These are the chronicles of two Shetland Sheepdogs and their adventures in rally-o, obedience, flyball, agility, tracking and therapy dog work.
Also including information on raw feeding, canine epilepsy, positive training, and lots and lots of Sheltie hair!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Supplements for Raw Feeding?

A very common question that I hear from new raw feeders is "What sort of supplements do I need to give?"

The answer to that depends very much on what you are feeding in the first place. A well balanced raw diet does not need additional supplements. So if you are putting in the time and effort to balancing the diet correctly, then you don't need to worry about anything extra. Nutritional excesses can be just as dangerous as nutritional deficiencies. So the "more is better" saying certainly does not apply to nutrition.

Here are a couple of websites that detail the symptoms of nutritional deficiencies and excesses:
Nutritional Deficiencies and Excesses (based on pigs, but very similar in dogs)
Nutritional Deficiencies - Symptoms and Diseases (based on cats, but also very similar to dogs)

My feelings on the subject are that the minerals and nutrients that a dog needs should be primarily obtained from the actual food that the dog is eating. Know what you are feeding and know what nutrients are available in those items. Increase specific food items in accordance with what you feel the diet is lacking. Some great websites for getting a feel of nutrients in various raw foods include and Nutrient Composition of Whole Vertebrate Prey.

The most common supplements given by Prey Model Raw feeders include: joint supplements, omega-3, and vitamin E. These should only be given if you feel there is a special need for your dog to have them and if you are aware that the diet you are providing is lacking in these nutrients.

Joint supplements typically include glucosamine and chondroitin. Before resorting to a bottled supplement, attempt to provide it naturally. Glucosamine is found naturally in raw joint tissue. So if you are able to feed edible bone "joints", then you are already providing natural glucosamine. Chicken feet are great, as are other joint items such as chicken or turkey legs, backs, necks, etc.

Intensive livestock practices find the farm animals that we eat being fed grain-based diets. As such, the meat that is produced is naturally low in omega-3. There is plenty of omega-6 in raw meat, but the balance of omega-3 to -6 is thrown out of whack. As a result, it may be necessary to supplement a raw diet with omega-3. Again, attempt to provide it naturally first. This can be done by feeding oily fish or grass-fed red meat. If you are unable to provide grass fed meat or fish in adequate amounts, then a supplement will suffice. The absorption and utilization of omegas depends on the availability of vitamin E. It is possible to get omega supplements that have vitamin E included, if you can find something like that then it will be much more convenient.

Please note, kibble does NOT count as a supplement. Too often I have heard people say that they want to feed half raw and half kibble so that the "kibble makes up for any imbalances in the raw portion". This just does not make sense in any form. Commercial kibbles are nutritionally balanced assuming that they are fed as the entire diet of the dog. So if your dog needs one cup of kibble per day, that one cup of kibble will have all the nutrients that the dog needs that day. If you decide to feed half raw and half a cup of kibble per day, that half a cup of kibble only includes half of the dog's required nutrients for that day. Kibble will not make up for deficiencies in an unbalanced raw diet.

The moral of this story is:
- Be familiar with the diet that you are feeding
- Do the number crunching to ensure that you are providing all the nutrients that your dog needs
- Supplement only when you know that there is a specific deficiency in the diet you are providing
- Attempt to provide all nutrients naturally before resorting to artificial supplements


SHELTIE said...

Thanks for the information on seizures!!!! Our foster sheltie Clover appears to have complex partial seizures (fly-biting, running around for no reason, etc...). Thanks to your blog, I will be sure to ask for the 6 panel thyroid when we have her evaluated.
Again, Thank you!
Clover's Foster Mom

StephanieInCA said...

Great advice—I will definitely try some of this with my Westie, Mr. Henry.

One note of caution, though. Some foods that are perfectly safe for humans (like rasins and onions) are toxic to dogs. Read more here: Five Surprising Foods that are Poisonous to Dogs

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