I am not a big fan of pharmaceuticals and unnatural things when it can be avoided and so I am always looking for ways to deal with any issues in the most natural way possible—of course this extends to my pets. Below find a list of supplements and natural remedies I have been using with great success for all my pets for many years.
There are a lot of products listed on this page and you may think, there is no way Ralf adds all of these to his dogs food every day. I assure you, I do. My German Shepherd Dog Sylvester goes hiking with me in the mountains for 4 hours every week—Sylvester is 10 years old. Max is another German Shepherd in my family and he loves shooting down the hill chasing squirrels, he's very fast and very good at it—Max is 14 years old. I fully credit the nutrition and supplements I provide daily. 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 but I am not recommending that you do the same. I do however 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 persons or animals of any kind from following anything listed on this page or any other part of this website.
Food & Nutrition
Nutritional requirements vary widely between different dog breeds and 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 the 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. And while we have brought this breed into other parts of the world— like warm and sunny Southern California—their coat hasn't changed in over 3,000 years—neither has their 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. So if you want your dog to get the best nutrition possible, prepare food that is optimal for theri body. The late Animal Advocate William D. Cusick used to provide excellent nutritional information on his website but unfortunately it's no longer available.
I had purchased his breed-specific book for German Shepherds and have been cooking for my dogs for several years now following that recipe—it only takes about 2 hours (incl. cleanup) to prepare a full weeks supply. It costs me about $50 per week for one German Shepherd and that's with organic meat.
In 1990 Mr. Cusick's first book on the subject, Canine Nutrition & Choosing The Best Food For Your Breed Of Dog, was published. This book was an immediate success and was ordered by dog fanciers' worldwide. This book is now out of print.
In 1997 Mr. Cusick's second book on this subject was published. While this book is also out of print, a free copy of his previously best selling dog nutrition guide can be found here: Canine Nutrition.
Before I started cooking for my dogs, I would buy the best food I could afford. I chose organic, holistic, grain free, by-product free foods and added a good nutritional supplement like The Missing Link. A few examples of good quality dog food brands are: Acana, Canidae, Blue Buffalo Wilderness, Taste of the Wild, Orijen, and Raw Instinct.
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, Ol'Roy, Pedigree and Alpo. I formed my opinions of 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 I am generally concerned about ticks and fleas—we have them where I live. After over a decade of dog ownership I have found that a little bit of garlic mixed into my pets food is a very effective way of detering 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; evenly distributed over 14 servings of food on a twice a day feeding schedule.
I have never used Frontline or other products like that as 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 them but it repells them and that all that's needed. I have never seen any fleas on my dogs using this approach.
Once 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 a decade.
Noni Fruit Leather has also shown to accomplish the same thing and Noni is described in more detail under immunity support below.
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 occuring in your state each year and how many in your county to assess your risk factors. Heartworm disease is also treatable should it ever occur and is usually not deadly; however, it is quite expensive to treat and not nice for your pet. Parasites—including heartworm disease—can be prevented and even treated with Noni; it's just an amazing fruit. Steve Frailey from Hawaiian Organic Noni told me during a Natural Product Expo West that he attended a holistic vet conference in Hawaii where vets detailed the successfull 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 every day and never have any worms when the vet checks them. 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.
Articles and Research on Noni from Hawaiian Organic Noni: Noni for Pets
I found that Noni is really a remarkable fruit. The Noni Fruit Leather by Hawaiian Organic Noni has so many health benefits and uses that 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 pets 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 dogs food every day.
Articles and Research on Noni from Hawaiian Organic Noni: Noni for Pets
Also for immune support: Mushrooms for Dogs (see details under Cancer Prevention) and Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (see details under Healthy Coat)
Joint health in dogs is one of those things many dog owners worry about—I am no exception. Many breeds—especially larger ones—have a tendency to develop joint issues later in life and there are components to that, which we can't control. For example, breeding and genetics. However, we can control other risk factors—like diet and vaccinations—and prevent and prepare as much as possible to reduce risks, prolong healthy joints and be ready when 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 lists out a set of nutritional supplements that go way beyond the commonly known Glucosamine, which is good but not sufficient. After reading that article I found a natural supplement called Run Free with GLM by Wholistic Pet Organics that contains most of those recommended ingredients—the most important one being green-lipped mussel. I tested it on my—at that time—15 year old Australian Cattledog who had a hard time getting around and he regained mobility like I hadn't seen in over a year. It is one the best supplements I have tried to date.
Another risk factor is unneccessary OVER-vaccinations—more on that in the Vaccination section.
Lastly, be ready. I have 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 health insurance for my dog to cover hereditary diseases. So should he ever need the $10,000+ hip dysplasia surgery, I know I am ready.
Sylvester was already 3 years old, when I rescued him and most insurance plans I looked at excluded hereditary conditions unless the dog is enrolled before it's one year old—obviously, it was too late for that in my case—luckily I found Embrace Pet Insurance, which has no such restriction. Embrace provides coverage for life on all hereditary and congenital conditions, such as hip dysplasia; 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—but 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 and damages to genes that can go through generations. One of the best ways to prevent cancer is healthy nutrition. A healthy body can deal with problems a lot better and fend of cancer. This is why I started cooking for my dogs, 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, a blend of 17 medicinal mushrooms from Paul Stamets—this is a people product. His companyused to sells a pet mushroom supplement called Mush. They no longer offer that but Mercola has an even better one: Whole Food Mushroom Complex for Pets. I have been adding this to my dogs food daily for years.
What also inspired me to do so was the story of Cesar Millan's late pit bull 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 afterwards—I don't know which one—to prevent the cancer from coming back and it never did. Daddy went on to live another 6 or 7 years before he passed away of old age. 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 myrad 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 case of dogs it can be provided in food or water. I personally prefer adding it to the food, as I feel I have more control over dosage and my guys really get one tablespoon with each meal. I personally 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. The list of benefits is quite long and there are several books and many online postings on using Apple Cider Vinegar to support your dogs health. Here are some common uses:
- Maintaining digestive alkaline (pH) balance
- Itchy skin
- Hot spots
- Prevention of 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 and we should do it "just to be safe." This has never really made sense to me, and even though there are laws requiring regular rabies shots, that doesn’t mean they all vaccinations are good for anyone—except the bank account of our vet. 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 needs to be vacinated against Rabies, Parvo and Distempter as 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.
I wrote a blog about my thoughts on pet vaccinations a while ago; you can find it here: Pet Vaccinations
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 on a walk 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 antlers are the best chews for dogs as they don't splinter, are fully digestible and have nutrients beneficial for dogs.
Antlers are full of calcium and phosphorus, they are naturally shed by deer every year and are actually one of the fastest regrowing natural resources. Wild deer shed their antlers once a year as part of a natural process, after which the deer re-grow another set, so no deer is harmed in collecting these chews for your dog either.
These are also wallet friendly as antler 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 and Wild Chewz are the only two brands I use personally as I can be assured that the antlers are from collection only and not hunting. No elk was harmed to collect these and I care about that.
My own dogs always have some available to chew when they like.
Obviously brushing your dogs 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 natural way: Plaque Off Animal. My dogs all 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—and yes, I mean the brand names—you will be shocked what is being sold to us as 'safe.' This is even worse when it comes to animal products because they are not regulated at all. 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. Doggie Sudz by Austin Rose is one such alternative. Their shampoo works very well, smells great and is all natural, organic and vegan.
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, which 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 perfectly.
However, as a long time dog owner I'd be 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 Pet Stain & Oder Pre-teatment. 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. Afterwards 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.