The Dirt On Soil
The Earth is a living being, and it breathes and supports billions of lives daily. That being said, Earth also maintains the natural order through life, death, & decay, which can be seen in one constant thing: soil.
But what does soil have to do with the health of your dog?... Well, everything!
We know that feeding an ancestral raw diet allows the canine to be in a higher level of optimal health through food. However, one little (microscopic) thing missing contributes to the world's overall health...ancestral microbes!
What Are Microbes?
Soil microorganisms classify as bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, algae, protozoa, and viruses. These microbes play a vital role in soil and ecology formation as they are the natural soil engineers that give nutrients to plants, pump up nitrogen, and allow the soil to become soil ultimately!
Soil vs. Dirt
Soil is the living skin of the planet. It’s composed of organic matter such as fallen leaves, dead plants, and animal than then mixes with inorganic matter such as rocks, minerals, and water to create soil. Dirt is just dead. There’s nothing alive about it, unlike soil.
The scientific definition of soil according to the Soil Society of America is
"soil (i) The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of plants.
(ii) The unconsolidated mineral or organic matter on the surface of the earth that has been subjected to and shows the effects of genetic and environmental factors of: climate (including water and temperature effects), and macro- and micro-organisms, conditioned by relief, acting on a parent material over a period of time. A product- soil differs from the material from which it is derived in many physical, chemical, biological, and morphological properties and characteristics."
An excellent example of the difference between the two is that you wash off dirt while you use soil. For example...
Dirt ~ When your dog's paws are dirty from being out all day and you rinse off the dirt.
Soil ~ When you grow herbs in the backyard, the plant uses soil as a source of nutrients and water.
Soil is rich, useful, and alive, while dirt is nutrient-depleted, useless, and dead.
The Modern Dog
The ancestral canine was originally surrounded by microbe rich soil. From birth to death, the microbes were virtually on every inch of them. Their food, fur, water, and more, there was nothing "clean" or "sanitized" for them. Now, this isn't to say you shouldn't properly clean your space after raw feeding or feed decayed meat but we can take what's beneficial from the ancestral way of living (aka soil) and apply it to our dog's health today.
Nowadays, many dogs don't get to be covered in the dirt until they're adults as now litters are born inside and more often than not, exposed to harmful and harsh chemicals. This means that they are never exposed to their ancestral microbes!
We know that dogs are healthiest when they consume their ancestral diet but they are even healthier when they consume their ancestral microbes!
Exposing modern dogs to ancestral microbes & foods is the key to optimal health and longevity!
Although we still have so much to learn when it comes to the microbiome, we know that over 80% of the immune system lies in the gut and that diversity and quality of bacteria are essential! Lucky for us, quality dirt protects and builds your dog's immune system! Since there are billions of trillions of microbes in the soil, feeding it in small amounts exposes them to healthy bacteria that will allow them to flourish.
Now I'm not telling you to go dump soil in your dog's bowl but sprinkling a little soil dust over the meals is more than enough for your animals to get the benefits!
Tip: If your dog is exposed to lots of high-quality soil from rolling in the woods, going on lots of hikes, or even living on a farm, you probably don't have to sprinkle some soil in their food since they are already organically receiving soil from their surroundings! If they're getting it all over their face they're going to be consuming some of it either way.
It is not yet proven, but there may be a link between soil and allergies just as there is with food and allergies! Along with the modern dog being pulled about from their ancestral food, they have also been pulled away from their ancestral environment. Most dogs are living in modern environments surrounded by harmful cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, and more with no excess to quality soil.
In a six week study, it was found that the group of mice not exposed to soil was more prone to developing lung inflammation in response to an asthma-triggering allergen than were the mice in contact with soil. The study also found that the gut flora of soil-exposed mice contained more bacteria in the Bacteroidetes phylum than in the Firmicutes phylum—"the opposite of the microbial signature usually associated with asthma and inflammation in general in both mice and humans".
Lastly, soil exposed animals also had higher levels of anti-inflammatory proteins such as an enzyme called A20 which has been shown to be protective against asthma. Overall, when animals are exposed to microbe-rich soil, it positively impacts their gut health and therefore overall health!
Where To Source
Unfortunately, this is a supplement that is just sold on shelve since that would defeat the whole purpose of regenerative farming... but it can be quite easy to source depending on where you are located!
If you have a local Amish or Polyculture farmer near you, contact them, and ask for a little bowl of soil! More often than not they're more than happy to give you some. The most important part about sourcing is getting a regenerative or polyculture soil as that will have the quality and diversity that you are looking for. This is because farmers who practice regenerative farming are actively rebuilding the soil and restoring soil biodiversity. Which is so vital to rebuilding due to factory farming, but that's a whole other story...
Another easy way to get soil into your dog is if you are a hobby farmer and have your own fruits and veggies and trust the quality, you can feed those to your dog and when you do, just don't wash the dirt off! You can make your very own polyculture veggie mix just by keeping the dirt on!
★ For a DIY veggie mix recipe click here ★
The same thing goes for if you have chickens, ducks, or quails, don't wash the shell and feed it whole (I do this all the time!).
The hardest part about sourcing is that is it vital to know the history and quality of the soil. For example, you probably don't want to go into a random field and use that soil as it's unknown what kind of chemicals were used. So it is best to source locally or from your own garden!
“People are not so much aware of this immense biodiversity which is harbored in the soil, but soil is actually the most diverse habitat on Earth.” - Zechmeister-Boltenstern
Here are a few resources to learn more about regenerative agriculture and soil:
White Oak Pastures (an actual regenerative farm!)
Mother nature continues to leave us in mystery in the way life is connected. So the best thing we can do is take what we know and apply it as best we can and be open to learning more! As always, I hope you enjoyed and Always Keep Exploring!