Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Food Diet

From Commercial Dog Food to Raw

Switching to a homemade raw diet is one of the most daunting decisions a pet parent will ever make on behalf of their beloved canine. After all, veterinarians, the dog food industry, and organizations such as AAFCO and the NRC make canine nutrition out to be a very complicated, multifarious, intricate, obscure, alarmingly difficult, and better-left-to-the-experts business that no well-meaning pet parent would possibly dare to take into their own hands. I am sure nearly every raw feeder has at least at one point felt that wave of concern or fear when starting out on their homemade raw nutrition journey, and even years into their nutrition strategy. And for good reason! We all want what is best for our dogs, and we especially do not want any harm to come to them because of something we have done incorrectly. While I am certainly not about to sugar coat the decision to take your dog’s nutritional requirements into your own hands, I do, however, want to assure pet parents that it is not as scary and intimidating as you might think. Thousands of people have been raw feeding their dogs for decades, many of them breeders with upwards of five generations of strictly raw fed dogs. This has given us some invaluable insight into the positive changes in epigenetic gene expression as well as to learn what works and where problems can and do arise. If you have made the decision to transition to a DIY raw nutrition plan, you have some homework to do with the added help of numerous resources to assist you along your journey. (Don’t hesitate to join The Holistic Canine’s Facebook group for resources and support, or use us for a personal one-on-one experience to give you the confidence you need.)

Assuming you have already read my blog posts Feeding the Modern Canine and DIY Raw Dog Food (if you have not yet read through parts I through V as well as DIY Raw Dog Food, it is highly advisable that you begin by reading through everything as this is a necessary step to prevent harm from coming to your dog), and have read books such as Canine Nutrigenomics by Dr. Jean Dodds & Diana Laverdure, referred to other vital books and information from holistic raw feeding veterinarians such as Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Peter Dobias, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, and Dr. Tom Lonsdale (among others), and scoured professional blogs such as Dana Scott’s Dogs Naturally Magazine, then you are prepared to start. You will notice that I am quite serious about my own nutrition and natural health practice and understanding, and even more, relaying this adequately to my clients for their practice and understanding as well. Nutrition must be in the correct context, especially for the modern canine. We call this orthomolecular nutrition. I do not recommend putting too much stock in some of the popular raw feeding websites, blogs, and Facebook groups that were started by well-meaning raw feeders who have minimal education from online certificate courses. While these courses are fantastic for the individual pet parent to receive a suitable foundation for providing their best to their beloved canines, it is not a sufficient education experience to be selling pet nutrition plans and recipes to other pet parents. I have heard enough horror stories to make even the hardest person cry. As a practitioner, I am held to the highest of responsibility when affecting another living being with my advice as well as to the people who love and care for them. I cannot stress this enough: persist with the holistic veterinarians and pet professionals who have been in this field for decades and have a plethora of results to show.

Having completed your research, the following checklist is a must to begin your raw food journey:

  • You must have your dog’s specific nutrient requirements for protein, fats, minerals, and vitamins.
  • You will need to know how much raw food to provide. Generally, we begin a raw food transition by offering 2.5% of your dog’s current body weight.
  • You should have a nutrient-profile database to which you will be referring such as cronometer or the USDA database.
  • It is helpful to have an auditing spreadsheet that will calculate the nutrients as you add ingredients. It is not, however, necessary if you are okay with doing some paper and pen calculations.
  • You must also have a food scale. You cannot “wing it” especially when first beginning to create raw meals. I still rely on a food scale. I in no way want to eyeball my amounts especially when some nutrients are difficult to source in adequate amounts and others can become toxic in too high an amount. I do admittedly eyeball the bone content. After years of raw feeding, I am confident with adding my bone in varying amounts because it balances out over a couple of days. If you are feeding a puppy, you need to weigh the bone. A puppy’s skeleton is growing rapidly. You must maintain the correct calcium to phosphorous ratio in the required amounts for proper skeletal and joint formation.
  • Be sure to take into consideration some important details about your dog. Does your dog…
  1. have food sensitivities?
  2. have a health condition?
  3. have age against them?
  4. gulp or bolt their food?
  5. need to lose body fat?

And lastly, some additional items to keep on hand if needed or required:

  • probiotic and enzyme supplement(s)
  • apple cider vinegar
  • omega-3 source such as krill oil or phytoplankton
  • Manuka honey
  • Slippery Elm Bark

Final notes before you begin: Avoid offering foods to which your dog has sensitivities. Bear in mind that you will be feeding whole foods and bone. If you have a dog that does not currently chew their food or a senior dog that has difficulty chewing, you will need to consider the type and form of meat and bone that you will be offering. I am not one who recommends grinds (a small percentage is fine, but not entire meals). A dog is meant to chew on bones. The chewing action not only massages the gums and helps to maintain overall oral health, but also stimulates the trigeminal nerve acting as a pacifier by releasing hormones that stabilize mood. Your dog’s oral health is fundamental to creating and maintaining overall body health! Offer grinds only if your dog cannot physically chew. Patience is necessary for a gulper. It is highly recommended that you teach a gulper how to chew by holding the bone and correcting their action. And finally, transitioning to raw is not the time to reduce calories for body fat reduction. Wait until after your dog is fully transitioned and doing well on a raw diet.

If you are currently feeding a premade commercial raw food, you can transition to a DIY meal easily. Just follow the guideline in the DIY Raw Dog Food post. When you are confident with your meals, simply remove the commercial pre-made raw food from the diet completely.

For everyone else feeding a processed commercial kibble or canned food diet, transitioning is often the most difficult step. Many dogs are damaged from the processed foods and must heal their gut in order to digest raw foods without an issue. This is not to say that many of my clients have not had success with a “cold turkey” switch, because the truth is, they have. I am one of those who switched two adults and one puppy “cold turkey” without a single issue. You have to take into consideration your dog’s current health and current diet. If you are feeding a brand by Mars Petcare Inc., Nestlé Purina PetCare, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Big Heart Pet Brands, or Spectrum Brands/United Pet Group, you should consider a gradual transition especially if your dog has been on these foods for three or more years and/or has minor health conditions such as digestive concerns, chronic ear infections, skin issues, joint issues, or any other condition. It is highly advised to start your dog on a probiotic, and possibly even an enzyme supplement, one week prior to the transition. You will continue to supplement throughout the process. This is especially important for dogs who have health conditions.

If you have a puppy that you would like to transition, you cannot do a gradual switch. You MUST do a cold turkey switch to a balanced raw diet because a puppy must have all their nutrients supplied in the required amounts on a daily basis. Switching to a balanced pre-made raw is my best advice for a beginner to raw feeding. Then you can gradually switch your growing pup over to a DIY raw food plan when you are confident that you can provide balanced meals.

Whether you switch your adult dog gradually or cold turkey to a raw food diet, you will want to begin with a single low-fat protein source. It is recommended to begin with chicken breast as it is easier to digest, but there is no rule or real reason why you must transition your dog with chicken. Some dogs do not tolerate chicken well. It is the lower-nutrient, more bland meats that we are going to use to transition. Read the ingredients on the bag or can or pouch of food you are currently feeding. Choosing a bland protein that your dog is already consuming in their current food is a good option. You want to make the transition as easy as possible. What is beneficial about offering chicken, however, is the ease of introducing bone. Chicken is by far the easiest bone sources for dogs just starting out on raw. Bone options include ribs, backs, necks, wings, feet, thigh bones, and drums. Choose what is appropriate to your dog’s size. Small bones for small dogs (wings, necks) and larger bones for big dogs (thighs, backs, drums). What I do not like about chicken, especially in a transition, is the high linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids) content. If your dog already has some gut issues, you will need to supply omega-3 fatty acids to prevent the delay of healing cellular and gut inflammation. Offer your dog krill oil or phytoplankton with chicken. Turkey is another introductory meat you may wish to opt for in place of chicken. Be aware that if you choose turkey, grocery store turkey often has broth added. Check the sodium content on the package. You will not want to feed turkey with a brine solution added. Dogs do require sodium, but we do not want to over-do sodium intake, especially during a transition to raw. Quail and Cornish hens are also good transition meats with equally easy bones to offer. And it you have access to domestic rabbit, rabbit is also a good starter protein along with bones to offer (ribs, neck/back bones, and feet are good bone options).

Bone will be required on day three. Use whole cuts of meat and avoid ground meat during the transition as grinds have an increased surface area which can equate to more bacteria. Following a week of poultry, adding red meat is a necessity. Grass-fed beef or bison are highly recommended as they are nutrient-dense and contain beneficial fats. Most of these meats are easily attainable from a grocery store, farmer’s market, and even Walmart. If you know your dog has protein sensitivities, avoid offering those proteins at least until your dog has been on raw for six months to a year with noticeable health improvements. Reintroducing a protein is not advisable unless under the direction of a nutritionist or holistic veterinarian well-versed in raw food and/or TCM food therapy.

Gradual Transition for an ADULT dog: Having chosen your low-fat transition protein and bone (and determined whether or not you will be adding a probiotic/enzyme supplement to their diet), you will begin by offering a “taste” of raw meat (without bone or skin) opposite meal time especially if your dog is kibble fed. If you feed one meal per day, the transition is very simple. Feed the raw meat in the morning or evening, whichever is opposite the meal. If you feed twice a day, feed the raw meat in-between the two meals. A “taste” can be approximately one half (½) ounce, one (1) ounce, or two (2) ounces of lean meat for a small to large dog while a toy dog will begin with a training-treat size piece. Choose the introductory amount proportional to your dog’s weight. Feeding the raw meat opposite mealtime will stimulate the stomach to lower the pH in the presence of the meat and thereby greatly reduce the possibility for pathogenic bacteria proliferation. Since raw meat is a protein, the stomach lowers the pH to create an acid bath to break apart the peptide bonds holding the amino acids together along with killing bacteria. Kibble is digested as a starch which raises pH and speeds up passage into the small intestine where bacteria could enter. While a carnivore has no issues consuming pathogenic bacteria, feeding raw meat with kibble increases the risk for bacteria produced diarrhea. If you have a dog with a digestive health condition, start by soaking the raw meat in diluted apple cider vinegar for at least 10 minutes to remove any pathogenic surface bacteria. (You may opt to follow the soak with rinsing the meat in cold water before feeding it.)

If your dog is accustomed to eating fresh vegetables and fruit, you may wish to continue to feed them as you did prior to the transition. If not, hold off until you are certain your dog’s system is doing well on the transition to raw. Introduce only small amounts of pureed vegetables and berries.

Beginning on day one, offer the raw meat (without bone and skin) to your dog on an empty stomach as per your chosen method listed above. If all goes well and your dog has no digestive upset or diarrhea (semi-formed/mushy stools is not uncommon, it is the liquid diarrhea you will be concerned with), repeat the same amount of meat the following day. If liquid diarrhea occurs, take a break until stools are solid and then start again. If all is fine, on day three, double the amount of meat and add in 20% of your chosen bone as well as some skin (if you used the apple cider vinegar method the first two days, you may stop on day three). Bone helps to keep the stools firm, thus adding 20% bone during the initial few days of the transition is beneficial. Continue feeding this same protein adding an additional half (½) ounce, one (1) ounce, two (2) ounce, or treat size (whichever amount you began with) while also adjusting the bone to 20% and eventually reducing it to 15% (see chart below). Begin proportionally reducing the commercial food until you have completed one full week. By the end of 7 days, you should be half commercial food and half raw meat. If you had been feeding only one commercial food meal per day, you are now feeding half the amount of commercial food at your dog’s usual mealtime, and you will have added a raw meal at the opposite time. If you were feeding two meals per day, you will be completely eliminating one of the commercial food meals so you are now feeding one commercial food meal and one raw meal at the opposite time. Bear in mind, you have now created an imbalanced diet. We will begin to slowly create balance and remove the commercial food completely.

The following chart is an example transition using one (1) ounce of meat for a medium size dog normally fed once per day. Adjust according to your specific needs/plan.

WEEK ONE

Day 1:

  • AM: 1 oz. raw meat
  • PM: Commercial food meal

Day 2:   

  • AM: 1 oz. raw meat             
  • PM: Commercial food meal

Day 3:   

  • AM: 2 oz. raw meat* + 20% bone   
  • PM: Commercial food meal

Day 4:  

  • AM: 3 oz. raw meat + 20% bone
  • PM: Reduced commercial food

Day 5:  

  • AM: 4 oz. raw meat + 20% bone       
  • PM: Reduced commercial food

Day 6:  

  • AM: 5 oz. raw meat + 15% bone       
  • PM: Reduced commercial food

Day 7:  

  • AM: 6 oz. raw meat + 15% bone       
  • PM: Commercial food reduced to half fed**

*Begin gradually adding skin-on meat if feeding poultry.

**While dropping the kibble to half the total amount normally fed is likely less than the small amount of raw added, this is better to allow your dog’s body to adjust.

Beginning on day one of week two, if all went well in week one, adding a nutrient-dense red meat is advised. If your dog is already eating multiple protein sources in their commercial food, you can add an additional protein found in the current food. As noted above, I prefer grass-fed beef; however, bison or pasture-raised goat, pork, and lamb are also good choices. Offer the new protein the same way you introduced the first introductory protein. You are going to be adding this to the raw meal while you will work on removing the commercial food completely from the diet by the end of this week. Also notice the bone percentage will continue to drop. For simplicity sake, I will not list the commercial meal in the following chart. If you feel your dog needs an additional week with just the introductory meat, stay with that one single protein and continue to increase the amount daily as you did in week one.

WEEK TWO

Day 8:  AM: 6 oz. meat one, 1 oz. new meat + 15% bone    

Day 9:  AM: 6 oz. meat one, 1 oz. new meat + 15% bone 

Day 10:  AM: 6 oz. meat one, 2 oz. new meat + 12% bone

Day 11: AM: 6 oz. meat one, 3 oz. new meat + 12% bone

Day 12:  AM: 6 oz. meat one, 4 oz. new meat + 12% bone

Day 13:  AM: 6 oz. meat one, 5 oz. new meat + 12% bone

Day 14:  AM: 6 oz. meat one, 6 oz. new meat + 12% bone

If at any point your dog develops diarrhea, do not panic. Give your dog’s system a chance to adjust. Remove all visible fat and skin from the meat and increase bone back up to 15% to 20%. One day of diarrhea is not uncommon; however, if stools do not begin to firm by the end of day two, add a probiotic or double the amount you started with and bring the bone back up to 20% for a day or two. Give a dose of the probiotic at least 30 minutes prior to feeding the raw meal. Manuka honey is helpful as well. Give a dose according to the size of your dog from 1/2 tsp to 2 tsp. Slippery Elm Bark also ameliorates diarrhea. This can be given 15 to 20 minutes prior to the raw meal.

Depending upon the speed of the transition, week three or week four must include organs to further balance the diet. Organ meats are nutrient-saturated. The richness of these foods can cause loose stools and diarrhea. If you have already battled diarrhea during this transition, introduce organs SLOWLY. Start with liver. I prefer calf liver as a first introduction to secreting organs. Calf (and beef) liver is richer in copper than other livers and is cleaner than beef liver. You will only feed liver at 5% of the total diet if feeding daily. Add small amounts of liver each day until you are up to 5%. If the stools remain firm (you may notice darker stools, this is normal), introduce a second secreting organ such as kidney or spleen to be fed along with the liver. Beef kidney is easy to source. This too is fed at only 5% of the diet making secreting organs a combined total of approximately 10% of the daily meal(s). You will be feeding 10% to 15% bone this week.

By week four or week five, begin slowly introducing more proteins and muscle organs such as heart, gizzards, and lungs. These are fed as main protein sources at approximately 15% of the total diet. Gradually add in more vegetables, fruits, seeds, and other foods that will help increase nutrient-saturation within the meals. Your goal at this stage is to provide a balanced diet. Pay attention to stools as they are the key to how well your dog is digesting foods and either thriving or having difficulties adjusting fully.

Some dogs are what I call “lead bellies.” “Lead belly” dogs can eat anything and everything without a single issue. Even so, you don’t want to shock the system. These dogs do well with a “cold turkey” transition to raw. If you have a hardy dog prior to transitioning to raw, but a “cold turkey” switch sounds scary, you may opt to remove commercial food already after day seven. You know your dog best! Transition according to what is going to be the best option for both you and your dog.

And finally, be sure to start auditing your nutrients by either entering your meal ingredients in a spreadsheet calculator or by looking up nutrient profiles and recording your nutrient values in each meal. It will get easier as time goes by! Welcome to the world of raw feeding!

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


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART V

Grains

Let’s talk grains. Grains are grass seeds. They differ from other seeds in that grains do not “go to” fruit, vegetable, or flower such as pumpkin seeds, apricot kernels, and sunflower seeds that are commonly consumed as foods. (Nuts and beans are also considered seeds.) The most commonly consumed grains are wheat, rice, oats, barley, rye, corn and the pseudo-grain quinoa which have been at the forefront of the canine nutrition debate for decades. Grains have been used in commercial dog foods since the dawn of James Spratt’s dog cakes in 1870 and F.H. Bennett Biscuits Co.’s bone shaped ‘Milk-Bone’ dog biscuits in 1907. Since that time, the health of our dogs has declined right along with that of man’s, and this just so happens to parallel the rise in grain consumption. We can see that the modern canine has developed the very same chronic conditions, obesity, and diet-induced diseases and cancers as his fellow man. While we certainly cannot blame the decline in health entirely on the consumption of grains, we do need to ask, should grains continue to be used as a dietary option in canine nutrition? After all, the grain-free dog food craze has boomed. Since FirstMate introduced the very first grain-free commercial feed option in 1995, nearly every other pet food company has followed suit and their sales have exploded. However, since kibble requires something to hold it together and boost protein percentages, the pet food industry simply swapped out the grains for legumes, peas, and potatoes. Are these better alternatives? Sadly, it doesn’t appear that way. As if the health crisis of the modern canine could not get any worse, the grain-free alternatives have appeared to have contributed to another threat to dogs known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). As a result, nutritionally uninformed veterinarians are warning pet parents to go back to feeding grain inclusive foods. Thus, feeding grains to dogs is being revisited in a big way; and in my opinion, the wrong way. Let’s take a look.

I discussed canine anatomy and physiology in Part I of this series. Clearly, dogs are not designed to consume grains. You may be surprised to learn, neither are nearly all the herbivores or mammals for that matter. One common example is the feeding of grains to ungulates which are designed to graze and forage. Feeding grains are, unfortunately, a cheaper way to supply the volumes of food that these animals require to meet the demands of consumers for their meat and milk products. But at what cost? The nutritionally-lacking final food products are evidence enough. But like dogs fed foods that are not species-appropriate, feeding grains to animals not designed to properly digest them results in poorer health and disease, and more often than not, the reliance on drugs to prevent them from succumbing to illness. Simply because we can offer grains to dogs and many farm animals without immediate life-threatening consequences does not mean that this equates to an adequate substitute for those foods that the animals are designed to consume. Species-appropriate foods create and cultivate optimal health, something grains are clearly not noted for. The fact of the matter is grains are only species-appropriate to granivores, and granivores are birds.

Birds are anatomically and physiologically equipped to consume grains. They contain a crop and a gizzard which allows them to safely and adequately digest grains. The crop is in the throat where grains and seeds can germinate before entering the two-chamber stomach. The first chamber of the stomach is like ours. The second chamber, however, is the gizzard which holds grit, stone, and sand picked up with food the birds eat from the ground. The grit is held in the gizzard where it is ground into the grains and seeds by the strong muscular contractions of the gizzard wall. This breaks down the grains and unlocks nutrients. In a nut shell (no pun intended), grains are for the birds…period. But what is it that makes grains so contrary to those species-appropriate foods that do cultivate and sustain health? I am glad you asked.

Grains, as noted above, are grass seeds that contain anti-predation proteins (anti-nutrient chemicals) including lectins, phytic acid (phytates), enzyme inhibitors, cyanide, and prolamins. Some of these chemicals are bitter tasting (as many of us have experienced). In fact, grains in their natural raw state are actually quite toxic. Grains are not meant to be eaten; rather their purpose is to fall to the ground and reproduce. Aside from the evidentiary chemicals produced by the plant, the physical indications also speak volumes. Grass seeds have hard outer shells as well as spikes, fuzz, and mucus and oil coatings. But for the sake of this article, it is the anti-nutrient chemicals that I am here most concerned with. These anti-nutrients serve the purposes of preventing predators from consuming them, preventing premature germination (sprouting) in the absence of adequate conditions for growth, and to protect them from the destructive acids and enzyme of the digestive process in order to preserve them for their true purpose: new life. The human and animal (except for birds) who consumes whole grains (grass seeds) also consumes these anti-nutrient chemicals. Anti-nutrients interfere with and inhibit mineral absorption in the gut, inhibit the pancreatic enzymes from adequately digesting food, irritate the immune system, and irritate the gut lining creating an inflammatory environment. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to produce an abundance of mucus (you will often see this in your dog’s stools) which further reduces nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Add to this the fact that parasites (intestinal worms) typically consume mucus, one reason we commonly see grain-laden kibble-fed dogs regularly needing preventative chemical worming protocols. Thus, it is clearly apparent why the consumption of grains is posing a major health threat to not just our dogs, but also to people who consume them and grain-fed farm animals.

It can be argued that people and animals have been consuming grains for a very long time. And while this is true, a simple research of historical records will show the unfortunate decline in the health of humans and animals following the advent of grain-cultivating agriculture. Malnutrition and infectious disease were the major consequences of grain consumption. Of the studies that do show a possible positive link to grain consumption, the fact is that these studies were observational only and cannot prove that whole grains caused a reduction in disease risk. In fact, the opposite shows more prominently: disease-risk increased. Post-Industrial Revolution and the mass production of grains and grain-based foods brought with it the rapid ascension of chronic disease and cancer in humans, livestock, and pets. Despite the fact that grains were prepared and consumed much differently in the past than they are in this technologically advanced world, grains were not then nor are now an adequate food source as indicated, for one, by the anti-predation measures grasses have adapted and the decline in health that followed. Add to this the high carbohydrate and fiber content and you have another major issue for a carnivore.

Understand, firstly, that both whole grains (containing the bran, endosperm, and germ) and refined grains (endosperm only) come with risks. Whole grains come with the anti-predation chemicals along with the issues of the fiber. The bran is the outer layer on the endosperm and is composed of insoluble fiber. Especially in the carnivore, insoluble fibers from grains pose problems. Dogs do not have need for more than a small amount of fiber from foraging and the consumption of species-appropriate fur and feather fiber. Insoluble fiber from grains inhibits proper digestion and reduces nutrient absorption where it is already poor in the presence of the anti-nutrients. Even more, Dr. John Briffa, writing on human nutrition, expressed, “Do bear in mind though that insoluble fiber has been show to induce tiny rips and tears in the lining of the bowel. These will need repairing of course, requiring proliferation of cells. Uncontrolled cell proliferation, by the way, is the hallmark of cancerous tumors. While doctors, dieticians and cereal manufacturers often extol the virtues of bran, my opinion is that such foods should be flushed (straight) down the toilet.” Now take this information and apply this to a carnivore that should be consuming species-appropriate meats, organs, bones, and small amounts of vegetation. Imagine what grains are doing to a canine’s digestive system especially where they are a regular part of the diet. It is also possible that the high fiber coupled with the low-quality protein in commercially prepared foods may be implicated in the increased rate of heart disease in dogs. So, what happens if you remove the fiber-rich bran and the germ such as in the refining process of grains? You have nothing but low-nutrient carbohydrates. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Oncology concluded that high carbohydrate diets create favorable conditions for the growth of tumors in dogs and cats, especially in those animals already fighting cancer. Their recommendation is a diet high in protein and fat which is exactly what carnivores should be consuming to begin with. Additionally, there exists the issue of glucose (sugar) spiking from the high carbohydrate content along with the greatly increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and all the chronic conditions that follow. The processed grain is no longer a whole food and lacks the partnering constituents to balance the carbohydrates that would reduce the increased risk for disease conditions. Thus, it matters not whether you feed whole grains or refined grains; the negatives of both far outweigh any benefits.

Since research on the negative value of grain consumption is fairly well-known, as well as the consequences experienced by countless people and animals, many health-savvy individuals have brought back some of the older methods of grain preparation to help make the consumption of grains safer and more beneficial. The Weston A. Price Foundation and many other nutrition professionals have published educational articles and videos on proper grain preparation techniques that serve to reduce and eliminate dangerous anti-nutrients; I happened to have been one of them. As a result, germinated, sprouted, and fermented grains have risen in popularity. Many of these health-savvy pet parents have also taken these measures to their dogs. But is there really any benefit in adding even sprouted and fermented grains to a dog’s diet? (Just to notate, both sprouting and fermenting would be necessary!) For one, grains must be heavily cooked to a near indistinguishable mush for a dog to even benefit slightly as a carnivore’s digestive tract can in no way break down unprocessed grains, period. Let’s consider the well-meaning pet parent who is feeding oatmeal, a grain which cannot be sprouted nor has been shown to benefit from soaking in an acid or fermented medium over-night prior to cooking. Grains contain the enzyme phytase that helps to breakdown the anti-nutrient phytic acid for the purpose of sprouting and growing into a new grass. However, phytase is heat sensitive and is destroyed easily by heat. Oatmeal (either rolled or instant) is a common addition to homemade dog food. In order to create oatmeal from whole grain oats, the oats are subjected to steam and then toasted or are precooked. The heat destroys the naturally-occurring phytase in the oats and therefore leaves the anti-nutrient phytic acid in the oatmeal. As a result, oatmeal does not benefit from presoaking even in an acid medium because there exists no phytase to “activate.” Oatmeal requires the addition of phytase or the homemade meal is sabotaged by the anti-nutrients. As noted above, the anti-predation chemicals in grains are meant to withstand the digestive tract in order to come out whole in feces for its purpose of creating new life. Unless the grains are sprouted or fermented before cooking, the anti-nutrients remain and will bind with minerals and pancreatic enzymes creating a possible mineral deficiency condition. And if this isn’t problematic enough, you must still contend with the lectin toxins and prolamin. Most lectins are proinflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and cytotoxic. Some lectins may also increase blood viscosity, can interfere with gene expression, and act as endocrine disruptors. According to the world expert on plant anti-nutrients, Dr. Steven Gundry explains, “lectins are like little barnacles that look for specific sugar molecules in our blood, the lining of our gut, and on our nerves. When they find a good spot to land, they cling to those cells, breaking down their ability to communicate with our immune systems. Then, they literally tear open little holes between the cells that line our intestines. This perforation is the cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome, which we’re learning can cause a great deal of unpleasant symptoms and autoimmune issues or symptoms similar to those of food poisoning…. For the most part, grains are a relatively new food to us. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t search for grains. Plus, most grains are lectin bombs, as well as gluten-free grain substitutes. It’s best to limit grain intake. If you must, eat white flour over wheat.1” Reducing lectins requires sprouting, fermenting, and pressure cooking the grains. And finally, grains contain prolamins. Prolamins are known to be especially irritating to immune function. In the presence of these anti-nutrients, adequate mineral absorption and proper digestion is not possible. Adding grains are, therefore, counter-productive, not to mention time-consuming. Most of the time, the reason a pet parent is adding oatmeal or another grain is for the purpose of meeting one nutrient requirement such as magnesium. Going through the long and arduous preparation process just to hypothetically meet one nutrient requirement, while likely reducing the gut-absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, is anything but beneficial.

If you have read Part IV of this series, you will know that my highest nutrient per bite ratio recommendation would cancel out grains completely. Grains are not nutrient-saturated and contain a valueless macronutrient (carbohydrate) that is unbalanced for a carnivore. Carnivores have no need for carbohydrates and grains are primarily carbohydrates with low-bioavailable proteins. This then creates a domino effect in the canine’s diet that 1) reduces or radically alters bioavailable essential amino acid proportions and levels, 2) reduces the potential for enzyme and cofactor saturation that can only be supplied with fresh raw foods, 3) which then creates a need for anti-inflammatory fats (along with Vitamin E) to be added to the meal, 4) which then raises calories, 5) which then requires a reduction in the vital animal protein sources, essential animal fat, or the grain (which lowers the already low nutrient-value of the grain) to avoid too many calories, 6) which would then require the addition of supplemental nutrients, and thus you are left with an over-all reduction in nutrient saturation in the total diet. Barely meeting minimum nutrient requirements is not adequate to prevent disease and cultivate optimal health. Optimal health is never built on minimums or just above. Optimal health requires an abundance of nutrients that can be found in highest nutrient per bite ratio foods saturated and teeming with life giving nutrition.  

There is also the concern with the rise in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) among many breeds of dogs. While I am not a veterinarian and am unqualified to write on the specifics of this devastating condition, I do know that most DCM conditions are dietary related and are a direct result of a taurine deficiency. This is a newer epidemic among dogs as the amino acid taurine is not an essential (required) amino acid that must be added to a dog’s diet. However, it is possible that the low quality, plant-based proteins that dominate commercial pet foods is leading to a deficiency of this important amino acid. Grains do not contain taurine; therefore, providing your dog with a grain inclusive kibble (as is being recommended by veterinarians) will not solve the issue. Taurine is abundant in meat, heart, fish, eggs, seaweed, and dairy foods, ingredients that lack in commercially processed dog foods. Taurine-deficient DCM can be avoided altogether by providing your dog with a taurine-rich, nutrient-saturated raw food diet.

Should you feed your dog grains? I hope that your answer is no. I have even recommended to many of my humans clients to remove grains from their diet as well. The health benefits of grains are nil. Feeding a carnivore grains is even more-so problematic. Leave the grains to the birds and focus rather on providing your dog with biologically-appropriate foods that are bioavailable, easily digested, saturated with nutrients, enzymes and cofactors, and rich in amino acids such as taurine. Why take a chance with your dog’s health when we have them for such a short time? Offer your fur-baby the best you can provide. The Holistic Canine is here to support you.

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

1 https://gundrymd.com/reduce-lectins-diet/


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART IV

In Parts I through III, I briefly discussed the anatomy and physiology of the canine to show what a dog is designed and meant to consume as well as the specific nutrients that dogs must receive from those foods in order to prevent nutrient-deficient pathologies and premature death. I also touched on the work of the NRC and AAFCO in determining nutrient minimums that have prevented nutrient-deficient pathologies in dogs consuming commercial foods. Thus we have a baseline, and in the instance of a few nutrients, we know the safe upper limits (SUL). And yet of all the information I have provided, what may possibly be the most important is the understanding that nutrients obtained from synthetic and inorganic laboratory produced isolates do not and cannot produce optimal health. I would like to briefly recap.

Nutrients perform synergistically. Some are antagonistic; others are dependent upon other nutrients, cofactors, and enzymes for absorption and/or function. Separating nutrients from their sources removes them from the web of interaction and cooperation. Man’s attempt at copying what nature has provided in her perfection via the creation of synthetic isolated pseudo-nutrients has created a host of difficulties. For one, synthetic nutrients are in no way similar to the biological process by which plants and animals manufacture, utilize, and/or store them. The nutrient structures that are reproduced in the laboratory, despite being similar, do not equate to a biological system recognizing, utilizing, processing, and storing them in the same manner as naturally occurring food nutrients. In fact, because of their isolated form, imbalances are far more probable creating the increased likelihood for deficiencies and toxicities. We know this to be true because studies on supplemental nutrients have been underway for decades. Sadly, of the thousands of studies performed most of the objectively unbiased studies are still concluding that synthetic nutrient supplements have no positive effect on the body. According to multiple articles found on The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website, multivitamin supplementation use has led to an increased risk for cancer. It is unfortunate that there still exists no demonstrable evidence suggesting that synthetic nutrients are beneficial, especially in an already healthy body that does not require them.

The majority of commercially prepared processed dog foods are laden with synthetic and inorganic nutrient isolates. Not only are the adulterated and rendered ingredients (complete with copious amounts of carbohydrate and fiber fillers) biologically inappropriate for a dog, so too are the laboratory-produced nutrients added to make them comply with AAFCO’s “complete and balanced” nutrient standards. Dogs who are consuming these commercially processed foods are hit with this destructive double whammy. And yet, as mentioned in the previous parts of this blog series, dogs are extremely hardy, and as a result, many dogs ARE living long lives despite consuming these less-than-ideal foods. Nevertheless, the remaining higher percentage of pets are stricken with a life of suffering from minor to major health conditions and finally succumbing to chronic disease and cancer. Now imagine, if pets are able to survive while being nutritionally abused through the consumption of these processed and synthetic foods and nutrients, how much more will they thrive when switched to a biologically-appropriate fresh-foods diet teeming with naturally occurring food-sourced nutrients. And so, we have now come back to our focus: food-sourced, naturally occurring, organic nutrients. How can we be sure to provide our pets with a balanced diet that not only meets AAFCOs “complete and balanced” standards and the NRCs nutrient minimums, but exceeds them through nature’s biologically-appropriate nutrients? You will do this by following my HN/Br plan for creating nutrient-rich meals.

For the informed and educated pet parent motivated to provide their pet with the highest-quality biologically-appropriate nutrition plan, feeding my highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) is the easiest way to ensure your dog will meet their nutrient needs without having to rely heavily upon supplementation. Before embarking on a homemade raw-food journey, you will have homework to do. You must first determine your dog’s baseline nutrient requirements. You will find a complimentary nutrient calculator on my business website that will determine your dog’s NRC minimum nutrient requirements based on your dog’s weight. This will be your baseline (be sure to print or record them so you have these values handy.). Once you have received your nutrient minimums, it is highly recommended that you further research your dog’s breed to discover common health problems and conditions, common gene mutations, and breed disease-predispositions. Also look into his/her pedigree (or parents) for any conditions that may have been genetically passed on. If you have a dog with an unknown breeder and pedigree, you may want to consider using a DNA test to check for any possible conditions. Embark Dog DNA Test checks for 165 genetic conditions. This is highly advised if your dog’s ancestry is unknown and you desire to cultivate optimal health and longevity. The reason for checking into your dog’s background is for the purpose of raising specific nutrients that support the body and assist in the prevention of potential predisposed conditions. For all the information you will discover, follow that up by looking into preventative measures and what is advised and recommended by either The Holistic Canine, your holistic veterinarian, or another nutrition/naturopathic pet professional. Once you have your nutrient baseline and all necessary information for preventing possible conditions or disease in the future, you are ready to begin creating meals. This may all sound overwhelming, but really it is not. Start with your breeder or the internet and do as much research as you are able without assistance. If you require a nutritionist or holistic veterinarian, especially one who specializes in food therapy, you have one right here. The Holistic Canine can be contacted for further support. Simply use our contact page, visit our Facebook page, or email us at wellnessforlife18@yahoo.com.

The highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) is a simple way of choosing foods that are nutrient saturated. You will need to discover and then source the biologically-appropriate foods and meal ingredients that are most nutrient saturated in order to cover a large portion of your dog’s nutritional requirements with those foods. I call these broad spectrum foods. Ingredients you will be sourcing are muscle meats and fish, muscle organs, secreting organs, eggs, and bone. You may also wish to add vegetation, seeds, and a variety of other foods or ingredients that are nutrient-rich and specifically beneficial to your dog. You may find as you begin offering more and more foods that your dog may occasionally have loose stools or diarrhea (rare is constipation an issue unless you are feeding far too much bone). Pay close attention to your dog’s stools. Stools are a key to informing you which foods are beneficial, which foods may be causing issues, foods that are not being tolerated well, or that the meals you are providing may be unbalanced.

To learn what nutrients are in the foods and ingredients that you will be including in meals, you will need to refer to nutrition apps, nutrition websites, and/or meal designer programs that have databases of the hypothetical nutrient profiles of most foods. I prefer to use Cronometer. While the macronutrient food values are generally accurate (proteins, fat, and carbohydrates), please understand that the micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) nutritional profiles are averages and hypothetical values ONLY. What this means is that the ingredients you purchase may not actually contain the nutrients that are hypothetically in the average same-food. The databases are simply reference guides. To ensure that the foods you purchase and feed to your dog are actually nutrient-rich, you will need to purchase the highest quality possible. Choose quality ingredients that you are able to source and afford then look-up their nutritional profiles in the database(s). Compare these profiles to your dog’s nutrient needs. You will then need to discover which foods fall under the HN/Br and put those at the top of your list to be fed as priority foods (more on this coming up). Organ meats consistently fall under HN/Br. Organs are nature’s multi-vitamins and -minerals! To begin creating meals, refer to the following ratio guideline.

The following percentage ratio is a GUIDELINE to creating a meal:

80/10/10

80% = muscle meats. This category is further broken down to 65/15: 65% = superficial muscle, 15% = organ muscle.

10% = bone. This is an approximate. Prey, on the average, contains 12% bone. Puppies require 15% bone. Some dogs do better with 12% bone rather than 10%. You will need to discover what is best for YOUR dog.

10% = secreting organs. This category is further broken down to 5/5: 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ.

80/10/10 is the simplified version of this more accurate ratio 65/15/10/5/5.

I emphasize guideline because many pet parents mistakenly believe that this ratio means “nutrient balanced” and/or that it must be exactly followed; however, nothing could be further from the truth. A pet parent may follow the ratio perfectly and have provided meals that yield next to no micronutrients that their dog must have to be healthy and prevent disease, and/or may be supplying unbalanced macronutrients. The ingredients and foods you choose is first and foremost the most important factor in creating adequate nutrient-balanced meals. Once you have determined your HN/Br foods (those nutrient saturated foods that will more than cover your dog’s nutrient requirements), place those into the ratio guideline above to create the actual meals. To receive The Holistic Canine’s Raw Feeding Guide resource, please join our Facebook community or contact us to receive the pdf copy. The following is a list of ingredients from which you will find HN/Br foods and create meals. Note these are not exhaustive lists, merely easiest-to-source ingredients.

Muscle meats (superficial): 65%              Muscle organs: 15%

  • Beef (grass-fed is best)                             Heart
  • Goat (pasture-raised is best)                   Gizzards
  • Lamb (pasture-raised is best)                 Lung
  • Rabbit                                                          Green tripe
  • Pork (pasture-raised is best)                   Tongue
  • Chicken (free-range is best)                    Trachea*
  • Turkey (free-range is best)                     Cheek (not technically an organ)
  • Quail
  • Duck
  • Sardines
  • Salmon (wild-caught only)
  • Whiting (wild-caught)
  • Herring, mackerel (wild-caught)
  • Smelts
  • Trout
  • Oysters
  • Off-cuts, briskets, and fillets Eggs (chicken, duck, quail, etc. from pasture-raised birds)

Bone: 10%

  • Chicken quarters (thighs, drumsticks)                       
  • Chicken feet
  • Chicken necks                                                           
  • Chicken wings
  • Chicken backs                                                           
  • Poultry carcass
  • Turkey necks                                                             
  • Turkey wings
  • Turkey backs                                                             
  • Duck wings
  • Duck head                                                                 
  • Quail, whole                           
  • Cornish hen, whole                                                    
  • Rabbit thigh, ribs, feet            
  • Goat/lamb neck                                                         
  • Goat/lamb rib
  • Pork rib                                                                      
  • Pig feet
  • Ox tail                                                                         
  • Eggshell**

Organs, secreting: 10%

  • Liver 5%: beef, calf, chicken, pork, duck, rabbit, goat, lamb, venison
  • Kidney: beef, pork, rabbit, goat, lamb, venison, poultry/fowl
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Brain
  • Testicles* (not recommended for an intact male, but excellent if neutered!)
  • Ovaries* (not recommended for an intact female, but excellent if spayed!)
  • Thymus (sweetbreads)

Look specifically for foods that will also cover the more difficult to meet nutrients. These include manganese, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, iodine, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. Unfortunately, when we are relying on nutritional information for human foods we are not always able to find nutrient information on foods that people would not commonly eat, yet foods that we do feed to our dogs. For example, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron commonly come up low when we are trying to source for these nutrients. One of the reasons this happens is because human nutritional data does not provide information on bones. Wild dogs do not seem to have a problem sourcing all of their nutrients. One of the reasons is likely because bone and marrow contains those hard-to-source nutrients. Bone contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfur, potassium, and silica, while marrow contains iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, boron, Vitamins A & K, and fatty acids. Another major source of manganese is fur and feathers, specifically the reds. Humans certainly do not consume bones, fur and feathers or many of the organs that we can feed to our dogs, thus nutritional information is not provided for these important foods. This is a major problem with relying on human nutritional information. Note that even the pet diet designer programs are limited to the same human nutrition information. If you are feeding bones, none of your meal recipes will come up accurate in these programs. Dogs Naturally Magazine has developed a calculator that accounts for bone. Please join our Facebook community to have access to this free resource.

One of the most important tips that I give to my clients is also one that will help keep you out of the dark when it comes to unknown nutritional information. If you want your dog’s organs, muscles, eyes, vessels, bones, etc. to be healthy, FEED THOSE PARTS. Those same nutrients that each part of your dog’s body requires for health are found in the food parts. This is one way to know what is in some of the foods we offer to our dogs. Again, if we are aware of which nutrients are needed for the health of each organ, bones, eyes, blood, muscles, joints, and ligaments, for example, we can conclude that many of those nutrients are found in those parts that we can offer as food to our dogs. Organs store a wealth of nutrients. Because organs are so rich in nutrients, we can only feed so much without the possibility of hypervitaminosis, a toxicity condition from too much Vitamins A, D, and B (especially B12).

When sourcing for particular nutrients, for the same reason I mentioned above, many foods which we are feeding to our dogs are not listed in human nutrition databases. As a result, it appears that some of those audited meals are coming up short in several nutrients. As a warning, please do not fall for the same mistakes many raw feeders are making under the guise of “science-based” meal planning. Many of these pet parents who are relying solely on human nutrition databases and programs will then turn to inappropriate food sources to meet a nutrient need. Inappropriate food sources commonly used by so-called “science-based” food database groupies are oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, legumes, beans, peas, and others. These foods are in direct opposition to my HN/Br. Not only do they not have a broad spectrum nutrient profile, but they are only hypothetically filling a mere one, maybe two, nutrient gap(s) while also creating an issue with empty calorie space. I emphasize hypothetically because firstly, these foods are biologically-inappropriate to a canine; secondly, every one of those species-inappropriate foods contains health-destroying anti-nutrients which bind other minerals from being absorbed, and thirdly, they all require the necessity of first soaking, then sprouting, then cooking, and then cooking some more as well as the addition of the enzyme phytase which is destroyed by cooking. This is also in direct opposition to raw feeding. (More on grains in Part V.) These foods should not a have place in your dog’s diet.

How you will choose HN/Br foods to be added to meals is through nutritional comparison. Use cronometer to find nutrient values for the foods you will offer your dog. As an example, grass-fed ground beef contains far more iron than chicken, while the beef heart contains more than double the iron than the ground beef, yet chicken hearts have more than double the iron found in beef heart. So for iron we can look to chicken hearts. But what else do chicken hearts contain to make it worth feeding? Remember, we want broad spectrum foods, not foods that cover a mere one or two nutrient(s). Chicken hearts are rich in taurine, an amino acid that helps prevent taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), they are one of the richest animal sources of folate (needed for DNA methylation1), they contain more zinc than ground beef and beef heart, they are an excellent source of B vitamins, and coenzyme Q10. We can conclude that chicken hearts would classify as a HN/Br food. However, that does not mean that you don’t also feed the comparison foods. We will simply rely on the HN/Br foods to cover a broad spectrum of nutrients while also feeding the other ingredients to further meet nutrient requirements. It all adds up, but when you feed HN/Br foods in every meal, you can more than meet nutrient minimums. Let me give another example, beef liver is a rich source of copper, chicken liver contains only trace amounts. Chicken liver is slightly higher in iron; however, beef liver also wins for Vitamin A and all of the B vitamins. So beef liver comes under the HN/Br foods. You can rotate beef liver with pork liver which contains huge amounts of iron, equally high B vitamins, but next to no copper, and chicken liver which is higher in iron than beef liver but also contains huge amounts of folate. What I do is I rely on beef liver but also occasionally feed other liver or feed two different types of liver in one meal. Do the same for nutrient saturated vegetables and seeds.

Look up each of the more difficult to source nutrients by doing a web search for “richest food sources of [nutrient name].” Keep in mind that you will only pay attention to those foods that are biologically-appropriate and safe for a dog to consume. Discovering and adding these foods makes it even easier to fill all nutrient requirements. Once you have your list of HN/Br foods, you can begin to create meals with your meat and organ sources, vegetables, and other foods. You want to rely heavily of naturally occurring food nutrients and not on bottled supplements (and never ever on laboratory produced synthetic pseudo-nutrients).

It is also necessary to remember that you will need to balance fats. Feeding too much of the omega-6 fatty acids, such as from relying too heavily on chicken, can create an inflammatory environment in your dog’s body. Be sure to balance omega-6 foods with omega-3 containing foods. I find that offering chicken along with grass-fed beef and fatty fish, two sources of omega-3 fatty acids, balances the fat in the meal beautifully. If you are feeding oils, only offer those oils that will balance out the fats in your meats.

Another key to covering nutrient requirements is to use a vast variety of foods. And, do not remain stagnant with one or two recipes. Would this be beneficial for you to eat the same meal over and over? No. Neither would it be for your dog. Rotate where you source for foods as well. Every farm and every area of the world has different soils and weather patterns. You want to source locally as much as possible while also sourcing out. Feeding four or more protein sources in a meal is adequate and provides a broad spectrum of nutrient profiles.

Having learned how to create nutrient-rich meals, now is the time to determine where you need to supplement. I do use many supplements, most of which are whole-food sources of nutrients. I do not want to simply meet minimums, I want to provide the best possible nutrition plan that I am able. This most often requires adding “extras” to meals. Extras include vegetables, fruits, seeds, algae and phytoplanktons, medicinal mushrooms, oils, fermented foods, herbs, spices, and natural nutrients that are not synthetically manufactured. Always purchase natural or food sources of vitamins and minerals. If you need to boost minerals, food-source minerals are best followed by organic mineral chelates. Do not purchase inorganic minerals! Supplements can be very expensive, especially since you will want to purchase supplements for people unless you have found an excellent natural source of supplements for dogs (these are often more costly than human-grade). To keep cost at a minimum, be sure to meet nutrient needs through food ingredients first and foremost and add supplements where you absolutely must. Adding additional “superfood” supplements for disease prevention is a necessary secondary must if you are being proactive in preventing future disease in your dog. As a precaution, if you are purchasing individual vitamin and mineral isolates, purchase LOW doses. You do not want to mega-dose your dog. More is not better. Mega-doses are used for therapeutic purposes only.

Do your research and be sure that you are prepared and confident to begin a raw food nutrition program. You have valuable resources available through The Holistic Canine!

©2019 The Holistic Canine Written by Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

*hormone exposure is likely! This is NOT necessarily advantageous and may actually lead to hormone imbalance in intact dogs or dogs prone to thyroid disorder.

**eggshell is not a substitute for bones when feeding puppies. Puppies must have bone for proper calcium to phosphorous balance.

1 DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells that controls gene expression. DNA methylation is a commonly used epigenetic signaling tool that can fix genes in the “off” position.


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART III

In my practice, I teach and promote what I have coined the highest nutrient per bite ratio or HN/Br. This is taught and promoted to my human clients as well as to pet parents who are learning to feed a biologically appropriate diet to their dog. This principle ensures nutrient needs are being met in each and every bite. Dogs, like us, have very real and specific nutrient requirements, but not every dog has the same needs. Many factors define and determine which nutrients are needed in which amounts. Unfortunately, this is not so cut and dry. Further, there has to be a starting point upon which we build and hone nutrient requirements for each dog. Thanks to canine nutritional research furthered in the 1970s and 1980s and later improved upon in the early 2000s, we have standards that can guide pet parents to safeguard pets against nutrient-deficient pathologies.

Pet parents caring for the modern dog have the National Research Council (NRC) to thank. The NRC complied and condensed animal nutrition research from the mid-1970s through the 1980s. These more detailed findings enabled them to create separate nutrient recommendations for the maintenance of healthy adult dogs, for puppies, and for pregnant and lactating dams, something that was lacking in the earlier publications from 1974. Despite the vast improvement in nutritional recommendations for various life cycles, the newer recommendations also came with a disclaimer. The NRC made clear that “caution is advised in the use of these requirements without demonstration of nutrient availability, because in some cases requirements have been established on the basis of studies in which nutrients were supplied in highly purified ingredients where digestibility and availability are not compromised.” This made it nearly impossible for dog food manufacturers to set nutrient standards in their processed foods as their ingredients were clearly not in a “highly purified” form guaranteeing nutrient “digestibility and availability,” and as a result, the industry and its regulators declared that the NRC recommendations were not suitable for standardizing pet foods. Clearly the NRC was in need of yet another updated publication. This moved AAFCO to organize the “Canine Nutrition Expert and the Feline Nutrition Expert subcommittee.” The committee was established to interpret and transform NRC recommendations into a set of guidelines for pet food manufacturers to follow. These standards are still being used by the pet food industry to-date despite the fact that the NRC did publish an updated and lengthy report in 2006. And yet, the newer report is still limited in many ways.

In a Cambridge University Press article entitled Challenges in Developing Nutrient Guidelines for Companion Animals, we learn, “The [NRC] recommendations give minimum and maximum amounts or concentrations for each nutrient to facilitate formulating complete and balanced diets for healthy animals. The committee resisted extending the scope beyond the maintenance of health and prevention of disease, and did not address nutrient requirements for animals with disease. Theoretically, any diet formulated to contain more than a minimum and less than a maximum amount or concentration of each nutrient provided in the tables should be complete and balanced for healthy animals. However, making pet food is a complex process, and animals are not uniform. Thus, there are many factors that can affect nutrient requirements, and it is important to recognize the limitations of these NRC recommendations.” The report further states, “For many nutrients, a MR [minimum requirement] cannot be established because gradually increasing amounts of nutrient have not been fed to dogs and cats while measuring performance. As a result, the tables, especially those for adult maintenance, have many blank values for MR. However, where an MR has not been established, a pet food has often been fed to dogs and cats without resulting in signs of deficiency. This allows an adequate intake (AI) to be established, defined as a concentration or amount of a nutrient that had been demonstrated to support a defined physiological state. Because the AI is established using pet food ingredients, a safety factor is not included when an RA [recommended allowance] is established based on an AI. Thus, it is possible that a diet containing lower concentrations than an RA established from an MR but made from bioavailable ingredients, or a diet containing lower concentrations than an RA established using an AI, may still support a given physiological state. These important possibilities are sometimes not appreciated by the public or regulators1.” This notation is important for the raw feeding pet parents to bear in mind.

We see there are several limitations with using and following the NRCs nutrient recommendations, not to mention the rather steep price tag to purchase the publication and somewhat obscure and difficult content. The latter is greatly unfortunate because it reduces any possibility of getting the publication into the hands of the general pet parent community, especially to those in the homemade dog food and raw feeding circles, the very people with the most to gain from its content. The Challenges article further points out, however, that the publication contains “many gaps in the tables listing MR, because there has been little research performed during the last 20 years…Most requirements have been established using growth rate as the criterion of adequacy, and there remains little information on the MR for maintenance and reproduction or any other physiological state. There is also comparatively little information on bioavailability; consequently, safety factors are in many instances an educated estimate. As a result, some RA may be higher than needed, e.g. Cu [copper] or Zn [zinc]1.” But despite the limitations, we nevertheless have a guideline by which to refer.

We have learned from the Challenges article that the NRC has resisted extending the scope of nutrient requirements beyond the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease. In other words, we are looking at minimum requirements that will prevent deficiency-pathologies, not requirements to cultivate optimal health; most notably in dogs with predispositions to conditions and disease states, dogs with existing conditions, and seniors with higher nutrient needs. What is also greatly lacking is a safe upper limit for all vital nutrients that are being sourced from highly bioavailable ingredients such as raw foods. And if this is not enough, the article also notated the possibility that bioavailable ingredients may actually have lower requirements due to being in their natural organic state surrounded by cofactors, enzymes, and associating nutrients. So what we are left with is a hodge-podge of possibilities and what-ifs. In all honestly, science is still light years behind when it comes to biological systems and their intricate and intimate connection with nutrients and environment.

Using AAFCOs and some of the NRCs guidelines and standards, the dog food industry has thus far managed to prevent the extermination of pets consuming their products, so we know that even when being fed highly adulterated, rendered, synthetic, highly processed, biologically inappropriate foods, dogs are surviving, some even well into their golden years. We can conclude that something is moving in the correct direction. But, we also know that the modern dog is stricken with chronic and debilitating disease conditions and many more are facing high mortality rates. We can also conclude, then, that something is moving in the wrong direction. For all practical purposes, we can suffice it to say that the nutrient minimums are working in the favor of pets consuming commercial foods while the highly processed, low bioavailable, low quality ingredients, and excessive processing is not. This is not to say that raw fed dogs are immune from conditions and chronic disease because, quickly frankly, many raw fed dogs are suffering with conditions and dying from cancer, albeit the risk and rate is much lower than in dogs on a lifetime of processed dog food.

When we are considering nutrient requirements and quantities in dogs, it should be the goal of the raw feeding pet parent to cultivate optimal health, and where dogs are suffering with any number of conditions, to cultivate healing as well. For the healthy dog, taking into account those influencing factors that might affect health adversely in the future ought to be a priority when designing a better-than-satisfactory nutrition plan. In all of the situations where dogs have needs that go beyond NRCs “standard adult,” “standard puppy,” and “standard pregnant and lactating dam” requirements, it is vital to take into consideration the current state of health, all possible genetic hurdles, impeding and relating factors, lifestyle and environmental factors, and breed predispositions affecting, whether directly or indirectly, each individual dog and thereby increase (or decrease) the necessary nutrient baselines where needed. Because of these complex and highly varying considerations, the NRC would have quite the undertaking to work out the nutrient requirements for the most common scenarios and conditions in dogs. Since this is highly unlikely to be produced anytime in the near future or at all, it would be a great value to pet parents for the NRC to discover safe upper limits for all the essential nutrients (rather than the few they have determined) in order that nutrient adjustments can be safely made by pet parents where needed. Increasing the nutrient baselines for those that are known to be advantageous in common health crises would be immensely beneficial, especially the needs of cancer victims where therapeutic nutrient dosing needs to be quite high.

It is necessary to here point out that while diet plays a vital and fundamental role in health, it is but one factor in many that play major roles in the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease conditions and premature death. Health is in the cells. Cellular health and epigenetic gene expression are influenced primarily by diet and environment which directly affect internal and external influencing factors that can lead to or prevent disease. These dietary and environmental influences determine how blueprints within the DNA are read and then expressed (turned on) or stored (turned off). Thus, disease potential within a cell is turned on or off based on these outside influencing factors. Despite a dog being offered a lifetime of raw meals consisting of what is thought to be the most nutrient-dense, perfectly sourced ingredients, he or she can still end up with a chronic condition or fatal disease. This often happens when environmental interaction coupled with external and internal influences are ignored. These influences are pivotal and play a major role in a gene expressing (turning on) a predisposed potential for disease. This world is far from safe for us and our animals. But having a working knowledge of what can lead to disease gives us a head-start in its prevention. Taking critical steps to prevent disease in our dogs goes a long way in greatly reducing the chances of suffering and disease fatality. With this knowledge, we can use nutrients through a raw diet as an arsenal to affect life-saving gene expression while removing environmental factors and being cognizant of internal risk factors.

Chronic Disease Influencing Risk Factors

  • Breed disease-predispositions
  • Genetic/pedigree disease potential
  • Vaccinations (even one can be lethal, but here I refer to unnecessary repeat vaccines)
  • Early spay and neuter
  • Chemical exposure:
  • Flea/tick/heartworm/worming chemicals
  • Cigarette/cigar smoke
  • Air fresheners
  • Hair and body aerosols
  • Lawn and garden chemicals, weed killers (esp. glyphosate), pest control
  • Pool/hot tub chemicals
  • Farm and garden chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.)
  • Household pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, rodent poisons, ant baits, etc.
  • Acetone exposure
  • Nail product and paint fumes
  • Carpet and floor cleaners
  • Construction and automobile chemicals and oils
  • Fabric softener
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Drugs, veterinary prescriptions
  • Growth hormones
  • Processed food diet, kibble
  • Excessive consumption of a single recipe/diet (homemade and commercial)
  • Excessive consumption of same-source ingredients (homemade and commercial)
  • Unbalanced/unvaried diet
  • Excessive supplementation
  • High carbohydrates/fiber diet (commercial and homemade)
  • Species inappropriate diet (commercial and homemade)
  • Consumption of rancid fats and fish oils
  • Nutrient deficient meals
  • Nutrient toxic meals and supplementation
  • Tap water (chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceutical contaminants, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.)
  • Poor dental and gum health
  • Parasite induced disease condition
  • Stress/anxiety/loneliness
  • Lengthy crating and confinement
  • Obesity
  • Lack of outdoor time
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Lack of fresh air
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of purpose (esp. in working breeds)
  • Tight fitting collar
  • Excessive heat or cold exposure
  • Excessive breeding of bitch

I would like to here end Part III. Part IV will discuss my highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) diet plan.

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

1 RF Butterwick, JW Erdman Jr, RC Hill, AJ Lewis and CT Whittemore, “Challenges in Developing Nutrient Guidelines for Companion Animals,” British Journal of Nutrition, no. 106, Oct 12, 2011, S24-S31. (Italics and underline mine)


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART II

Nutrients

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

Protein:

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

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

Fat:

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

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

Carbohydrates:

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

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

Vitamins:

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

Essential fat-soluble vitamins:

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

Essential water-soluble vitamins:

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

Minerals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Robert Thiel, PhD, Naturopath, The Truth About Minerals in Nutritional Supplements, Doctors’ Research™ website, http://www.doctorsresearch.com/articles3.html


Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that is also a powerful antioxidant. Many dogs have a low intake of this vital nutrient, or worse, are consuming a synthetic version of Vitamin E. A low dietary intake can lead to a deficiency which can create irreversible cell damage most notably to the heart, liver, bones, muscles, and nerves. Vitamin E is necessary for over-all muscle health, circulatory health, healing of injuries, and skin health, among others. In fact, if your dog is consuming high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, he will require even more Vitamin E to protect his body from oxidation of the fatty acids. Vitamin E also protects Vitamin A and amino acids containing sulfur (notably taurine) from oxidation. Since raw diets contain high levels of vital amino acids and Vitamin A, providing enough Vitamin E in each meal is a necessity. You will want to provide a food source of Vitamin E such as wheat germ oil, hemp seed oil, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, spinach (and other green leafy veggies), and broccoli. If you are wanting to avoid creating a fat imbalance or adding the extra calories from fat, then using an oil may not be an option.

While most commercial dog foods are supplemented with Vitamin E, they generally contain either a synthetic version of the isolated alpha (which has a low absorption rate, for one) or the touted “natural” isolate alpha tocopherol. Synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol and the “natural” d-alpha tocopherol are both unsafe. Vitamin E exists in food and nature as a complex of eight different constituents, four tocopherols and four tocotrienols, not just the alpha. In fact, studies show that the consumption of synthetic dl-alpha Vitamin E may just lead to an increased risk of cancer!

My opinion: always go for food sources of nutrients because nature knows best. And if food sources are not possible, use a truly natural supplement containing the entire Vitamin E complex of eight constituents, not just the alpha.

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


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


Hemp Seed Oil

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

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

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

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


Frankenprey

Franken what?! When it comes to raw feeding, the idea is to mimic a diet closest to what nature provides for her Facultative Carnivores. But unless you are letting your dog hunt for his meals, graze out in the open fields or garden, and catch insects, he isn’t getting a truly biologically appropriate, or “natural,” diet. Many raw feeders mistakenly attempt this by feeding their dogs what is known as the Prey Model Raw (PMR). PMR is, however, a diet model for Obligate Carnivores such as cats, not Facultative Carnivores- our dogs. PMR restricts feeding any vegetables and fruits, something wild dogs in nearly every part of the world do consume at a near 14% frequency. But even if you were to offer PMR, you would need to offer your dog the whole prey for the meals to truly resemble the wild meal. Realistically, 98% of us pet owners are not in a position to let our dogs hunt, or go out and cull one of our chickens or quails, grab a rabbit from our stash, or shoot an old bull or goat out in our pasture to let our dogs have at it. So what are we to do? We can offer “Frankenprey” with the addition of vegetation to mimic the wild diet.

The Frankenprey model allows you to create what would mimic whole prey, or at least get as close to it as possible, by piecing together animal parts that you can obtain from your grocery store and local butchers/farmers. You can use various ratios to create the Frankenprey. This can include 80/10/10 or 65/15/10/5/5 or 70/10/5/5/10. A meal may include the following: 70-80% muscle meat (15% of that being organ muscle such as heart, gizzard, and lung), 10% bone (some dogs need 12%, puppies need 15% bone), 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ(s) (such as kidney, pancreas, spleen), and 5-20% vegetable/fruit puree. Some raw feeders find adding yogurt, kefir, goat’s milk, or cottage cheese beneficial as well. Many dogs do very well with up to 25% veg/fruit (cyclical) for therapeutic purposes and added phytonutrients. (Wolves can survive on high plant percentages for extended periods in the absence of prey). You may choose to use a simple 80/10/5/5 ratio and add a veg/fruit/kefir/yogurt mix separate from mealtime as a treat or snack.

How might a Frankenprey meal look for a medium size dog? Chicken thigh with skin and bone-in (30-40% of meal), ground grass-fed beef, beef heart or chicken heart, a chicken or turkey gizzard, calf liver, beef kidney or pork spleen, 1 oz. sardine, one chicken neck, one chicken foot (paw), feathers, whole egg (or egg yolk), ground hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds, and veg/fruit puree with AVC. Remember, these are just ingredients, not amounts! You will have to weigh the food and feed each ingredient in ounces or grams to create the ratio. Or, you may wish to create a single animal using all its parts such as ground turkey with skin (breast and dark meats), turkey neck and/or wing, turkey heart, turkey gizzard, turkey lungs, turkey liver, turkey kidney, feathers, beak or foot, and a veg/fruit puree with the meal or separate. Add a small amount of fish (or krill oil) with flaxmeal/flax seed oil or chia seeds to balance fats. Why is fat balancing so important? Farmed animals do not have the correct fat to protein ratios that wild prey has. Nor do they have the correct fatty acid needs for a dog due to inappropriate farming practices and feeding grains to grazing animals. Thus, we need to amend the fat to protein ratios and essential fatty acid ratios.

For more information on creating raw meals, ask for The Holistic Canine’s Raw Feeding Guide.

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


Iron: The Facts & Dangerous Truths

PART 2 Should You Supplement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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