Are you on a budget? (To be fair … who isn’t?)
Maybe you can’t afford a raw diet … but you still want to give your dog the best nutrition you can.
Or perhaps you’re just not ready to feed your dog a raw or fresh diet.[If you do want to feed raw, but don’t know where to start … here’s some great advice to help you: Raw Feeding Primer: 10 Simple Rules To Get Started.]
So you’d like to make kibble more nutritious for your dog.
If your dog is still eating kibble for any reason … I want to help you make it more nutritious for him.
So here are some tips to make the best of a bad situation. I’ve listed 6 things you can do to help your dog be healthier.
First, let’s talk about why you don’t want to give your dog the same food every day!
#1 Vary The Food
Rotating foods doesn’t just mean choosing different kibbles from the same manufacturer.
Most manufacturers use the same vitamin premix in every brand or line of food. So it’s a really good idea to rotate foods.
That doesn’t just mean switching the protein sources within the same brand … but rotating the brand of food you give your dog!
The main source of nutrients in kibble is the vitamins and minerals the manufacturers add. That’s because kibble is processed at very high temperatures. The extreme heat destroys most of the nutrients in the original ingredients. So they have to add vitamins and minerals to meet the nutritional standards.
And sometimes the manufacturers overdo it. One recent example is the levels of vitamin D in some dog foods.
An excess of vitamin D is quite dangerous for your dog. 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.
So … if you rotate and feed a variety of brands … that’ll help minimize the damage of any unknown excesses or deficiencies in the kibbles.
Ignore Conventional Advice
I know … the concept of varying foods is the opposite of what your conventional vet recommends!
Because veterinary school nutrition classes teach vets to recommend sticking with one food all the time. They say that’s all your dog will ever need.
But by providing variety from the beginning, you’ll create a stronger gut. And there’ll be less likelihood of your dog developing food intolerances … which can come from eating the same food all the time.
Not to mention the boredom of eating the same food every day for his whole life! Can you imagine eating cornflakes for every single meal? You’d probably welcome some rice crispies occasionally!
So give your dog some variety. Just make changes gradually to avoid tummyaches or loose stool.
#2 Read The Labels
It’s important to choose food that’s free of artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy or dyes. So read your ingredient labels.
You can recognize artificial preservatives by the names BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin.
Corn and soy, unless otherwise stated, are genetically modified (GMO) … and wheat is high in gluten. Wheat can also be GMO.
These are undesirable ingredients that can contribute to allergies, inflammatory bowel disease … or even cancer.
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 gastrointestinal flora is vitally important to support your dog’s digestive and immune systems.
There are many examples that prove this. When Helicobacter bacteria flourish, stomach ulcers can result. When Clostridium bacteria overgrow … they can cause painful bloating and severe diarrhea.
As long as bacteria like these are kept in check, the gut can function normally. But that doesn’t always happen.
How Gut Damage Happens
The good bacteria living in the intestinal tract form part of the immune system … by creating 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 this gut damage. So when you give your dog kibble, he’s off to a bad start.
In leaky gut, holes in the mucosal lining allow large bits of undigested proteins to enter the blood stream. These particles then travel to the liver for processing.
But … because these proteins don’t arrive in their proper amino acid format … the liver says, “Eek, get out!”
The body then responds with inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s way of stopping or removing unrecognizable invaders. The body tries to expel these foreigners through the circulatory system. The invaders will ultimately exit through the skin (resulting in allergy symptoms) … or via the intestinal tract (causing 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 that 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 intestinal 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), chickory 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.
The enzymes in fresh foods can ease the digestive process … before the body’s salivary and pancreatic enzymes work on digestion.
[RELATED: Enzymes And Your Dog: Don’t Run Out!]
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 kibble 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 allows the release of other nutrients from the plant material.
But carnivores like dogs don’t have cellulase.
This explains why a chunk of 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 predigestion that occurs in the stomach of the prey. So you can add veggies to your dog’s kibble … but first, make them digestible by lightly warming or mulching them to release their nutrients.
Or … you can 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 vitamins or supplements to their food. Your veterinarian might 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 and use them much better than synthetics. But when your dog gets synthetic vitamins in his food, it can even decrease 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, even though I’ve already mentioned this ….
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.
There are also many manufacturers of healthy whole food vitamin and mineral supplements and superfoods that fulfill this category.
I use Standard Process Catalyn as an excellent, economical whole food vitamin source for large dogs. Since it’s made for humans … assume the dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
For puppies, small or larger dogs, Standard Process Canine Whole Body Support is excellent.
Many knowledgeable owners also add other functional foods … like kelp, spirulina, herbal blends, mushroom combinations, wheat grass or sprouted grain products.
These functional foods can provide prebiotics, enzymes, whole food vitamins and minerals, and even fatty acids.
Which leads me to my next topic … omega-3s.
#6 Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids
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. Kibble-fed dogs need to eat more healthy anti-inflammatory foods.
Not surprisingly …. a carnivore best uses the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils. But there are some things you need to watch out for … so I want to give you some warnings about 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.
And there’s another thing.
If you add fish oil, don’t leave kibble out for your dog all day long. The oil will go rancid.
Besides, “grazing” isn’t a natural or healthful way for a carnivore to eat. It allows additional spoilage of nutrients … and it can affect urinary tract health.
Pet-labeled fish oil products recommend how much to give. That’s just a guideline … so start gradually and monitor your dog’s stools. If his stool gets loose, back off and add the oil more slowly.
You may notice a decrease in shedding and a more luxuriant coat … as soon as two weeks after adding fish oil to dry kibble.
Fresh Food Is Best!
There are still thousands of pet owners who believe the myth that the kibble diet they’re feeding their pet companions is complete and balanced.
But these diets are missing critical nutrients. That’s why a fresh food diet is best.
So if a fresh food diet is out of your budget today, try following these 6 recommendations. You’ll vastly improve your dog’s quality of life and health!
When you see the improvements in energy, attitude and coat quality, you might see that kibble wasn’t so complete after all.
And if you’re already feeding a fresh diet … help dispel the myth and give this article to a kibble-feeding friend.
It’s an important first step toward a fresh food diet!