Are you one of the millions of dog owners who can’t feed raw?
Let’s face it … raw feeders are still in the minority. Most domestic dogs today still eat kibble. It may be because of budget, or convenience. Or perhaps you just can’t deal with all that raw meat.
But you still want to give your dog the best food you can. So you’d like to make kibble more nutritious for him.
If your dog is still eating kibble for any reason … I want to help you make it healthier.
So here are 6 suggestions that’ll give your dog a boost of extra goodness in his meals!
#1 Vary The Food
Why shouldn’t you give your dog the same food every day?
Well, first, how would you like to eat breakfast cereal every single day of your life, for every meal? Because that’s what eating kibble is like! It’s boring for your dog to eat the same food all the time.
But, far more important, you’ll improve his diet by giving him more variety.
But don’t just rotate his food by choosing different kibbles or proteins from the same manufacturer. That won’t give him enough variety …
Vary The Brand
Most manufacturers use the same formula or vitamin premix in every brand or line of food. They just change the protein and maybe a couple of other ingredients.
So, rather than giving different formulas from the same brand … try rotating the brand of food you give your dog! That way he’ll get lots of different ingredients and formulas.
Rotating brands also lowers the risk of any excess or deficient vitamin problems for your dog. For example, dogs have been sickened by excess vitamin D in some dog foods. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has even warned about this problem … advising that vitamin D toxicity can cause kidney failure and even death.
You can help minimize the damage of these types of excesses or deficiencies. Rotate proteins and feed a variety of brands to give your dog a wider range of nutrients.
Don’t Believe Your Conventional Vet!
I know … the concept of varying foods is the opposite of what your conventional vet recommends!
That’s because veterinary school nutrition classes teach vets to recommend sticking with one food all the time.
But by providing variety for your dog, you’ll create a stronger gut. Your dog will get used to many different foods … so he won’t get digestive upsets from rotating. And he’ll be less likely to develop food sensitivities … which can sometimes happen from eating the same food all the time.
If your dog’s used to eating one food all the time, you might want to start your food rotations gradually to avoid tummy-aches or loose stool.
Start by mixing some of the new food with the old … and increase the new food as his digestive system adapts! His gut will soon get used to the variety.
#2 Read The Labels
Become a label reader! Once you do, the list of ingredients on some foods may surprise you. Let’s talk about some ingredients to avoid.
It’s best to choose a food that’s free of artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy or dyes and legumes.
You can recognize artificial preservatives by the names BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin. There are reports that BHA and BHT are carcinogenic. Ethoxyquin, a preservative and pesticide, can damage kidney tissue in rats. So avoid foods with these ingredients.
Corn, soy and wheat are usually genetically modified (GMO) crops. One problem with GMO grains is that they’re sprayed with pesticides like Roundup. So they’ll be high in glyphosate, which the WHO says is a “probable carcinogen.” And cancer isn’t the only risk. Glyphosate has been linked to kidney and liver disease, gastrointestinal problems and seizures.
And you’ll also want to avoid legumes (like peas, lentils, beans). These are often used in kibble as low-cost proteins. And they’re in “grain-free” foods as a starchy substitute for grains.
Legume crops are sprayed with glyphosate to dry them just before harvesting … so they’re even higher in toxic residues than grains.
RELATED: Lectins in dog food …
Another problem with the high heat used in processing kibble … is that it destroys bacteria – both good and bad.
#3 Balance Gut Bacteria With Probiotics
Well-balanced gut bacteria are vitally important to support your dog’s digestive and immune systems.
There are many examples that prove this. When bad bacteria like Heliobacter flourish, stomach ulcers can result. When Clostridium bacteria overgrow … they can cause painful bloating and severe diarrhea.
As long as bacteria like these are controlled, the gut can function normally. But that doesn’t always happen.
How Gut Damage Happens
The good bacteria living in your dog’s intestinal tract form part of the immune system. They create a healthy intestinal mucosal lining. When this lining is damaged, it’s called leaky gut syndrome.
Poor diet, vaccines, drugs and other toxins can cause leaky gut. So when you give your dog kibble, he’s off to a bad start.
In leaky gut, holes in the mucosal lining allow fragments of undigested proteins to enter the blood stream. These particles then travel to the liver for processing. But these proteins don’t arrive in their proper amino acid format. So the liver rejects them. Then your dog’s body responds with inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s way of stopping or removing invaders it doesn’t recognize. The body tries to expel the foreigners through its circulatory system. Eventually, they’ll exit through the skin (causing allergy symptoms) … or via the intestinal tract (leading to diarrhea).
So gut health is essential for liver, skin and digestive health. And because kibble lacks good bacteria, you need to add probiotics to your dog’s food.
Adding Probiotics And Prebiotics
Some kibbles contain probiotics. But they’re not effective … because the live bacteria don’t survive high processing temperatures or long-term storage.
So you can help your dog’s gut and overall health … by giving him a probiotic supplement. The good bacteria in probiotics help balance the gut … and crowd out the harmful bacteria! Feeding probiotics supports your dog’s existing gut flora … and boosts good digestion and immune health.
It’s even better to include prebiotics too.
Prebiotics are a type of soluble fiber or resistant starch … that feed the good bacteria in the gut. They help make the probiotics more effective.
You can recognize prebiotics on an ingredient label by looking for fructooligosaccharides (FOS), chicory root, inulin, guar gum or beet pulp. And you can buy prebiotic supplements … or a supplement that includes both prebiotics and probiotics.
And there’s another way to help your dog maintain a healthy gut.
#4 Use Digestive Enzymes
Have you ever put pineapple juice or marinade on meat and noticed the bubbling? The principle behind marinating is that certain foods can digest (or break down) other fresh foods. And this is because of digestive enzymes.
The enzymes in fresh foods can also ease the digestive process … before the body’s salivary and pancreatic enzymes work on digestion.
Some kibble may have added enzymes. You can usually recognize an enzyme by words that end in –ase on the ingredient panel. Lipase breaks down lipids or fats. Amylase breaks down starches. Protease breaks down proteins into smaller amino acids. These are only a few of many enzymes.
But again, these enzymes may not survive high-heat processing. So it’s best to add enzymes in a different way.
Fresh Vegetables Can Help
One thing you can do is add some fresh veggies to your dog’s food. But don’t just toss some raw carrots in his bowl. Here’s why …
Herbivores have a digestive enzyme called cellulase. Cellulase allows a plant-eater to break down cellulose … a component of plant cell walls. This helps release other nutrients from the plant material. But carnivores like your dog don’t have cellulase.
This explains why a chunk of raw carrot passes right through your dog in one piece! So, if you want your dog to absorb vitamin A from a carrot … you need to give him the rabbit that predigested that carrot … including its stomach.
But if your dog isn’t getting the rabbit guts … you have to mimic the pre-digestion that happens in the stomach of the prey. So you can add veggies to your dog’s kibble. But first, make them digestible by lightly steaming or mulching them.
Or, you can make it easier. Boost your dog’s kibble by adding a digestive enzyme supplement to his bowl. You can add powdered digestive enzymes to processed kibble. Sprinkle the powder onto the food before serving.
#5 Include Whole Food Nutrients
Many kibble manufacturers claim their food is complete and balanced … so they say you shouldn’t add anything to their food. Your conventional veterinarian will likely say the same thing.
But the truth is, the laboratory derived, synthetic vitamins added to the food just aren’t enough to nourish your dog.
Why You Should Avoid Synthetic Vitamins
Over time, your dog’s cell receptors can become clogged with these fake vitamins … and they stop working properly. Excessive synthetic vitamins in the food can even be toxic to your dog.
Fresh, whole food-sourced vitamins are complex. The body’s cells recognize them … so they use them much more efficiently than synthetics. But when your dog gets synthetic vitamins in his food, it can even reduce the absorption of healthful, whole-food vitamins.
Minimizing synthetic vitamins and adding whole food vitamins means your dog’s body can pick and choose what it needs.
So, to help your dog get extra, absorbable nutrients …
Fruits And Veggies
Try adding some blended or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables to your dog’s bowl. This can meet two needs: the need for enzymes (as I explained earlier) … and the need for whole food vitamins.
Many dog owners also add other functional foods … like greens, berries, herbal blends, mushroom combinations, wheat grass or sprouted grain products. These can provide a valuable nutrient boost that can support your dog’s immunity, gut health … and even help ward off cancer.
RELATED: Sulforaphane may help fight cancer …
Organ meats are nutrient-dense foods for your dog. Adding a wide range of fresh organ meats is a fantastic way to give your dog more vitamins, minerals and amino acids. But it can be hard to find organs beyond liver or kidney. And there’s definitely an “ick factor” in those squishy raw organs. (There’s a reason they call it “offal.”)
These foods can provide prebiotics, enzymes, whole food vitamins and minerals, and even fatty acids.
And that leads me to my next topic … omega-3s.
#6 Add Omega-3 Fats
Most kibble diets don’t contain healthful fats. Even if they’re on the ingredient list … they’re lost with heating and processing. In fact, processing can produce hydrogenated or trans fats, which can be very dangerous.
Most plant-derived fats provide omega-6 and 9 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. But omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. And there aren’t enough omega-3s in kibble. Kibble-fed dogs need to eat more omega-3s to provide a healthy anti-inflammatory balance.
Not surprisingly …. fish oil is what most people think of to give omega-3 fatty acids. So I want to give you some warnings about fish oil.
Problems With Fish Oil
Fish oil is very unstable and its quality varies tremendously. And rancid fish oil is worse to eat than no fish oil at all. Don’t believe that fish oil already contained in kibble can be fresh. It’s best to add it in just before serving.
If you open a new bottle of fish oil and it smells strongly fishy … take it back to the store. It’s quite likely poorly distilled and already rancid. So, if you’re using fish oil … buy a high quality product, keep it refrigerated, and add it fresh to kibble immediately before serving.
Other downsides of fish oil are that …
- It contains toxins
- It may contain radiation
- Fish oil production is depleting the oceans
But there are better ways to give your dog omega-3 fats.
Green Lipped Mussels (Or Oil)
The main anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats your dog needs are are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid) and DHA.
And these are all both plentiful in green lipped mussels or mussel oil (GLM).
Green lipped mussel oil is also more absorbable than fish oil, so your dog doesn’t need as much.
And they’re sustainably farmed in pristine New Zealand waters. So they’re safer for your dog … and other ocean creatures who depend on fish for survival!
Or, if you prefer to give your dog whole fish …
Sardines Or Other Oily Fish
Oily fish like sardines or herring can be a great way to give your dog some extra omega-3 fats. And canned fish are fine for this purpose. Buy skin-on, bone-in fish, packed in water, not oil … and preferably without added salt.
Why Kibble Isn’t Ideal
I’m not here to make you feel guilty … but before closing, I do need to mention a few reasons kibble isn’t the best choice for your dog.
Kibble is very high in starch. Dogs don’t need starch in their diet at all. It’s just what holds the kibble nuggets together! And it’s cheaper for the manufacturers than meat or fresh produce.
Kibble is “dead” food. That’s because it’s so highly processed and heated. Processing at high temperatures removes most of the nutrients from the food. So kibble manufacturers have to add synthetic vitamins and minerals to meet regulatory nutritional standards.
Synthetic vitamins and minerals aren’t well absorbed by the body. And they can even be harmful long term. So if you do feed kibble, it’s best to find one without synthetic nutrients.
Kibble can contain many toxins. From carcinogens like heterocyclic amines and acrylamides caused by high heat … to aflatoxin mold in grains or legumes. Or potentially carcinogenic herbicides like glyphosate. Studies show glyphosate in kibble is up to 130 times the levels in commercial raw food.
There are still thousands of pet owners who believe that kibble is a complete and balanced diet. But it’s missing critical nutrients. That’s why a fresh food diet is best. By following these 6 recommendations, you should notice a difference in your dog’s health and energy levels.
RELATED: How to get started with raw food …
And if you do feed kibble, whatever the reason … now you know how to make it healthier for your dog!
[FDA warning] Vitamin D Toxicity In Dogs. Updated 5/27/20.
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Manson, MM et al. Degree of ethoxyquin-induced nephrotoxicity in rat is dependent on age and sex. Arch Toxicol 66, 51–56 (1992).
[FDA warning]. Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Removing Trans Fats). Updated 5/18/18.
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Villaverde C, Manzanilla EG, Molina J, Larsen JA. Effect of enzyme supplements on macronutrient digestibility by healthy adult dogs. J Nutr Sci. 2017;6:e12. Published 2017 Apr 18. doi:10.1017/jns.2017.10