Is it necessary to supplement the diet?
In a modern world of intensive farming methods which include the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, the stripping of topsoil and the massive overuse of food additives and growth hormones, there is certainly an important place for supplements in our pet's diets and in our own. After having read several texts on cat and dog nutrition, four very popular and highly recommended supplements to add to the raw diet are:
- Brewers or Torula Yeast powder
- Essential fatty Acids (EFA’s)
- Phytogreens (for example: spirulina, wheat grass, alfalfa, chorella, barley grass, kelp)
- Digestion aids (digestive enzymes and probiotics)
Whilst there are many more supplements which can be added to our pet’s diet for specific and individual needs, it is important to note that the recommendations are based on supplementing a raw diet.
Dr Billinghurst from ‘Give a Dog a Bone,’ strongly recommends the addition of Brewers Yeast to the raw meaty bone diet. Brewers Yeast, made from the dead bodies of yeast organisms is packed full of B vitamins, it is rich in phosphorus and contains a chromium compound known as GTF (glucose tolerance factor) which controls blood sugar levels. It also contains the antioxidant, selenium that is known to slow down the ageing process, assist the immune system (by increasing antibody production) and assists in the treatment of arthritis. (Billinghurst 1993)
Author of ‘The Complete Holistic Dog Book,’ considers brewers yeast to be an excellent nutrition booster when added to the raw diet. (Allegretti 2003). For those cat and dog owners that chose to feed their pets a cooked diet, brewers yeast is still a popular choice of supplementing the B vitamins. Author of ‘’The Whole Pet Diet,’ recommends a Vita Mineral Mix of which a spoonful can be added to a cooked meal before serving.
The recipe for this mix is:
Vita Mineral Mix
1 ½ cups Brewers Yeast
¼ cup Kelp powder
1 cup Lecithin granules
2 cups wheat bran
2 cups calcium lactate
This mixture should be placed into an airtight glass jar and stored in the fridge.
The nutrients found in brewers yeast assist vision, stamina, skin, the nervous system, can lower anxiety, lower depression and assists in the formation of red blood cells. (Brown 2006) Whilst a sprinkling of this mix would certainly add nutrition to the meal, I very much doubt it can make up for the nutrients only found in a raw meaty bone diet. Like Billinghurst, Brown also includes kelp and garlic into the diet.
Popular Veterinarian and author Dr Pitcairn is also an advocate of brewers yeast in the raw diet. He suggests making his ‘Healthy Powder,’ which should be added to every raw meal:
Recipe for Healthy Powder:
2 cups brewers yeast
1 cup lecithin granules
¼ cup kelp or alfalfa powder
4 tbs bonemeal powder**
1000mg vitamin C
**As Dr Pitcairn does not recommend feeding raw meaty bones to cats and dogs, all of his diet recipes, including this supplement powder contain some form of calcium. Not an advocate of raw bones, Dr Pitcairn suggests, “You may let your pet gnaw on bones occasionally as a snack, not as a major part of the diet.” (Pitcairn 2005)
I actually found Dr Pitcairn’s recipes very confusing, which included large amounts of synthetically produced calcium. My own cats have never chewed on raw bones, however their raw food mix contains ground up organic chicken bones on a regular basis. I’m sure this is a much more natural and healthy way to obtain their much needed calcium rather than from a supply of synthetic supplements.
Unfortunately Dr Pitcairn is not the only author to suggest obtaining calcium via supplements rather than from raw meaty bones. Author of ‘The Holistic Cat,’ whilst recommending a raw diet, Coscia does not recommend raw bones for cats, therefore calcium must be obtained from ground egg shells or calcium supplements. Coscia does however include some powerful nutrients to her raw meat and offal diet, which includes brewers yeast, lecithin, ground flaxseed, spirulina, vitamin C, L-Lysine, digestive enzymes and garlic. (Coscia 2005)
I have followed many of this authors recommended diets for cats as she certainly understands how extremely fussy and stubborn cats can be. As I have never been able to add even the smallest amount of raw pulped vegetables to my cats diet, a tried and tested and highly successful method of implementing vegetables is to add a jar of pureed baby food to the raw mix. I can honestly say this suggestion has worked for years for me. I put together my ground up raw bones, meat, offal, EFA’s and supplement powder with a jar of baby food. My cats’ favourite baby food includes: pumpkin, wintersquash, green peas and brown rice, carrot and butternut squash. In fact, they lick off the pureed vegetable before they eat the animal produce. As my cats are now 18 years old, the extra vegetables certainly help them to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Advocate of the raw meaty bone diet author Kathy Schultze, also recommends adding supplements to the diet such as kelp powder, as it contains undamaged protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fibre. However, unlike Billinghurst, Schultze recommends adding equal parts of kelp and alfalfa to the raw diet to obtain overall vitamins and minerals. Schultze also recommends ground sunflower seeds to obtain: vitamin E, B, manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, folate and polyunsaturated oil. Due to them being high in nutrients and palatable, I now add ground sunflower seeds to my cats supplement mix. To make sure they liked the taste first, I ground up a few sunflower seeds in a coffee bean grinder and added it to some meat and bone mix. They both ate it without hesitation. This is another great idea, which works well with fussiest of cats and greatly supplements a nutritious diet.
Like Billinghurst, author of ‘Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs,’ promotes and strongly suggests a diet of raw meaty bones with several important supplements which include the sea vegetable Kelp. A typical diet for dogs would consist of:
Muscle meat, organ meat, raw bones, ground or pulped vegetables, fish oil, digestive enzymes, probiotics and a blend of sea vegetables consisting of spirulina, kelp, blue green algae and alfalfa.
Whilst an advocate of raw bones he offers an alternative of synthetic calcium supplementation which is:
For every 450g raw meat & offal, add 900mg of powdered calcium (Olson 2010)
Even though I would rather use raw bones to obtain calcium, there are times when I have used powdered calcium to supplement my cats diet. This guideline certainly comes in useful when bones are not available.
As an alternative to Brewers Yeast, Torula Yeast can be used as a highly nutritious supplement. It is lower in sodium and lower in phosphorus than Brewers Yeast. It has more calcium than brewers yeast. As a result it is excellent for cats and dogs with kidney or heart disease. (Billinghurst 1993)
My 18 year old cat has reduced kidney function and as a result I need to lower his phosphorus intake. By supplementing with Torula Yeast rather than Brewers Yeast they still obtain essential nutrients without the excess phosphorus.
On a final note in regards to Brewers Yeast, we should always buy a high quality human grade powder. When added to our pets diet, owners should be aware of any changes in health as brewers yeast is known to possibly cause allergies in some pets. (Puotinen 1999)
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
Essential Fatty Acids, another important addition to the healthy diet, can easily be added to any meal in order to prevent allergies, depression, slow wound healing, high blood pressure, aching joints, the onset of arthritis, poor digestion and obesity. (Brown 2006) According to Brown, adding EFA’s to the diet is the most important supplement to maintain good health. Brown suggests that the EFA’s, omega 3 and omega 6 should be given in the ratio of 1:2. The author also recommends making an oil blend as listed below:
EFA’s for a beautiful coat.
141g olive oil or soybean oil
28g cod liver oil or salmon oil (for Omega 3)
28g wheat germ oil (rich in vitamin E and antioxidants)
28g flaxseed oil (mostly omega 6 as the omega 3 is not useable for cats)
1tsp garlic powder (not all cats like the taste of garlic)
½ tsp dried rosemary (soothes digestion, relieves gas)
The oil mix should be stored in a dark, airtight, glass container in the refrigerator. Flaxseed oil is very volatile and breaks down more quickly than the other oils; therefore the oil mix should be used according to the expiry date of the flaxseed. The author suggests that the oil mix should be used within two months. (Brown 2006)
There is however a dilemma over which EFA’s to supplement our cats and dogs diet with?
Based on my own research, I believe I have found the best omega 3 and omega 6 oils which my cats can utilise. They consist of 1ml of salmon oil and 500mg safflower, borage or evening primrose oil. I also add 100iu of vitamin E to ensure the EFA’s do not go rancid in the body (Allegretti et al 2003). Author of 'Natural Nutrition for Cats,' suggests adding EFA’s Omega 3 and Omega 6 to a cats raw diet to ensure healthy skin, hair, joints and heart. (Schultz 2008)
Author of ‘The Complete Holistic Dog Book,’ recommends supplementing the diet with EFA’s for the entire lifespan of our pet. An excellent source of Omega 3 is salmon oil, which assists with the health of the skin, whilst also preventing and treating allergies, arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease and cancer. To obtain Omega 6 the author recommends safflower, borage or evening primrose oil. (Allegretti et al 2003)
The third very popular supplement is a mixture of green phytonutrients, which are highly nutritious plant based material from photosynthesising organisms such as:
- Barley grass,
- Wheat grass and
Whilst many phytonutrients can be found in fruits, vegetables and herbs, we can supplement our pet’s food with prepared powders containing spirulina, chorella, barley, kelp, alfalfa and wheat grass. They detoxify the body and reduce damage to cellular membranes. (Goldstein et al 2005)
According to author of ‘The Whole Pet Diet,’ spirulina and chlorella are a huge source of vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants. They are a concentrated source of chlorophyll. Both being single celled organisms they are excellent for digestion, nutrient absorption and are a highly digestible protein. They both protect the liver from toxins, lower blood pressure, fight free radicals (antioxidant qualities), reduce inflammation and give our pets energy due to their rich nutrients (Brown 2006).
According to ‘Superfoods’ expert David Wolfe, spirulina is not only high in protein but also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, E and K. It has enzymes to assist digestion, and has an abundance of chlorophyll. “Spirulina provided the primary protein requirements for millions of people in Mexico City for an estimated five thousand years!” (Wolfe 2009)
Additionally, spirulina can assist in protecting the kidneys from prescription medications and prevent viral attacks. Chlorella is claimed to be the best supplement for preventing cancer. (Schultz 2008)
Kelp being another extremely nutritious, phytogreen supplement contains sodium, potassium, calcium, iodine and trace amounts of manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, zinc, cobalt, chromium and molybdenum. (Billinghurst 1993) Being the most abundant, iodine rich sea vegetable, the iodine in Kelp helps to restore thyroid function, which improves and increases metabolism. There are also essentials sugars in kelp, which are antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral. In addition Kelp is known to absorb and eliminate radioactive elements and any heavy metal contaminants from the body (Wolfe 2009)
Barley grass is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Interestingly, barley grass contains five times more iron than spinach and is high in calcium. The organic sodium in barley grass may contribute to dissolving calcium deposits, which can form on the joints. As a result it is used as a herbal treatment for arthritis. (Livestrong 2011)
Wheatgrass is very rich in chlorophyll. It contains superoxide dismutase, which is known to slow down cell ageing and act as an anti inflammatory. It also contains beta carotene, which is an excellent source of Vitamin A. Overall, wheat grass is a nutrient rich food with cleansing properties. (puregreenfoods.com)
Alfalfa contains an array of vitamins including Vitamin A, B, K, C and minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium. It is also relatively high in protein. Alfalfa helps to reduce blood sugar levels, pain and stiffness from arthritis, increase energy, aid digestion, improve liver functioning, acts as a detoxifier and assists the immune system. (puregreenfoods.com)
When alfalfa is combined with dandelion it is one of the best treatments for arthritis, rheumatism, gout and other inflammatory diseases. (Messonnier 2001)
As all of the above phytogreen foods have the potential to improve and increase the longevity of my cats and dog, I supplement their food with an organic supplement powder, which contains all of the above apart from Kelp, which I have to add separately. I not only supplement my animals with this highly nutritious mix but I also take it myself everyday as part of my own diet.
Digestion Aids are supplements, which assist not only the digestion of food but also the absorption of nutrients into the blood. They also maintain a healthy gut flora in a world of food toxins, pollutants, synthetic chemicals and potentially harmful pathogens. The most popular digestive aids are probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements such as bromelian.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that have the ability to correct imbalances in the digestive tract, they also assist digestion and nutrient absorption into the blood. They also produce B vitamins and help the body rid itself of toxins from pollution and poor diet. (Goldstein et al 2005) In addition, probiotics can help gastro intestinal upsets, fight parasite burdens and are highly beneficial after a course of antibiotics when the gut flora has been depleted. (Allegretti et al 2003) Even further to this list of benefits the Wikipedia website lists benefits of probiotics such as:
-Assisting diarrhea by balancing gut flora
-Assisting lactose intolerant individuals by converting lactose into lactic acid
-Prevention of and treatment of colon cancer as demonstrated in lab tests on rats
-May assist in the reduction of high blood pressure
-May assist with inflammation (Wikipedia 2011)
Examples of probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bifidus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus paracasei. These single celled living organisms are various strains of bacterial cells, which have been declared beneficial to our pets and our own bodies.
Commonly, probiotics are found in fermented foods with specially added active and live cultures of bacteria. Yogurt (both dairy and soy) is the most popular source of friendly, live bacteria. However if our cats and dogs do not consume yogurt as part of their diet, probiotics can be added from powder filled capsules that can be purchased from a health store.
My dog has organic yogurt (which contains live bacteria) as part of his diet so I don’t feel the need to supplement his food. However, my cats, as they do not have yogurt in their diet, obtain their probiotics from a supplement I include in their raw food mix. The supplement is a human health product, which is free of dairy produce and contains live bacteria in small powder capsules. When I’ve prepared a raw food mix I stir in a capsule of live bacteria. As it has no taste, the cats have no problem consuming it with their regular food.
Digestive enzymes, whilst helpful in the breakdown and absorption of foods are not necessarily, essential dietary additions, especially if our pets are on a raw diet. Raw diets already contain live, natural enzymes. However, for cats and dogs on cooked, processed foods, digestive enzymes are certainly a good addition to the diet.
There are four digestive enzymes produced by the stomach and pancreas:
-Protease for breaking down protein
-Amylase for breaking down carbohydrates
-Lipase for breaking down fats
-Pectinase breaks down sugars in plant cell walls
Interestingly, these four essential enzymes are produced by probiotics naturally. (Poveromo 2010)
According to author of, ‘The Holistic Cat,’ digestive enzymes can assist health even in the healthiest of raw diets. Coscia recommends that cat owners should mix together several ingredients including digestive enzymes into what she calls an:
Immune Boosting Formula
-1,500mg Bromelain (extracted from pineapples, contains protease to breakdown proteins, bromelain also reduces inflammation in the body)
-3,000mg Vitamin C (important antioxidant and immune system booster)
-7500mg L-Lysine (an amino acid which aids in the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes)
-200mg Vitamin B6 (aids the absorption of L-lysine and vitamin C)
-750mg odorless garlic (odorless as most cats don’t like the taste, it assists immune system)
-¼ cup ground flaxseed (has anti-inflammatory properties and aids digestion)
The mixture should be kept in a dark, glass, airtight container in the fridge. It provides 30 daily doses of cat supplement powder (Coscia 2009)
As a possible fifth supplement, Garlic is also a popular choice amongst holistic animal nutritionists. Garlic is used for killing bacteria, fungus, parasites, assisting the immune system and is known to help repel fleas. However, too much garlic in the diet can cause anemia. Author of, ‘Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs,’ suggests feeding an eighth of a clove of garlic for every 10kg of dog weight. (Olson 2010)
In contrast to the above advice, Dr Billinghurst suggests feeding up to 2 cloves of garlic a day. He suggests that Kyolic garlic is the best choice as it is gentler on the stomach. Garlic assists not only what Olson has claimed but it also stabilises blood pressure. (Billinghurst 1993)
Allegretti, J. & Sommers, K D.V.M. 2003, ‘The Complete Holistic Dog Book, Home Health Care for our Canine Companions.’ Celestial Arts, USA
Billinghurst, I 1993, ‘Give your dog a bone,’ Warrigal Publishing, Australia.
Goldstein, R.S. V.M.D. & Goldstein, S.J. 2005, ‘The Goldstein’s Wellness & Longevity Program Natural Care for Cats and Dogs.’ TFH Publications USA.
Brown, A 2006, ‘The Whole Pet Diet, Eight weeks to a Great Health for Dogs and Cats. Celestial Arts, USA.
Coscia, J. A, 2005, ‘The Holistic Cat, A Complete Guide to Wellness for a Healthier, Happier Cat. North Atlantic Books, USA.
Khalsa, D. 2009, ‘Natural Dog, A Holistic Guide for Healthier Dogs.’ Bowtie Press, California.
Messonnier, S, 2001, ‘Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats’ Three Rivers Press, New York.
Olson, L 2010, ‘Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs, The definitive guide to homemade meals.’ North Atlantic Books, USA.
Pitcairn, R. H. & Pitcairn, S. H, 2005, ‘Dr. Pitcairn’s guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.’ Rodale Inc, USA.
Poveromo, M. 2010, ‘To Your Dog’s Health.’ Poor Mans Press, Canada.
Puotinen, C.J. 1999, ‘Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats.’ Keats Publishing, USA.2006)
Schultze, K.R 2008, ‘Natural Nutrition for Cats, The Path to Perfect health.’ Hay House, USA.
Tilford, G.L. & Wulff, M.L. 2009. Herbs For Pets. Second Edition. BowTie Press, USA.
Wolfe, D. 2009. ‘Superfoods. The food and medicine of the future.’ North Atlantic Books, U.S.A.
Livestrong.com, May 2010. Article, ‘Borage Seed Oil Side Effects.’
PureGreen Foods ‘Grower direct certified organic wheatgrass and alfalfa.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Website. Article on, ‘Probiotic.’