Many people would argue that if the raw diet is supposed to be so complete then supplementation should not be necessary. They are, to a certain extent, correct. Any dog could live sufficiently without supplementation and in truth supplementation is only optional. However, the importance of their role in the modern dog's diet should not be overlooked. Many of the pets you see today are the subject of poor breeding practices, a less than ideal physical environment and, most likely, poor nutritional practices right from birth. It is important to stress here that dogs have not changed from their wild ancestors. What has changed are the conditions in which we provide our pets to live. For most pets, gone are the days of roaming on a large plot of farm land free from passing cars and trucks, free from pesticide sprays and free from many of the poisons we humans subject ourselves to on a daily basis. Supplements, while not miracle pills and liquids, can alleviate some of the damage and promote healthy organ function and cell production.
Most people when they start the Raw Food Diet, start with 4 basic supplements: acidophilus bifidus, Ester C, which is Vitamin C without the acidity, Alfalfa, which is fibre, and Kelp, which helps regulate their thyroid.
What I like to do is make every effort to replicate the effect of each supplement with natural foods instead. These foods provide the same essential nutrients the dog needs without being processed.
For example, Ester C can easily be replaced with natural foods. I like to take the day old fruit salad that may be just past the expiry date. This could be something you know you would not eat yourself but your dog's stomach is strong enough to handle it and it's a very good source of Vitamin C for him as well.
Alfalfa supplements are a great source of fibre and can be purchased at any health food store. Consider going the natural route and instead feed your dog broccoli stalk, cauliflower stalk, asparagus and bean ends and the left over spinich that never keeps. I blend this up together in my food processor until it reaches the consistency of baby food and then feed that to my dog. These are all natural sources of fibre and the natural source will always be easier for the dog to digest as well as cost less for you. This makes it a real win-win situation!
You should understand that feeding your dog the best parts of the vegetable (florets, full beans, asparagus) is completely acceptable and is also a rich source of fibre for your dog. However, it will cost you more. You can save yourself some money by giving your dog the stalks and ends - it's a great way to do our part for the environment and it's still a healthy source of fibre for your dog!
Kelp is up to you. A lot of dogs, if they have been on kibble for a long time, can develop thyroid issues because of course the grain getting into their systems is not what their bodies require nutritionally. In fact, grain can cause more damage by creating blockages in their systems that can lead to a host of medical problems. Kelp supplements have been known to help regulate their thyroid.
Flaxseed oils, cod liver oils and olive oils are particularly good for your dog because they help lubricate the system and provides your dog with the Essential Fatty and Omega 3 Acids that the body needs. Flaxseed oil and olive oil are also very good for a dog's skin and coat. If their skin is dry you should be feeding some type of oil to your dog on a daily basis.
Garlic is really great for heart and blood flow but in the summer it has an added bonus of acting as a mosquito repellant as well. It seems those pesky bugs are no bigger fans of the smell of garlic breath than we are! Considering the growing threat of West Nile Virus every year this is a good tip to keep in mind!
In conclusion, while it can be noted that any healthy pet can get along just fine without the addition of supplements, the fact is that they are readily available to pet owners. Our pets, as well as ourselves, are subjected to an enormous amount of environmental and physical damage and by adding supplements, even if only a few, we are doing a wonderful thing to improve overall health. With any supplementation it is important to explore all the options one has as well as narrowing down which supplements are appropriate for your pet's needs. It is not terribly difficult to do and ultimately your pet will thank you for it!