There’s no totally reliable test to determine the nutrient content of any food. While I’ve known this for a while, it became even more evident to me recently at a nutrition conference.
The organizers sent samples of the same foods to two separate highly reputable laboratories and the results showed astonishing differences in detectable vitamin levels for every item.
Another issue with relying solely on nutrient testing is the many variations of specific nutrients. For instance, there are over 800 types of vitamin D while most laboratories can only identify a few.
Finally, any testing done is a specific snapshot of the specific food you’re testing.
The mineral content of plant foods can vary greatly depending on the quality of the soil it was grown in.
There’s a huge disparity in the nutrient content of eggs depending on what the chicken ate, even down to different types of grass or the amount of bugs consumed on the day the egg was laid.
The nutrients in meat are also affected by what the animal was fed.
While nutrient testing and especially cross testing can be a good start, it’s only the very beginning in terms of making sure your dog gets everything she needs.
Nourishing Your Dog
So what other options do you have as someone who wants the absolute best for your dog?
Your best shot at providing balance and avoiding deficiencies and toxicities is to start with a well thought out commercial raw or homemade raw diet and provide traditionally nutrient dense and especially reproductive foods for variety.
Here are some of the foods I feed my dog daily or weekly.
1. Raw And Especially Raw Fermented Milk
Commercial pet food manufacturers set out to produce a food that provides everything a dog needs.
Fortunately, where our limited knowledge fails us, Mother Nature does not!
Raw milk is the most bioavailable and balanced source of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fatty acids and essentially anything else you can and can’t think of – or has yet to be determined.
Because milk is food made by nature it has the enzymes and built-in mechanisms for the body to use 100 percent of the nutrients.
It also contains 200 different probiotic strains that not only thrive in a food environment but are further assisted down the digestive tract by specific proteins. I consider this to be the most important food item to add to any dog’s diet.
Three ounces of milk is about 60 calories which is equivalent to about one ounce of commercial raw pet food.
For healthy dogs you can feed as much milk daily as you want, removing an equivalent amount of their raw food calories so they’re not overfed. Use daily for best results. Learn more here.
2. Raw Pasture Raised Eggs
The importance of the diet of the chicken that lays the egg can’t be overstated.
As I explained above, while the amount of nutrients varies in pasture raised eggs, they all have one thing in common: they’re higher in nutrients and more balanced than conventionally raised eggs.
They’re the most bioavailable source of protein and high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and more.
Most importantly, eggs function as a whole, balanced food derived from the reproductive process. What this offers your dog is a food that’s as nutritionally complete as a commercial raw pet food.
Be sure to feed the whole egg (including the shell) or just the yolk to avoid any nutritional issues that might be caused by feeding the white of the egg alone.
One large egg contains 70 calories. Replace one ounce of commercial raw food with an egg including the shell, or substitute the egg for a similar amount of your dog’s caloric intake if you’re feeding a homemade raw diet.
3. Raw Bee Pollen
Bee pollen contains vitamins, minerals, free amino acids, phytosterols, fatty acids, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, trace elements, enzymes and even live bacteria, making it nature’s multivitamin.
This food contains everything a bee needs to thrive and is gathered and naturally fermented by the bees themselves.
As another example of my earlier point on food testing, bee pollen is a very hard food to test for knowable contained nutrients.
We know when we reference laboratory test results against each other that it contains thousands of nutrients.
Which nutrients and how much of each nutrient the sample contains depends entirely on the plants the bees took the pollen from.
Choosing raw bee pollen in the refrigerated or frozen section of the store allows for all the nutrients to stay intact. Work up slowly to one teaspoon per 20 pounds of your dog’s weight. Use daily for best results.
4. Raw Whole Small Fish
Small raw fish are my favorite easily available whole prey food. They contain a wealth of nutrients as your dog eats the brain, eyes, organs, thyroid, stomach, bones, muscles and much more.
In fact, some coastal wolf populations have been observed eating raw fish as a majority of their diet.
Feeding small wild caught fish will help you avoid heavy metals in your dog’s diet.
Raw fish contains thiaminase, an enzyme that interferes with the absorption of thiamine. If fed every day exclusively this can lead to problems.
Limit feedings to a few times a week or ferment the fish to avoid this problem all together (There are many fermented fish recipes available online).
One ounce of raw fish contains about 50 calories so you can use the fish to replace an ounce of commercial raw food or just include it in your dog’s caloric intake when feeding a homemade diet.
5. Organic Raw Fermented Vegetables
Much of the vegetation eaten by wild carnivores comes from partially digested and naturally fermented plants in the stomach of whole small prey.
This pre-processing allows the nutrients in the plants to be used by an animal who has difficulty using them otherwise.
When you ferment vegetables you’re not only imitating this process but avoiding carbohydrates, because the fermentation process turns the starch and sugars into lactic acid.
As with all fermentation the bacteria not only create new nutrients, enzymes and organic acids, but they also become an extremely effective probiotic for your dog.
You can purchase fermented vegetables at a health food store or make your own to save money (there are many recipes online). A little goes a long way so feed about a teaspoon per 15 pounds of your dog’s weight.
Giving your dog some of these and other nutrient dense foods is the easiest way to achieve a balanced diet; on top of the health benefits, she’ll probably really enjoy these delicious additions!