red merle aussie dog thinking 'all i need is right here!' with bags of vital essentials dog food

Did you know? Not all nutrients are equally nutritious! Naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients are in a form your dog’s body can more easily digest and utilize than artificial alternatives.

Unfortunately, most of the dog food made today is subjected to high heat processing such as canning or baking. One of the consequences of these intensive processes is that they cause many naturally occurring nutrients to break down.

This loss of nutritional value forces most dog food companies to add artificial supplements later, in order to reach the minimum values required by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Fortunately, heat-treated dog food isn’t the only option for pet parents. Through our proprietary 48-hour freeze-drying process, we retain as many of these naturally occurring nutrients as possible here at Vital Essentials. That means better nutrient absorption and boosted overall health for your pup!

There are many nutrients that are important for your dog’s health, but we’ve highlighted five in particular that pet parents should prioritize for their pups. Try to feed your dog natural sources of these nutrients when possible.


As humans, much of the calcium in our diet comes from dairy products, but dogs don’t (and shouldn’t) eat large amounts of cheese or milk. (Hello, stinky farts!!).

So, where do dogs get the calcium they need to build strong bones? Well…from bone! The soft, uncooked bone in Vital Essentials dog food is the perfect natural source of calcium.

Dogs that have low levels of calcium in their diet are at risk of developing “brittle bones” as well as heart murmurs. Since raw bone is the natural source of calcium your dog’s ancestors evolved to eat, it’s preferable over artificial calcium supplements.

Remember, never give your dog cooked bones to chew on. Cooked bones become too brittle; they can easily break and injure your dog.


Choline is a water-soluble nutrient similar to B vitamins, and it’s more important than you may realize.

Although often overshadowed by more well-known nutrients, choline is crucial for normal liver function and also for the health of your dog’s brain and muscles. A diet rich in choline helps combat the accumulation of fat in the liver and reduce the chance of developing fatty liver disease.

Your dog’s wild ancestors would get their choline directly from the vital organs of their prey, including the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. That’s one reason why you’ll find these naturally nutritious organs included in Vital Essentials dog foods, too!

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the nutrients pet parents are most likely to overlook.

As humans, we are used to thinking that Vitamin D comes straight from the sun. However, dogs don’t really create sufficient amounts of Vitamin D from sunlight like humans do. (Too much fur in the way!).

Therefore, it’s crucial that dogs get enough Vitamin D in their diet. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a whole host of health issues for dogs, including immune system dysfunction, skeletal malformation, cognitive impairment and even higher risk of cancer.

Vital organs, especially liver, are an excellent natural source of Vitamin D. 


Hydroxyproline is an amino acid that is crucial to overall joint health. Hydroxyproline is also associated with high levels of collagen, which keeps your dog’s connective tissues mobile and well-supported.

You’ll especially want to make sure your dog’s diet is rich in hydroxyproline if your pup is in their golden years or has a past joint injury. Fortunately, because Vital Essentials believes in using the whole animal, there are actual cartilaginous tissues included in our dog food.

For an extra boost of hydroxyproline, it’s also a good idea to give your dog cartilage-rich VE RAW BAR snacks like Pig Snouts, Pig Ears and Moo Sticks

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Last but certainly not least, ensuring your dog’s diet is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids is one of the best things you can do for your pup’s overall health.

Omega-3 fatty acids strengthen the immune system, reduce joint inflammation, and maintain your dog’s healthy skin and coat. They may even boost cognitive function, improving your pup’s memory and trainability.

Omega-3s from natural sources are preferable over those from artificial sources, such as pills or powders. The most well-known natural source of this key nutrient is in fish, such as Salmon Skins or Freeze-Dried Salmon Treats. However, many vital organs contain Omega-3s, too, and one of the best natural sources of Omega-3s is one you may not expect: Green Tripe.

Tripe — the unprocessed stomach of a ruminating animal such as a sheep or cow — is rich in both Omega-3s and Omega-6s, as well as many other nutrients. That’s why it’s sometimes called the “canine superfood!”

Tripe isn’t a complete diet on its own, but frozen or freeze-dried green tripe makes an extremely healthy addition to your dog’s dinner.


Even though all dog foods that meet AAFCO guidelines will have sufficient levels of nutrients essential for survival, the truth is that not all nutrient sources are the same — and do you really want to feed your precious pup the barest minimum?

Feeding your dog a diet that’s especially high in key nutrients, preferably from natural sources, sets them up for success with a nutritious and biologically appropriate diet!

Want to learn more about pet nutrition? Review the benefits of a raw diet for pets.