Feeding puppies can seem like a daunting task. You want the best for them while making sure your puppy is getting all the nutrients they need to grow into healthy adult companions. Can this be done with a raw diet? The answer is a resounding YES! If you are armed with information and resources, feeding your puppy a raw diet is achievable and not as difficult as one might think. Our hope with this blog post is to provide you with resources and confidence to start you on our journey with the latest addition to your family!
WHY RAW FOR MY PUPPY?
Puppies grow rapidly at the beginning of their lives and they need proper food to fuel that growth. When they are fed a biologically appropriate diet, their little bodies are given the opportunity to focus solely on their growth and they are better able to absorb nutrients from the food they eat. When they are fed food that they aren't built to digest, like processed food filled with starchy carbs, this can cause stress in their bodies. If this stress continues through out their life, it could lead to chronic stress.
Chronic stress can create inflammation in the body and present itself as food intolerances, allergies, skin issues, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer as they grow older. Feeding a fresh, raw, protein rich diet from the beginning can help prevent unnecessary stress and helps your puppy build up their immune system appropriately setting them up to lead longer, healthier lives.
Feeding a fresh, whole foods diet allows you to know exactly what your dog is eating. The ingredient list is natural and doesn't require extra filler or synthetic vitamins and minerals.
With raw, you are feeding fresh, quality protein. Protein is comprised of building blocks called amino acids. Your dog requires 10 of these essential amino acids from their diet; ideally from meat protein. If his diet is lacking these amino acids, it could lead to protein deficiency and health problems down the road. While kibble will include these essential amino acids, most of it will be provided in a synthetic form or through plant protein which isn't optimal for your dog's digestion. Learn more about which protein sources are best for your dog by checking out our Instagram post on the topic here.
Picky eaters are becoming a trend among dogs. While each dog is different as to why they refuse their food, one way that might help eliminate picky eater syndrome is starting with fresh food and exposing them to a wide range of safe food from the beginning. Kibble is produced with making their food as palatable as possible. Similar to if we eat a diet of mostly junk food, our dogs will be accustomed to this highly palatable food and will only prefer it after a while.
"...with respect to puppy growth, there's research showing that diets higher in protein, calcium, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and antioxidants support healthy cartilage and increase lean body mass as puppies grow. Feeding a fresh, whole food, preferably raw meat based diet is also one of the best things you can do for your adult dog's overall health."
Katie Kangas DVM CVA CVCP
Excerpt from Dogs Naturally Article titled "Solutions for Arthritis" in July/August 2020 Issue
HOW TO GET STARTED
Start as soon as you bring your dog home. Dog's under a year old can handle the switch cold turkey. At this age, mixing kibble with raw for the transition is not required. Nor is it required as a supplement - your puppy will get all the nutrients they need through the raw food assuming you are feeding a balanced diet (more on what a balanced diet is below).
The only time we recommend mixing kibble with raw is when you are transitioning an older dog who has been fed for a long period of time.
Introduce one protein source at a time. Allow a week trial period and if no digestive upset, move onto the next protein. Repeat as many times as needed.
Feed 3 times a day until they are 6 months old. Growing bodies need fuel during the day. Transition to 2 times a day and after a year decide if you will continue to feed twice a day or drop down to once a day.
Leave supplements to the end. Allow your dog to make their way through the protein transition before adding supplements like vegetables, fruit, etc. As with the protein, introduce slowly and watch for digestive upset each time you introduce something new.
Feed variety. Rotating proteins and feeding fresh fruits and vegetables as best you can is the best way to ensure your dog is getting a wide range of nutrients from their food.
HOW MUCH TO FEED
There are two ways to determine how much to feed. The first is calculating a percentage of their ideal adult weight. If your dog is a purebred dog or a dog from a breeder where you know the parents, this might be easy for you to figure out. A simple google search will return the average weight of your breed or you can ask your vet for their advice. Once you decide the ideal weight you are going to base your calculations on, you can calculate 2-3% of that ideal weight to get your feeding amount.
If you aren’t sure what their ideal adult weight will be, the second option would be to use the outline listed below.
2 - 4 months = 8%-10% of current weight
4 - 6 months = 6% - 8% of current weight
6 - 8 months = 4% - 6% of current weight
8 - 12 months = 2% - 4% of current weight
When determining what percentage to work with one of the most important aspects to consider is your dog's activity level. Below is a guide originally found on the Primal Pooch website using our percentage recommendation to help determine where your dog might sit.
Inactive - A dog that spends most of their time indoors with smaller bursts of activity and walks for maximum a half hour a day. These dogs will fall on the lower end of the percentage range.
Average - A dog that gets an hour to a couple hours of exercise everyday can start at the low to mid range.
Active - An active dog spends most of their time outside with activity filling most of their day. They are dogs who enjoy lots of hiking, biking, and playing with their humans. These dogs would have food intake at the higher end of the range.
Allow a steady weight gain. Too much weight too soon can be hard on their body and joints. Your dog is a healthy weight when their ribs can be felt, their belly tucks up when seen from the side, and they have a visible waist when looking from above.
Once your dog is over a year old, refer to this blog post for how much to feed to maintain a healthy weight throughout their life.
When considering raw for your puppy, these components are your foundation: bone, muscle meat, and organs. These are the mandatory aspects that will provide your puppy a balanced, nutrient rich diet. Our formulas (with the exception of the tripe) includes all of these foundational components. To learn more about the food we provide, click here.
BONE + MUSCLE MEAT - No raw diet is complete without these two components. Your puppy needs the calcium from the bone in order for their bones to develop and the muscle meat helps their tissues grow and it promotes hormone health. It is crucial that the raw diet has a balance between calcium and phosphorus as the minerals work closely together in your dogs body. Muscle meat is high in phosphorus and low in calcium, so a diet without bone could cause issues down the road. Aim for 15-20% bone and 60-80% muscle meat for puppies.
ORGANS - Organs are nature's multivitamin. You want to ensure your dog is getting a wide array of vitamins and minerals, especially in their first year of life. Including organs in their diet is the best way to do that. Aim for 10-25% organs.
Our formulas follow an 80/10/10 ratio: 80% meat, 10% bone, and 10% organs. This means that for bone in particular, some supplementation will be needed to increase the calcium content. This can be done with tripe or egg shells (more on them below) or bone powder.
When it comes to supplements, these are what I would consider the most important to include in a puppies raw diet for optimal health. There are a wide range of supplements you could consider over time; it just really depends on your dog and their health requirements.
Once you are complete with the protein transition, you can start to add in these supplements. Making sure to watch how your pup does with each introduction so you can catch any reactions as they occur.
FISH - Including fish like herring or Green Lipped Mussel Oil 1-2x a week ensures your dog is getting Omega 3 in their diet. Most dogs on a raw fed diet are getting a lot of Omega 6 through the protein they are eating particularly if they eat a lot of chicken. Omega 3 and 6 work closely together in the body which is why balance is needed for the two to build a strong immune system.
PROBIOTICS - Probiotics are key for starting your dogs gut health on the right track. They are the good bacteria found in your dogs digestive tract and are responsible for regulating the immune system, protecting your dog from cancer causing toxins, ensuring nutrient absorption, and protecting your dog from harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E.Coli.
EGGS - Eggs are one of the most nutritious sources of food to supplement your raw puppy diet. Remember those amino acid building blocks? Eggs contain all 10 of the essential amino acids your dog requires. If your puppy eats limited proteins, eggs would be beneficial to supplement to ensure they get all the amino acids in their diet.
Eggs host an array of vitamins and minerals and the shell is also a great source of additional calcium. The egg yolk is a source of Vitamin D which is required in your dogs diet to ensure proper calcium and phosphorus absorption. Learn more about the role Vitamin D plays in your dogs diet by clicking here.
Raw egg is the most nutrient dense form for your pup. If they can't eat raw, you can feed lightly cooked, but some of the nutrient value may be lost.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES - Vegetables provide phytonutrients, which can only be found in plant sources. So if your dog eats only meat, they could be missing out on nutrients that can help prevent and treat disease and inflammation. Fruit contains polyphenols which also help in lowering inflammation. Fruit and vegetables help the probiotics grow and thrive aiding further in promoting a healthy gut.
A good rule of thumb is to try to incorporate 5-10% fruit and vegetables in your pups diet. To optimize nutrient absorption and digestion, either blend, lightly cook, or ferment veggies before feeding to your dogs. Fruit can be eaten as is and doesn't need to be blended.
For more on supplements, click here.
TRIPE - Tripe is the stomach of a grazing animal, usually from cattle, pigs, sheep or bison. Natural untreated tripe is green. Raw green tripe contains natural digestive enzymes that aid in the digestion process and helps break down nutrients in your dogs body. The more enzymes available, the more their system will draw nutrients from the food they consume. Tripe contains healthy amounts of probiotics and is also a perfect 1:1 ratio of calcium and phosphorus.
Tripe can be fed as a whole meal or part of their meals. Tripe would go towards their protein intake, so on days you are feeding tripe be sure to adjust your Doggy Moggy amounts accordingly. Tripe is very rich, so start slow with small amounts until your dog is used to it. Tripe can be supplemented 1-3 times a week.
For adult dogs, my approach to raw feeding is that balance is something that is achieved over time. Not every meal needs to be 100% on point with muscle meat, bone, and organs or have vegetables. Feeding a puppy is different. Their first year of life is when balance is critical. Feeding a puppy takes a little bit more detail and balance daily to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need at the beginning of life. They need the foundational components of a raw diet every day (muscle meat, bones, organs and fish (min 1-2x a week for fish)). This will allow your puppy to build up their nutrient stores to help fuel their growing body and prepare them for their health life ahead.
Expose them to as many nutrients as you can by feeding a variety of proteins, fruits, and vegetables. If proteins are limited, consider feeding a whole raw egg (shell too if your dog can tolerate it!) a couple times a week to ensure they are getting all their essential amino acid building blocks.
If you are feeding our food, we include bone in the meal so their calcium intake should be covered. Watch their poop - if you find their poop to be white, chalky, and really hard, you might need to balance out the calcium with some additional organ meat. If you find their poop is consistently runny, you may need to add some additional calcium like chicken wings or neck to help bump up the calcium. Fibre through vegetables will also help firm up the poop.
Don't forget some recreational bone time! Recreational bones like marrow bones is a great way to provide your puppy with extra mental stimulation during the day. Bone chewing also helps to build their spine and neck muscles and cleans their teeth naturally.
Thank you for taking the time to read our guide!
SHARE WITH US: If you fed your dogs raw when they were puppies we want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments how old they were, tips that you have from your journey, and why you chose raw for your puppies!
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