By Britt Mills, DVM
Quick, easy, and inexpensive fixes for improving your dog’s nutrition.
Many of us over the years have learned the benefits of whole-food nutrition for ourselves and our families, but what about our canine friends? As we pour the uniformly brown preformed kibble into a bowl, we may wonder if it’s providing optimum nutrition.
The answer is, in a word, no. Any heat-treated kibble, no matter how expertly the nutritional profile is designed, lacks the nutrients and antioxidants of whole food. In addition, most kibble is made from by-products of the human food industry and likely won’t have premium ingredients. However, for many of us, formulating a balanced whole-food diet can be just too expensive or too time-consuming.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to spruce up a regular kibble diet without a huge cash outlay. Here are a few additions that give you the most bang for your buck; they are also a great boost to a home-cooked or raw-food diet.
1. Add whole foods. Adding cooked or raw boneless meat or raw chicken necks or backs can be a great help. Reduce the fat as much as possible, remove the skin, and make sure to reduce kibble to compensate for the extra calories, especially if your dog is overweight. Never feed cooked bones to dogs. Try this once or twice a week.
Cooked or raw vegetables are always a great addition, but avoid excessive starchy veggies unless your dog is very active. Dogs don’t digest raw veggies very well so if you feed them a lot, consider pureeing them or juicing them. Feed them plain without any added fat or sauces. Most aboveground veggies are excellent. If you feed cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, make sure it is cooked because raw cruciferous veggies can affect the thyroid. Avoid onions and limit garlic to half a small clove daily per 20 pounds of bodyweight because they can be toxic to dogs.
It’s not advisable to feed a lot of fruit to dogs because of its high sugar content, but the occasional handful of berries can be excellent. Don’t feed grapes or raisins because these are also toxic. Macadamia nuts and avocados should also be avoided because of toxicity, and spinach and chard should be fed only occasionally and always cooked.
2. Feed extra veggies, especially green ones, every day. If your dog has any inflammatory or autoimmune condition, avoid peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
3. Add sardines. Sardines are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins D and A. Get the ones packed in water, not oil, and feed one or two per 40 pounds of bodyweight every other day. They are packed with nutrients and quite inexpensive.
4. Add eggs. I alternate sardines with one raw or cooked egg every other day. The protein and fatty acid profile of eggs is excellent for dogs and they are very digestible.
5. Add bone broth. This is a bit time-consuming to make but amazing in its benefits. Wild carnivores consume a lot of connective tissue, which is very high in the amino acid glycine. Muscle meat tends to contain extra methionine, which can stimulate inflammation and mental alertness. Glycine opposes the action of methionine, reducing inflammation and promoting calmness. Bone broth is very high in glycine plus many of the joint-supporting supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid. It also contains dissolved minerals from bone.
To make, add bones to approximately four litres of water, put the lid on, and simmer for a very long time – one day at least. A crockpot is safest for long, unattended simmering. A pressure cooker will do the job in six to eight hours. Add water as needed. Use bones with a lot of connective tissue – pork hocks and feet are good, but any bones work well. You could try beef, chicken, turkey, venison, and lamb. Add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help leach the minerals from the bones. Adding a big bunch of parsley in the last 15 minutes will give a huge nutrient boost. Let cool, separate the bones from the broth, discard the bones, and skim off the fat.
All dogs will benefit from this broth but especially dogs with digestive troubles, weak or sick dogs, or dogs with pain issues. Make in bulk and give half to one cup per day. If you do feed bone broth regularly, you can skip the expensive joint supplements as well!
6. Add greens. If you take a green food mixture such as spirulina, chlorella or kelp, giving an occasional small amount to your dog will provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Don’t feed kelp on a daily basis because of its high iodine content – once a week or so is plenty. A good rule of thumb for green products is to feed one-quarter the human recommended dose per 25 pounds of bodyweight.
7. Add probiotics or a bit of plain yogurt or kefir a few times a week. Some dogs don’t do well on dairy so trying goat milk yogurt or a probiotic made for dogs is a good idea.
8. Feed organ meats. Adding liver, heart, and green tripe a few times a week provides nutrients found nowhere else. Don’t feed more than 10 percent of the meat ration.
There is no need to add every food every day, but rotating through a few of these fresh food suggestions every week will help maintain optimum health for your dog!
Britt Mills, DVM, graduated from Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1989. She has also completed the Veterinary Acupuncture Course, the Canadian Animal Chiropractic Certification Program, as well as other programs in craniosacraltherapy, applied kinesiology, prolotherapy and Tui-Na. Dr. Mills has the ability to combine traditional and alternative medicine to provide the highest level of care possible for her patients. She can be reached at Mills Veterinary Services in Armstrong, at 250-546-8860 or online at www.millsvet.com.
*Reprint from our Pet 2014 Issue.