One of the most frequent questions we get from people who are starting their pets on a raw diet is, “How do I know my pet is getting all the vitamins they need? Do you add anything to your patties to ensure they’re getting everything?”
We always answer the question the same way.
Vitamin content and quality in raw food vs. commercial pet food isn’t simply a matter of looking at numbers and letters on a bag.
Before we get to our answer and the ‘why’ of the matter, though, let’s learn a little about the vitamins essential to your pet’s diet.
Let’s start with the two main types of vitamins – water soluble and fat soluble.
Water soluble vitamins – like the B vitamin family and vitamin C – aren’t stored in the body long-term and should be consumed daily, if possible. When water soluble vitamins are fed, the body takes whatever it can use from them and the leftovers are excreted through the body via urine.
The fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K – are vitamins that are absorbed and stored in body fat and tissues. People generally associate a high quantity of vitamins with good health, but with fat soluble vitamins that isn’t always the case. When excess fat soluble vitamins are added to food and consumed over a period of time, it can lead to a buildup in the body and possible vitamin toxicity if levels are high enough.
So, let’s talk about the water soluble vitamins for a moment and how it relates to our Totally Raw products.
The Vitamin B family (B1 – Thiamine, B2- Riboflavin, B3 – Niacin, B5 – Pantothenic Acid, B6 – Pyridoxine, B9- Folate and/or Folic Acid, B12 ) is responsible for many of the body’s functions ranging from growth, nervous system development, red blood cell formation, immune system strengthening, and scores of other jobs that are far too numerous to list in this piece. Let’s just say that the B vitamin family is a critically important one and it needs to be present in your diet.
The B Vitamin family is naturally present in chicken, turkey, duck, pork, lamb, beef, liver, heart & kidney – all staples in the Totally Raw menu. Following our recommendation of including a minimum of three proteins in rotation in your pet’s diet, your pet will be getting all the B Vitamins they need without the need for any sort of synthetic vitamins added.
Vitamin C is crucial to the formation of calcium and iron, prevents the growth of cancer cells, and it’s an antioxidant required for tissue growth and repair and proper functioning of the adrenal gland. It’s naturally occurring in liver, kidney and heart – all organs included in every Totally Raw patty.
It is worth noting that unlike humans, dogs typically do not need large amounts of additional vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in their diets. Dogs, as well as many other animals, manufacture vitamin C through their glandular systems. A healthy dog typically produces about 18mg of vitamin C for every pound of body weight (for example, a 50-lb. dog produces about 900mg per day), providing a continued concentration of ascorbic acid in the dog’s system.
Some veterinarians suggest additional vitamin supplements, based on a dog’s health, but giving too many synthetic vitamins to a dog can have serious repercussions. Once again, your pet will be getting naturally occurring Vitamin C and producing enough of their own without the need for synthetic vitamins added to their diet.
So, Totally Raw has your B’s and C covered – but what about the rest?
Let’s talk about the fat soluble vitamins for a moment.
Vitamin A is a crucial vitamin to your pet’s health in the way that it boosts their immune system, prevents vision disorders and skin problems, forms health bones and teeth, and actually slows the aging process. It’s found in chicken, pork, liver, and kidneys; all part of the Totally Raw menu – and naturally occurring.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that prevents cancer and heart disease. It also promotes hair and skin health, reduces blood pressure, and prevents cell damage in the body. An interesting fact about Vitamin E is that it’s not easily absorbed into the body, and only half the amount found in most foods is available to the body for use.
Fortunately, grass-fed meats are roughly four times higher in Vitamin E than grain fed counterparts, and grass-fed meat is a staple of the Totally Raw menu – along with kidney and liver, also rich in Vitamin E.
Vitamin K promotes healthy liver function, aids in bone development and strengthening, and increases overall longevity of life. It’s largely present and naturally occurring in liver, which is used in our Totally Raw organ blends (10% of every patty).
Finally, we have Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for the body to process phosphorus and calcium appropriately – the building blocks for teeth and bone health. It also helps to regulate the heart, aids in thyroid function, facilitates proper blood clotting, boosts immunity, and helps fight the development of cancer cells. Research has shown that dogs with a Vitamin D deficiency are at a far higher risk of cancer than those who are getting a proper amount of the vitamin.
Food-wise, vitamin D is naturally occurring in the liver and kidneys from an organ standpoint. Unless your meat is from grass-fed animals, however, you’re not going to get the required amount of Vitamin D from meat sources alone. The good news is that if you feed Totally Raw beef, you’re getting it from grass-fed cattle so you’re getting naturally occurring vitamin D from real meat sources.
We left vitamin D until the end for a reason.
Vitamin D is one of the most added synthetic vitamins in the commercial pet food industry and, because it is a fat soluble vitamin, extra care needs to be taken to ensure that excess amounts are not added to the food.
Recently (December 2018) a recall of 8 commercial pet food brands occurred due to excess levels of synthetic Vitamin D in their foods; to the point that vitamin toxicity was a real concern among pets that were consuming it.
Because most commercial pet foods do not contain enough high quality animal protein to fulfill the amount of naturally occurring vitamins your pet needs, synthetic vitamins – which aren’t absorbed in the same way that natural vitamins are – are often added to the formulas. This is frequently to the detriment of the pets eating them. Synthetic vitamins aren’t recognized in the body the way naturally occurring nutrients are and they can wreak havoc with natural vitamin sources as they try to do their work.
Synthetics may provide an initial boost of benefit when administered, but in many cases they can end up doing more harm than good. There is no substitute for naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, and there are no better sources for them than in whole foods like we use in our product.
So, to answer the question of whether we add any additional vitamins to our products, the answer is a resounding “no”.
The reason is because if you’re feeding your pet a variety of selections from our Totally Raw menu, there’s absolutely no reason for us to do so. It’s complete nutrition, the way nature intended.