Concerning the herbs we’ll be looking into…

The one question I have seen over and over from interested students and the newly enrolled alike – which herbs will we be covering in the course? well, fair question! First off, the ones we focus on will not be the *only* herbs discussed, but certainly the main ones. In your own research projects and assignments I will always leave room for plants you have worked with that may not be on the course as featured herbs. It’s also important to note that this is a Beginner-to-Intermediate course and therefore the medicines we think of as “low-dose” or advanced, won’t be featured. I’m also not including a lot of the trees, which I personally work with a lot, but again am always open to your experience; if you’ve done a lot of work with populus or betula, use that knowledge! But again, I am gearing this course most specifically to what I have seen – over and over, for a decade now – from my fellow animal-people on lists, groups and forums of every description. And that is, simply put, a desire to work more with herbs, but a bit of confusion as to how to start. A tendency to rely on the retail outlets, popular websites and holistic vets as sources, which can often lead to one-track thinking, to using herbal extracts as substitutes for medication, using them in a way that often does not fulfil the real promise and potential of the whole plant. A lack of knowledge with regard to the amazing properties of local “weeds” – many of which I could not do without in my own family and work. So, to structure my course in such a way as to offer the most learning possible in a program of this length and type, I’ve broken the herbs down into three categories: these are Herbs of Commerce (you know – the one the vet gives you and the petfood store sells)? Two – So-called Kitchen or Culinary Herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme! not to mention some crossover herbs like turmeric and cinnamon…and Three, the neglected “Wild Weeds”, so dear to my heart – you can grow or harvest from many forests and fields, and more healing action than you might suspect.

Listing them all here is a little cumbersome, but you can email me anytime and check. Suffice to say there are currently 27 “Herbs of Commerce”… 14 Kitchen herbs and 34 wild herbs on the list. Doesn’t quite add up to 60? you have no idea how hard it was for me to stop with these!

One additional note; I am setting up a live-chat on Facebook this Saturday, to fill you all in about anything you may be wondering. The course starts March 2 and you work at your own pace! Payment can be made via PayPal or direct transfer – anyone who would like to discuss with me directly, please email me (don’t use Facebook!I’m not always there) at I look forward to hearing from you.


A re-cap on the new course

I am getting a number of emails asking for two things; one, the details listed at the bottom of the course description, so I am going to just repost them here, without the description.
NOTE: I have 27 applications for the scholarship so far; it is unlikely I will be able to choose more than three, if I get a very high enrollment – so please consider a sliding scale or payment option if you can. I’ll continue to accept scholarship applications of course, just to be clear as to where we’re at!

And two, many folks want to know just what percentage of the herbs we cover will be wild/local/easily available. I’ll post the herbs we’re looking at in a second post this morning.

I’m doing my best to keep up, if my reply takes a day or two, bear with me. ūüôā
For now, here are the course details. SO excited to get going.

There are no required texts for this course, all the material is covered by my classnotes. I will provide a recommended/supplemental reading list and other resources (seed catalogues, canine and feline health and nutrition sites, botany and wildcrafting resources, recommended blogs and herbal schools for advanced learning). Assigned work will include research projects, much personal experimentation, some reading and written work. An approximate length of time for the course would be 24 ‚Äď 36 weeks.
Tuition is sliding scale; 150$ to 250$. I am also offering an audit-only option(75$) a payment option(email me to discuss your proposal) and a maximum of three scholarships ‚Äď one for every ten students to a maximum of thirty. Scholarships are based on genuine need(unemployment, illness) and a deep calling to work with animals. I will request an essay of 4 or 5 paragraphs describing why you need the course at this time.
And aside from all the knowledge and fun, you will receive a certificate of completion and a personalized herbal package from me.
Contact me here or at my business address for more information or to register.


Introduction to Animal Herbalism

Over the last few years, interest in herbalism for both humans and other creatures has grown dramatically. Some call this “The Herbal Resurgence” and I for one love that name. When I was a teenager and into my 20s, there was a certain underground interest in herbs, but nothing to what we are seeing today. I recall buying my first herbal(I think it was one by Jeanne Rose) around then, and though it would be a while before I realized this was my calling, I always used those first books for simple remedies and teas, a few cherished recipes from Kitchen Cosmetics, and over time, my interest grew. I remember those times with such fondness…and later, delving more deeply, I recall the sense of AHA! looking at my so-called culinary herbs with new eyes, not to mention the wild “weeds” I had for too long overlooked.The resurgence opened a door into herbs for me in a way that transcended the lovely but detached way I had used and thought about plant medicine – it transformed me. In this course, I hope to form one of those magical gateways for students as well, those just itching to know more, do more and understand more about herbs for both human and non-human care. When I look back and ask myself what kind of course, what specific knowledge do I wish I could have accessed in one place earlier in my studies, I know what I want to offer now. Not an overwhelming series of assignments and memorizations, but a dynamic programme of both study and practise that builds a steady, solid foundation of understanding. And because I work primarily at this time as a herbalist for non-humans, most of my requests for a course are geared to companion animals; still, I feel that the most important way to deeply know a plant and it’s medicine is to work with it ourselves, take it as daily tea or infusion; make and use simple recipes. Hence this course is geared to herbs for both human use and for the unique needs of companion animals, most specifically cats and dogs.

There is no question about it – working with animals is for me, a magical and beautiful calling. It’s a deep pleasure to share this work with others, I look forward to the journey.


Course Outline (more details available upon request)

This course consists of 12 Units of study, and while a 2-3 week per Unit timeframe is optimal, I honour the reality of busy lives and leave it up to the individual to work out a schedule. There will be an open classroom/forum to discuss with others, and as always one-on-one support from me as we go. The material we cover includes:

1. Orientation – An Introduction to and history of veterinary herbalism..goals and method of the course…seeing everyday plants as medicine, using what you have, exploring herbs you are already familiar with in greater depth… how are animals different? Prevention and support versus “this-for-that” allopathic, illness-oriented for getting started…why whole plants instead of extracts? What is Vitalism and how does it apply to this course?

2) Materia Medica – the main plants of this course, conventional and historic uses….herbs of commerce and how to use them/alternatives/…culinary herbs much more than seasonings…wild weeds and their bounty of healing…60 herbs (more or less)


3) Actions – what is meant by this term and why is it so important?Different meas of classifying Actions(allopathic, vitalist, biochemical) Exploring primary and secondary Actions (from a vitalist perspective) as a foundation of learning and working with simples and formulas…every herb IS a formula in itself..covering astringents, alteratives, tonics, demulcents, adaptogens, nervines and many other enormously useful terms

4) Constituents….a basic overview of the biochemistry…understanding groups of constituents (alkaloids, tannins, nutrients,mucilages

5) Energetics – what is meant by the term? how can we tell what is “cooling/warmimg or drying/moistening? traditional ways of grouping energetics(Western) Experience the energetic in your own body…how to apply/match herbal energetics with an individual constitution…do animals have constitutional types? Balancing energies in a simple formula.

6) Preparation and Dosage; Making the basics – tea/infusion, decoction, tincture, glycerite, honey, vinegar, oxymel, basic oil infusions and salve, how to prepare a poultice, compress fomentation(and know when to use which) guidelines for dosing yourself and other species

7) Using the herbs 101– starts with prevention and nourishment – …. think of supporting tissues/systems rather than tackling a condition..daily infusions for you, seasonal rotated herbs for your dog and cat….gentle support for the skin, digestive system, nerves, urinary tract and more

8) Carnivore nutrition…special needs and uniqueness of dogs and cats…herbs to avoid animals…alcohol vs, glycerin..using capsules..and honeys for debilitated animals….always assess the diet first

9) Using the herbs 201 – common conditions every animal lover will encounter…..dealing with fleas and ticks, internal parasites, colitis, arthritis, bladder infections, hot spots, anxiety and others

10) First Aid cuts, burns, soft tissue injury, insect stings, seizures, abnormal bleeding, animal bites, fractures, collapse, bloat

11) Recipe time! wherein I share many of my own favorites for YOU and the fourleggeds too…salves, tinctures, elixirs, tea blends, medicine balls(for you – chocolate! for them – coconut oil) coat conditioners, bath salts and body lotions

Herbal Delights herbs

12) Wrapping up – course review….notes on botany and wildcrafting…question period…where do we go from here? Other modalities of healing…for those wanting to work with animals…resources for all

There are no required texts for this course, all the material is covered by my classnotes. I will provide a recommended/supplemental reading list and other resources (seed catalogues, canine and feline health and nutrition sites, botany and wildcrafting resources, recommended blogs and herbal schools for advanced learning). Assigned work will include research projects, much personal experimentation, some reading and written work. An approximate length of time for the course would be 24 – 36 weeks.
Tuition is sliding scale; 150$ to 250$. I am also offering an audit-only option(75$) a payment option(email me to discuss your proposal) and a maximum of three scholarships – one for every ten students to a maximum of thirty. Scholarships are based on genuine need(unemployment, illness) and a deep calling to work with animals. I will request an essay of 4 or 5 paragraphs describing why you need the course at this time.
And aside from all the knowledge and fun, you will receive a certificate of completion and a personalized herbal package from me.
Contact me here or at my business address for more information or to register.

Enhancing a Kibble Diet

So, with about 25 topics in the drafts folder and a bunch of assignments to mark today, I feel a pressing need to add this entry. It’s mostly because I am asked about it all the time, because I have strong feelings about this, but also, well sometimes the spirit just moves us. Recently on my Facebook group Animal Herbalism, the topic came up, and I thought, well let’s add a few thoughts to the blog.

I really feel strongly about this, because the kibble diet alone is never optimal, but sometimes it’s necessary, and I do have sympathy for the human as well as the dog! I know all about being way too busy and not having time, energy and often times the finances to do home made fulltime. If you do need to feed kibble, it can be greatly improved with the addition of some fresh foods, and given the many very good dry-food products we now have available, compared to years past – I do see dogs doing well on dryfood diets with well-chosen fresh foods added.
That said, what the owner adds can also detract from the dietary balance, and¬† in some cases, do more harm than good. It’s very sad to see people who adore their dogs, who mean the very best for them, cause a problem unintentionally. How can this happen, you might ask, with the additional of fresh foods? Well, in lots of ways – so let’s go into this a little today. Basically, what you should¬† add, ideally, starts with two considerations; your dog, his or her health, preferences and general constitution,¬† first and foremost, and second,¬† the nutrient content of the food you’re using. So, if you have an older dog who has been eating a high carb food, never had any issues with fat or protein, and you don’t want to change the food, it might work well to add some eggs, fish,¬† chicken, or beef. If you have a dog who has been eating a high protein food such as Orijen, and may be a little hyper, hard to keep weight on – some good carbs (cooked sweet potatoes, for example) could make up part of the additions.¬† It’s important to think about matching the supplemental food with both the dog’s digestion, age, weight and activity level, as well as with an eye to the type of food he or she usually eats.

All this is with regard to an adult healthy dog, or a dog with minor issues such as a bit of sensitive tummy, some seasonal allergy. If your dog has had pancreatitis, cancer, renal disease, bladder stones – most likely you’re using a specialized diet, and the extras have to be worked out with your vet or nutritionist, so they don’t upset the dietary applecart. With healthy dogs, we’re looking to prevent problems, balance what’s lacking in the food, and add some pleasurable variety to the meals. It’s easily done, in most cases. You need to think about all the nutrients in a given food, not *just* for example, the protein.¬† (Liver has great protein, but a lot of other things that can be excessive for dogs on top of kibble, for example).

Let me go through a few foods I like to add, with a bit about how to use them, which dogs¬† might do best without them, how much to use. ūüôā

Animal products

Meat, chicken, fish and eggs all come to mind for most of us as ideal foods for dogs. And for healthy adults, as the mainstay of the diet, that’s certainly true – but as extras/supplemental foods, some might contain too much fat, or phosphorus,or sodium –¬† some may be fine in small bits only, and there are the omnipresent contamination concerns (pretty much all foods, sadly). Here are some (very general) guidelines for adding these foods to your dogs’ kibble.

1) Muscle meat and poultry (lamb, beef, venison, pork, chicken and turkey)…¬† First, fat content – different cuts contain very different levels of fat, and your dog may not react well to an excess of any one type. Try to vary it up, use light and dark meat (chicken and turkey) start small and mix with a vegetable like sweet potato or winter squash, to test.
Second Рminerals, especially phosphorus, can  add up and not only stress the kidney, but interfere with the absorption of  others. Balance with a little calcium if using more than 10% of the daily caloric total from meats .
Lastly – be wary of the source! Hormone free, grassfed beef is so far superior to feedlot cuts it’s hard to be succinct in comparing them. Better to add less and have it higher quality, for sure. And to minimize exposure to chemicals, rotate what you use. Eggs one day, a little lightly cooked ground beef the next, some white and dark meat chicken day three. Do be wary of poultry fat, even if your dog has never had a bad reaction to it, there’s always that first time. I generally have clients remove the skin.

2) Organ meat – liver and kidney… both of these are best used as small parts of the supplemental food only. Aside from the high phosphorus (liver has 140 mgs per ounce, beef brisket has 58) liver contains a lot of VitaminA, and copper, which¬† are amply supplied by the kibble. Kidney has about 86 grams of phosphorus and is a great source of selenium so you can use it a little more generously than liver, but be mindful; especially if you have a high protein kibble and/or your dog is a senior.
It stands to reason that any food¬† that causes an upset tummy shouldn’t be used…and ANY food can do that.

3) Fish – This is a bit of a conundrum because cold water fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are such superb sources of¬† the Omega 3 fatty acids we all need more of (us and our dogs.) but the very sad truth is, most fish is at least somewhat contaminated and some is very badly so (tuna in particular, has very high levels of mercury and pcbs, and I don’t use it for dogs or cats at all). Look for smaller fish (sardines, for example) or wildcaught over farmed salmon; limit to three times a week,¬† and consider a supplement of purified fish oils to meet Omega3 goals.¬† Any canned fish will have sodium unless otherwise stated on the label, and many have BPA in the can lining; so use with discretion. Older dogs or any dog with heart disease should not have the canned variety unless low sodium. Look for information about types of seafood and their toxin content here:¬†

4) Eggs – a great source of very bioavailable protein, and fresh free range eggs are even better. Give your smallish dog 1-2 a week, mediums can handle 3-4 and a large or giant dog as many as 6, depending on the diet (many giant breed dogs, for example, eat far less total food than is recommended on the bag, which keeps their weight down but can shortchange nutrients as well, For these dogs I don’t mind adding extra food more generously, but again – watch the nutrient content!

5) Dairy products are very often not well tolerated, with the exception of yogurt. If your dog likes yogurt and it doesn’t give him diarrhea, add a Tbsp or so a few times a week(medium dog example). I don’t usually use milk, and cheese is a high-fat treat only. As for ice cream! Ok – a little in the summertime, everybody needs a splurge. For more regular treats, I mash a banana with plain, whole fat yogurt, whirl in the blender and freeze in a Kong. Yogurt alone won’t provide the probiotic support of a daily capsule, but it is a healthy way to augment a dry food regimen.

6) Two specialty items – Bone Broth and Green Tripe…since these two foods are SO excellent for dogs, I have an entry planned devoted just to them. The short version is, it’s excellent to make bone broth (long cooked bones of an animal carcass, usually with a little vinegar and some herbs) but there are concerns about which bones and how long to cook, so I’m going to take the time to go into this more. Simpler stocks made by simmering the carcass of a turkey, chicken,¬† from beef etc can be used, 2-4 hours stovetop simmering and then the fat skinned off, makes a lovely base for your other additions, or even a doggie soup r stew. Bone broth is simmered much longer and can extract unwanted toxins as well as nutrients – look for an update soon.
Green tripe from any animal (it’s just the lining of the stomach, and as unpleasant as that sounds to us, dogs just adore the stuff) is almost always a healthful addition. I contacted Tripett (who make a canned version) and they assure me the lining has no BPA – I highly recommend a bit added to your dog’s kibble, anytime. Once you get past the smell, you’ll be glad you tried it. I’ll discuss the health benefits and feeding guidelines soon.

Vegetables and Fruits

1) In general,¬† vegetables¬† are rich in phytochemicals that can help defend the body against cancer, and they contain many vitamins, minerals and much fiber as well. All sounds great – but, there are considerations for usage. The first and obvious one is, too much fiber can loosen stool. This is one you will need to test on your own, but a guideline is to use no more than 1/3 daily for small dogs, 1/2 cup for medium and up to a cup for large/giant. Make sure the veggie mix is varied and stop or change it if you notice a problem! On e way to test your dog’s response to vegetables is to feed only one kind for a few days, then rest the system for a day, then try another one. Once you have figured out if brussels sprouts are ok, who much sweet potato is goo and so on, you can start to mix it up accordingly. Most problems associated with vegetable feeding are either from using too much, or one of the following specific issues.

2) Goitrogens, solanine, oxalate (oh my!)¬† These three are the most common problems I see with feeding a lot of vegetable matter, and the scope of this entry won’t allow for detailed exploration. The point here is that veggies, for all they do offer so much benefit, can have a few drawbacks as well. Brassica family vegetables – such potent cancer fighters – also contain compounds called glucosinolates, which are known to suppress thyroid function; cooking reduces the levels of these compounds, but I still limit them with dogs who have thyroid disease .

Nightshade family veggies contain an alkaloid called solanine, which can exacerbate inflammation in the body, and therefore I try not to use them at all. The nightshade family includes white potatoes(not sweet potatoes) eggplant, peppers and tomato. And veggies rich in oxalic acid can be problematic for dogs who have a history of calcium oxalate bladder stones – I tend to limit oxalates also with pre-disposed breeds. Oxalate also impairs the absorption of dietary calcium, so feeding a lot of them may result in your dog falling short of the calcium he needs . Some information here:
With all of these groups, again – it’s important to consider your dog, his health history, what’s in the main diet and to use foods¬† with commonsense( not too much, nothing contraindicated for a condition).
In short, I (A) limit brassica family veggies with thryoid disease (and always cook them),(B) I don’t use nightshades at all(your dog is going to be JUST FINE without eggplant) and (C) I’m wary of oxalate content with all dogs, and use moderately (or avoid altogether with stone-former).

In terms of fruit, I’m not a huge fan. Many dogs don’t like fruit, and just like vegetables, fruits can¬† be problematic, in terms of fiber or oxalate content. Moderation is key; some dogs, for example, love bananas and a yogurt/banana smoothie (I freeze them in Kongs)¬† once a week in the summer is just fine. Berries provide potent antioxidants and can be pulped up and added to the slurry, but again, many are¬† loaded with oxalate. If you want to provide the cancer-fighting compounds of blueberries without the oxalate, you can consider one of the myriad supplements available now that offer the extracts without the issues. I’ll talk much more about anti-cancer support in that (upcoming!) entry series.

Grains, seeds, legumes

1) Grains – for over fifteen years now, the only grain I really use regularly has been rice, and given the current issues with arsenic I see no reason to add rice to any kibble. Other grains such as barley, wheat and rye, contain gluten and are not recommended unless therapeutically indicated (as with barley for diabetics).

2) Seeds: Both Quinoa and buckwheat (sometimes thought of as grains) are highly nutritious seeds that can be used as part of the kibble-topper. Quinoa is high in oxalate, but usually well tolerated; rinse well before cooking. Buckwheat is surprisingly well accepted by most dogs, and is nutritious and usually well tolerated. If your dog shouldn’t have too much additional protein, you can mix his eggs, chicken, salmon etc half and half with buckwheat and/or quinoa. Other foods such as wild rice can be used, but are usually prohibitively expensive.

3) Legumes: Lentils in particular are a great source of resistant starch, which I talked a little about in one of the carbohydrate entries. If your dog  tolerates them and you use organic products, a small amount of very well-cooked legume can be beneficial to the colon, and help regulate (soften OR firm) stool. Use guidelines above!

Core recommendations

1) Consider first the dog’s overall health, and the nutrient content of the food you’re using. Plug in holes accordingly, and mind not to go over15% (by calorie, not weight or volume) of the total diet. If you are using 25% or more of the daily total in your home made “topping”, you can be seriously unbalancing the diet, and might consider developing a fully balanced recipe to use instead.

2) Bear in mind not only nutrient content (fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals in the supplemental food) but the sources of your supplemental foods; see my posts on arsenic in rice, radioactive sardines, and upcoming entries on fish safety in general, for example.It’s better to use less of a cleaner food than more of a chemical-laden, questionable one). Always limit organ meats, and be mindful of fat type as well as content.

3) Whatever you decide to add, start small and build up. Green vegetables as previously noted, can contribute to loose stool – as can many fats – use all this information as guidelines and then test on your own dog! No matter how great a food is, how healthy, it’s not a good one for your dog if it gives him or her gas, loose stool, or the itchies.

4) Don’t overuse any one food, over and over. Variety will not guarantee a balanced diet, but it will be a primary guideline when it comes to toppers. This is where we want the nutrient content diluted (which is what variety does) – so please DO rotate veggies,¬† carbs, proteins.

5) May sound contradictory after all of this, but relax! We are all doing the best we can for our dogs, and if you can’t get highest grade free range beef and so on, use what you can afford and access, mix it up and enjoy!

One last word, but I think it’s an important one; my advice is, don’t try to compensate for an inferior grain heavy, lower quality food by adding meats and veggies. You may add in some good nutrition, but what you can;t do, is take the nasty stuff (BHA/BHT, corn,¬† 4-D meats, cheap minerals etc) OUT of the kibble. If you are using a lower grade kibble my first advice before anything else, is get your dog onto a premium food asap! more than adding in extras, think about the overall nutrition – and switch to premium.If you need help with that, let me know.¬† ūüôā

Arsenic in rice? Sadly – yes there is.

I’ve been asked many times over the past month or so if I can comment on the problems with arsenic in rice, especially brown rice, and what should those who home- prepare a diet with rice do about it. I am taking the arsenic issue very seriously but as always, or most of the time anyway, I’m not panicking. I’ve removed brown rice as much as I can from any recipe I’ve developed, and I only use white in therapeutic diets or growth, where brown is not indicated (such as renal disease, where the high phosphorus content is undesirable). That said, I don’t think there’s need to panic – let’s take a look at the issue, how to minimize it, how to substitute, and some ideas for helping the body deal with heavy metals (which, unfortunately, are everywhere).


So, for those who may not have heard, levels of arsenic have been reported and confirmed in brown rice,  with much variation according to where the rice is from and which grower/company is selling it. Here is the basic scoop, from Consumer

“Organic rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereals, brown rice, white rice‚ÄĒnew tests by Consumer Reports have found that those and other types of rice products on grocery shelves contain arsenic, many at worrisome levels.

The results of our tests were even more troubling in some ways than our findings for juice. In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.”


Before we go any further, let’s take a look at what arsenic is, how widespread,¬† and just how dangerous it may be:


So, how severe an issue is this for dogs? Well, have a look at the findings with regard to humans:
“Our resulting analysis of 3,633 study participants found that on average, people who reported eating one rice food item had total urinary arsenic levels 44 percent greater than those who had not, and people who reported consuming two or more rice products had levels 70 percent higher than those who had no rice.”

It seems to me that any dog eating a brand of rice with high levels on a daily basis,  might be at risk of the health issues associated with high arsenic levels. Much of the research on this issue was conducted with regard to human baby food, and the findings there very worrisome indeed (so this is relevant to us all, not only our canines):

The EPA sets limits for a carcinogen based on how many extra cases of cancer would be caused by exposure to the toxin at a certain level. The limit is designed to minimize that risk. For our recommendations, we used the latest available science to choose a moderate level of protection that balances safety and feasibility, similar to the EPA’s approach for water. Our scientists made these calculations using standard estimates of weight, typical daily consumption of individual rice products over a lifetime, and the range of levels of inorganic arsenic we found. For our recommendations for children, we paid particular attention to their levels of consumption during this critical phase of their development.

According to federal data, some infants eat up to two to three servings of rice cereal a day. Eating rice cereal at that rate, with the highest level of inorganic arsenic we found in our tests, could result in a risk of cancer twice our acceptable level.”

Given the startling rise in canine cancer over the past twenty years, and considering¬† the total exposure-load dogs are faced with (lying on pressure treated wood decks, for example) I’m taking this issue seriously.¬† In future I will take every possible measure to reduce or eliminate the use of rice in a canine diet; in cases where energy needs to come from a very low-phosphorus source, we may still need to add some (white or glutinous) rice, for¬† specific conditions. For dogs who don’t tolerate any carb source at all other than brown rice,¬† there are steps you can take, to minimize risk. These include brand selection and preparation, as well as additional supplements that can help the body deal with¬† arsenic, and lastly, some well-chosen¬† herbs and supplements that help prevent cancer development.
Note please that the first recommendation I am making is to remove rice from the diet and use another carb source- quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potato, oatmeal (glutenfree) can all be used, but they should not be substituted cup for cup – and especially not in any therapeutic diet – as they contain varying levels of mineral, fiber, phytate and oxalate, all of which can be a concern for sensitive dogs. If you need a recipe adjustment – contact me. I will make these services available at a very low fee, if you require an adjustment. Otherwise –¬† try some of the suggestions below.

To start: brand selection. The afore-quoted ConsumerReport article lists brand-content here:

Know the content of your brand and if it is high, switch! I am using and recommending Lundberg’s White basmati (costly, I know but it’s one of the lowest) for those who are using diets based in part on rice. Lundberg has issued a statement here¬†


Next: preparation. I always recommend rinsing and pre-soaking rice, but now it’s more important than ever. I soak Danny’s white rice (he is currently on a mineral restricted diet, hopefully short term!) for several hours before cooking, changing the water many times. Remember that white rice is much lower in arsenic than brown, so while it’s a pretty empty food nutritionally, it is also safer. You might consider switching from brown to white and adding a Bvitamin ( just a simple Bcomplex, or B50 as they’re termed) a few times a week. Some ground flax can add fiber and cancer-protective lignans if your dog needs more fiber than the white rice, but extra, rotated green vegetables can provide plenty of that, too! More on vegetables later – they too can be a source of arsenic.

You can also consider doing as described here:
I personally soak quinoa, buckwheat and oatmeal this way, in a little buttermilk/water – but since arsenic removal is the goal of preparing white rice more than phytate lowering, I just rinse, rinse, rinse… and soak in plain water.
I also use a ratio of 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice when cooking and just drain the excess. This is helpful in removing some of the arsenic, but it does take some getting used to.

So far: careful brand selection, thorough rinsing and perhaps altering how you cook the rice will reduce the exposure significantly.

Additionally, there are some supplements you can use that are helpful in removing arsenic and other heavy metals from the body. Although this is not intended as a guarantee, nor is it meant to imply you can feed rice at will and these supplements will nullify the effects; I for one believe they are worth trying. Let me be clear that not all are suitable for all dogs, and I will post a separate entry on their usefulness and dosage later this week. For now, check my entry on Radiation protection¬† here: do some of your own research on the following:¬† chlorella, lipoic acid, garlic, glutathione, apple pectin, cilantro and VitaminC. Please note that high levels of garlic should never, ever be fed to dogs; so it’s usefulness at low dose (with regard to removing heavy metals ) may be negligible. Selenium supplementation can be helpful,too, but this is also a mineral you need to understand and use carefully, so please wait for the follow-up entry before adding it.


It’s very important to understand that not only rice contains arsenic: many vegetables we commonly use for dogs may¬† also be contaminated. And let’s not forget well water: here is a¬† short piece on arsenic contamination in New Hampshire:

“According to a new U.S. Geological Survey report, nearly 40 percent of New Hampshire’s bedrock groundwater likely contains at least low levels of naturally occurring arsenic. According to Joe Ayotte of the U.S.G.S., the results of the study were surprising: “We knew from previous studies that arsenic is a regional problem in New Hampshire, but we were surprised that low arsenic levels are widespread across the state.” However, while the data released with the report are intended to inform public health research and decision makers, Ayotte cautioned that individual homeowners should not use the maps or data to conclude that their water is contaminated or safe; “The geology and fractures in New Hampshire’s bedrock are complex, so homeowners should not rely on the results from neighboring wells to determine if their own well is safe.” Further, unsafe levels of manganese, uranium, and radon are also common in private wells in New Hampshire.”


I mention this because again, if you are currently using rice in your dog’s diet, you need more than ever to be aware of total load, and that means potential other sources.If you’re on a well, have it tested.Although not all commercial dogfoods contain rice, many do and I would seriously consider contacting your manufacturer with re gard to this issue, and – consider switching to a rice-free brand, or going to home prepared.

Last but not least, I advise extra caution in exposure to herbicides, pesticides and environmental sources of arsenic- that can mean pressure-treated wood, yes, but also soil underneath a deck or playground that has been removed.. lawn chemicals…This is important for all dogs, not just those who have rice in the diet – and for us, too, of course.
My takeaway message (I know this is a lot of information in one entry) is this; replace rice with other carbs if you can; if you can’t, choose and prepare carefully,¬† evaluate other potential sources of exposure, including water, consider some supplementation to offset the load, and if you are very concerned, consider having your dog’s hair analyzed.
More on this in the weeks ahead…and other worrisome¬† toxins as well. It’s not happy news, but better we know about it, I believe, than not.


Supplements revisited

A few entries back I posted a cursory look at supplementation for canines – dividing them into Essential, General and Targeted. I find a great number of my clients present with (on the Intake form) a list of supplements they are adding, but often they’ve missed the Essentials, and focus on Targeted (for a health condition) or Supportive ( for overall support, things like probiotics and green foods). That article can be found here:¬†

I’ve stressed many times the importance of adding essential nutrients that cannot be obtained, in adequate levels, from food alone, so¬† I won’t go over that again here. What¬† would like to address is a few problems with the popular supplements in use with dogs. Some are inappropriate for specific dogs with health conditions, some are dose-sensitive, some are ineffective and a few are actually quite problematic. To be clear – most of these are useful in the correct situation, form and dosage – with the exception of the last group, which I never use. This entry is not to scare people off using supplements, but to raise awareness that they should not be used generically, and some have contraindications you will be better off knowing about, than not.



For clarity’s sake I’ve used groupings as follows:

1) Dose sensitive/diet appropriate

2) Careful of the source!

3) Timing

4) Conditionally contraindicated

5) Avoid- risk outweighs potential benefit


The first group includes supplements that can be useful at the right dose but may be problematic if too much is used. Group two highlights a few supplements that, while source is always an issue,¬† can suffer from serious contamination. In the third group, just a couple of popular herbs that should be either given separate¬† from medication or not on an empty stomach. The largest grouping here refers to supplements that may be fine¬† for some dogs, but shouldn’t be give with specific conditions. The last group – Avoid – is simply a case where the risk outweighs any potential for good – AND, there are better, safer alternatives.

Missing from these groupings is Drug Interactions, but that is such a large category I feel it deserves a post of it’s own. Look for that one in a week or so, or whenever I can get time! I’m going to post one group per day, because otherwise I will never get this finished.¬† Here’s the first grouping.

Group One- Dose/diet dependent

The main supplements in this group include cod liver oil, VitaminA, Vitamin C, D3, selenium, multi-vitamins, bone meal, coconut oil and zinc. Most of these are added to the diet to complete the nutritional requirements¬† when for whatever reason (often food intolerance or allergy) an individual can’t obtain them from diet. In the case of a home cooked diet, calcium for example will always need to be added.¬† Zinc, iodine, VitaminD3 and selenium are a few nutrients that are most often low in cooked diets (and sometimes in raw as well, especially zinc and D3). So I’ll start by pointing out the obvious – if the diet is already supplying adequate levels of Vitamin A, D3, selenium etc you don’t need, nutritionally speaking, to add more.¬† (Absorption may be an issue to consider too, but we’re speaking here about a healthy dog with good digestion and absorption of nutrient). With absorption issues, healing the underlying problem is of utmost importance.

Many holistic vets will recommend increasing VitaminA and selenium as part of a cancer-prevetion strategy, or therapeutically¬† in cases of active illness. I’ve seen them¬† use very high doses of A, intravenously,with no ill effects or toxicity. That said, I strongly believe the average owner should not try this at home. I use supplemental selenium in the case of heart disease, but always calculate the dietary content and the dog’s SUL (safe upper limit) before recommending a dose. Therapeutic levels of zinc may be called for with some genetic diseases, and a little boost for a dog who hasn’t been getting enough if fine too, but for the home-feeder I strongly suggest calculating how much your dog needs, and then comparing that goal amount to what’s really in the diet. Do the same for D3,¬† and selenium. VitaminA is a bit trickier, but my rule is, if you are looking for the anti inflammatory effects of fish oils, stick with fish BODY oils, not the liver product which contains a high amount of A ( 4- 6000 IU, per tsp,in my experience and some commentators report much higher). There is a place for cod liver oil in a raw diet where no organ meat is tolerated and no beta-carotene is provided¬† for with vegetables; but I am able to supply ample A in a recipe without CLO – and never add it to kibble. The short version about VitaminA is that experts disagree on toxicity, but as long as there is the possibility of overdoing it, don’t take that risk. At the very least, excess A will negatively effect your dog’s VitaminD3 levels. I recommend feeding a premium kibble supplemented appropriately (fish oils, green tripe, probiotics, etc) or a properly formulated home made recipe with Vitamin A from fish and from beta-carotene in orange and leafy vegetables. (It’s true that dogs don’t convert efficiently from beta carotene but they do convert some as needed, and in case of concern we can add a D3 supplement).

Bottom line with zinc, selenium, Vitamins A and D – know what your dog needs and what is in the diet; know the dangers of excessive consumption.¬† Stick to the recommended allowances. If considering these very potent nutrients therapeutically, work with a professional.¬† You can support the immune system in myriad ways (I’m thinking herbally) without the risk of toxicity or unbalancing the diet. Play it safe and use wisely.

Next:¬† bone meal. I wasn’t sure where to put this because the source of bone meal is as big an issue – perhaps moreso – than its phosphorus content. I’ll discuss the¬† contamination issue in the next segment, but insofar as bone meal is often added “for calcium” please bear in mind it is also loaded with phosphorus – a nutrient already plentiful in foods and in most canine diets. Phosphorus needs to be kept to the Recommended Allowance too – and restricted in cases of kidney disease. I never use it – in growth diets I will use di-calcium phosphate to supply the very high needs of puppies, but that’s it.
There have also been issues with contamination in many bone meal products – another reason to give this one¬† a pass. We’ll talk much more about calcium in the¬† entry on minerals.

Lastly, the ever popular Coconut oil. Far from being a cure-all (no food or supplement is, unless you are suffering from an overt deficiency, and even then all it ‘cures’ is the deficiency!) coconut oil is a problem food for many dogs.¬† There is a tremendous amount written on the merits of coconut oil; and it does have many; first let’s look at it’s composition, quoting here the ever-popular Dr.Mercola:

Nearly 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is of a type rarely found in nature called lauric acid, a “miracle” compound because of its unique health promoting properties. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. Coconut oil is also nature’s richest source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. By contrast, most common vegetable or seed oils are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), also known as long-chain triglycerides or LCTs. LCTs are large molecules, so they are difficult for your body to break down and are predominantly stored as fat.

But MCTs , being smaller, are easily digested and immediately burned by your liver for energy — like carbohydrates, but without the insulin spike. MCTs actually boost your metabolism and help your body use fat for energy, as opposed to storing it, so it can actually help you become leaner.”

Proponents of coconut oil list myriad health benefits, including¬† support for skin, digestive issues, and¬† the symptoms of a low thyroid ( for us and for dogs). I could write a whole entry on this(and probably will at some point) but again,the bottom line is I feel we shouldn’t get carried away. Flax was a miracle food, fish oil cured cancer – let’s stay in balance and consider that adding any fat to a dog’s diet may be a good thing and it may not. Some dogs are very sensitive to fats, and will develop loose stool with enough coconut oil added to achieve the therapeutic effect. In those cases, you might want to try lowering the dietary content (by changing the recipe if you’re using home made, or trying a kibble with a lower content) so the oil can be added without placing stress on the system. In other words, you might replace some of the existing fat with the oil – don’t always just add it in.


Dosing is extremely important; Karen Becker, DVM, suggests” 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds body weight, twice a day“. That meant for MY fat-sensitive dog, who weighs 80 pounds, we would be using 2 teaspoons twice a day. But he had diarrhea on half that. If you do use it, consider it carefully and dose conservatively. Always, as with any supplement – ask yourself what it is you’re trying to achieve? If it’s help for a dull coat, assess the fat content and all nutrients in the diet – could be caused by something that more fat, even a good fat, won’t be able to fix. If your dog has a low thyroid, for heaven’s sake see a specialist! There is no solid scientific evidence I know of that supports the claims made about hypothyroidism.¬† See a veterinarian well-versed in endocrinology, or a specialist for yourself if you suspect low thyroid function.


For a really good look at coconut oil in the human diet, check this out:

and note, again, I feel there are benefits and possible drawbacks to adding it to a canine diet. Don’t buy into the hype; see what works.

In closing, I would advise you to know the essential nutrient; vitamins, minerals fats and fatty acids, protein and amino acids, and then evaluate what is already in the diet before adding any extra. Learn the safe upper limits of these additions and what effect they can have on other nutrients – some, like calcium and phosphorus or copper and zinc, should be kept in a specific ratio or absorption issues may arise. I do add¬† coconut oil. selenium and zinc, often a Bcomplex, and almost always natural VitaminE to a canine diet, but that’s with precision knowledge of what the diet contains and how I’m using them. More is not necessarily better – if there’s a takeaway message for this group? That would be it.

Back shortly with Groups Two and Three. ūüôā



Last article for The Bark- Myths and Misperceptions about Home Feeding



It’s been 20 months since the first melamine-related pet food recall, and during that time, more dog lovers than ever have decided to turn to home made diet – cooked or raw – as insurance against a potential problem with a commercial product. But is a home made diet really insurance? Only if it’s nutritionally balanced, and meets the needs of your own dog, considering breed, age, weight, activity and overall physiology.¬† Many owners start a home made diet following general guidelines that might apply to their dog – but more often, do not.

Many home made diets are not properly formulated and some are significantly out of line with what your dog requires. As a consulting canine nutrition specialist, I analyze hundreds of diets per year, so I am able to see firsthand what people are actually feeding their dogs. Many home prepared diets have been put together by a dog lover who has gleaned bits of information from various sources – some recipe books, some internet sites, and some discussion groups. In nine out of ten cases these diets are imbalanced; sometimes grossly so.¬† So what’s a concerned owner to do?¬† It’s not time to give up just yet.¬†¬† Let’s take a look at several common mistakes home feeders make – and see how we can improve on the average home prepared diet.

1) Myth:Using fresh, wholesome foods will, over time, meet my dogs‚Äô needs if I vary it enough.”¬† This is without a doubt the most popular misconception I encounter.¬† There is some basis for it; fresh foods are indeed more bio-available than are highly processed ingredients. In addition, when an owner home prepares the food, they know exactly what’s going into the dog – much more so than is possible when using kibble, canned or premixed foods. However, many diets that are based on wholesome fresh ingredients still come up low in various vitamins and minerals when put through a thorough analysis.

Solution: Bone up on what your dogs‚Äô actual nutrient requirements are by doing a bit of research. This means reading widely and speaking with nutritionists, vets (holistic, conventional and specialists) and starting to think in terms of both ingredients and nutrient needs.¬† One of the best tools for this is the 2006 National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Dogs, which can be viewed online at .

This in depth report may seem a bit daunting at first, but take it in small bites and the information will serve you well.  No matter how much you vary the diet, it can be difficult to provide adequate minerals, for example, and while running a deficit won’t show up right away, over time even one deficiency can create problems that may be difficult to correct.

The next step is to familiarize yourself with the nutrient content of foods, by using a tool like  or the USDA  Nutrient Database at  At Nutritiondata, you can enter any recipe in the database and quickly see what you might need to add more (or less!) of.

Bottom line… fresh, homemade diets are a healthful alternative to highly processed meals, but only if they provide appropriate levels of all nutrient requirements. Using variety is not likely to work; problems associated with this sort of diet can take years to show up Рand may not be recognized by your vet.  A little homework now pays huge dividends later.



2) Myth:A multi vitamin added to the food will cover any gaps.”¬† If only it were that simple. The problem here is this – which multi, and with which diet? Any non-supplemented home prepared diet will be low in some nutrients as well as adequate or high in others.¬† Depending on which multi is used, the diet can end up still low in one requirement and excessive in others.¬† It all depends on what’s needed in the first place. Many mult‚Äôs geared to dogs offer very low levels of nutrient since it is assumed they will be added to kibble; these products generally will not provide enough supplement to round out a home made diet. And human multis can contain very high levels of one nutrient while not supplying adequate levels of others.¬† It’s important to remember that some nutrients can be toxic if added in excess, and some are not so much toxic as they are antagonistic to other nutrients. So that extra zinc you think is beneficial may be negatively affecting your dog’s ability to absorb copper. This is why “balanced” is not just a buzz word – it’s a valid and essential aspect of proper nutrition.

Solution:¬†¬† My preference is to take the above two steps and make supplementation more personalized; work out what your dog’s diet actually contains, then add only what is missing. A diet that offers plentiful selenium could turn out to be very low in copper and zinc so you would need only to add those two minerals, not a multi that contains extra selenium and other unnecessary nutrients. If there’s one place to sit and do the math, it’s here. And it’s not that hard once you are used to the process.¬† Some of us even find it fun!



3) Myth:¬† I’m adding yogurt daily so he should be getting enough calcium, right?”¬†¬† Not so!¬† Dogs require fairly high levels of calcium, and yogurt absolutely won’t cut it. Let’s take a quick example; my own 75 pound dog has a daily requirement of 1840 mgs of calcium – and since I use a fair bit of fiber in the form of brown rice, I want to make sure to offset any absorption issues that could arise.Foods that contain a high level of anti-nutrient, such as phytate, can adversely affect absorption of minerals, and should be taken into consideration when deciding how much to supplement..¬† ¬†¬†I want to ensure he gets about 2000 mgs per day or 14 grams per week. His weekly diet alone, of turkey, liver, sardines, brown rice, ground lamb and acorn squash, only provides 1750 mgs. That means I need over 12,000 mgs of calcium – or in other words, more than forty cups of plain yogurt! Calcium supplementation is always necessary unless you are feeding a fair bit of bone.

Solution:¬† I recommend using a purchased carbonate or citrate form, or a finely powdered eggshell can be used – one teaspoon equals about 1800 mgs of calcium carbonate.¬† Just be sure to rinse it well and then bake the shells for about ten minutes at 300 degrees. Then use a small grinder to make the powder. Bone meal can be used if there is also a need to add phosphorus, but many home made diets supply plenty of this mineral, and too much can place strain on the kidney.¬† Some plain yogurt will work for a treat, but it won’t meet calcium requirements – not even close.

4) Myth:¬† I eat carefully and have read a number of human nutrition books – I just follow similar principles with my dog.”¬† This is a¬† very common mistake I see many dog owners make. The assumption that we can simply apply standard dietary advice for humans to our dogs as well is not accurate. Current nutritional advice for humans emphasizes whole grains, high fiber,¬† 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily, minimal fat and moderate protein.¬† These guidelines are not ideal for a carnivorous species who will, as a general rule, do best with higher fat and protein, lower fiber and moderate carbohydrates.

Solution: Ensure a good level of dietary balance aiming for about 30-35% of total calories from fats, 30% from protein and the balance from complex carbohydrates (which need not mean grain; starchy vegetables like sweet potato, and nutrient rich seeds such as quinoa and wild rice are healthy alternatives).¬† Percentages are guidelines, but not as accurate as evaluating the gram content of a diet, so again we are looking to use the spreadsheet.¬† Be aware that just like us, dogs are unique beings. As an example, the range for canine dietary fat is huge; a level that works beautifully for one may cause loose stool (excess) or dry coat (deficient) in another. Unless there is a specific condition like pancreatitis that indicates low fat diet, most dogs do best with a good presence of dietary fat – preferably from animal sources, and fish or fish oils for Omega 3. (NOTE:¬† it’s important to distinguish between cod liver oil, which adds a large amount of Vitamin A and a good amount of D, and fish body oils, which add essential fatty acids, but much lower levels of vitamin).


5) Myth:¬† “My dog had some loose stool, so I cut way down on fiber.”¬† In fact, more loose stool is caused by excess fat, or by feeding too much food overall, than is caused by fiber overdose. And what type of fiber you use counts as much or more than the amount. Fiber certainly can be an issue and admittedly it’s a little tricky to find what level works for your own dog.¬† In my experience, brown rice – a highly digestible, gluten free source is usually well tolerated, but the level that works best for the individual can take some experimentation.

Solution:¬† If your dog has loose stool on a home made diet, be aware that many aspects of the diet can be the culprit. Check fat levels, cut back the food by 30% for a day or so and always watch for other symptoms that might indicate an illness or parasite. If a few days on a bland, low fat diet doesn’t clear up the problems, consult your veterinarian.

6) Myth: “I use a lot of fresh veggies like spinach for iron, so I don’t need to supplement.”¬†¬† Veggies are such a hotly debated topic in canine nutrition circles I could devote a whole article just to this one. One school of thought holds that adding vegetables is inappropriate and should be avoided altogether since dogs are carnivores and do not need plant matter in the diet. Others emphasize veggies (and fruit) in the diet, with an eye to boosting not only essential nutrient but phytochemicals that provide protection from disease, especially cancer. The reality is that the issue is not this clear cut; while vegetables do offer much in the way of health benefits, we are again faced with the all-important questions “how much and what type”.¬†¬† Many vegetables contain anti-nutrients, such as phytate, oxalate and tannins, that can interefere with the absorption of minerals, and some, such as the nightshade family (tomatoes, white potato, eggplant and peppers) contain an alkaloid called solanine that is thought to aggravate inflammation. Still other veggies – any member of the brassica family, for example, inlcuding broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower) are considered “goitrogenic”¬† so these should not be fed to a dog who has thyroid disease.¬† In my view, they should not be fed daily to any dog. We hear a great deal about the health benefits of vegetables, but there are drawbacks as well.¬† Lastly, plant sources of vitamins and minerals are not as well utilized by dogs as are animal sources, for instance beta-carotene conversion to Vitamin A is described as “inefficient”.

Solution:  Once again, knowledge is power. Use veggies judiciously, and rotate them so you are never feeding one or two types all the time. Limit dark leafy greens, which contain high levels of oxalate, to twice a week.  Limit the brassicas to three times and only if your dog has normal thyroid function. Be careful with nightshades; I avoid them altogether for dogs with arthritis. Green beans and carrots are usually safe bets. Sweet potato is well tolerated, and not a nightshade like white potato, but is high in calories and starch. Checking with can provide a wealth of information, and help you make the wisest choices.


7) Myth:Dogs don’t require any carbs in the diet, and grains are really bad for them.”¬† If I had to pick the most oft-quoted and most misunderstood of all the ideas here, this one would have to be it.¬† The starting point for this idea seems to be that according to the NRC research, dogs have no strict requirement for dietary carbohydrate.¬† Briefly put, this means that they can metabolize adequate glucose (blood sugar) from adequate levels of dietary protein and therefore do not “require” carbs for blood sugar.¬† A lack of carbohydrate will not lead to an identifiable deficiency state, such as lack of Vitamin C in the human will produce scurvy.¬† To complicate this issue somewhat more, many home feeders use the terms carbohydrate and grain interchangeably, insisting they use a no-carb diet because they have eliminated grains.¬† While excess carbohydrate is undesirable and can lead to problems with absorption of multiple nutrients, a diet based only on protein and fat poses problems as well.

Solution: Some portion of your dog’s home made food should consist of¬† complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, starchy vegetables or quinoa.Complex carbohydrates provide energy, spare protein for other uses in the body and aids in healthy gastrointestinal function. Avoid grains such as wheat that contain gluten except as occasionally treats, as in a biscuit. Try also to keep levels consistent so if¬† there is a fiber related problem, you will know how much you were using and can proceed from there. Other¬† sources, such as wild rice and legumes, may¬† be used sparingly as well.

8) Myth:¬† “A raw diet is always superior to cooked – dogs fed raw do not get sick. My dog’s issues could not be related to his raw diet.”¬†¬† Anytime an attachment to nutritional theory blinds an owner to the negative effect on the dog, there is a cause for concern. Raw diets vary in type, some philosophies follow the NRC Guidelines and seek nutrient balance while others utilize a “prey model” approach, wherein the food should mimic the diet of a wolf or wild dog as closely as possible. These diets have become hugely popular over the past decade, as an alternative to kibble; to be sure, many some dogs absolutely thrive on it. But some do not. Raw diet may be a poor choice for dogs with cancer, with colitis, with pancreatitis or liver disease. It’s also a concern that many raw diets encourage a laissez-faire attitude toward nutrient balance, which can prove deleterious over the long run.¬† As with a cooked diet, it’s essential to ensure proper formulation. Raw diets have drawbacks as well as benefits and are not suited for every individual.

Solution:  If you are planning to try a raw approach, do a lot of homework. Research both within and without the various raw communities that exist on the internet. Talk to veterinarians, nutritionists, read widely and take your time. This is not an approach for everyone; it may or may not work for your dog.  The bottom line is simple; any diet is a poor choice if the individual fails to thrive on it.  If you perceive your dog is not thriving on a raw diet, consider a change to commercial or cooked, with guidance from a veterinarian as needed.


9) Myth:¬† “Raw diet is dangerous and a fad, I’d be scared to try it.”¬† For every home feeder who sings the praises of a raw diet, I will hear one say they wouldn’t dare use foods that aren’t cooked.¬† It’s as much a mistake to assume that raw is dangerous across the board, as it is to insist it’s a viable solution for every dog. The dangers of raw diets do exist, but can be minimized with attention to detail.¬† The term “raw diet” covers a number of nutritional philosophies that vary from quite conservative to extremely radical. I often use raw diets for dogs with an allergy, or proactively where there are no problems and the owner has expressed an interest. One great advantage of this approach is ease of preparation. Cooking is a better option for many dogs, but there is no getting around the fact it takes significantly more time and planning than do the raw diets. Consider your own needs and lifestyle as well as your dogs’ when making this all important decision about feeding.

Solution:¬† If you are uncomfortable with raw, consider a cooked diet.¬† Or you could use a half and half approach, cooking part of the time and using a quality commercial the rest.¬† It’s a myth that dogs can’t eat both home prepared and commercial! I see very healthy dogs on a wide range of diets, and your comfort zone matters too.


10) Myth:¬† “Dogs of all ages can be fed a similar type of diet, as long as it’s natural”.

Similar to number 1, this can be a dangerous misconception.¬† Pups need at least twice and in some cases, as much as five times the nutrient content of an adult dog.¬† At the same time they require more nutrient, over-nutrition can be a serious and even devastating problem, particularly in giant breeds. It was long thought that reducing dietary protein was in the best interest of the senior dog; current findings suggest they may actually require more.¬† If you are new to home feeding and have a pup, it might be best to spend that critical first year boning up on nutrition, and start the diet once you and he are ready. Another idea is to consult with an experienced nutrition consultant who can adjust the diet according to your pup’s growth needs. For the senior, make sure to run a full geriatric screening yearly to ensure liver and kidney values are within normal range. Aberrations in these numbers indicate a need for dietary¬† management.

Solution: Yet more reading! Be aware that growing dogs and seniors pose a far greater challenge to the novice home-feeder than do adults. If you wish to home-feed your new puppy and have never done so before,  consider professional guidance. The same goes for a senior, or any dog with a serious health condition.  Mistakes made in these cases can have serious consequences.


In conclusion, a home made diet remains a popular and potentially very healthy alternative or compliment to the many premium foods on the market these days, however, some research and planning is essential. Go slowly, gather information from a wide range of sources, and exercise a little caution, perhaps starting with just one day a week of home made food to start out.  Your dog will thank you for it.


Catherine Lane,  Dip.CFN
Canine Nutrition Consultant
Dietary Consultations, Seminars, Online Courses in Nutrition and Natural Health

Recommended Reading and Websites:


Author’s website



1) National Research Council Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, 2006

2) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition:4th Edition; Hand, Thatcher,Remillard, Roudebush

3) Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals; Carey,Case, Hirokawa, Daristotle