Further to the last two entries on management of your dog’s diet during COVID-19 –  perhaps the biggest issue home feeders are facing now, is finding supplements needed to balance their dog’s home made diet.

This is, as mentioned in the last two entries, more of an urgent concern for clients or anyone whose dog is on a  therapeutic diet; that said, nobody wants to feed an unbalanced recipe to any dog, if avoidable. And many recipes – cooked diets, or raw without bones, for example, or any low calorie recipe – any healthy dog who has an intolerance or dislike of specific foods – all these cases are examples where a proactive recipe may call for supplements. And despite the current trend to vilify supplementation in food, I’ve seen these trends come and go for several decades (I’ve been interested in human nutrition since my teens) and I’m seeing a fair bit of overreaction right now. Or put another way; sure, we don’t want to rely on supplements where foods can supply the dietary needs. But, where they cannot, supplements – high quality and intelligently chosen  are vastly preferable to the myriad health consequences that can ensue when dietary needs are not met over long periods of time.

In human terms, better a small amount of Vitamin C supplement, if you can’t handle citrus or berries or red peppers etc – than scurvy.

And, lest that seem too dramatic – the cascade of health issues that can develop from chronic marginal intake – meaning, your dog getting enough of an essential to prevent an identifiable disease state, but not enough to ensure truly good health, is often undetected, and treated with medication or any of the trendy cure-all  supplements (the ones sold by popular magazines etc are all ‘good’ while adding things like zinc and Vitamin D is deemed ‘bad’) instead of the actual nutrients the dog in question is low in.

So no, you can’t fix a  chronic skin issue related to poor diet with turmeric or goat’s milk. But you can make great improvements, by adjusting the diet as indicated. And you can’t ascertain what the diet is low in using guesswork; you need the science…imperfect as it may be at times, it’s exactly what saves lives and offers relief. I can’t tell you how many herbal consults I get, where the client states “his diet is optimal, I feed prey model 80/10/10 and a lot of variety” as they seek herbal support for what turns out to be low Vitamin E, zinc, manganese, selenium and many more. Or the client feeding a good quality kibble with fresh food toppers, who has recently reduced the intake and is looking for herbal help. In both these cases, we can see directly how lower levels of the essentials have initiated  health problems. I don’t have a herb for that! but, I do have a supplement.

So  that needed to be said for readers horrified by the fact my clients are often using supplements. And now –  the point of this entry! If your dog is finally doing really well on a recipe, and you suddenly can’t find the supplements, it can be very stressful. So let’s start with one biggie, for any dog not eating bones, on a cooked or raw diet – calcium.

I’ll resist the urge to expound on what calcium does and why it’s so important – there will be a lot on all the micronutrients in a series we’re working on for this site – but assume that if you are looking for calcium or any of the supplements below, you already appreciate the science, and how important it is to meet nutrient requirements. In most of my client’s diets, we use NOW calcium carbonate – at 1200 mgs per level tsp, but some people have found  it difficult to come by (still in stock at www.iherb.com as of last night!) If you have run out and can’t locate the NOW, or it isn’t shipping to wherever you are, you can use finely powdered eggshell to supply calcium, but it is more like 1800 mgs per level tsp, and that’s not absolutely 100% accurate. Again, as I’m saying over and over, that won’t be a problem if this is a healthy adult recipe. In therapeutic cases, however, we do need precision so email me, or your consultant/nutritionist, for advice specific to your dog.
For the healthy adult dog, we can calculate the daily needs by using the Nutrient Requirement Calculator Tool here: https://thepossiblecanine.com/cnnh?fbclid=IwAR1fpQe7pEWjYQxyevyieIFUOsWuoA-3cUAoAFQSTaml84r_YkA2y8wFNl0

(Scroll down to the tool  on the lower right hand side of the page)

You can also do this longhand; your dog’s nutrient requirements are all calculated using his or her Metabolic Weight(MW), and then multiplying  that value by the requirements for each vitamin, mineral, amino and fatty acid.This is easily done by taking his weight in kgs – you can use this site: http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html )

And then, use your computer’s calculator, set to Scientific, and  find the Metabolic Weight, which is weight in kilograms to the power of .75.

In the case of calcium, you want the MW x130. This is for adult dogs only, and for seniors with no health issues – not for puppies! Just a bit of background, for more you can always take on of the courses, at 50% off right now for those subscribed to my Newsletter. 🙂

So, let’s say your cooked or raw-without bones recipe requires one thousand mgs calcium per day. And your recipe provides 300 mgs. So now you need to add 900 mgs, or 3/4 of a tsp. And you’ve been using the NOW carbonate powder, at 1200 mgs per tsp –  but can’t locate it anymore (right now.)  You can indeed substitute finely powdered eggshell, but as it has @1800 mgs per tsp, 3/4tsp  will give you 1350 mgs, going well over your goal. So, if you’re substituting eggshell and aiming for 900 mgs, you just need a half tsp.

Conversely you could switch to a citrate, but again the math needs adjusting. The NOW citrate has just 600 mgs per 1 1/2 tsps, so you need a fair bit more product  to get to your 900 mgs: 2 1/4 tsps. Important to be aware of these differences, but also that while most dogs do well with either form, some do not and may develop some GI distress after switching. Generally speaking, if your dog has been doing well on carbonate, I like to see you stay on carbonate – in other words, try the eggshell powder.  (To make it, wash and bake a few eggshells, at 250 degrees for ten or fifteen minutes, and grind to a fine powder in a grinder set aside for this kind of use.) But that’s not to say citrate can’t work!

I’m often asked about the popular seaweed product from Animals Essentials. I am a big fan of their products and often refer clients to them, if they need a quick fix type herbal blend –  these are very well formulated herbal products (and not all are). I do endorse  Animal Essentials calcium, but you need to be aware, again, it’s different from using straight carbonate powder . Here is the guaranteed analysis from the Animal Essentials site:

Typical Mineral Analysis – Per Teaspoon

Calcium …………………………………. 1000 mg

Magnesium ………………………………. 100 mg

Phosphorus ……………………………….. 24 mg

Sulfur ………………………………………… 14 mg

Potassium …………………………………… 3 mg

Boron ………………………………………. 75 mcg

Zinc …………………………………………. 66 mcg

Iodine ………………………………………. 60 mcg

Selenium ……………………………………. 3 mcg


So you can see that a level tsp will give you just a little over the goal of 900 mgs and that is NOT a big deal! The most significant addition here is magnesium at 100 mgs, but again, even if your diet is right at the RA for magnesium, this bit of extra is not worrisome.  And again, some nutritionally-responsive conditions may need magnesium restriction. For your healthy dog, you can use the Animal Essentials product in place of the pure carbonate, but just be aware of the other nutrients.

I’m occasionally asked if calcium can’t be met with foods – nope, honestly it cannot. I just did a proactive recipe for a healthy5 kg dog, whose RA for calcium is 430 mgs (rounded up to 450) and even with sardines, yogurt, and a little ground sesame seed, we were only at 195 mgs. My client wanted to avoid all supplements, but once we went through the math, she’s agreed to add the essentials – smart move for a little guy who has choked on bones in past, and she doesn’t want to risk it again.

Havanese : Dog Breed Selector : Animal Planet

Lastly, I’ve seen a few calcium products on the Facebook group recently, members asking if this or that product was ok to use short term. Again, some were ok, but many had added Vitamin D and not in a small amount – many contained phosphorus (remember, bone meal and pure calcium are never interchangeable). So my  parting comment – not able to go through each and every one – is – read the label! Know what levels you’re aiming for – know what the product contains.  A little imbalance for a short term period isn’t a catastrophe, but we’re going to a lot of trouble to get our dog’s diets just right – often much more than we do with our own – why not get it right?

Next entry I’ll talk about herbs, because we are really seeing some problems getting herbs right now, but you may well be able to switch the forms for a while (use a glycerite instead of a water based preparation, for example, or vice versa).

Stay safe, everybody! Let me know in the comments what you need help with, and I’ll do my best to answer promptly.