My dogs' health is a very high priority for me. Consequently, I am looking for the most natural ways to keep them healthy. Of course, sometimes you need traditional veterinary treatments like antibiotics, steroids, surgeries, and so on. However, many approaches to dog health in standard veterinary care could be better. The regular FDA warnings and pet deaths from tick and flea treatments alone should give us pause. Also, cancer rates amongst dogs are through the roof. Many recent studies have shown that things need to change. Unfortunately, the veterinary industry is slow to update its procedures.
There are true-and-tested ways to improve your dog's health in natural ways and void toxins and pesticides as much as possible. Natural ways, to make your dog healthier and save you money in the long run. On this page, you find all the products, supplements, and natural remedies I personally use to keep my own dogs healthy. I have had great success with these for all my dogs over many years.
Good Dog Health Leads to Longevity
There are a lot of products listed on this page. You may think "There is no way Ralf adds all of these supplements to his dog's food every day". I assure you, I do. My German Shepherd Sylvester used to go hiking with me in the mountains for four hours every week until he was 13 years old. Sylvester is now 16 years old. Max, another German Shepherd in our family, used to love shooting down the hill, chasing squirrels. He was very fast and very good at it—at 14 years of age. Now, Max is almost 18 years old and a bit slower. I fully credit the nutrition and supplements listed here with my dog's overall great health and long life. These things do make a big difference!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a veterinarian and I have never received any formal training in veterinary or human medicine in any form. Everything listed on this page is for informational purposes only. These are all products I personally use to support my dogs' health. I encourage you to do your own research, draw your own conclusions and make your own decisions. I can't assume any responsibility for any damage to any person or animal from following anything listed on this page or any other part of this website.
Food & Nutrition
Nutritional requirements vary widely between different dog breeds. If you buy bagged or canned dog food, you are most likely not providing your dog with the optimum nutrition. Any dog is best suited to thrive on food from the area its breed originated from. For example, the Siberian Husky has a very thick and warm coat as their natural habitat is the North-Eastern Siberian Tundra. We have brought this breed into other parts of the world— like warm and sunny Southern California. However, their coat hasn't changed in over 3,000 years—neither has its digestive system. A dog's body is best suited to consume, digest and extract the maximum amount of nutrients from food local to their originating area.
Hence, if you want your dog to get the best nutrition possible, prepare food that is optimal for your dog's health. The late Animal Advocate William D. Cusick used to provide excellent nutritional information on his website but unfortunately, it's no longer available.
Breed-Specific Dog Food is Best
I purchased his breed-specific recipe book for German Shepherds and used to cook for my dogs for several years following that recipe. I switched to raw feeding a few years ago but stayed with the same, breed-specific, nutritional profile.
In 1990 Mr. Cusick published his first book on the subject, Canine Nutrition & Choosing The Best Food For Your Breed Of Dog. This book was an immediate success and was ordered by dog fanciers worldwide. This book is now out of print.
In 1997 Mr. Cusick published his second book on this subject. While this book is also out of print, a free copy of this best-selling dog nutrition guide can be found here: Canine Nutrition. Anyone who wants to provide the best nutrition for their dog's health should read it.
Commercial Dog Food
Before I started cooking for my dogs, I would buy the best food I could afford. I chose organic, holistic, by-product-free foods and added a good nutritional supplement like The Missing Link. A few examples of decent dry dog food brands are Orijen, Acana, Canidae, Merrick, and Raw Instinct.
Dog health starts with proper food. And in my personal opinion, dog food from the following brands is of poor quality and I wouldn't feed it to my dogs: Purina, Science Diet (yes, that's the one veterinarians sells), Royal Canin, Ol'Roy, Pedigree and Alpo. I formed my opinions on the quality of commercial foods by reading the ingredient labels, monitoring pet food recalls, and lawsuits filed against pet food companies for harming dogs with poor food.
Ticks and Fleas—Prevention & Treatment
My dogs spend a good amount of time outside so prevention of tick and flea bites is important. A little bit of garlic mixed into my pet's food is a very effective way of deterring ticks and fleas. However, Garlic needs to be used sparingly, as too much is unhealthy for dogs. The amount of garlic I use for my 90 lb German Shepherd is 2 teaspoons of garlic powder per week. It is evenly distributed over his food throughout the week. The right amount of garlic supports dog health naturally.
I have never used Frontline or other products like that. I prefer natural approaches and the few times I found a tick on my dogs it did either not bite them or left on its own rather quickly. Garlic doesn't kill ticks but it repels them and that's all that's needed. I have never seen any fleas on my dogs using this approach.
Once a year—during the annual checkup at the vet—I have the same conversation when they want to sell me Frontline. They tell me every year that there is no scientific evidence for garlic as flea and tick preventative. And I respond: "That may be so, but it does work". There is a lot of information on using garlic for pets on the internet and I recommend you read up on it—it's been working well for me for over 15 years.
Parasite Prevention & Treatment
Heartworm disease, and worm infestations in general, are nasty business. However, the risk of heartworm disease, in particular, is very low where I live. I recommend you ask your vet how many cases of heartworm disease are actually occurring in your state each year. Further, ask how many annual cases occur in your county to assess your risk factors. Heartworm disease is also treatable and is usually not deadly. However, it is quite expensive to treat and very unpleasant for your pet. You definitely want to prevent that as best as possible.
Parasites—including heartworm disease—can be effectively prevented and even treated with Noni. It's an amazing fruit to support dog health. I first met Steve Frailey from Hawaiian Organic Noni during a Natural Product Expo West. He told me that he attended a holistic vet conference in Hawaii. There, vets detailed the successful treatment of heartworm disease with Noni in horses. He also told me about hunters in Hawaii who never use heartworm medication but feed their dogs Noni daily. They never have any worms when the vets check them. That is of course anecdotal, but you can find a multitude of studies on the National Institute of Health website, proving the effectiveness of Noni against parasites and a broad range of other conditions. I have been using Noni for parasite prevention for many years and my dogs are healthy and worm-free.
I detailed a personal experience with treating whipworms with Noni in one of my rescue dogs here. Noni literally saved me thousands of dollars by protecting my dogs from these parasites.
More articles and research on Noni from Hawaiian Organic Noni: Noni for Pets.
Noni is really a remarkable fruit to support dog health. The Noni Fruit Leather by Hawaiian Organic Noni has so many health benefits and uses; it's really a wonder fruit. I discovered this product a few years ago at the Natural Product Expo West and added it to my pet's diet for overall immune support. Since then I learned that holistic vets have been using Noni to treat all kinds of things like:
- Low Energy
- Rashes and Hot Spots
- Inefficient Cardiovascular Systems
- Low Blood Sugar Levels
- Weak Joints
- Digestion Issues
- Worms and Parasites
- Ticks & Fleas
To me, Noni has become a trusted immune booster and is one of my favorite supplements. I cut 2 square inches of the fruit leather into my dog's food every day.
Please also read additional details on Noni in the 'parasite prevention' section above.
More articles and Research on Noni from Hawaiian Organic Noni: Noni for Pets
Many owners worry about their dog's joint health—I am no exception. Many breeds—especially larger ones—have a tendency to develop joint issues later in life. Unfortunately, there are components that, we can't control like, breeding and genetics. However, we can control other risk factors through diet and optimized vaccination frequency (i.e. fewer of them). In return, we can prevent and prepare as much as possible to reduce risks, prolong healthy joints and be ready if surgery does become necessary. I read a great article in Cesar's Way Magazine in the July 2011 edition by a holistic veterinarian called 'Healthy, Pain-Free Joints? Naturally!'
In the full print edition, he listed a set of nutritional supplements that go way beyond the commonly known Glucosamine, which is good, but not sufficient for good dog health. After reading that article, I found a great, natural supplement called Run Free with GLM by Wholistic Pet Organics. It contains most of those recommended ingredients. The most important one was green-lipped mussel. I tested it on my 15-year-old Australian Cattledog mix at the time. He had a hard time getting around. With this supplement, he regained mobility I hadn't seen in over a year. This is one of the best joint supplements I have tried to date. I have been using it for 10 years now and still swear by it.
Another risk factor is unnecessary and too frequent vaccinations—more on that in the Vaccination section. This is not an opposition to vaccinations. They are clearly necessary. It is about vaccinating the right way and not too often to keep your dog in good health.
Pet Health Insurance
Lastly, be ready. I have a German Shepherd Dog and they are known to develop joint issues due to poor breeding—especially American-breed German Shepherds. For that reason, I purchased pet health insurance for my dog to cover hereditary diseases. Should he ever need the $10,000+ hip dysplasia surgery, I know I am ready. I personally have used Petplan USA pet insurance until it became too expensive and coverage became poor. Next, I had Trupanion pet insurance until they tried it not to cover an emergency bloat surgery. They declared it a pre-existing condition, which is of course ridiculous. I was eventually able to get it paid for but that was unacceptable.
I have been with Embrace Pet Insurance for several years now, and they have been good at reimbursing expenses. They have been the best in my experience. If you use the link above to sign-up with Embrace Pet Insurance, they will donate $25 to a pet-related charity.
Sylvester was already three years old when I rescued him, and most insurance plans I looked at excluded hereditary conditions. That is different when the dog is enrolled before it's one year old. Embrace Pet Insurance has no such restriction. Embrace provides coverage for life on all hereditary and congenital conditions, such as hip dysplasia. It also covers all illnesses and chronic conditions, such as cancer and all accidents.
Over the years I have lost two dogs to cancer. Both were of old age—15 and 16 years. However, to me, cancer is probably the most unnatural way for any animal to die. It is a man-made disease that mostly comes from environmental and food pollution. As well as damages to genes that can run through generations. One of the best ways to prevent cancer is healthy nutrition. A healthy body can deal with problems a lot better and stands better chances of fending off cancer. This is why I first started cooking for my dogs and later switched to raw feeding. But I wanted to do more.
Reading about the remarkable research with medicinal mushrooms in cancer prevention and treatment, I discovered a product called My Community. This is a blend of 17 medicinal mushrooms from Paul Stamets. This is a people product. His company used to sell a pet mushroom supplement blend, called Mush. They no longer offer it, but Mercola now offers an even better one: Whole Food Mushroom Complex for Pets. I have been adding this to my dog's food daily for years.
How I Discovered Medicinal Mushrooms
What also inspired me to do so was the story of Cesar Millan's late pitbull Daddy. Daddy was diagnosed with cancer when he was 10 years old and received chemotherapy and radiation as far as I know. Cesar Millan talks in his book A Member of the Family about how he put him on a medicinal mushroom supplement afterward to prevent cancer from coming back. It never did. Daddy went on to live another 6 or 7 years before he passed away of old age.
My research into medicinal mushrooms and their worldwide use in cancer treatment and prevention opened my eyes to the possibilities and power of mycelium. I owe it to my dogs to take this preventive step.
Whole Food Mushroom Complex for Pets is a medicinal mushroom supplement for your pets from Dr. Mercola.
Apple Cider Vinegar is another one of those wonder products with a myriad of different uses and applications. It is great for people—try it with some honey next time you have a sore throat or cough—and animals alike. In the case of dogs, it can be provided in food or water. I personally prefer adding it to the food. It gives me more control over dosage and my guys really get one tablespoon with each meal.
I give Apple Cider Vinegar to support a healthy coat, prevent ticks and fleas—in addition to the above—and immune support through balancing the body's pH value. Personally, I take apple cider vinegar with honey myself every day. The list of benefits is quite long and there are many books and online articles written on using Apple Cider Vinegar to support your dog's health. Here are some common uses:
- Maintaining digestive (pH) balance
- Itchy skin
- Hot spots
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- Calluses on elbows and hock joints
- Sore joints
- Bladder and kidney stones.
Raw, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar from Bragg. Cheap, effective, and versatile.
A topic that has bothered me for while, is the apparent over-vaccination of our pets. We have been convinced by our veterinarians, that annual booster shots for our cats and dogs are normal. We should do it "just to be safe." This has never really made sense to me. If you already have humoral immunity, another shot is unnecessary for good dog health.
Of course, there are laws requiring regular rabies shots, but that doesn’t mean that all vaccinations are good or must be repeated every year. It's good for the bank account of our vet though. While most vets are ethical, animal-loving people, there is a financial incentive to vaccinate rather more than less—about 50% of their income stems from vaccinations.
Let me clear, your dog must be vaccinated against Rabies, Parvo, and Distemper. These diseases are highly infectious and can kill your pet. The concern is unnecessary, annual booster shots when your dog still has full immunity from the last time. Many studies have shown and reaffirmed over the years that too many vaccinations will harm your pet. Vaccinate responsibly!
Dog Dental Health
Dogs like to chew things. Like puppies, adult dogs also chew for comfort. They like to put just about anything in their mouths when they are roaming around outside or playing. Of course, if what they find is edible, even if it's in a trash can, they will find a way to get to it. They need to chew! It's their nature.
Chewing helps promote healthy teeth and gums. Using a good chew treat will help you care for your dogs' dental health. You can keep their teeth clean and their gums free of infections.
I found that deer, elk, and moose antlers are the best chews for dogs as they don't splinter. They are fully digestible and have nutrients beneficial for your dog's health.
Antlers are full of calcium and phosphorus. They are naturally shed by deer, elk, and moose every year and are actually one of the fastest regrowing natural resources. Wild deer, elk, and moose shed their antlers once a year as part of a natural process, after which they re-grow another set, so no animal is harmed in collecting these chews for your dog either.
Antlers Are My Favorite Chews
Antlers are also wallet-friendly as they last much longer than other chews. So while the individual chews cost a lot more than bully sticks, they will last for weeks and thus be cheaper in the long run. The link to the left sends you to Amazon for antlers by Newt's Chews. Newt's Chews is the only brand I use personally as I can be assured that the antlers are from collection only and not hunting. No deer, elk, or moose were harmed to collect these, and I care about that.
My own dogs always have some available to chew when they like.
Obviously brushing your dog's teeth daily would also be ideal but if that is not something you want to do there is another product that will keep your dogs clean in a natural way: Plaque Off Animal. This product essentially turns the dog's saliva into a plaque repellent. The first time I heard that I thought, "sounds like nonsense". But I was looking for something new for teeth cleaning and tried it. To my surprise, it worked very well! My dogs get Plaque Off Animal every day.
When it comes to bathing my dogs I want to make sure the shampoo I use is not harmful to them. If you ever take the time to research some of the ingredients commonly found in normal hair shampoo for people, you will be shocked what is being sold to us as 'safe'. And yes, I mean the brand names. This is even worse when it comes to animal products as they are even less regulated. Not that the FDA is doing such a bang-up job for us humans, but at least it's something. If I can't pronounce or identify the ingredients in anything, I find a more natural alternative. 4 Legger is one such alternative. Their shampoo works very well, smells great, and is all-natural and organic.
Our pets can make a mess at times and accidents also happen here and there. I personally like my carpets clean and not smelling of urine or other dirt. So for the longest time, I have been searching for a natural alternative to the Hoover and Bissel cleaners. They work great but are chemical bombs. I finally found something that works as well if not better on spot treatments as well as with carpet steamers, Caroline's Stain, and Odor Remover. It has no harmful chemicals and works very well. Avoiding as many toxic chemicals supports your dog's health.
However, as a long-time dog owner, I'm the first to admit that sometimes you need chemicals to save your carpet. If I ever have pet stains that can't be removed with this natural cleaner, I use Bissel professional Pet Stain & Oder Remover. I spray this deep in the carpet fibers—soaking the spot—place a wet hand towel on the spot and let it sit for 24 hours. Afterward, I clean up with the natural cleaner and my carpet steamer—one of the best investments I ever made.
In terms of other cleaning products for pet messes, I generally like everything 7th Generation sells. A great line of natural cleaners. You can find those at Target stores.