The best human diet is a matter of debate. Should it be plant-based? Paleolithic? Mediterranean? For our pets, however, the answer is more obvious.
“For any animal, just think, what would they be eating in the wild?” says Barbara Royal, DVM, president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, and author of The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets.
While some animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, are naturally vegan, dogs and cats are carnivores, she points out. But that doesn’t mean a steak or chicken breast—which consist only of muscle meat—will provide a complete diet. If they hunted, dogs and cats would naturally eat all of their prey, including fur and feathers for fiber, and organs and stomach contents for vitamins and minerals. And by foraging, they would select food sources of specific nutrients that their bodies need.
“We can’t really provide the perfect diet all the time because they’ve been deprived of their own free choice and their body telling them what they need,” says Royal. “That’s where supplements come in.”3 Popular Types of Pet Food
No matter which type of food you buy, says Royal, dogs and cats need added fiber and probiotics, and can benefit from coconut oil for healthy digestion and a shiny coat. And cats do well with aloe juice.
For animals that primarily eat kibble and canned food, Royal recommends adding fish oil for omega-3 fats (see “Supplements for Popular Pet Diets,” p. 42), as well as these specifics:
Pet supplements are specially formulated, may be more economical than human versions, are available in forms that are easier for pets to take, and list doses for different sizes of animals. However, many human supplements can also be given to your pets, particularly individual nutrients. Check with a holistic vet before giving your pet any human supplement, but these are Royal’s general guidelines.
Because cats are picky eaters, you might be tempted to put a supplement in their food or water. Don’t, says Royal, as it can discourage them from eating and lead to bigger problems. Instead, try:
Food Ingredients to Avoid
Royal recommends feeding your furry friends organic pet food and treats if possible. Or at least avoiding food coloring and chemical preservatives. The following ingredients also are not naturally part of a dog’s or cat’s diet, can cause digestive and inflammatory problems, and should be avoided:
*Potatoes that you cook at home are not toxic, but pet food is typically made with industrial potatoes that contain “eyes” and are green under the skin, concentrating solanine, an inflammatory substance.
Supplements for Popular Pet Diets
|Supplement||Dogs weighing 30–50 lbs.
(adjust weight proportionately
for smaller or bigger dogs)
|Kibble or canned food||Fish oil or algal DHA||Enough fish oil to provide 150 mg each of EPA and DHA daily. If skin is oily or stools are loose, 150 mg daily of algal DHA.||Enough fish oil to provide 50–100 mg each of EPA and DHA, daily.|
|Kibble||Turmeric||1 level teaspoon, 3 times per week.||⅛ teaspoon, 3 times per week.|
|Canned food||Broccoli extract||½ human dose daily for a 50-lb dog.||⅛ human dose, 3 times per week.|
|Kibble, canned food, or “complete and balanced” meat formulated specifically for dogs or cats||Probiotics||½ the human dose, daily.||⅛ to ¼ the human dose,
1–3 times per week.
|Fiber||1 teaspoon canned pumpkin, or ground flax or psyllium seed, daily, for a 50-lb dog. For digestive problems, 1 tablespoon daily of pumpkin.||⅛ teaspoon canned pumpkin, or ground flax or psyllium seed, daily. For older cats, 1 tsp. daily of pumpkin.|
|Coconut oil||1 tablespoon daily for a 50-lb dog.||⅛ to ¼ teaspoon daily.|
|Aloe juice||¼ teaspoon, ideally each day, but at least once a week.|
|For joint problems with any type of diet||½ human dose for a 50-lb dog||⅛ human dose|
Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. She is the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony and The User’s Guide to Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.