Sourcing Nutrients for the Raw Fed Dog

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

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

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

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

Vitamin A:

  • liver
  • mackerel
  • egg yolk

Vitamin D:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • oysters
  • egg yolk

Vitamin E:

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

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone):

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

Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone):

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

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

Vitamin C:

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

Thiamine (B1):

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

Riboflavin (B2):

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

Niacin (B3):

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

Pantothenic Acid (B5):

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

Pyridoxine (B6):

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

Biotin (B7):

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

Folate (B9):

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

Cobalamin (B12):

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


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

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


  • bone
  • bone meal
  • eggshells


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


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


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


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


  • eggs
  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • bone


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


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


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


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


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


  • kelp (do NOT overdose!)
  • seaweed


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


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

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

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

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

Nutrient Balance

What a Balanced Diet Truly Means for Your Canine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is an example of a mere few nutrient antagonism:

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

Below is an example a nutrient synergy:

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

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

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

Welcome to orthomolecular nutrition!

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

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

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

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

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