Whatever you feed your dog, it’s always a really good idea to add some extra health-boosting foods to his diet.
You might give your dog well-known supplements like probiotics, coconut oil or turmeric. But there are some more unusual foods that you might not have thought of giving your dog … foods that can provide him with some amazing health benefits.
The list below focuses mainly on foods with antioxidant properties because they can do so much to improve your dog’s vitality and longevity.
Antioxidants are important because they slow the aging process and boost the immune system by fighting free radical damage. Free radicals are formed when your dog is exposed to vaccines, drugs, chemicals, pesticides, processed foods, pollution and other toxins. They cause oxidative stress on your dog’s body, damaging his cells, proteins and DNA. Antioxidants help keep those free radicals under control and promote better overall health for your dog.
Here are our top 7 unconventional foods that can provide your dog with powerful antioxidants that benefit his immunity as well as support joint health, his digestive system and more.
It’s a red pigment belonging to a group of compounds called carotenoids. It comes from microalgae – and it’s what makes shrimp, salmon, flamingos and crayfish pink when they eat it!
Here are just a few of the key health benefits it can provide your dog:
Astaxanthin’s powerful antioxidant properties have been shown to be 65 times more powerful than vitamin C and 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene.
- Joint health: reduces inflammation and blocks chemicals that create pain
- Immune system: protects against free radical damage and boosts immune response
- Brain: crosses the blood-brain barrier and provides essential nutrients that support brain health
- Eyes: anti-inflammatory properties can ease conditions like dry eye
- Heart: has been shown to reduce C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in the body, a marker for inflammation and heart disease
Caution: always make sure your astaxanthin comes from microalgae or krill. There’s a synthetic astaxanthin made from petrochemicals that’s used as a color additives in some foods – including farmed-raised salmon.
How Much To Give
If you buy an astaxanthin supplement made for pets, follow the label directions. If you buy a product made for people, assume the dosage is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight. For example, many human astaxanthin supplements recommend 8 mg to 12 mg per day, which means you can give your dog 1 mg to 1.6 mg daily per 20 lbs of bodyweight.
Colostrum builds newborns’ immune systems through their mothers’ milk. As well as benefiting young mammals, it’s been shown by many clinical studies to have immune-boosting benefits for adults. It also has antioxidant properties and giving it to your dog can help with:
- Immune system: a hormone called Proline-Rich-Polypeptide (PRP) in colostrum can stimulate an under-active immune system and boost immunity
- Allergies: allergies are the result of an over-active immune response and PRP also has the ability to regulate the immune response
- Joints: double-blind placebo-controlled studies in humans have shown colostrum to be highly effective in relieving joint pain, reducing inflammation and increasing mobility
- Digestive system: colostrum can help with digestive health and studies have shown it can alleviate conditions like leaky gut syndrome – another way colostrum can help boost the immune system
- Anti-cancer: colostrum can help fight cancer through a protein called lactalbumin that can cause apoptosis (death) of cancer cells, as well as immunoglobulins that destroy bacteria and fight viruses, boosting the immune system
- Wound healing: colostrum can be used externally to promote wound healing as well as repair skin conditions, ear infections, abscesses and more.
How Much To Give
1/3 tsp powdered colostrum per 25 lbs bodyweight twice daily, preferably on an empty stomach or mixed with a little yogurt or broth. Give for one month, then as needed.
For topical use, mix with distilled water to make a paste and apply to the infected area.
3. Green Lipped Mussels
Green lipped mussels come from New Zealand waters and they’re a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, as well as antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids and enzymes.
They’re a natural source of glycosaminoglycans (GAGS), which are the main components of cartilage and synovial fluid found in the joints. Studies have shown them to relieve discomfort and inflammation in dogs (and people) suffering from arthritis. They support joint mobility, cartilage maintenance, cardiovascular health and help maintain healthy skin too.
You can buy green lipped mussel powders for dogs. Make sure the product you buy is cold extracted as heat destroys the nutrients.
How Much To Give
Follow the dosing instructions on the package … or give about 15 mg of powder per lb of your dog’s body weight per day. If your dog has severe inflammation, you can double the dose for the first two weeks and then reduce the dose to the recommended level.
You can also give your dog freeze-dried green lipped mussel treats: give 2 mussels for every 10 lbs of bodyweight per day. Again, make sure the product you buy hasn’t been heat-treated.
4. Eggshell Membrane
Eggs in general are a nutritional wonder … and one part in particular – the delicate eggshell membrane (the thin layer between the egg white and the shell) – has been shown in many recent studies to provide dramatic results in improving joint health for both humans and dogs.
Eggshell membrane contains several natural joint-supporting compounds like:
- Hyaluronic acid
A six week double-blind, placebo controlled trial of 51 dogs with various levels of joint problems showed that natural eggshell membrane significantly reduced joint pain and demonstrated a lasting improvement in joint pain leading to improved quality of life after six weeks of supplementation.
Eggshell membrane is very safe for your dog and its ability to relieve joint pain and stiffness has been compared favorably to potentially harmful drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) – but without the high risks that come with these medicines.
How Much To Give
The dogs in the study received 6 mg per lb daily of NEM brand eggshell membrane. Or buy an eggshell membrane supplement made for dogs and follow the package directions.
Phytoplankton is a rich source of omega-3 fats and can replace toxic fish oils that can go rancid and cause inflammation in your dog.
Phytoplankton contains Superoxide Dismutase (SOD, known as the king of antioxidants). SOD is the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzyme. It protects cells and helps remove toxins, including heavy metals, from the body.
It also contains trace minerals that can prevent and reverse serious disease: selenium has been shown to prevent cancer tumors; magnesium supports heart, joint and neurological health; and iodine.
Among its many benefits, phytoplankton can:
- Boost the immune system through its antioxidant actions
- Improve cellular function … leading to healthier organs (including the liver and thyroid), reduced inflammation, improved digestion, increased energy and stamina
- Help with digestive issues: it’s especially beneficial for dogs suffering from conditions like IBD, EPI or leaky gut, because it’s absorbed by the mucous membranes (like the gums) and delivers benefits directly to the body’s cells without having to go through the digestive tract
- Manage skin issues and allergies
- Support the liver and help with detoxification
How Much To Give
Because phytoplankton is so easily absorbed, just a tiny dose is enough for any size dog: give 1/16 tsp per day.
6. Larch Arabinogalactan
Arabinogalactans are a type of soluble fiber that’s contained in various plants and vegetables like carrots, pears, corn, coconut and shiitake mushrooms, as well as herbs like echinacea and astragalus.
Larch arabinogalactan comes from the Western Larch tree and this extract offers tremendous benefits for the body:
- Immune system and gut health: it’s a prebiotic that supports intestinal bacteria by feeding the “good” bacteria (probiotics) in the gut, helping them be more effective. Since more than 80% of your dog’s immune system is in the gut, keeping a balance of good bacteria is essential to your dog’s overall health.
- Digestive system: arabinogalactan ferments in your dog’s gut, which produces short chain fatty acids that protect the intestinal lining against viruses and bacteria and help control diarrhea and digestive upsets
- Anti-cancer: arabinogalactan produces cancer-fighting butyrate which is a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been shown to cause apoptosis (cancer cell death) and slow cancer growth. It also stimulates the immune system by activating natural killer cells and macrophages that detect and eat cancer cells.
How To Give Larch Arabinogalactan
There are many brands of larch arabinogalactan available. Look for a product that also contains at least 10 billion CFU (colony forming units) of probiotics to go with it because those probiotics will ferment and produce cancer-fighting short chain fatty acids.
You can add larch arabinogalactan to your dog’s meals daily and just follow the dose on the bottle. A medium sized dog needs about 1/2 tsp per day.
Give your dog a rest from the larch from time to time…for example, give it for two months and then give him a 2 week break.
7. Green Tea
Green tea has become very popular because of its health benefits for humans, and dogs can also reap some of these benefits. But it can be a little controversial, because people worry about caffeine in green tea. The answer is to use decaffeinated green tea for your dog.
Green tea is another antioxidant with a wide range of health-giving vitamins and minerals. It contains antioxidant polyphenols called catechins that provide many of green tea’s medicinal benefits, including:
- Anti-inflammatory and immune support: green tea’s antioxidant properties support the immune system and reduce inflammation, as well as support liver and cardiovascular health
- Brain health: contains L-theanine which crosses the blood-brain barrier and can improve and protect brain function
- Anti-cancer: several studies have shown green tea to be helpful in preventing various types of cancer in humans… as well as promoting apoptosis of cancer cells.
How To Give Green Tea
According to veterinarian Dr Shawn Messonnier, green tea is a safe food for dogs with no known side effects.
However, a 2009 study where Beagles were fasted and given large doses of green tea extract in capsule form, had to be discontinued due to a number of deaths and serious illness. A later study without fasting and with the same dose levels didn’t produce the same harmful results, so it’s thought that the fasting was a factor.
But, to be safe, don’t give your dog green tea in capsule form, but make organic decaffeinated green tea using 1 tea bag or 1 Tbsp of loose tea per 4 cups of water. Steep for about 15 minutes and remove the tea bag or strain the tea.
Cool and give 1/8 cup per 20 lbs bodyweight up to twice daily with your dog’s meals. Keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. If the tea turns cloudy, throw it out and make a new brew.
Caution: Tea naturally contains fluoride which the tea plants absorb through their roots. Studies have linked fluoride consumption to dental fluorosis (disease of the teeth), weakening of bones, bone loss, bone cancer, kidney disease, osteosarcoma and hormone disruption. Research your brand’s fluoride content before you buy. Better brands contain less fluoride so choose a high quality brand rather than an everyday supermarket brand. To minimize fluoride in your (and your dog’s) tea make sure you brew it with water that’s been filtered to remove fluoride. Filters like Brita won’t filter out fluoride, but reverse osmosis filters usually will.
Try some of these foods for your dog and see if you notice some health improvements. You don’t have to give these foods every single day, but rotating some of them into his diet can help keep your dog active and vigorous.