Many people question the need for supplements since a natural, raw diet is supposed to be providing all the nutrients that are lost in the processing of commercial foods. While this is true, we also have to account for the following:
- We are only able to approximate a wild diet, so supplements fill in the typical "gaps".
- Vegetables and grain today are often grown in soils that are largely depleted of nutrients. So the vegetables we feed, and the grains that are fed to the poultry, beef and lamb we feed to our animals in the form of meat, are also lacking in these nutrients, because they cannot be absorbed from the soils.
- Important nutrients such as omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are concentrated in organs like the eyes and brain, parts of the animal that are not typically available for us to feed. Fish body oil or flaxseed oil supplementation provides the omega-3s needed for healthy skin, coats and proper brain, joint and cellular function.
- Vitamin E: Adequate levels of Vitamin E help insure that the omega-3s are completely metabolized.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) - begin using after the diet transition is complete and continue using on a daily basis. Flaxseed Oil or Fish Body Oil (not cod liver oil) provide the necessary EFAs. Flaxseed Oil and Fish Body Oil should be kept refrigerated at home. Which to use:
While either is fine, we recommend Fish Body Oil instead of Flaxseed Oil because there are some reports of dogs becoming “itchy” from flaxseed oil. If you elect to use flaxseed oil, and your dog shows signs of itchiness when you add it to the diet, you can always switch to fish body oil.
However, if your dog has severe skin conditions and allergies of any kind, fish body oil is the preferred source of EFAs, and may help alleviate some of the associated symptoms. NOTE: Cats MUST have fish oil.
If you use a capsule form of EFAs, any of the following are acceptable ways to administer them: some dogs will eat them if they are just mixed into the food; some dogs will eat them as a treat; or simply give them like a pill; or - poke a hole in one end with a pin and squeeze the liquid onto food. Dosage:
- Fish Body Oil (NOT cod liver oil) capsules – 500 mg to 1000 mg per 10 lbs. of pet;
- Liquid Salmon Oil — Dogs to 25 lbs. - ½
teaspoon, dogs to 25-50lbs. - 1 teaspoon;
- Flaxseed Oil -- 1 tablespoon per 25 lbs. of pet
- Note: If your dog is scheduled for surgery, eliminate the essential fatty acid supplements (flaxseed oil or fish body oil) at least 10 days before the surgery. The omega-3 EFAs in these oils do reduce blood coagulation, and thus increase bleeding.
- A high quality vitamin/mineral supplement:
Begin using after the first week of the transition and continue using on a daily basis. Be sure the product has trace minerals, not just vitamins. Use at 1.5 times the labeled dose.
- Digestive enzymes -- these are good to use daily for the first 4 to 6 weeks on a raw diet, but can be continued permanently if needed. Digestive enzymes are important during the transition stage of the diet because the dog’s system needs time to begin producing the enzymes required for digesting raw foods.
Some brands are made specifically for animals and these are best to use. However, any human mixture that contains at least amylase, protease, lipase and cellulase is fine.
If using an animal-specific formula, feed according to the directions on the container. If using a human formula, use one capsule once a day. (Twist capsule open and pour/mix into food).
- Probiotics - to be used daily for at least 4 - 6 weeks, but good to use on a permanent daily basis. Probiotics are essentially “good bacteria” that balance and neutralize “bad bacteria”. By doing so, they promote effective digestion and a healthy digestive tract. Even in kibble-fed dogs, the regular use of probiotics can help reduce/eliminate coat and skin problems, gas and bloating, and bad breath. There are several animal-specific probiotics, but you can also use human acidophilus *Plus* mixtures -- any mix containing all or some of the following: L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, B. Bifidum and B. Longum. The best brands are in the cooler section. Store in your refrigerator at home.
If using an animal-specific formula, feed according to the directions on the container. If using a human formula, use one capsule once a day. (Twist capsule open and pour/mix into food.)
- Vitamin E (any mixed tocopherol blend) -- 200 iu per 50 lbs. of dog. Begin using 2 weeks after the diet transition is complete and use on a permanent basis, 2 or 3 times a week. Vitamin E insures that the Omega-3 EFAs are completely metabolized. Since we are supplementing with EFAs, we should also supplement with Vitamin E.
Vitamin and mineral needs are also unique to cats, compared to dogs and humans. They require very high levels of B vitamins and have special needs for Vitamins A and D. Unlike dogs, cats cannot convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A and require a preformed version from an animal source. And unlike humans, cats cannot synthesize Vitamin D, but usually meet their needs if eating a carnivorous diet. It’s also important to remember vitamins and minerals work synergistically and caution needs to be observed with adding high levels of supplements.
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are found in select plants, grasses and seeds and the animals that forage on them, such grass-fed meats. While Bravo! tries to acquire grass-fed meats whenever possible, to assure your cat receives appropriate levels of Omega-3, Bravo! recommends you also include an alternative source of EFAs, such as fish oil, in your pet’s diet. Fish body oil (salmon, sardine or anchovy oil) is one of the most bioavailable for our felines. Many other Omega-3s, such as flax seed oil, cannot not be converted or used by cats.
- Vitamin E is needed to ensure metabolism of the Omega-3s. Plus it helps prevent oxidation. Capsules in liquid or dry form are available.
- Digestive enzymes and probiotics aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients and can be helpful in transitioning to raw foods. Because they can also be useful for skin and coat problems, bad breath, vomiting and diarrhea, digestive enzymes and probiotics may be beneficial for long term use, especially for animals with a history of digestion issues. Animal specific formulas are preferred.
- A low-potency, vitamin/mineral helps fill in the gaps, especially with trace minerals. Fresh foods can be deficient in vitamins and minerals because the soil the source animals graze on or that the vegetables are grown in are depleted. At the same time, cats suffering from digestive issues may need additional supplements to boost levels. Feline specific supplements are balanced for a cat’s metabolic needs and are often more palatable.
Cats: Optional Supplements
- Because cats need high levels of Vitamin B, including a B-50 Complex will help insure your cat’s optimum levels.
- Even though Taurine is at its highest levels in raw meats, it is recommended to add up to 500mg per day to prevent any deficiencies.
- A good glandular supplement (capsule preferred) that contains thymus, spleen, kidney, and pancreas can be beneficial based on the concept that ingesting the glandulars of a certain gland strengthens the corresponding gland.
- Psyllium husk powder can be added as a form of fiber, where in the wild a cat’s natural form of fiber would be fur and feathers. The psyllium powder MUST be added to water (1 part pysllium powder to 24 parts water) prior to mixing with food, otherwise it will lead to constipation.