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.

Manganese: Trace Mineral

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

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

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

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