lack of a critical component in the modern canine diet is a reason why many pet parents are experiencing issues and conditions in their dogs despite carefully creating and providing a “balanced” diet. Dogs need bones. Bone is a food that I believe is not an option. Providing a substitute for bone creates a whole host of nutrient insufficiency. Most pet parents who are using their dog’s NRC, FEDIAF, or AAFCO nutrient requirements are on a mission to fulfill every one of the required nutrients. When the focus is on nutrient fulfillment rather than on balance and species-appropriate nutrition, sourcing food ingredients becomes a major problem. Fulfilling nutrients with ingredients that are not species-appropriate to hypothetically supply a nutrient or nutrients is to me taking a dangerous gamble with your pet’s health. Variety is essential, but reaching beyond species-appropriate foods is not the answer to creating internal harmony. Your dog needs to be able to easily and efficiently digest food ingredients in order to unlock the energy and nutritional building blocks contained within. If digestion is hampered or insufficient, your nutrition plan will never cultivate optimal health. If your dog’s intestinal microbiome is weak and not nurtured via species-appropriate foods, health will not be on his future radar. And if your dog’s intestinal walls are irritated and inflamed, nutrient absorption is insufficient to create the health your dog requires for longevity and a pain-free existence. This is what creates internal imbalance.

Remember what Dr. Jeannie wrote pertaining to diet? “Balance is nothing but an insufficient human term, a vague concept that pet food companies employ to make people buy processed foods for their pets.” It is a scare tactic. Your focus should be on providing a variety of species-appropriate foods in the correct proportions.

If we look at this from a biological point of view, it would look like this. Animals require food first and foremost to supply energy for metabolism and to maintain internal homeostasis. Homeostasis is balance. Internal balance (homeostasis) is your dog’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes to his external environment. This can include changes in diet, atmosphere, stressors, air quality, etc. Further, in order for your dog (and you) to build cellular material and tissues, he must receive organic molecules that can only be obtained from food. Your dog requires nitrogen, carbon, and fat. (Keep in mind that dogs have no use or need for carbohydrates.) Protein catabolism is your dog’s source of nitrogen and carbon. Proteins are made up of linked amino acids that when broken down via digestion, provide the building materials necessary for cellular function. Both nitrogen and carbon are the major components for the creation of nucleotides, nucleic acid, new proteins, cells, and all body tissues. Fat is the major source of energy (along with excess protein via gluconeogenesis) and is needed for hormone production and for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, among numerous other functions. The species-appropriate sources of protein and fat are meat and offal. Nothing more needs to be fed to a dog to supply these essential requirements.

Your dog also has a need for essential micronutrients that he cannot synthesize. Essential minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids can all be adequately obtained from species-appropriate foods. And yet, a major problem exists when focus goes to fulfilling pet food industry nutrient standards rather than providing an appropriate fresh raw diet complete with variety. Nutrient fulfillment becomes the game and common sense goes out the window. Please do not misunderstand me. Species-appropriate foods are thus called species-appropriate because the animal is perfectly able to thoroughly digest them to provide all the nutrients the animal requires to cultivate optimal health. Pet food industry nutrient standards are based on:

  • test studies using laboratory animals in atypical and unnatural settings [1]
  • adulterated processed food void of all nutrients
  • sprayed-on synthetic vitamin isolates and inorganic industrial chemicals added to adulterated processed pet foods

A species-appropriate raw food diet has nothing in common with foods produced by the commercial pet food industry. It is an illogical comparison.

Let’s go back to bone. I have thus far pointed out that dogs require meat and offal. The only other missing component is raw meaty bones. These three components can adequately supply all the nutrients a dog requires to cultivate radiant health. Recalling from Part I, I listed all the nutrients supplied in bone. Why not review it yet again?!

Hard bone contains:

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

Marrow contains [2]:

  • calcium
  • iron
  • zinc
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • B vitamins (B1, B2, B5, B7, B12)
  • Boron
  • fatty acids

The connective tissue is a major source of:

  • glucosamine
  • chondroitin

Meat contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Organs contain even more. In fact, I consider organs a dog’s multi-vitamin/mineral. Offal is so rich in nutrients that we provide them in smaller amounts in a raw food diet [3]. With so many nutrients already to be found in meat and offal, bones provide the topping-off, if you will, of minerals and vitamins. Bones are the major source of minerals in a raw fed dog’s diet. Providing raw meaty bones as half of your dog’s diet assures an adequate amount of easily assimilated nutrients are being supplied. Yet, knowing what bones to offer is another key to creating balance.

If you are feeding whole prey, then your dog is receiving absolutely everything that he needs. Assuming most of us cannot supply whole prey at every meal, or even at all, knowing which bones to provide is critical to receiving an ideal amount of nutrients. It is best that your dog receives bone with ample marrow as often as you are able.

Marrow is the soft fatty tissue found inside bone. There are two types of marrow: yellow and red. All bone marrow creates stem cells which are responsible for producing white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. The function of these cells is to fight infections, carry oxygen throughout the body, and clot blood. Yellow bone marrow is found in the long bones of the legs while red marrow is found in ribs, hips, the skull, spinal vertebrae, shoulder blades, and the ends of long bones. Marrow is a source of amino acids, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Your dog must be supplied with both yellow and red marrow. Be sure to offer your dog all types of bones to ensure that a good range and percentage of marrow is being provided. For yellow marrow, I purchase “marrow” bones from the butcher with the marrow clearly accessible.

Thanks to the research of the Weston A. Price Foundation, we know that bone marrow is a powerful anti-inflammatory, boosts the immune system, and helps with weight management. A Swedish Oncologist, Dr. Astrid Brohult, gave her leukemia patients bone marrow broth. As a result, several of her patients had their white blood cell counts return to normal. Years later, Dr. Brohult’s biochemist husband discovered the alkyglycerol (AKG) compounds in bone marrow responsible for while blood cell production. Alkyglycerols are immune-boosting lipids now being used in cancer therapy that can also be found in human breast milk and cow’s milk. If this isn’t enough to excite you, bone marrow helps to seal the stomach lining, reduces discomfort and pain associated with intestinal inflammation, and improves overall gut health [4]. Even more, a University of Michigan study has shown significant amounts of the hormone adiponectin within marrow’s fat tissue. Adiponectin supports insulin sensitivity, breaks down fat, protects the heart, and decreases diabetes risk and obesity-associated cancer [5].

While these studies on bone marrow consumption are human studies, imagine the benefit to dogs. After all, bone marrow is a species-appropriate food perfectly suited to cultivate optimal health in canines. So, let’s now simply consider the nutrient value. As you can see from the nutrient list above, bone marrow is exceptionally nutrient-dense. While meat alone contains a wealth of nutrients, marrow is often richer in vitamins and minerals dependent upon which bone and from what animal. If you take a look at the reference provided for the bone marrow nutrients, you will note that the marrow is rich in Vitamin E, a nutrient that is nearly impossible to source from meat and organs alone. Couple this with the connective tissues rich in glucosamine and chondroitin and your dog will build and maintain a strong, resilient and disease-free body throughout the entirety of his life.

The most popular current recommendation for feeding bone comes from the 80/10/10 ratio which states to feed bone at approximately 10% of the diet. The bone percentage of whole prey, however, is slightly to significantly higher than 10%. The original recommendation for feeding a raw meaty bone (RMB) diet was to feed half to 60% of the diet comprising of RMBs. That equates to a range of 10% to 25% bone, marrow, and connective tissues with the remaining foods consisting of meat and offal. This is especially crucial for growing puppies. Dr. Ian Billinghurt, a leading authority on raw feeding and the originator of the BARF diet, recommends puppies receive RMBs with 50% bone, “Approximate biological balance is achieved so long as meat alone is not the principal dietary component. That job must be left to the raw meaty bones (RMBs). When a young and growing dog eats RMBs, if the bone to meat ratio of those RMBs is around 1:1, then the balance of calcium to phosphorus is appropriate for bone mineralization and formation.”

Balance is an ambiguous and even complex word that can take on many faces, meanings, and understandings. In the nutrition science realm, balance has always meant a wide variety of several types of nutrient-rich foods. If your desire is to provide a balanced diet, then offer your dog nutrient-rich species-appropriate foods that provide far more than just a nutrient that you are trying to source to fulfill a standard. In my practice I recommend feeding highest nutrient per bite ratio foods. These include foods that cover a broad spectrum of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, factors, co-factors, antioxidants, beneficial lipids, active constituents, and more. Bones fall under this category.

Nutrients are vital, but so is providing the correct foods that supply a plethora of vital nutrients and components for the cultivation of optimal health.

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

[1] If you are against animal testing, you might want to look into the early nutrient studies completed on caged dogs which were starved of nutrients in order to discover minimum requirements to prevent death. If this is not cruel enough, modern pet food testing laboratories are filled with lab animals bred in the lab to complete a lifetime of food trials. Sadly, they live their entire life in a lab and are disposed of when they die. Supporting commercial dog food is an ethical issue as well as being a poor nutrition choice for your dog. Visit https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/pets/cruelty-free-pet-food/ & https://truthaboutpetfood.com/pet-food-animal-testing/ for more information.

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3417664

[3] Secreting organs such as liver, kidney, and pancreas are supplied at approximately 10% of the diet. Muscle organs such as heart, lungs, and gizzard are supplied at approximately 15% of the diet. Offal can make up a total of approximately 25% of the diet.

[4] Results seen in patients of functional medical doctor, Dr. Auer. https://www.doctorauer.com/

[5] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703125216.htm


Sourcing Nutrients for the Raw Fed Dog

Taking responsibility for your dog’s nutritional needs is a fundamental proactive step in the holistic health care approach. With this comes the need for educating yourself on your dog’s specific nutritional requirements so that you are able to provide the best possible meal plan that covers all vital nutrients. Once calorie/volume need and nutrient requirements have been determined, sourcing the appropriate foods and ingredients is crucial. This is often the most difficult task; and a task I hope to simplify in this article. Once you have chosen your foods and ingredients, knowing how much of each ingredient to feed is most easily determined using a spreadsheet calculator or Pet Diet Designer software. If those are not available to you, using the USDA Food Composition Database or Cronometer will allow you to do paper and pen calculations (with the help of a calculator!).

All dogs require high quality protein and fats. Carbohydrates are non-essential and therefore not recommended beyond a small percentage of the overall diet. Your dog must also receive vitamins and minerals from their meals in correct and varying proportions from foods that allow for optimal absorption and assimilation. These are vital. Species-appropriate ingredients allow for ease of digestibility for adequate breakdown to release nutrients for uptake. If the meals consistently contain nutrients in poorly managed proportions, antagonism will eventually create nutrient deficiencies or toxicities. If you are feeding inappropriate foods containing anti-nutrients, you will have even more antagonism and optimal absorption cannot be attained.

Protein and fats are the easiest to source. All meat, poultry, fish, eggs, offal, and organs contain both protein and fat. You will want your meals to revolve around these ingredients. Other sources include goat’s milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, spirulina, phytoplankton, wheat grass, and barley grass; however, these “other” foods should be used as supplementary over and above the minimum requirements.

Vitamins (The following lists are in descending order from richest sources to least richest sources)

Vitamin A:

  • liver
  • mackerel
  • egg yolk

Vitamin D:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • oysters
  • egg yolk

Vitamin E:

  • sunflower seeds*, ground
  • egg yolk (from chickens fed flax seeds)
  • almonds*, ground (∆ contains oxalates)
  • bone marrow
  • trout
  • avocado
  • greens (∆ contains oxalates)
  • kiwi, blackberries
  • wheat germ oil

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone):

  • beef liver
  • pork
  • chicken
  • bone marrow
  • fermented dairy: kefir, cottage cheese, yogurt

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone):

  • leafy greens, especially kale, mustard, chard, and collards (∆ contains oxalates)
  • broccoli (∆ contains oxalates)
  • cabbage (ideally fermented)

NOTE: Phylloquinone is less than 10% absorbed in humans; in dogs absorption is even less, if any. Source menaquinone vitamin K for optimal absorption.

Vitamin C:

  • acerola cherries
  • oranges
  • papaya
  • kiwi
  • red bell pepper
  • melon
  • leafy greens (∆ contains oxalates)
  • amalaki fruit
  • broccoli (∆ contains oxalates)

Thiamine (B1):

  • pork chops (lean)
  • pork tenderloin (lean)
  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • flaxseeds* (ground)
  • sunflower seeds* (ground)
  • mussels
  • asparagus

Riboflavin (B2):

  • beef
  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • yogurt (low-fat)
  • pork (lean)
  • oysters
  • spinach (∆ contains oxalates)
  • cottage cheese (low-fat)
  • eggs
  • avocado
  • asparagus

Niacin (B3):

  • liver
  • chicken breast
  • turkey
  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • anchovies
  • pork
  • beef
  • avocado

Pantothenic Acid (B5):

  • chicken liver
  • duck liver
  • beef liver
  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • beef
  • avocados
  • chicken breast
  • eggs
  • sunflower seeds*
  • pork (lean)
  • cauliflower (∆ contains oxalates)

Pyridoxine (B6):

  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • turkey
  • chicken breast
  • pork (lean)
  • beef (lean)

Biotin (B7):

  • liver
  • kidney
  • pork (lean)
  • egg yolk
  • salmon (wild-caught)

Folate (B9):

  • beef liver
  • turkey liver
  • pork liver
  • pumpkin seeds* (ground)
  • sunflower seeds* (ground)
  • flaxseeds* (ground)
  • asparagus
  • spinach (∆ contains oxalates)
  • broccoli (∆ contains oxalates)

Cobalamin (B12):

  • liver
  • mackerel
  • oysters
  • mussels
  • beef (lean)

Choline:

  • egg yolk
  • beef liver
  • turkey liver
  • veal
  • beef
  • pork

Minerals (The following lists are in descending order from richest sources to least richest sources)

Calcium:

  • bone
  • bone meal
  • eggshells

Phosphorus:

  • bone (and bone meal)
  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • pork (lean)
  • mackerel
  • chicken
  • beef

Magnesium:

  • hemp seeds* (ground)
  • pumpkin seeds* (ground)
  • flaxseeds* (ground)
  • bone
  • spinach (∆ contains oxalates)
  • chard (∆ contains oxalates)
  • mackerel
  • chlorella (dried)
  • almonds (ground)
  • avocado
  • beef

Potassium:

  • salmon (wild-caught)
  • avocado
  • acorn squash (cooked)
  • pomegranate
  • goat milk
  • yogurt, low-fat
  • pork
  • bone

Sodium:

  • canned sardines (also contains essential chloride)
  • canned oysters (and contains essential chloride)
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • blood
  • bone

Sulfur:

  • eggs
  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • bone

Iron:

  • blood and bone marrow
  • liver
  • heart
  • gizzard
  • beef
  • turkey (dark meat)
  • egg yolk

Zinc:

  • oysters
  • beef
  • chicken gizzard
  • chicken heart
  • chicken thigh and drums
  • pork
  • hemp seeds* (ground)
  • pumpkin seeds* (ground)
  • bone marrow

Copper:

  • beef liver (calf especially)
  • oysters
  • pumpkin seeds* (ground)
  • flaxseeds* (ground)
  • kale (∆ contains oxalates)

Manganese:

  • mussels (green lipped)
  • hemp seeds* (ground)
  • pumpkin seeds* (ground)
  • pineapple (RICH source, but feed as treat)
  • sweet potato (cooked ONLY)
  • spinach (∆ contains oxalates)
  • ginger, basil
  • blackberries, raspberries
  • endive
  • bone marrow

Selenium:

  • oysters
  • pork kidney
  • mussels
  • beef kidney
  • pork
  • pork spleen
  • bone marrow

Iodine:

  • kelp (do NOT overdose!)
  • seaweed

Molybdenum:

  • liver
  • kidney
  • bone
  • almonds* (ground)
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese

Silica:

  • bone
  • connective tissue
  • diatomaceous earth (DE) (food-grade only!)

∆ Foods containing oxalates can pose major health concerns. Dogs are carnivores, and despite the fact that they are facultative, consuming large amounts of plant matter is not species-appropriate. Relying heavily upon spinach, kale, and other oxalate-containing vegetables is detrimental and potentially injurious to a carnivore (and people! So imagine how much worse for a carnivore!). Oxalates reduce the gut absorption of calcium and iron as well as greatly increasing the risk for kidney stone formation and renal damage. Oxalates are also neurotoxic, corrode connective tissues, and upset the gastrointestinal tract. Please note that cooking will not destroy oxalates. Even boiling the vegetables to a mush will only slightly reduce the oxalates. Oxalates are used by paleontologists to determine diets in humans from more than a millennium past. So clearly, oxalates are not easily destroyed.

*Seeds and nuts (as well as grains and legumes. As a side-note, I never recommend grains and legumes be fed to a dog for many reasons including phytates, enzyme inhibitors, lectins, toxins, carbohydrates, and the need to pressure cook until mush, among others.) contain the anti-nutrient phytate. Like oxalates, phytates block the gut absorption of vital nutrients. However, unlike oxalates, phytates can be counteracted by adding foods rich in vitamin C or a food-source vitamin C powder which I highly recommend to all my clients who regularly include seeds in their dog’s meals. This is a simple correction to amplify the mineral-rich benefits of seeds.

©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 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


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