Whether you are feeding a dry kibble or raw diet to your dog, their meals can always be improved with the addition of different fresh foods. Even complete and balanced diets can use some extra immune-boosting foods to help with skin and coat and overall vitality! I put together some of my favorite ways to enhance your dog’s bowl- but my biggest tip is to assure you are switching up these additions as well as your dog’s food. By rotating, this gives your dog a wide variety of nutrients that are vital for proper health. Imagine eating chicken and broccoli every day of your life when you can be benefiting from the different vitamins and minerals in various foods!
You will want to keep in mind that by adding any extras to your dog’s daily meals, the caloric content will increase. If your pup is overweight, you will just want to be extra mindful of the amount you’re feeding.
With that all being said, here are some fresh, affordable and easy to find additions you can feed to enhance your pup’s meals!
Fresh Meat: If you feed a commercial kibble food, you can enhance your pup’s bowl with some cuts of fresh beef or ground turkey! Ensure that the meats are not made with additives like natural flavoring or rosemary for example. Whole turkeys and bagged chickens may also contain added salt, so be wary of that. Now that we know it’s safe to feed kibble and raw meat together, the more fresh meat you incorporate the better for your pup!
Air-Dried and/or Freeze Dried toppers: Some pet parents want to start slower than just adding fresh, raw cuts of meat. Instead of jumping right into raw meat, you can top your dog’s kibble with high quality, single ingredient air dried treats like the ones from Real Dog Box! Real Dog Box offers a Treat Only box for $21 that comes with air-dried raw muscle meat, organ meat and seafood so your pup has a variety. In addition to air-dried raw treats, your local pet store may carry complete and balanced freeze-dried foods such as ZiwiPeak that you can rehydrate with some water and top over kibble.
Organs: Packed with just about every nutrient, organs make an amazing addition into the diet! They contain phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, iodine and provide fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K and omega-3’s! In addition, they have doses of vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12 and folic acid. While all organs are extremely nutritious, liver is known to be one of the most concentrated sources of natural vitamin A of any food and is one of the best sources of iron. Do not add heat to organs as the heat can deplete the vital nutrients! Start slow when feeding organs and be sure to not overdo it. Some dogs don’t take to the texture of organs at first so you can always mince or puree them and mix in with the food, or try to feed them dried or frozen.
Eggs: The nutrients in eggs are enough to turn a single fertilized cell into an entire baby chicken! This is why eggs are known to be a complete food source. There are around 21 amino acids that the body uses to build its proteins but 9 of these cannot be produced by the body and have to be obtained from the diet-eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids! Feeding farm fresh eggs from a local farmer is best since many store-bought eggs are washed and lose their bloom which requires the eggs to be refrigerated and lose the potential to help keep out bacteria. However, if you do not have a local farmer, organic eggs are the next best to feed because the hens received organic feed and were not raised in cages and the hens’ feed did not contain animal byproducts, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge and most pesticides. Simply crack an egg over top of your dog’s meal or boil if you don’t wish to feed them raw, but don’t forget you can also feed the shell! In order for eggs to be considered a complete protein source, the shell will need to be fed as well. Eggshells have a significant amount of calcium and can be fed as is or you can dry the shells out and grind them to form a powder that you can sprinkle on top of the meal. Worried about a chicken allergy? Try out duck and quail eggs!
Probiotics: My favorite addition into any diet! Up to 80% of the immune system is located in the gut so it’s crucial you keep your pup’s gut strong. Feeding fresh, whole food probiotics such as raw goats milk, raw kefir, plain greek yogurt and fermented veggies help keep the gut balanced. Probiotics produce enzymes that help break food down properly to help aid in digestion. In addition, they compete with bad bacteria to help ward off sickness. If you have a dog who is taking antibiotics, it’s important to feed probiotics as well to assure the gut stays healthy.
Fish: In general fish are an incredible source of protein, calcium, selenium, niacin and omega-3 fats. Smaller fish like sardines, smelt and anchovies pack a huge omega-3 fatty acid punch. Fish is an easily digestible protein source since its empty calories and low in saturated fats! You can feed these fish raw but assure they are frozen for 3 weeks beforehand to avoid any parasites. You can also find some fish canned at your local grocery store but only feed the ones packed in water with no salt added. Feeding fish is so important and is a great alternative to processed fish oil as fish oil is less sustainable, goes through a lot of processing and goes rancid quickly.
Veggies: Although dogs are carnivores, we know that they can utilize the nutrients in veggies if they are prepared properly. The cell walls need to be broken down in order for your pup to digest and benefit from veg, so you must puree, steam, gently cook or ferment them before feeding. Similar to probiotics, fermented foods aid in gut health and digestion. The food is already slightly pre-digested and broken down before your dog eats it which means less work for your dog to digest their food! Dr. Karen Becker states “About the highest level of colony-forming units you'll find in human probiotic supplements is 10 billion. But fermented veggies produced by probiotic starter cultures can produce 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. That means one human serving size of fermented veggies provides the same benefit as an entire bottle of high-potency probiotics.”
Medicinal Mushrooms: One of my favorite immune-boosting foods that exists! Mushrooms are the only non-animal based food that contain vitamin D, B, C and E. Medicinal mushrooms can provide your dog with nutrients that are superior to those provided by most plants, hence why they are a superfood! Mushrooms are great for immunity, packed with antioxidants/vitamins/minerals and also have cancer fighting properties. All mushrooms shouldn't be treated equally, as there are 4 types of mushrooms: hallucinogenic, culinary, medicinal and toxic. I only recommend medicinal mushrooms when it comes to feeding them to your pup, some of which are: turkey tail, chaga, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps and maitake. Some pet companies, like Canine Matrix, will make a dried mushroom supplement tailored to specific needs. If you want to feed more of a variety of mushrooms, look for them dried and make an extract.
There are all kinds of different ways to boost a bowl of kibble as well as a raw meal consisting of meat, organ and bone, but these are just some of my very favorites! Keep in mind by adding real, fresh, whole foods you may want to feed a little less of kibble so that you don’t increase the amount of extra calories!