By Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging

After 2 years of loose stool, skin allergies and itchy paws, I switched to raw food for our dogs. I was resistant to the change, but realized that the money I was spending on vet appointments and prescriptions would be better spent on a better diet for our dogs.

I’ve spent the past 2 years researching dog nutrition for my dogs and sharing what I’m learning on Keep the Tail Wagging; my blog. What I’ve learned all boils down to Healthy Gut, Healthy Dog.

Many of my dogs’ health issues could be traced back to their gut and once their gut became healthy, my dogs were healthy too.

Benefits of an Improved Diet

You can do your own online search for the benefits of higher quality kibble or raw feeding, but I think it carries more weight when you hear from a fellow dog lover. Here’s a short list of what I’ve witnessed with our dogs after improving their diet.

• Smaller, less smelly and firm poop
• Improved joint health (2 of our dogs have arthritis)
• Gorgeous skin and coat
• Environmental allergies are nearly gone
• No more ear infections
• Protein and food allergies are gone
• Better behavior, less reactivity
• Healthy weight loss
• White, clean teeth

5 Ways You Can Feed Your Dog Naturally

1. Improve the Quality of Dry Food

Have you read the ingredients panel on a bag of dry dog food lately? Before I started researching our dogs’ food, all I knew was that anything from the grocery store was a bad idea. I didn’t understand why, but we had 2 growing puppies and I wanted to be a good dog owner.

Today, I look at many bags and cans of dog food and laugh, because I can’t help but think of the 80s commercial “where’s the beef?” The vital proteins are either missing or so far down the ingredients list, they may as well be missing.

It doesn’t cost much to improve the quality of your dog’s food. One brand I highly recommend is Open Farm, a company that sources all of their ingredients for their quality dry food from certified humane and ethical farms. They also have a dog food bag recycling program to allow us reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.

2. Bone Broth

If you feed dry food, consider soaking it in bone broth. It’s easy to make – it just takes a crockpot, bones (I use turkey legs, smoked pork neck bones, or beef soup bones), apple cider vinegar and a little garlic (not toxic to dogs in small amounts). When I’m feeling especially clever, I add kale, spinach, carrots, and broccoli to the mix. Read more about making bone broth.

Adding bone broth to your dog’s dry meal makes the food more digestible, adds variety to a dog’s meal, and bone broth is full of nutrients.

3. Fish Oil

Fish oil is an all around supplement that helps boost skin and coat health, combat allergies, improve digestive health, and lubricate joints and lubricants. Our dogs love the smell and taste and I love what the supplement does for their health.

I highly recommend a fish oil supplement produced by Bonnie & Clyde Pet Goods. It’s made with wild caught fish, contains a natural source of vitamin E, it’s humane grade, and it’s so concentrated that it lasts longer than other fish oils on the market.  1 pump daily into each of our dogs food dish is all they need.

4. Add a Digestive Supplement

If you’re raising a dog that has loose stool and gas, consider adding a digestive supplement to their diet. One of our dogs, we’ll call him Rodrigo (because that’s his name), had wicked gas and if he had 1 solid poop in 3 days, it was cause for celebration. Today, he rarely has loose stool or gas and it’s thanks to a digestive supplement we started using almost a year ago.

FullBucket Daily Canine Powder is amazing, because all Rodrigo needs is one small scoop per day and he’s good to go.  He’s gone from daily diarrhea, impacted anal glands, and gas that could clear a room in seconds – to a normal, healthy digestive system thanks to one supplement.

5. Switch to a Raw Food Diet

I was terrified to switch to raw, because I thought that I’d either make our dogs sick or I would overdraw our accounts. After I created a system that works for our family, I’ve found that raw food isn’t complicated or expensive.

I know people who feed raw full time (myself included). And I know people who supplement raw with a high quality dry food or dehydrated dog food. Everyone I’ve met who has switched their dogs either fully or partially to raw has seen an immediate improvement in their dog’s health.

If you believe raw is for you, I suggest that you start with a pre-made raw brand, like Darwin’s Natural Pet Foods. By feeding our dogs food from Darwin’s I was confident that they were eating a balanced, raw diet and I had the time to research raw feeding so that I could make their meals myself someday.

When it comes to our dogs’ nutrition, it can be overwhelming. There are a lot of strong opinions floating around, but I’ve learned that the responsibility falls on my shoulders and I take it seriously. By consulting with experienced raw feeders, reputable breeders and holistic veterinarians and nutritionists, I’m able to now feed our dogs a balanced, healthy raw diet.

Even if raw isn’t for you, we’re fortunate to live in a time where a lot of information is available to us. Take advantage of the reviews, dog lover groups, and contact the brands directly. Do whatever it takes to get the information you need to feed your dog better.

Author Bio: Kimberly Gauthier is a dog nutrition blogger for Keep the Tail Wagging, a personal blog that shares her experience feeding a raw diet, learning about dog nutrition and raising littermates. Kimberly lives in the Pacific Northwest with her boyfriend, their 4 dogs and 2 cats.