vitamins and minerals for raw fed dogs

Are you a raw feeder who worries your dog isn’t getting enough nutrients? … or maybe you’re reluctant to switch your dog to a raw diet for fear he won’t get the vitamins and minerals he needs?

Or perhaps you’re spending a ton of money giving him synthetic vitamins and minerals out of a bottle. I’ll tell you in a minute why that’s not a good idea.

I’ve got a great practical guide for you … so you can make sure your dog gets the vitamins and minerals he needs from his food. And I’ve divided it into two parts …

Part I …

…is for you if you prefer not to feed veggies to your carnivore … or if you’re just tired of mincing or pureeing veggies. I’ll tell you what to feed your dog so he gets his vitamins and minerals from meats … and I’ll also list some nutritional herbs you can use if you feel your dog needs an extra boost without adding veggies.

Part II …

… is just what you need if you want to give your dog some veggies to get him extra nutrition. I’ll tell you which vegetables contain which vitamins and minerals … as well as some information on phytonutrients that can help prevent disease.

But first, I want to talk about supplements, and why giving your dog synthetic vitamins and minerals isn’t good for his long term health.

Synthetic Supplements

Synthetic vitamins and minerals are in nearly all commercial dog foods … meaning nearly all kibbles and canned foods and even in some pre-made raw foods.

If you feed your dog home prepared raw food, you might be tempted to take a short cut and add bottled vitamins and minerals to his diet. But if those vitamins and minerals are synthetically produced, they’re not very good for your dog.

Synthetic supplements aren’t recognized by the body in the same way that naturally sourced nutrients are. They can also inhibit the ability of natural sources to function properly in the body.

Holistic veterinarian Dr Jodie Gruenstern explains ...

“Cells have receptor sites for the attachment of biologic factors, which turn on and off cellular functions. These receptors can become “clogged” with lookalike vitamins or minerals.

“This phenomenon can explain why the initial consumption of a synthetic vitamin or mineral or even hormone replacement therapy works initially, when the receptor sites are empty and desperate for the nutrient. But, when the receptors become clogged with the inadequately functioning faux nutrients, the cell receptors cannot function properly. You or your pet may feel great after beginning a new synthetic supplement, or even a new type of diet, only for the original symptoms to recur after some time passes.”

Studies Prove The Difference

As long ago as 1942, authors in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that treating scurvy with 50cc of lemon juice, containing 25 mg of ascorbic acid, produced quicker results than giving 25 mg of ascorbic acid as a vitamin. They also noted the ascorbic acid didn’t stay in the body as long as the naturally occurring vitamin C … and even today, this is a well-known limitation of synthetic vitamins.

vitamins and minerals for raw fed dogs

This early research showed scientists that synthetic vitamins don’t always act like their real food counterparts … even with today’s more sophisticated vitamins and research. This is likely because synthetic vitamins are chemical isolates, which are isolated or fractionated pieces of the whole vitamin. Vitamins are defined as a group or complex of organic compounds and it’s best to think of them this way. Vitamin activity is the sum of many parts.

There’s a lot of research showing similar differences between many different food sourced vitamins and synthetics.

vitamins and minerals for raw fed dogsUnlike synthetic vitamins and minerals, whole foods and herbs provide essential nutrients complete with the cofactors they need to make a healthy change in your dog – just as nature intended!

Part I: Vitamins And Minerals In Meats And Herbs

Note: This section tells you where to get vitamins from meats and herbs … but you may also want to review Part II. If you don’t feed your dog any vegetables, he may be missing some important phytonutrients (which only come from plants). These include carotenoids, lycopene, lutein, flavonoids and fiber, which are all important in disease prevention.  

Vitamins 

Vitamins are divided into two categories: water soluble and fat soluble.

The fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body tissues, and if your dogs gets too much of a fat soluble vitamin, a vitamin excess can accumulate over time.

The water soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C. These vitamins aren’t stored in the body like the fat soluble vitamins, so they should typically be in the diet every day. If excess water soluble vitamins are fed, the body will take what it needs and the kidneys will excrete the rest in the urine. This doesn’t mean excesses will never happen, but they are much less likely in water soluble vitamins.

Vitamin A

Enhances immunity, prevents eye problems and skin disorders. Important in bone and teeth formation. Protects against colds and infection. Slows aging process.

Note: Vitamin A is fat soluble and can accumulate in the body over time. It’s hard to get vitamin A toxicity from food, but don’t add a lot of foods rich in vitamin A if you feed a pre-made raw food that has added vitamin A.

Meat Sources

Chicken, pork, egg, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardines, liver, kidney, brain, tuna.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, borage leaves, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, uva ursi, violet leaves, watercress, yellow dock.

Alfalfa is a herb with many nutritional benefits but it’s a big genetically modified (GMO) crop.  Be sure to buy organic alfalfa to avoid giving harmful GMOs to your dog.

Related: Why Your Dog Is Probably Eating GMO Food – And Shouldn’t

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Promotes growth, improves mental attitude, aids digestion, helps strengthen nervous system and prevent stress.

Meat Sources

Liver, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yarrow, and yellow dock.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Needed for red blood cell formation, aids growth and reproduction, promotes hair, skin and nail growth. Important in the prevention and treatment of cataracts.

Meat Sources

Liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yellow dock.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Essential for proper circulation and healthy skin. Increases energy, aids digestion, helps prevent migraines.

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine, tuna.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, licorice, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm, yellow dock.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Enhances stamina, prevents anemia, helps wounds heal, fights infection, strengthens immune system.

Meat Sources

Liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, nettle, yellow dock.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Needed to produce hydrochloric acid. Aids in absorption of fats, and protein. Mildly diuretic, helps prevent kidney stones. Helpful in treating allergies, arthritis, and asthma.

Meat Sources

Liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, catnip, oat straw.

Vitamin B9 (Folate, Folic Acid)

Works to produce red blood cells and helps iron work properly in the body. Controls blood levels of amino acids. Important in pregnant females to lower risk of neural tube birth defects (like cleft palates).

Meat Sources

Liver, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Rosemary, dandelion, parsley, spirulina,

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)

Helps prevent anemia. Protects nervous system, improves concentration, aids digestion.

Meat Sources

Liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, bladderwrack, hops.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Helps calcium and iron formation. Enhances immunity. Helps prevent cancer. Aids in production of anti-stress hormones. Antioxidant required for proper tissue growth and repair, and adrenal gland function.

Meat Sources

Liver, kidney, heart, fish.

Herbal Source

Alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, horsetail, kelp, peppermint, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, pine needle, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, skullcap, violet leaves, yarrow, yellow dock.

Vitamin D

Essential for calcium and phosphorous utilization. Prevents rickets. Needed for normal growth of bones and teeth. Helps regulate heartbeat. Prevents cancer and enhances immunity. Aids thyroid function and blood clotting.

Note: Dogs can’t manufacture vitamin D from sunshine like humans can, so they need to get it from their diet. If you feed home-prepared raw, unless your meat is from grass-fed animals or you feed pastured eggs, you’ll need to feed fish or supplement with cod liver oil for your dog to get enough vitamin D. But be careful if you feed a pre-made raw diet as some have added vitamin D (or D3) already.

Related: New Study Shows Dogs with Low Vitamin D Are At Risk For Cancer 

Meat Sources

Egg, sardine, liver, kidney, salmon, tuna.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, horsetail, nettle, parsley.

Vitamin E

Antioxidant which helps prevent cancer and heart disease. Prevents cell damage. Reduces blood pressure and promotes healthy skin and hair.

Note: vitamin E is not easily absorbed and less than half the amount in food is available to the body. Grass-fed meats are about four times higher in vitamin E than grain-fed.

Meat Sources

Ostrich, buffalo, egg, halibut, haddock, sardine, kidney, liver, brain.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, bladder wrack, dandelion, dong quai, flaxseed, nettle, oat straw, raspberry leaf, rose hips.

Vitamin K

Promotes healthy liver function. Helps bone formation and repair. Increases longevity.

Meat Sources

Egg, halibut, haddock, sardine, liver.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, green tea, kelp, nettle, oat straw, shepherds purse.

Minerals

Calcium

Builds and protects bones and teeth. Helps maintain regular heartbeat. Prevents muscle cramping.

Especially in young dogs, it’s important to feed sufficient calcium for bone and muscle development.

Related: Balancing Calcium and Phosphorus In Your Dog’s Raw Diet

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, flaxseed, hops, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, shepherd’s purse, violet leaves, yarrow, yellow dock.

Copper

Converts iron to hemoglobin. Protects against anemia. Needed for healthy bones and joints.

Meat Sources

Chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Sheep sorrel.

Iodine

Needed in trace amounts for a healthy thyroid gland and to help metabolize excess fat.

Meat Sources

Salmon, haddock, seafood, egg.

Herbal Sources

Calendula, tarragon leaves, turkey rhubarb.

Iron

Essential for metabolism, and the production of hemoglobin.

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, dong quai, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, licorice, milk thistle seed, mullein, nettle, oatstraw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaf, rose hips, sarsaparilla, shepherd’s purse, uva ursi, yellow dock.

Magnesium

Prevents calcification of soft tissue. Helps reduce and dissolve calcium phosphate kidney stones. Helps prevent birth defects. Improves cardiovascular system.

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, bladder wrack, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, eyebright, fennel, fenugreek, hops, horsetail, lemongrass, licorice, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, sage, shepherd’s purse, yarrow, yellow dock.

Manganese

Minute quantities of this mineral are needed for healthy nerves, blood sugar regulation, normal bone growth and thyroid hormone production.

vitamins and minerals for raw fed dogsNote: Manganese is a very important mineral for ligament and tendon strength because it activates the enzymes that build collagen. If your dog has a tendency to get tendon or ligament injuries (like cruciate tears), he may be manganese deficient.

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, haddock, halibut, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, lemongrass, mullein, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hip, wild yam, yarrow, yellow dock.

Phosphorus

Needed for teeth and bone formation, nerve impulse transfer, normal heart rhythm and kidney function.

Meat Source

Rabbit, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Burdock root, turkey rhubarb, slippery elm bark.

Potassium

Regulates water balance, and muscle function. Important for health nervous system and regular heart rhythm. 

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Catnip, hops, horsetail, nettle, plantain, red clover, sage, skullcap.

Selenium

Provides an important trace element for prostrate gland in males. Protects immune system and helps regulate thyroid hormones.

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, fennel seed, ginseng, garlic, hawthorn berry, horsetail, lemongrass, milk thistle nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, rose hips, sarsaparilla, uva ursi, yarrow, yellow dock.

Zinc

Promotes growth and mental alertness. Accelerates healing. Regulates oil glands. Promotes healthy immune system and healing of wounds.

Meat Sources

Rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine.

Herbal Sources

Alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, milk thistle, mullein, nettle, parsley, rose hips, sage, sarsaparilla, skullcap, wild yam.

*If you aren’t familiar with nutritional herbs, it’s a good idea to check out their contraindications before using them. A great reference is Herbal Remedies for Dogs & Cats by Gregory L Tilford.

vitamins and minerals for raw fed dogs

Part II Vegetable Sources of Vitamins And Minerals

There can be many health benefits to giving your dog vegetables and fruits. Plants contain not just vitamins, but phytonutrients as well. While a dog wouldn’t survive without vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients play a role in helping to prevent or treat disease. So let’s go over phytonutrients first.

Phytonutrients

vitamins and minerals for raw fed dogsPhyto is Greek for plant, and phytonutrients are only in plants, not other foods. Phytonutrients help protect plants from damage, and when our dog eats these plants, he’ll also get protective benefits. Phytonutrients help protect against inflammation and can help prevent a wide range of diseases like cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

There are tens of thousands of phytonutrients in plants, all playing various roles, but here are some of the most important ones … and their vegetable or fruit sources.

Carotenoids

There are more than 600 carotenoids that all act as antioxidants in the body. This means they fight against free radical damage in the cells and the body.

Carotenoids are found in yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables like squash, carrots, papaya, canteloupe.

Lycopene

This is another powerful antioxidant that can play a role in preventing and slowing cancer. Lycopene gives many vegetables their red color and it’s found in tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, water melon.

Lutein

This is another carotenoid and antioxidant that’s known to protect the eyes skin and heart. It’s found in dark leafy greens and in yellow plants, including kale, broccoli, oranges and papaya.

Flavonoids

Flavonoids or bioflavonoids can regulate cell signaling in the body and they have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In general, the more colorful the plant food, the higher it is in bioflavonoids. Quercetin and resveratrol are two popular flavonoids found in many fruits and vegetables.

Good sources of flavonoids are tree fruits like plums, apples, pears and peaches, and most vegetables, especially red and green ones.

Fiber

Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, which serves two purposes. Insoluble fiber bulks up the food and helps it to pass through the colon. And soluble fiber can be a prebiotic, which means it feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut. If you’re giving probiotics without prebiotics, you may be wasting your money.

Legumes like peas and beans are high in fiber but again, they are also high in starch so are best avoided for your dog.  Choose veggies like dandelion greens, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and cabbage as good fiber sources.

Related: How To Waste Money On Your Dog

So let’s take a look at the best plant sources of vitamins and minerals. Again, I haven’t included legumes, because they tend to be high in starches, which your dog doesn’t need.

Vitamin A

Carrots, squash, pumpkin, dandelion greens, kale, spinach, broccoli. Yellow fruits like apricots and peaches.

Vitamin B2

Broccoli, spinach, other green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Green leafy vegetables, broccoli.

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach.

Vitamin C

Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale. Fruits like citrus, berries, currants.

Vitamin K

Dark leafy greens like cabbage, kale, spinach, broccoli.

Calcium

Green leafy vegetables.

How To Feed Vegetables

Dogs’ digestive systems can’t break down the cellulose contained in the cell walls of vegetables very well. You can help him digest his veggies by ether steaming them lightly (which means you’ll lose some nutrients by cooking), or even better, finely chop or puree the raw vegetables for him. Feed organic veggies if you can, to avoid harmful pesticide residues; organic produce also has been found to contain higher levels of antioxidants and is almost 50% lower in toxic heavy metals.

Whether you choose to feed your dog vegetables or not, be sure to feed a wide range of foods so that your dog gets a variety of nutrients from his meals.