Updated: Jun 28, 2021
My name is Clarissa Dery and I am a Certified Canine Nutritionist and a Certified Acute Canine Herbalist. After years of researching complete and balanced diets for dogs, and dealing with my own dog's extensive health issues, I have put together this list for enhancing your dog's kibble with fresh foods and supplements.
Ultimately, I always recommend a biologically appropriate diet heavy in fresh foods and moisture, such as a complete and balanced raw diet or a home-cooked diet. The term "biologically appropriate" simply means the percentage of nutrients in a particular food that can be absorbed and used in the body.
However, not everybody can afford a pre-made raw diet, and making your own complete and balanced fresh food diet requires time and education. Therefore, if kibble is your only option (don't worry, you're not alone) then this list is for you.
1. Add Digestive Enzymes – Dogs are facultative carnivores, therefore they have elongated esophagus’s and special gut bacteria for handling whole prey and raw meat, which is a biologically appropriate diet. But instead, we’re feeding dogs dry, overly processed kibble that is heavy in starches and carbs. Most of the nutrients in kibble are lost during the high heat cooking process and extrusion of moisture.
That’s why adding digestive enzymes can help your dog break down kibble, making it easier for their bodies to absorb any nutrients that is left. Adding digestive enzymes ensures that your dog is getting the most out of their kibble, and you are getting your money’s worth! Here is a great digestive enzyme formulated by Dr. Karen Becker.
2. Add Moisture such as bone broth, raw goats milk, plain kefir, fish stock, or even warm water. Unlike humans, dogs bodies are designed to get moisture from their food, not a water bowl. That’s because their ancestral diet is whole prey, which includes blood and organs.
A common whole prey meal for a dog would be a rabbit. Rabbits are roughly 75% water, therefore a dog would get all of its nutritional and hydration requirements from that rabbit. Kibble only has about 6% - 10% of moisture, meaning your dog will need an extra boost of hydration.
3. Add Fresh Whole Foods such as an egg, ground beef, chicken gizzards and/or hearts.
When choosing which fresh foods to add to kibble, primarily stick with meat. Amino acids and taurine are the most important aspects of a dogs diet, and meat is the most bioavailable source for these. Because the meat in kibble is heavily processed and extruded, adding fresh meat (raw or cooked) can significantly enhance your dog’s diet. Chicken gizzards and hearts are a great source of taurine and amino acids that you can cheaply buy at any grocery store.
Eggs are a great option when adding fresh foods to your dogs kibble because they are nature’s multi-vitamin! They are packed with trace amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral your dog needs. That is because eggs contain all the nutrients necessary to grow a baby chicken. Nutrients include choline, biotin,
vitamin A, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin according to a Harvard health study. You can feed a raw or hard-boiled egg to your dog once daily.
Be careful when adding fruits and veggies. Dogs only need 20% of forage in their diet, and most kibbles are loaded with starchy veggies and corn (so they probably don’t need any added). If you must, I recommend adding berries due to their antioxidants and bioavailability.
4. Add Equal Ratios Of Omega Fatty Acids – Omega fatty acids are crucial in a dogs daily diet. These omega fatty acids are: Linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Linoleic acid is found in animal fat such as chicken (aka omega 6). EPA and DHA are found in fish from cold water oceans and fish oils, or products made from algae and krill oil (aka omega 3). ALA is made by plants such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds (aka omega 7 and 9).
All of these omega fatty acids must be fed in equal ratios. Feeding an imbalance can lead to inflammation like allergies. For example, most protein intolerances in dogs are primarily due to not properly balancing omega fatty acids.
That's because kibble consists mainly of factory farmed meats (even in fancy gourmet kibble), which causes an imbalance of fats with an over-abundance of omega-6 and too little omega-3. So if you consistently feed your dog a single protein such as chicken, then your dog is getting way too much linoleic acid with nothing to balance it out, thus causing skin flare ups and "allergies." An easy remedy is to rotate different protein sources in your dogs diet.
When choosing which fish to buy for EPA and DHA, sardines packed in water or canned wild Alaskan salmon (drained) are your best bet. When buying canned fish for your dogs, make sure the sodium content is below 150mg. Naturally, seafood is higher in sodium, but as long as it’s packed in water, not brine, it should be okay. (Side note - be weary of canned fish sourced from china).
Not everybody can afford to feed raw or gourmet dog food, and not everybody has the time to cook/make their own. But just adding a few of these suggestions to kibble can significantly improve your dog’s diet, digestive system, and overall health. You can turn a basic bag of kibble into a healthy, more biologically appropriate diet for your dog! Let’s raise the standards for our pets and nourish them with Four Leaf Clover!
Four Leaf Clover, LLC
* When you add fresh food to your dog’s kibble, remember to remove an equal portion of kibble to avoid over feeding.
*Consult with your veterinarian if your dog has health issues.
* It is best to start slowly when introducing new foods into your dogs diet.
* I do not get paid from promoting products in this article. Any product or brand that is linked is solely because I have tried it with my own dogs.