While I am an avid advocate of balanced raw diets for dogs (and cats!), I also understand raw feeding is not a feasible option for many individuals for a variety of reasons. However, there are quite a few easy ways to give your dog’s dry food a boost of natural hydration and bioavailable nutrition.
Using Balanced Raw Food as Mix-In
Just because you don’t completely feed your dog a raw diet doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy raw food! Almost all raw food brands sell their premade, balanced food in the option of small nuggets and/or kibble-sized pieces, which makes it perfect to use as a topper on your dog’s kibble. If you have a large dog you can buy the 8oz. patties and split them in half or mix one in completely, depending on how much you’d like to feed.
An easy way to know how much kibble to trade for the raw is by looking on the back of both bags and seeing what the calorie counts are for each food. Make an equal trade of calories so your dog doesn’t gain or lose any weight.
Nutritious Premade Toppers
One of the biggest issues kibble-fed dogs face is dehydration. Dogs who eat dry food drink way more water than dogs who eat raw or canned food. This is because the dry food puts them in a chronic state of dehydration. Raw toppers are a super easy way to add whole food nutrients in their naturally hydrated state.
My first favorite is raw goat milk, which is packed full of probiotics. Adding probiotics to a kibble fed dog’s meal is awesome because it will help balance his gut biome, which affects many facets of a dog’s health. I especially recommend this to pet parents whose dog suffers with digestive problems, ear infections and other skin issues. Primal, Answers, Open Farm and My Pet Carnivore are all loved in my house.
Another easy topper are the Primal Pet Foods Edible Elixirs. My dog loves the Joint Health and Immunity Boost mixes!
The last favorite topper of mine is bone broth. Bone broths are considered a “super food” because they are densely packed with easily digestible proteins, enzymes and amino acids. I regularly purchase broths made by Primal and Answers, however there are many recipes online to make your own! Google “bone broth recipe for dogs,” and you’ll find a ton of super easy options.
If your dog’s kibble food brand also makes canned food, swap out some of his kibble for the wet food. The wet food will supply a more highly bioavailable set of nutrients, as well as hydration. It’s also more palatable, so your dog will love the variety and taste!
If your dog’s brand of food doesn’t make a wet food, that’s OK! You can slowly introduce a canned food topper from another brand. Here are some of my favorites: ZiwiPeak, Farmina, Zignature (this is a 100% chicken-free, limited ingredient hypoallergenic food), Koha, RAWZ and NutriSource.
Your Kitchen Scraps
The reason raw food is best for dogs is because it’s their biologically appropriate diet, AKA it’s what they’re supposed to be eating. Dogs are built to eat raw animal flesh… they’re carnivores! So, don’t be shy giving your dog the freezer burnt meat or scraps you’d otherwise throw away. As long as the additions you’re adding on top don’t account for more than 20% of the meal (10% for young puppies), you’re OK. If you swap more than 20% of kibble for scraps the additions need to be balanced, which is a whole other conversation.
Some tips: At first, keep the additions lean. Dogs need fat for energy, but if they aren’t used to eating straight fat you may end up with runny stools. So, trim the fat before feeding to your dog. Also, only feed raw and unseasoned meat. Try to avoid chicken, as it’s inflammatory for dogs. You can also add fruits and veggies! If you’re going to serve vegetables, steam or puree them first. They can be eaten raw, but the cellular walls of vegetables are more rigid so in order to make them bioavailable it helps to steam and or puree them first.
I hope this helps and inspires you to give your pup’s kibble a boost! You can DM me on Instagram (@MyBoyRudder) with any questions.