Is Your Dog’s Raw Diet Nutritionally Complete?

Supplementing and Balancing a DIY Canine Meal Plan the Correct Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutrient 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

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% = 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 II


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Essential fat-soluble vitamins:

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

Essential water-soluble vitamins:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Robert Thiel, PhD, Naturopath, The Truth About Minerals in Nutritional Supplements, Doctors’ Research™ website,

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

Vitamin D

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

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

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

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

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

Hemp Seed Oil

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

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

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

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

Coconut oil for dogs?

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

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

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

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

Iron: The Facts & Dangerous Truths

PART 2 Should You Supplement?

The trace mineral iron often comes up low when pet parents are diligent to analyze their dog’s homemade raw meals. This can be perplexing especially since raw meals consist of the most iron-rich foods we can offer: organs, meat, fish, and bone marrow. Let me start off by saying, true iron deficiencies are extremely rare in dogs. Iron deficiencies occur as secondary conditions to a primary health condition such as kidney disease, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, hemangiosarcoma (tumor), autoimmune conditions, and other cancers. In the rare instance iron-deficiency anemia does occur, it is nearly always caused by chronic blood loss, most notably from gastrointestinal tumors. When it comes to puppies, iron deficiency can occur in pups infested with bloodsucking fleas, ticks, and hookworms. Because dam’s milk is low in iron, puppies are most vulnerable to anemia. Should a pet parent be concerned if an analyzed diet is coming up low in iron despite a meal replete with iron-rich foods?  Is supplementation necessary? Let’s first take a look at some facts about iron and the dangers that surround it.   

Decades ago, Cambridge University’s Department of Medicine conducted a test entitled Iron Metabolism. The report written by Martin Hynes indicated the use of test dogs to determine iron absorption rates. Healthy dogs with normal blood iron levels (normal), dogs with high blood iron levels (plethoric), and dogs with iron-deficiency anemia were used in the study. The findings showed “a normal dog would absorb only very little of a test-dose [of iron] given by mouth, and a plethoric dog would absorb practically none, dogs suffering from chronic iron-deficiency anemia might utilize more than half of a small test-dose for hemoglobin production.” Why this is significant is the fact that iron, although an essential trace mineral, is also a very precarious metallic element that can be lethal. As a result, the bodies of humans and animals, as indicated in the test above, have a fail-safe that regulates and inhibits the absorption of iron in the presence of normal and high blood iron levels known as “free iron.” Even more, this test shows that even in the presence of anemia, iron absorption is not much better. Let’s consider this further.

A dog’s body, like ours, regulates iron levels by adjusting the rate of iron absorption from the digestive tract. The iron-regulatory hormone known as hepcidin is released by the liver to maintain safe iron levels in your pet’s body. Hepcidin’s main function is to suppress the intestinal absorption of iron. If iron stores are high, hepcidin levels increase to reduce dietary iron absorption and prevent the release of stored bodily iron into the blood. If iron stores are low, hepcidin decreases resulting in a drop in bodily iron stores (this is resultant of iron being released into the blood) and an increase in dietary iron absorption in the intestines. In a healthy dog, there are only small amounts of “free iron” circulating in the blood. The “free iron” is bound to a protein (body minerals are organic being safely bound to a nutrient) which keeps the iron from doing harm to the cells. When dietary iron intake is coupled with iron supplementation, “free iron” levels increase. Because “free iron” is a pro-oxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant), oxidation occurs causing damage to cells.

Excess iron is difficult for our pets to expel as dogs do not have a way to excrete or remove iron already stored in the body. Although a dog’s body will limit (and possibly prevent) the absorption of temporary high iron intake, continuous use of even low dose iron supplements will eventually lead to excessive iron levels. If “free iron” levels raise and remain consistent, the cellular damage can lead to death. To confirm my own studies, the article entitled Iron Toxicity in Dogs: Symptoms | Effects of Iron Poisoning in Pet Dog validates, “Iron toxicity is a form of metal poisoning in dogs. One’s pets are harmed more easily than the human owner by an iron overdose as these animals are not able to remove the excess iron easily from their bodies. Even if small doses of iron are given over a long time span, toxicity of iron can still develop in the body only because the body is not able to rid itself of the iron that is present already. Some of the main symptoms of iron poisoning in dogs is drowsiness, lethargy and listlessness and also vomiting. The dog may also suffer from bloody diarrhea.”

Quite literally, iron, when in a surplus, is a fatally destructive poison. Corrosive damage occurs to the stomach and intestinal linings; the liver, nervous system, and cardiovascular system are severely impaired and injured; and damage to and alteration of cellular function and metabolic processes occur. In the article Excess Iron in the Blood in Dogs found on PetMD we learn, “In the event that there is a high volume of iron present in the blood, damage can occur within the cells. While iron is an essential nutrient for the regular functioning of a dog’s body, when it is present in large quantities in the bloodstream, it can become lethal.” For this reason, when it comes to the consideration of adding iron supplements, I am opposed. Unless you have your dog’s blood iron (ferritin) levels tested, or have a Hair Mineral Tissue Analysis completed (a service provided by The Holistic Canine), even the consideration of adding an iron supplement is cautioned against. The best approach is to take steps to ensure your dog is receiving adequate iron from meals as well as optimizing absorption.

Increasing iron-rich foods is the safest way to ensure your dog receives adequate amounts of iron. Dogs require heme-iron which is found only in animal sources of food such as organs, meat, fish, blood, and bone marrow. Adding iron-rich vegetables will do little in the way of reaching iron requirements. If you are privy to a little secret, there is a nutrient that aids absorption of non-heme iron (plant sources of iron) that can give your dog’s diet a slight boost. Oddly enough, some of the highest plant-sources of iron contain oxalates and calcium both of which impair the absorption of iron in the gut. Dogs absorb anywhere from zero to minute amounts of iron from plant sources if it is not coupled with Vitamin C rich foods. Eggs contain an inhibitory phosphoprotein known as phosvitin that also binds iron. And feeding calcium-rich bone will also bind iron. Thankfully, Vitamin C has shown to reduce the inhibitory effect of egg proteins and calcium. One of the biggest hindrances to adequate iron absorption is phytic acid (phytates) found in grains and legumes, popular additions to commercial dog foods and some homemade meals. Seeds and nuts also contain phytic acid. Phytic acid binds with iron preventing its absorption. And guess what? Vitamin C saves the day again by increasing the absorption of iron in the presence of phytates. So bring on the Vitamin C! Incorporating fruits* and vegetables containing Vitamin C or a whole-food vitamin C supplement has proven to be an effective technique for boosting iron absorption when added to meals or even in between meals.

Now if all of this is not problematic enough, if you are supplementing with zinc and/or copper, you are likely to cause an iron deficiency especially if you have fallen for the “more is better” motto. Another culprit is high fiber, also found in many commercial foods and homemade meals containing grains, legumes, and high amounts of seeds. Keeping all this in mind, now let’s consider why AAFCO and the NRC have a rather difficult-to-reach iron requirement.

Iron requirements recommended by AAFCO and the NRC are reflective of the iron-binding issues of commercial dog foods. Raw feeding pet parents following AAFCO’s or the NRC’s recommendations may find their calculators or diet designer programs are suggesting their meals are hitting minimums for iron or are even coming up low. But as you have read above, as long as you are providing iron-rich organs, meats, fish, and bone marrow as well as Vitamin C rich vegetables and fruits* or a whole-food vitamin C supplement, you are providing adequate iron. Remember, your dog’s body will increase iron absorption by lowering hepcidin if iron levels are low. It is a delicate balance that is vital for preventing damage caused from high iron levels. Understand that iron is never absorbed anywhere near a rate of 100% where meals are provided regularly. This would be fatal. Iron is absorbed in the gut as an as-needed basis only. In the presence of lower dietary iron levels, absorption rate is highest. Alternately, the higher the iron intake the faster the absorption percentage falls. So in a nut shell, you CANNOT force iron absorption especially with iron supplements.

In the event your dog has become anemic due to cancer, a ruptured hemangiosarcoma, kidney disease, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, or another condition, understand that iron supplements do not increase hemoglobin. A blood transfusion is necessary or intramuscular injections (that are very painful) given only by a veterinarian. You cannot remedy anemia with supplements. In fact, according to Trace Elements laboratory where I send hair samples for mineral analysis, “Taken alone over prolonged periods, iron supplements can result in anemia. This is due to iron’s antagonism to copper. Copper is necessary for the utilization of iron and if deficient can cause excess iron accumulation within the tissues, thereby not allowing iron to be incorporated into the hemoglobin molecule.” Thus, I would like to discuss iron supplementation further.

All “natural” minerals are inorganic compounds found within the earth and sea. Humans and animals cannot utilize inorganic minerals and must obtain these vital nutrients from plants which convert inorganic minerals into organic nutrients that humans and animals require. Dogs obtain organic minerals by consuming herbivores and omnivores which eat the organic minerals contained in plants. The minerals within the organs, flesh, blood, and bones of prey are then absorbed by the canine’s body via the digestive processes and further utilized as needed.

When both we and our animals are lacking in vital nutrients, we often unwittingly turn immediately to bottled sources. The problem with most mineral supplements is the fact that they are inorganic minerals chelated to another mineral or acid, thus remaining inorganic. On the supplement label, the mineral description and dosage will reflect to what the mineral is chelated. Most often the mineral name is followed by another mineral such as chloride (chlorine with a salt) and iodide (iodine with a salt) or an acid that will end in -ate such as ascorbate, carbonate, picolinate, and aspartate. These are not food, or what are known as organic minerals. These industrial chemicals are literally plant food. For a mineral supplement to be organic, it must be chelated to a nutrient such as an amino acid and/or a peptide. However, the safest and most bioavailable minerals are whole food sourced nutrients. Thankfully, whole food supplements can also come in a bottle!

The most common iron supplements to blame for iron toxicity in dogs are ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, ferrous carbonate, and ferrous phosphate (ferrous is a divalent iron compound).  A lethal single-dose of iron is an excess of 20 mg/kg. I cannot stress enough to avoid these and other iron supplements. So let’s recap:

The BEST and safest iron supplementation is to increase iron-rich organs, meat, fish, and bone marrow in the presence of Vitamin C. Period. As you have likely noted, nutrients work synergistically in a delicate balance of antagonism and partnership. The best way to avoid deficiencies and toxicities is to provide your dog’s essential nutrients through whole foods.

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

*I do not recommend adding fruit to meals. Fruit contains natural sugars and digests differently from proteins and fats. If consumed along with meat, organs, and fats, fruit may ferment within the stomach and gut causing digestive upset, stomach discomfort, intestinal irritation as well as increasing the risk for bloat. I recommend feeding fruit as treats between meals.

Commonly Deficient Nutrients and Supplementation


Most raw feeders who have educated themselves prior to beginning a raw nutrition plan know that certain nutrients tend to lack in a homemade raw diet. Vitamins D and E, two vital fat-soluble nutrients, top the list for nutrient-deficient vitamins. For minerals, the top most deficient is manganese, a trace mineral most people have either never heard of or mistake for magnesium, the macro-mineral. Following manganese are the trace minerals copper, iron, and zinc and the macro minerals magnesium and potassium. With a properly balanced diet, all of these nutrients can be fulfilled.

Vitamins D & E are fat-soluble vitamins requiring fat for absorption. Unlike water-soluble nutrients, these nutrients are stored in the body. Vitamin D is stored in the liver and fat tissues to be drawn upon when needed. Food sources of Vitamin D are almost never toxic; however, excessive supplemental Vitamin D can be, such as what is added to commercial dog foods. Although Vitamin D toxicity is rare, I still recommend supplemental D be used with caution if you are unable to provide adequate food-sourced Vitamin D through the diet.

Vitamin E is also stored in the fat tissues of the body. Despite being fat-soluble, I recommend that this vitamin be supplied daily. Vitamin E toxicity is an extremely difficult occurrence and near impossible through food sources. Vitamin E functions primarily as an antioxidant and prevents cellular damage from oxidized fat. This vitamin functions similar to the mineral selenium. An abundance of selenium in the diet will reduce the amount of Vitamin E required.  Because animal food sources do not supply adequate Vitamin E, alternative plant sources must be fed.

If you must supplement either or both of these vitamins, understand that science has shown that synthetic and nutrient isolates do not and cannot perform nor function in the same manner as naturally occurring food nutrients. Do not purchase a synthetic version of either of these vitamins, and do not be misled by the “natural” Vitamin E isolate d-alpha tocopherol. Vitamin E is a complex and needs to be consumed as a complex for optimal absorption and utilization. The synthetic, isolate, and non-bioavailable forms to avoid are:

  • Ergocalciferol (Synthetic Vitamin D)
  • Calciferol D2
  • dl-alpha tocopherol (Synthetic Vitamin E)
  • d-alpha tocopherol (Isolated alpha)

To supplement Vitamins D and E, use either a whole food source or a natural vitamin supplement such as:

  • Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3)
  • Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E complex)

I do NOT recommend cod liver oil for a Vitamin D supplement as this also contains Vitamin A. If you feed liver, this is a huge NO. This can cause hypervitaminosis A, a very serious vitamin A toxicity condition.

Wild dogs receive Vitamin D from the skin, organs, fat, and bone marrow of their prey. Vitamin E is needed in small amounts in the presence of selenium which wild dogs receive in plenty from flesh, organs, and bone.

Vitamin D: highest food sources

  • Mackerel  (547 IU [13.7 mcg] in 3 oz.)
  • Salmon (425 IU [10.6 mcg] in 3 oz.)
  • Canned Sardines (270 IU [6.75 mcg] per can)
  • Beef/Calf liver (42 IU [1 mcg]) in 3 oz.)
  • Egg yolk (41 IU [1 mcg] per egg)
  • Plain yogurt (90 IU [2.25 mcg] in 6 oz.)

Supplemental D: Cholecalciferol (D3) only Dose*: 100-200 IU (2.5-5 mcg) for medium dog  

*Because Vitamin D is stored in the body, I recommend these LOW doses especially when used in combination with Vitamin D rich foods. A low dose can be given daily.

Vitamin E: highest food sources  

  • Wheat germ oil (20 mg in 1 tbsp.)
  • Sunflower seeds (10 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Pumpkin seeds (10 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Hemp seed oil (10 mg in 1 tbsp.)
  • Almonds (7.4 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Avocado (2.1 mg in half the fruit)                  

Supplemental E: Use mixed tocopherols ONLY Dose: 10-15 mg for medium dog              

The trace minerals manganese, copper, iron, and zinc are not difficult to source if raw-feeding pet parents know how to source foods that contain these vital nutrients. Some simple adjustments or food additions is often all that is needed.

Manganese is the most difficult trace mineral to source. Wild dogs receive this nutrient from red fur and feathers, bone marrow, and blood. Pet parents do not always have access to whole prey, and some dogs want nothing to do with a whole animal plopped down for dinner. We often need to be creative to find alternative sources. Green lipped mussels and plants, however, provide adequate amounts and bioavailable (useable) forms of manganese.

Manganese: highest food sources

  • Green lipped mussels (5.8 mg in 3 oz.)
  • Turmeric (5.6 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Hemp seeds (2.2 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Pumpkin seeds (1.29 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Ginger, ground (0.58 mg in 1 tsp)
  • Raspberries & Blackberries (0.38 mg in 2 oz.)
  • Almonds (0.65 mg in 1 oz.)

Copper, iron, and zinc are not difficult to source if you choose your foods wisely. The problem stems from many pet parents relying heavily upon chicken and chicken liver for the majority of their meals. This is due to cost efficiency and ease of supplying RMBs.  By adding alternative food options, these minerals can be easily fulfilled.

Copper: highest food sources

  • Beef/Calf liver (4 mg in 1 oz.)*
  • Oysters (2.5 mg in 2 oz. canned)

*This one simple switch fulfills copper requirements!

Wild dogs receive their iron needs from blood, bone marrow, and organs.

Iron: highest food sources

  • Chicken hearts (5.96 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Beef heart (4.3 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Sardines (2.92 mg per can)
  • Goat (2.8 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Chicken liver (2.6 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Chicken gizzards (2.49 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Beef (2 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Rabbit (1.57 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Beef liver (1.4 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Beef kidney (1.3 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Egg, whole (0.6 mg in 1 egg)

Wild dogs receive zinc from bones, blood, flesh, skin, and organs.

Zinc: highest food sources

  • Oysters (51.57 mg in 2 oz. canned)*
  • Chicken hearts (7 mg in 3.5oz.)
  • Beef (4.55 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Chicken gizzards (4.3 mg in 3.5 oz.)

*This one simple addition fulfills zinc requirements!

When it comes to supplementing these three trace minerals, knowledge is essential or a variety of imbalances, deficiencies, and injury can occur. To begin, these three nutrients are antagonistic with each other and must be supplemented together. I never advise anyone to supplement with either zinc or copper. Although you can squeeze by with manganese as an individual addition to meals, my best professional opinion is to provide all three in the appropriate ratios. Supplementation is a whole different ball game compared with providing food-sourced organic minerals. Thus, there is another important factor that must be understood. Because this applies to all minerals, I will discuss supplementing at the end. Let’s first look at magnesium and potassium.

A seemingly difficult-to-source macro mineral is magnesium. This is because animal flesh and organs are very low in this essential mineral. Nevertheless, magnesium deficiency is extremely rare in dogs. Where it does occur, it is a condition in dogs fed low quality commercial kibbles and those who are badly malnourished. As of a recent data base search, there exists no recorded case of a magnesium-deficient raw fed dog who received bones. This is likely because bones provide magnesium, the most overlooked food source of this mineral, numerous other minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins. Because people do not consume bones, adequate and reliable nutrient profiles have not been determined on bone. As a result, many raw feeders relying upon nutritional data apps have a difficult time providing food sources of magnesium, and therefore, turn to inappropriate food sources such as oatmeal to “hypothetically” fulfill magnesium requirements. As long as you are feeding bones along with the following species-appropriate foods, magnesium requirements will be adequately met.

Magnesium: highest food sources

  • Spinach, cooked (157 mg in 1 c.)
  • Swiss chard, cooked (150 mg in 1 c.)
  • Pumpkin seeds (92 mg in 1/8 c.)
  • Avocado (58 mg in 1 med.)
  • Salmon (53 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Mackerel (40 mg. in 3.5 oz.)
  • Oysters (30.6 mg in 2 oz. canned)
  • Banana (30 mg in 1 med.)
  • Spinach, raw (24 mg in 1 c.)
  • Yogurt, low-fat (23.5 mg in ½ c.)

Surprisingly, potassium often comes up low on analyzed raw food recipes. This macro mineral has the body’s highest mineral requirement along with calcium and phosphorus. Most foods contain potassium, but because the need is so high, it can be a daunting task trying to provide adequate amounts. Nearly all meat, fish, and organs provide approximately 300-550 mg in every 3.5 ounces. Bone also provides potassium, however, the value (amount) is not known. The raw meals that come in with the highest potassium levels are those that include plants as “extras.”

Potassium: highest food sources

  • Beet greens, cooked (1309 mg in 1 c.)
  • Avocado (975 mg in 1 med.)
  • Swiss chard, cooked (961mg in 1 c.)
  • Spinach, cooked (839 mg in 1 c.)
  • Sweet Potato, cooked (536 mg in 1 c.)
  • Zucchini, raw (459 mg in 3.5 oz.)

Exact nutrient profiles for bone have not been completed; however, bone does provide:

Bone tissue:

Calcium                                               Phosphorus

Magnesium                                        Sodium

Potassium                                           Chloride

Sulfur                                                   Silica


Vitamin A                                            Vitamin K

Iron                                                       Zinc

Selenium                                             Manganese

Boron                                                   Omega-3 fatty acids

Minerals and Mineral Supplementation: Natural minerals are inorganic compounds (rock) that are found in the earth. Animals (and humans) cannot synthesize minerals, nor can they directly utilize mineral salts from the earth or the sea. Rather, earth and sea mineral salts 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. In other words, plants absorb the inorganic mineral salts and convert them into organic nutrients that humans and animals require. The only way that our pets and people can receive bioavailable (absorbable and useable) minerals is through the consumption of plants and the animals that ate the plants. Let me recap this again. Inorganic minerals are plant food. Organic minerals are food for people and animals. People and animals CANNOT utilize plant food. And yet, many mineral supplements are inorganic. It is these mineral supplements that cause an array of complications, including death.

Sadly, our soils are becoming increasingly more depleted of minerals. We are on the verge of a crisis. Organic farming practices are essential for increasing and maintaining soil-mineral levels in order that we and our pets do not become mineral deficient. When it comes to the raw diets we create and provide for our pets, there is a concern that I want to make pet parents aware of. The universal nutrient profiles that many pet parents are relying upon via nutrition apps and raw food calculators are mere “hypothetical” values based on averages and potentials which are then pooled into a data base. In reality, nutrient profiles and values vary immensely among the same food items being wholly dependent upon soil conditions, whether organically grown or raised, or conventionally grown or farmed, the weather throughout the growing season, environmental factors, the country or sea of origin, whether wild-caught or farmed, the diet feed-animals consumed, when and how the food is harvested, when and how an animal is slaughtered, preparation for packaging or shipment, the actual shipment process, travel-time, handling by grocers and market employees, and on and on. Even without knowing it, we are many times providing our pets with nutrient-deficient meals via our choice of ingredients. While nutrition apps and dog food designer programs are helpful, they are not based on reality. However, they are not completely useless albeit they are not accurate to give you a guaranteed nutrient profile for the foods in your pet’s bowl. Chosen food sources may be, and often are, deficient especially if the foods purchased are the cheapest cost available, especially from discount grocery stores and markets. Worse, pet parents who fall under the false notion that dogs should not or do not need plants in their daily meals are at the greatest risk for coming up short on numerous nutrient needs. To have a near guaranteed nutrient profile, purchase foods from farms that have their nutrient values analyzed for all the products they raise, grow, and sell. Since there exists very few farms that do just this, source the highest quality foods you are able to afford; foods that are naturally, organically, and/or ethically raised along with non-GMO, organically grown plant and supplemental “superfood” ingredients.

Keeping all this in mind, if you are unfamiliar with the potential nutrients found in common raw food ingredients, and especially, if you are sourcing cheap, lower quality ingredients, I recommend using a spreadsheet calculator or meal designer program that can analyze your dog’s meals. Calculators are available for free on many raw food websites. The Holistic Canine has calculators available in the Facebook group files section. Here is the best way to use the calculators and programs:

1) If you are purchasing the lowest quality ingredients, consider the nutrient values in your chosen ingredients slightly less than the program’s stored nutritional profiles. Most calculators have both AAFCO’s and the NRC’s minimum nutrient requirements. Use the NRC’s nutrient minimums and raise them 10%. Evaluate your meals and supplement where you are consistently hitting minimums or coming up short.

2) If you are using the highest quality ingredients, your nutrients are likely close to ideal. If an analysis program shows your ingredients are hitting minimums, add simple whole food supplement powders such as spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella, alfalfa, kelp, and green lipped mussels and your levels will reach optimal. If the farm has provided a nutrient analysis on your purchased foods, use those values rather than the values in your app, calculator, or diet designer program. This may require paper, pen, and some math! Pay the closet attention to the nutrients that are often minimum or deficient. If a mineral or minerals is/are consistently low, you need to supplement.

Mineral supplements come in two types: 1) Inorganic– rock minerals known as mineral salts chelated (bound) to an acid or another mineral, and 2) Organic– mineral salts chelated to a nutrient such as an amino acid and a peptide. Inorganic supplements are strongly cautioned against. They can be dangerous as the body does not utilize the minerals correctly often causing minerals to be displaced as seen in the example of calcium supplementation causing heart attacks and death in women. You will want to avoid inorganic supplements such as these popular industrial chemical examples:                               

  • Calcium carbonate, -citrate, -gluconate, -lactate, and -phosphate
  • Copper carbonate, -gluconate
  • Magnesium carbonate, -chloride, -citrate
  • Potassium chloride, -iodide, -sulfate
  • Zinc carbonate, -chloride, -citrate, -gluconate, -oxide, -picolinate, -sulfate

Ideally, you will want to purchase mineral supplements that are whole food sources, and if you cannot find or afford a whole food source, purchase organic* mineral chelates that are bound to a peptide and/or amino acid. Some examples of bioavailable supplements include:

  • Eggshell or bone meal for calcium
  • “Raw Organic* Whole Food” [mineral name] Ex: Raw Organic Whole Food Zinc
  • “Raw” [mineral name] Ex.: Raw Zinc
  • “Whole Food” [mineral name] Ex.: Whole Food Magnesium
  • [Mineral name] “Food Complex” Ex.: Zinc Food Complex
  • [Mineral name] “amino acid chelate” Ex.: Copper “amino acid chelate”
  • Magnesium L-Threonate
  • Zinc Biglycinate, L-Methionine, L-OptiZinc®
  • Any mineral with the Albion® and TRAACS® labels

*Keep in mind, organic means the mineral is not a salt or chemical, but bound to a nutrient making it bioavailable to people and animals

To supplement zinc, copper, and manganese, you can choose supplements that are whole food sources which will require that each mineral be purchased individually. This can be very expensive. Or, purchase organic amino acid chelate minerals.

1) Whole food sourced mineral supplements should have a ratio of approximately 15mg: 1mg (zinc to copper) with 2-5mg manganese. Whole food sourced minerals do not need to be an exact ratio, but it is recommended to stay near to the recommendation. This dose is perfect for dog’s receiving dietary zinc and copper that are coming in low, but not deficient along with a deficient manganese level (most common scenario). If dietary manganese is low, but not deficient, keep the manganese dose to 2mg. Increase or decrease the doses in this ratio dependent upon your dog’s nutrient requirements. This dose is adequate for a medium dog.

2) If using organic chelate minerals, supplementing in the correct ratio is necessary. Do not stray too far from these recommendations or imbalance may occur. I highly recommend purchasing a zinc and copper combination in a ratio of 15:1 or 30:2 (zinc to copper). Determine your dog’s nutrient requirements for zinc, copper, and manganese. I purchase a zinc, copper, and kelp combination containing a dose of 15 mg zinc amino chelate, 1 mg copper amino chelate, and 53 mcg of iodine from kelp (a whole food source). Purchase a manganese Albion® product in the lowest dose possible. I found a 10 mg dose in capsules. Choose capsules for their ease of opening for partial dosing and closing it back up for later meals. In a meal where you require extra zinc and/or copper, supplement with the zinc/copper combination, and if your manganese levels are just at or slightly below, add manganese as well. For example, if I add one capsule of 15 mg zinc and 1 mg copper, I will add ¼ to ½ a capsule of a 10 mg dose of manganese which will yield approximately 2.5 mg to 5 mg. (It doesn’t have to be exactly ¼ or ½ the capsule. It will balance out when the entire capsule has been used.) This dose is sufficient for a dog that is 25 – 50 pounds. This will be an appropriate balance that will not cause an imbalance with any of these three minerals. Because supplements are treated differently within the body, I strongly recommend adding all three together.

Purchasing green lipped mussels (such as Thrive brand) provides all three of these minerals; however, the nutrient amounts are quite low and expressed in mcg. Wheatgrass is another source of these minerals; however, the nutrient levels vary widely from product to product. Unless the company has the nutrient profiles clearly analyzed by an outside lab and labeled as a guaranteed analysis, I would use it as superfood ingredient added to every meal in addition to the organic mineral supplements that are lacking. If you are inclined to sprout and grow your own wheatgrass, understand that hydroponic (water) sprouting and growing does NOT provide minerals such as soil provides. Your mineral values will be far too low to meet your dog’s mineral requirements. Even in 3.5 oz. of home-sprouted wheatgrass, you will barely meet the manganese need for a medium dog. Zinc and copper are so low they are reflected in mcg.

The average medium adult dog requires these nutrient minimums daily:

  • Vitamin D: 4.3 mcg up to 20 mcg
  • Vitamin E: 10 mg
  • Manganese: 1.5 mg
  • Copper: 2 mg
  • Iron: 10 mg
  • Zinc: 20 mg
  • Magnesium: 190 mg
  • Potassium: 1,400 mg (1.4 g)

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