by Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte
A healthy fresh raw wholefoods (BARF) diet is the cornerstone of vital well-being for your pets. But the cornerstone is not all the foundation. Yes, it’s the most important part of the foundation, and the foundation fails without it, but to build a strong foundation, you need more than just the cornerstone.
When I help people with holistic health advice, I want to go beyond average well-being, to a higher level. I want to help you give your pets the best life possible. I want to help you take your pets to the highest level of vitality possible. A healthy fresh raw wholefood diet goes a long way towards that, but it can’t take you all the way.
Let’s dig into what we can add to our pet’s diet to support the highest level of vital well-being possible. We’ll start with extra wholefoods that are good additions, and then dig into higher level superfoods and supplements.
Wholefoods for supporting vital well-being
- Extra veggies! You can add a portion of any veggies you cook for yourself and your family to your dog’s raw meal. This is a really simple way to increase the value of your dog’s diet. (Cats, being obligate carnivores, don’t need extra veggies.) Of course, no onions. Also take care not to give fatty, oily extras like a cheesy potato casserole. In fact, better not to give potatoes at all, as they are very starchy and can be inflammatory. If you want to stay raw, take some extra veggies, puree them and add to the BARF.
- Raw eggs. A whole raw egg (white + yolk) on top of the regular meal once or twice a week is a great addition to enhance your pet’s diet.
- Fermented foods. A good quality live yoghurt or kefir is a great way to bring probiotic bacteria into your pet’s diet. A teaspoon or two for small pets, up to a tablespoon or two for large pets on meals. You can give your pets sauerkraut too (as long as no onion). Varying fermented foods during the week is a good idea, and not giving these every day is also a good idea.
- Fatty fish. This is a great addition once or twice a week. It’s important to feed small fish from lower down the food chain to minimise any heavy metal contamination - trout, mackerel, smelt, sardines, anchovies, and herring are all good choices. Fresh/frozen is the best by far, tinned is better than not at all. If tinned, be sure to have it in spring water, not in oils.
Superfoods and Supplements
Superfoods are whole foods that have nutritional values beyond the norm - they may have higher levels of antioxidants, herbal compounds that have medicinal value, or an increased density of nutrients. They are a GREAT addition to your pet’s diet. Remember that cats, being obligate carnivores, need 90-95% meat and bone. Dogs only need 75%
Definition: Obligate Carnivore - People refer to cats as obligate carnivores when they are trying to emphasize the fact that cats are a little different than many other meat-eating predators. Obligate means "by necessity." The dictionary definition is: 1. Restricted to one particularly characteristic mode of life. 2. Biologically essential for survival. Combining obligate with carnivore is pretty clear. Cats must eat meat, it is an absolute biological necessity.1
- Bone broth. Bone broths are a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, and collagen. They are also very good for gut health. Make sure there’s no onion if you’re buying premade. Easy to make for yourself with a slow cooker!
- Berries (especially blueberries). Acai, raspberries, blueberries, currants all have pigments, anthocyanins in them. These Phyto-compounds are powerful antioxidants and have multiple health benefits. Organic is better by far, as industrially farmed berries have a lot of chemicals sprayed onto them.
- Chia seeds. Rich in B vitamins, Fatty Acids, fibre, and minerals. Can be a good filler for dieting dogs, and as they are mucilaginous, can soothe the gut.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Small amounts can help with digestion, skin allergies, yeast infections, and overall wellbeing.
- Dark leafy greens + broccoli. Yes, these are a veggie, but they are a SUPER veggie - adding dark green leafy vegetables to your pet’s diet has multiple benefits. They are very nutrient dense, with a broad spectrum of minerals, vitamins and other compounds that support health in a variety of ways.
- Green tea. Green tea is a powerful antioxidant. Steep overnight in cold water (this means no caffeine is extracted), and then give small amounts every day.
- Coconut oil. Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, and a wonderful healthy fat to include in your pet’s diet.
- Ginger. Great in small amounts- anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and supports heart and circulation health.
- Mushrooms. There is a stack of medicinal mushrooms which can be a great addition to your pet’s diet. Reishi, Shitake, Maitake, Turkey Tail, agaricus, Chaga, Lions Mane and Cordyceps all have a different spectrum of activity. They can help with all sorts of diseases - cancer, arthritis, heart disease, immune problems, leaky gut, and so on. You’ll need to research each one to learn more. Dried powders or tinctures are the best way to give these. One way to get them all (and all the benefits) into the diet is to use a blend like the Teelixir Immunity Blend. That’s a human preparation, but fine for pets too.
When considering supplements, be very careful to read the labels. There are thousands of supplements/brands, and many of them are not of the highest quality. Check out the manufacturer website, their philosophy, where they are coming from ethically. Do they test for contaminants, heavy metals etc?
- Essential Fatty Acids (aka fish oil). Essential Fatty Acids are VERY important in supporting vital wellbeing for your pets. I recommend Calamari oil as the best, most eco-friendly option. You’ll need to check that they test for contamination, heavy metals etc.
- Green lipped mussel extract. This is a very good supplement for joint support, and often the first treatment I turn to in the early stages of arthritis. Once daily, sprinkled on food, takes about a month to take full effect.
- Turmeric (Golden Paste). A powerful natural anti-inflammatory herb. Be sure to lix with coconut oil and a little black pepper to increase absorption and bioavailability!
- Probiotics/prebiotics. Gut health is so important - the gut biome (the bacterial population in the gut) can be easily upset, and is vitally important in absorption of nutrients, gut health, even behaviour. Adding in prebiotics and probiotics can make a big difference to overall wellbeing. Big Dog make a great probiotic/prebiotic blend.
- Vitamins. A good quality (preferably fermented) multivitamin is a good idea to make sure that your pets have all they need to keep all the functions in their body and physiology at peak wellness.
- Minerals. A lot of foods are mineral deficient- so it’s a good idea to supplement with minerals too. Beware that a lot of commercial minerals are synthetic and thus not easily absorbed or bioavailable. Plant based or Fulvic extracted (from fossilised vegetation) are best.
- CBD. CBD, whole plant extract, has SO many benefits for your pets-= it can be used as a vital tonic, or as an anti-inflammatory, to help with epilepsy, Inflammatory Bowel disease, anxiety, allergies, and a whole lot more.
- Milk Thistle. Fantastic Liver detox support. We live in a toxic world, and our pets will benefit from 2-4 weeks of this herb regularly.
There you have it. So many ways to increase the value in your pet’s diet!
About the Author - Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte.
Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte is a holistic veterinarian, and a world-leading expert in silent pain in pets. Dr Edward is passionate about fresh raw whole foods for dogs. He is the founder of the Whole Energy Body Balance method- a profoundly healing bodywork modality for pet parents and pet wellness professionals to relieve silent pain, anxiety and trauma in pets. Join Dr Edward's free masterclass on silent pain in pets here.
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