Last week I attended an event in BC where I got the chance to hear Dr. Karen Becker, Rodney Habib & Julie Ann Lee all speak in person. I also got the amazing chance to talk to them and take pictures with them. I fangirled, hard!
While all of their talks were amazing Dr. Karen Becker’s talk hit home with me, and it inspired me to focus on supplements and nutraceuticals we can add into our pet’s raw food diets to ensure they are nutritionally complete and balanced (because MANY raw food diets are not). Dr. Becker’s talk is still available on Facebook live, and I have it posted in our Holistic Pet Parent’s group if you want to check it out. In her speech, she discussed how to balance raw food to make them as similar to an ancestral diet as possible.
One of the supplements she mentioned was sea vegetables (namely: kelp, dulse, and various seaweeds) to help make up for the fact that most diets are deficient in iodine. Iodine can be naturally supplied in your pet’s diet by feeding the thyroid gland of their prey. However, this can be a harder to source organ, and so sea vegetables can be a good alternative. Your pet’s body will take the iodine from their food and turn it into the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. These are essential because every cell in their body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. Deficiencies of iodine can manifest as decreased thyroid function (hypothyroidism), obesity, aggression, and chronic immune system issues to name a few. 1
What is Kelp?
Kelp is a type of seaweed. There are at least 30 different genera of kelp. Kelp is somewhat unique amongst sea vegetables because of its ability to accumulate iodine. Some species of the brown algae genus Laminaria can accumulate iodine in up to 30,000 times more concentrated a form than sea water! 2
While kelp is notably rich in iodine, it is also contains impressive amounts of vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
- Note: If your dog is taking thyroid drugs you will want to discuss the addition of kelp with your vet and have the thyroid levels monitored regularly. Medication amounts may need to be adjusted when kelp is added into the diet.
Kelp and other sea vegetables are rich in sulfated polysaccharides called fucoidans. Many studies have documented the anti-inflammatory effects of fucoidans as well as their anti-cancer properties. They also have antiviral effects and can help with weight management and lower cholesterol. 3 & 4
A Word of Caution
More and more, kelp is becoming a very popular supplement in pet foods and treats. However, after her speech was over Dr. Becker was asked what was one ingredient that she commonly saw in commercially prepared raw food that she doesn’t like and she answered kelp. She went on to say that this is because of it’s HUGE range in quality. Many kelp “supplements” actually contain very little iodine, and some can contain too much.
Dr. Becker suggests looking for a standardized kelp supplement with guaranteed amounts per serving so that you know you are giving your pet the right amount of the nutrients you are looking for.
- In the updated 4th edition of her book “Dr Becker’s Real Food For Healthy Dogs & Cats” Dr. Becker recommends this kelp supplement from NOW Foods. 5
- Note: If you are using a human supplement for pets the standard is to assume the dosing is for a 150lb pound human and adjust according to your pet’s weight.
- The Canine Thyroid Epidemic by Dr Jean Dodds
- Cumashi A, Ushakova NA, Preobrazhenskaya ME et al. A comparative study of the anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antiangiogenic, and antiadhesive activities of nine different fucoidans from brown seaweeds. Glycobiology vol. 17 no. 5 pp. 541-552, 2007. 2007.
- Dr Becker’s Real Food For Healthy Dogs & Cats by Dr. Karen Becker