by Bonnie Blumenfeld
Please Note: These are broad, generalized guidelines for healthy animals – obviously all animals are different and some may require more specific attention as well as a more specialized regimen.
With many people feeding raw or home-cooked diets to their animals today, it is important to understand which supplements need to be added. (These suggestions are for cats as well as dogs, with appropriate changes in amounts.)
Since your animal is not eating a whole carcass, you need to cover your bases to make sure you are feeding a diet as close to nature as possible. If your dogs or cats were dining out in the wild, they would be eating the entire body – muscle, bone, fat, intestines, fur or feathers, organ meats, eyes!, brains…including the dirt that the animal was lying on. (While the thought makes us queasy, to them it is like eating Ben & Jerry’s- but healthy). When we take on the responsibility of making a meal for our animal friends, we are trying to, as Anitra Frazier says, “make a mouse.” Not always easy.
The minimum supplementation for home-prepared diets (whether raw or cooked), must include:
1) A good multi-vitamin. This does not mean the vitamins that are usually sold in most vets’ offices. I recommend a whole-food-derived vitamin and mineral supplement. They are more easily absorbed and metabolized (please come to my Way of Life lecture for recommendations)
2) Essential Fatty Acids. You can’t overstate the importance of EFA’s – for lipid metabolism, for healthy skin and coats, for heart health, for healthy joints, for the brain, to suppress inflammation, and on and on. If you are preparing your own diets, you can add ground flaxseed (if fresh), seeds and nuts, soybeans, and deep-water cold fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel). Or you can add oils – flaxseed oil and/or fish oil for dogs (you can alternate them). Cats generally don’t like the taste of flaxseed oil, but usually love fish oil such as salmon oil (use only high quality).
3) Calcium. Unless you are adding ground bones into a home-prepared diet, or giving nutritional bones (bones that they will chew up and consume, as opposed to recreational bones, such as knuckle bones, which they will chew on, but mostly leave intact), on a daily basis,(comprising at least 30% of the diet), you need to add a calcium supplement to your animal’s diet. Making sure the calcium/phosphorous balance is correct is very important. You can add bone meal to your mix (1½ tsp. per pound of food); although this is the most natural form of calcium for animals, I do get concerned about Mad Cow Disease, and also the fact that bones tend to concentrate toxins. I prefer a marine based calcium mix. If you are feeding nutritional bones on a regular basis, you can cut down the amount of calcium you are feeding.
These 3 are just the very basic supplements for a raw-food diet. There are a few others that I always recommend:
Digestive Enzymes – especially when you are transitioning from a commercial diet to a home-prepared diet. But I think enzymes should always be a part of every diet, home-prepared or commercial, every day. Enzymes are the critters that actually break food down into nutrition; without sufficient enzymes not only can our animals (and ourselves) not digest and metabolize food efficiently, but they are setting themselves up for pancreatitis, and possibly the basis for many other diseases as well. There is enzyme supplements made especially for animals, which you can get in many pet or health food stores. You can also use any human, complete, enzyme product, plant-based is best (that way you can sprinkle it directly on the food). Use with every meal. Start slowly and work your way up to the suggested amount, to avoid loose stools.
Probiotics – they keep the intestinal tract clean, put in the good bacteria that are supposed to be there, and get rid of the bad bacteria, keeping the gut in balance. The normal intestinal flora is responsible for proper assimilation of food, and can easily get out of balance from antibiotics, chronic disease, trauma, toxins (from food or the environment), and physical and/or emotional stress. Giving your animal some plain, un-sweetened yogurt is a good idea, and a great treat, but also add a good probiotic supplement to the diet daily. Get a brand with high numbers of organisms, and keep it in the fridge.
These are just the basic supplements that I consider essential to add to your animal’s diet. If you are preparing your diets ahead of time, and freezing them, or if you are cooking your diets, do not add the supplements until just before you serve the meal – they lose a lot of their efficacy if they are frozen and most of their nutritional value if they are cooked. I also like to take a day or 2 off per week, without adding supplements as it gives the body a chance to remember what it can do on its own. (Obviously, do not skip supplements that you are using for therapeutic reasons.)
You also need to keep in mind the individual condition of your animal. Very young and older animals, and ones that are sick or stressed, very active, or pregnant or lactating, will need to have their supplements adjusted, or possibly some others added or deleted from your regimen. What I have outlined here is just a basic protocol.
For those of you feeding a commercial raw food diet, many of them have all the supplements already added, and some don’t. Make sure you check. For some supplements (such as calcium), adding too much is just as bad as adding too little.
Bonnie Blumenfeld will speak March 23rd at the Way of Life Health Lecture Series at 7PM.
Bonnie Blumenfeld is a Registered Veterinary Technician (R.V.T), as well as a holistic veterinary tech. She has 28 years of vet tech experience, 12 of those working with a holistic vet and continues for the past 15 years to be involved in nutritional research. Bonnie has extensive training in flower essences, herbs, homeopathy, inter-species communication, and is a Registered Veterinary NAET practitioner (allergy elimination). She has formulated and developed a line of canine and feline raw food diets and has provided personal consulting for the past 10 years, based on her research, professional training, and most importantly on actual successful results. Her web site is www.headtotailhealth.com