Do I need to add supplements to a raw diet?
The supplementation issue is important. We know that dogs and cats need a certain level and range of micronutrients for survival, and a different level for optimal health (although these levels have not been definitively established yet). A carefully planned prey-based diet will provide most dogs and cats with all they need in the correct proportions and in the most readily absorbable and utilisable form.
An inappropriate raw diet could lead to serious deficiencies.
Alternatively, inappropriate supplementation of a balanced raw diet could also lead to serious problems.
With a processed diet, micronutrients (vitamins, minerals etc) are lost in processing. The manufacturers buy pre-made synthetic vitamin and mineral mixes from specialised factories and add them back into the finished product. There are a couple of things to consider here:
- The premixes are manufactured in countries with patchy food safety records and a history of ingredient recalls. The FDA and CDC have written public health articles explaining the risks of some of these products. There has been high morbidity (illness) and mortality (death rates) associated with some of these recalls.
- Synthetic vitamins look the same chemically, but many do not act the same in vivo (in the body). Epidemiological studies picked up on the fact that people with high intakes of certain vitamins (from whole-food sources) in their diet suffered less from certain serious diseases (such as cancer). This led researchers to run ‘intervention’ studies in which one group of people is given a placebo (fake pill) and one group is given a synthetic vitamin pill. In some large, significant studies it has been found that that either the synthetic vitamins did not provide the benefits seen in people who acquire them from food; or more worryingly, the synthetic vitamins lead to an increased risk of disease or death.
The medical community is cottoning on to the fact that whole-food sources of nutrition are the best for optimal health, and that processed foods are correlating with an increasing number of negative health outcomes.
Do raw-feeders need to supplement? Mostly, No
In most cases there is no need to add supplements to a well-planned raw diet.
A well-planned raw diet looks like this:
- Sourced from NZ-grown animals.
- A dog/cat should eat a variety of prey-sources (at least three different sources over a week).
- The diet should approximate whole prey; a selection of raw meat, bone, organs and tripe.
- It should include the highest quality prey sources possible (human-grade and wild products, not stripped out leftovers).
There are cases when supplements may be useful though.
Some pets do well on a course of probiotics, or fish oils. In most cases, this supplementation is a temporary measure to control inflammation, and populate the gut with beneficial microbes in order to assist immune function.
Some cats and dogs have a very compromised immune system, and a major microbial imbalance in their gut. These are the animals that will suffer deficiency even on a really good raw diet, or an AAFCO-approved processed one. Unless the gut health of these animals can be significantly improved, they may benefit from continuous supplementation.
There are many trendy supplements on the market, and it can be really difficult to figure out which ones are safe and effective. Always let your vet know if you are supplementing your pet's diet. If you are feeding Raw Essentials food, please let us know too!