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Supplements: Do You Need Them?

written by Marina Zacharias

Q: All right already, you've convinced me and I've switched my dogs to a completely raw diet. You know, grains, veggies, raw meat, etc. You say that the best nutrition comes from food, so with all the good stuff I'm feeding do I really need to add all those supplements you talk about?

A: Good question. Let's see if we can give you enough basic information to draw your own conclusions. Obviously, a raw food diet is a high-quality basic source of nutrition. The primary role of supplements is to provide a high-quality source of preventive nutrition.

The fact that nutritional requirements will vary from breed to breed is widely accepted knowledge but it is essential to recognize that each animal is an individual and will vary in their genetic makeup, their endocrine activity, metabolic efficiency and nutritional needs. The size, shape, and function of glands and organs can vary greatly among individuals of the same breed. When environmental factors such as pollution, stress, age, etc. are considered, the variation in nutritional requirements for each animal becomes very broad and can differ in range from a factor of 2 to 4 times. So we are always faced with the challenge of biochemical individuality and what is "right" for one animal may or may not be "right" for another.

The next thing that must be taken into consideration is the synergistic effect of nutrition. No nutrient works alone in the body. Each is linked by enzymatic reactions and metabolic pathways to other nutrients in the cells. From previous issues of our newsletter, you know that proper enzymatic reactions follow a sequence of steps requiring multiple enzymes and cofactors along the metabolic pathway. Each step may require an adequate level of a certain nutrient to accomplish its task. If along the way, a particular step cannot be completed because of a lack of a certain nutrient, then the whole sequence fails to complete its function. In other words the nutritional chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

When added as a supplement to the diet, a nutrient such as a mineral, an amino acid, or a vitamin can provide no optimal effect unless all other associated nutrients are present in adequate levels. Understanding how nutrients work synergistically is essential to knowing how foods and supplements can work together to build health and overcome disease. Providing animals with broad-spectrum nutritional supplements raises their nutritional reserves and improves the availability of key essential nutrients.

The goal of a natural rearing nutrition program is to remove nutritional risk factors to maintain optimal health and prevent the onset of disease. Providing an animal with the highest quality diet is important but will not always accomplish this goal by itself. For example I give NR Seaweed Mineral Food on a regular basis to all my dogs. Minerals are constituents of all body tissues and fluids and are essential to many biologic functions. The macro-minerals are primarily provided by the basic diet (with the addition of "Cyrofood"--a raw organic bone meal) but the micro-minerals such as iodine, selenium, zinc, copper, etc. help control and regulate a wide range of biochemical reactions and are just as essential to good health. In considering the minerals, they should be looked at as a group--all necessary, in proper proportions, in a natural, absorbable form. As this particular formula was originated by Juliette de Bairacli Levy to include the best mineral content of both sea and land plants, it is testimony to ancient knowledge of the basic requirements needed before science confirmed the fundamental need for mineral supplementation.

Essential fatty acids are another vital component in any nutritional program. These fatty acids play a vital role in the structures of cell membranes. They are also involved in the synthesis of several series of prostaglandins and other eicosanoids that regulate various metabolic functions. They stimulate growth, benefit skin and hair, influence the inflammatory response, and affect the development of the nervous system, including the brain. I always use cold pressed Flax Seed Oil as a supplement for all my dogs.

Most of the vitamin requirements for dogs and cats must be supplied in the animal's diet. Many times I have heard that they do not need a vitamin C supplement because they can synthesize their own supply. While this ability to synthesize is true, the question becomes is the level adequate to meet the needs during times of stress, sickness or advanced age? Does this particular animal produce adequate levels for its personal needs? As both vitamin C and E are valuable antioxidants that protect the cells from free radical damage it just makes good sense to add these to a basic diet. I use both on a regular basis.

(Note: For those of you still using some kind of kibble, you should seriously consider adding a full range multiple vitamin such as "Spectra" and of course a digestive enzyme.)

As the basic raw food diet I follow was derived from the works of J. Levy, I also follow her herbal supplement recommendations. The NR Herbal Compound , NR Daily Health , and Special Blend along with the NR Seaweed Mineral Food , combine to provide a natural synergistic source of vitamins, minerals and immune system boosters. During the last five or six years I have also been adding the glandulars "Immuplex" and "Livaplex" (particularly with my seniors) to help keep their liver and immune systems functioning at optimum levels.

Studies of nutritional supplements have been shown to increase life span. Essential nutrients in levels exceeding the basic requirements may significantly reduce degenerative conditions. They can increase the efficiency of cellular regeneration, enhance the elimination of waste products and toxic substances, and decrease the damaging effect of free radicals. Better nutrition for the cell allows all organs and systems to recover faster from stresses of pollution and deterioration that occur over time.

Do you need them? I don't know!

I can certainly tell you why I consistently use supplements and will continue to do so. I would strongly suspect that the needs of your animals are no less than mine, but only you can decide what is best for you and yours.