Why You Should Be Supplementing Dog Food with Super Foods
Step 9 of 9 in the Dogly Improving Kibble Channel
with Brittany Evans of CaninesHouseOfNutrition, Nutrition Advocate

Just like humans, dogs need a well-rounded diet that includes vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. However, even the best quality kibble may not provide all the nutrients your dog needs for optimal health.

This is where supplementing dog food with super foods can help.

Super foods are nutrient-rich foods that offer a wide range of health benefits. When added to your dog's diet, they can help boost immunity, improve digestion, and increase energy levels.

Why you should replace 20% of your dog's kibble with fresh food

We talked earlier about how dog nutrition studies show that replacing just 20% of your dog's dry dog food with fresh food in your dog's meals decreases disease and illness dramatically while bringing so many health benefits like a stronger immune system, a new shine to your dog's skin & coat, stronger joint health and gut health, greater resistance to allergies, healthier body weight and more.

Whatever your dog's life stage, whether you have large or small dogs, the 20% switch makes a significant impact on your dog's health and longevity. And it's such a small, simple change to make!


Why is it 20%?

Many dog owners ask why the 20% replacement of their dog's regular food- rather than jumping into a 100% homemade diet immediately. It's the perfect place to start in the context of your dog's total diet since studies show that's the point where the amount of fresh foods added to your dog's food shows a big difference - and doesn't alter the proportions in your dog's balanced diet (assuming your kibble/dry food follows AAFCO minimum standards as most pet food companies do).

(When/if you are ready to go beyond the 20%, we'll need to make sure your dog's diet is balanced to meet all dog nutrition requirements. I can share some tools with you to make it easier or work with you 1:1 to develop a custom plan/recipes for your dog.)

How to enhance your dog's diet

Let's talk about more ways to enhance your dog's dry food and continue on the 20% journey, decreasing the daily kibble/commercial dog food amount by 20% and replacing that with 20% fresh foods.

We've already talked about how you can feed eggs easily for perfect protein, whether raw eggs or cooked lightly, add fish for essential fatty acids like Omega 3s, and hydrate dry dog food with water, bone broth, and goat's milk ... so now let's take a look at other foods that are valuable to add to your dog's meal.

Here are three super foods you can use to supplement your dog's dry kibble with a 20% fresh food diet


# 1: Meat - the high quality protein your dog needs

Every protein has a different nutritional profile so you can play around with the variety and different cuts of meat. Ground pork vs pork shoulder, chicken breast vs chicken thighs… every cut has different nutrients in them and provides a different eating experience for your dog, so adding variety is key to the diet.

I would start with one type of protein a week at a time to make sure your dog doesn’t have any sensitivities to that protein. The most common food sensitivities in dogs are chicken and beef, so by adding one protein at a time and monitoring your dog over the week with that one protein you will get a good idea if they are having a reaction or not. 

How to handle raw meat or raw bones

Be mindful when feeding raw meat to your dog and use safe handling practices. Dogs are equipped to handle eating raw, but we don’t want to let it sit or defrost on the counter or the sink for a long period of time because then it starts to harbor bad bacteria and pathogens the longer it sits out.

You'll want to use the same kind of practices you use in handling your own uncooked meats or the way you defrost a holiday turkey in the fridge rather than on the counter, keeping all counters, surfaces, and hands clean. Basically, common kitchen sense.

If you are buying meat fresh that has never been frozen before, please freeze the meat for a few weeks first. Freezing takes care of any harmful parasites - usually not a concern in store foods but never hurts to be careful - and convenient to have a freezer stocked with meats on hand anyway.

After the meat has been frozen for a few weeks, allow it to slowly defrost in the fridge. If you buy meat that has already been frozen, but is currently thawed, then I would freeze it for at least 24 hours prior to feeding. If buying meat that is already frozen, then you can thaw and feed whenever, as usual.

How to read grocery meat labels

Also, be mindful of the meat at grocery stores because they often add salt and preservatives for a longer shelf life and you don’t want to feed high sodium meats to your dogs. A quick reading of labels for everything for our families is always a good idea. If you have access to local farms or raw food co-ops, they can be a great option for transparency vs commercial food.

A word about raw bones - every dog's favorite!

The same care applies to raw dog bones - which are wonderful for your dog's teeth while giving your pup high-protein muscle meat. I usually give raw bones to my dogs frozen anyway - better chewing and they last longer for most dogs.

Just a word of caution, if you're feeding bones of any kind to your dog, always monitor your dog. Every dog has a different chewing style and if your dog is a gulper, bones are probably not the best fit for him/her. More on the cautions of chewing styles here.

*If you’re cooking meat, you don’t need to worry about freezing time because the heat from cooking will kill off any bacteria and pathogens.*


#2: Veggies - amazing benefits of antioxidants for your dog

Vegetables (and fruits which we'll get to in a minute) are full of vitamins, nutrients, and all the benefits of antioxidants that make them super foods for your dog, giving your dog a healthy gut and immune system for overall health.

And they're so easy to feed your dog - in your dog's bowl or as a healthy snack!

One watch-out when choosing vegetables to feed your dog

Kibble already contains a high amount of starchy carbs, so we want to avoid giving your dog more of those starches in starchy vegetables (like potatoes) that become sugars in your dog's stomach and digestive tract and can contribute to unhealthy extra calories and weight gain.

We want to stick to low glycemic vegetables that aren't going to have that high spike effect on blood sugar levels. Non-starchy, low glycemic vegetables provide phytonutrients that help fight disease as they provide antioxidants as well as extra vitamins and minerals.

The best fresh veggies to add to your dog's food

Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, dandelion greens, cucumber, celery, and microgreens are great to enhance dry dog food. Other green fresh vegetables like green beans and broccoli are great lightly cooked and are also full of nutrients to boost your pet's diet.

Yellow-orange vegetables are rich in antioxidants too - think yellow/orange/red peppers in your dog's bowl or as healthy treats. Cooked sweet potatoes are another yellow-orange veggie, high in beta-carotene and important vitamin A, but they are a starchy carbohydrate in the potato family so proceed with moderation.

#3: Fruits - more great antioxidants for your dog

Fruits offer more great vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to power up your dog's health. Like vegetables, we want to feed low glycemic fruits so we're not adding a lot of sugar to your dog's diet.

The best fresh fruits to add to your dog's food

Berries are some of the best fruits you can feed your dog and they're low glycemic. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are all rich in antioxidants and offer a range of health benefits for your dog.

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are also rich in antioxidants and offer a boost of vitamin C. Again, use moderation as these fruits are higher in sugar.

Apples are a great fruit to add to your dog's diet - just be sure to remove the seeds and core as they contain cyanide.

Watermelon is another great fruit for your dog, high in vitamins A, B6, and C as well as lycopene - an important antioxidant. Watermelon is 92% water so it's also a great way to keep your pup hydrated!

Pumpkin is a wonderful fruit (yes, pumpkin is a fruit!) to add to your dry kibble. It's packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Pumpkin is also great for digestive health and can help with diarrhea and constipation.


How to feed fruits and vegetables to your dog

In order for fruit and veggies to be properly digested by dogs, we want to break the cell wall to start your dog's digestive enzymes, which will give your dog optimal nutrient absorption to access all the beneficial vitamins of these fruits and raw veggies.

My favorite way to do this is by pureeing or fermenting my vegetables.

Try this

In terms of pureeing, you can throw everything in a food processor or blender, add some liquid like water, bone broth or raw goat's milk to help mix everything together (this is also a great way to mask the taste of the vegetables for picky eaters), and then store the puree in a mason jar in the fridge to be used throughout the week, or if you made a big batch, you can freeze the puree into individual ice cubes and store in an airtight container for a frozen treat and long term use.

Or fermenting is a great option because the nutrients are more bioavailable and you have the added benefit of the ferments providing naturally occurring probiotics fueling beneficial bacteria as well.

I like to do a mix of both for the ultimate nutrient dense meal.

To ferment, you can shred or dice your fruits/veggies, add some water and a little bit of raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother) to help with the fermentation process. You'll want to use a 1:5 ratio of veggies to water/vinegar. I like to use a mason jar or any other airtight container, but you can also use a crock.

Learn how to enhance kibble with fresh foods by introducing a variety of proteins and ingredients like low-glycemic vegetables.

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Next up in the Improving Kibble Channel on Dogly

Now that you've learned how to boost your dog's food easily with whole, fresh foods, I hope you and your dog are both enjoying & seeing the benefits of the 20% challenge! If you want a refresher on the benefits of replacing 20% of your dog's kibble with fresh food, jump to my previous guide here.

Or, if you want to continue to expand your nutritional knowledge for your dog, learn which nutrients your dog could be missing in his/her diet or what it means to feed your dog for a certain life stage.

Hop over to the Improving Kibble Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion about anything nutrition related or start the step-by-step guides.

And if you ever need more personalized nutrition guidance, please reach out!

Brittany Evans of CaninesHouseOfNutrition

Nutrition Advocate
Dogly loves Brittany because she shows us how we can help our dogs live truly well with the right nutrition for their whole lives.

Brittany guides you

Home Cooking - Basic Nutrition - Herbs - Joint Health - Detoxing - Gut Health

Brittany is certified

Certified Canine Nutrition & Health - Certified Raw Dog Food Nutrition Specialist - Usui Reiki Practitioner - Certified Canine Herbalist